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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Recent Comments

  • Narcissus ‘Spoirot’: new award-winning miniature

    Graham Rice on 29 Sep 2012 at 02:21 PM

    Narcissus 'Spoirot': a prolific new miniature daffodil. Image ©RHSIt can take many years for enough stock of a new variety of daffodil to be built up so that it can be offered to more than a few specialist enthusiasts. This plant was identified as a promising seedling in Tasmania way back in 1987 but only has it now reached the mainstream here in Britain. It was awarded the Award of Garden Merit in 2011 by the RHS after being trialed at Wisley.

    This pretty hoop petticoat daffodil, 'Spoirot', has bright white flowers 11/2in/4cm across which are very slightly tinted in the faintest of green. Reaching about 19cm/71/2in in height with arching or almost prostrate leaves up to 10in/25cm in length, the mass of flowers stands up well above the foliage so it can be seen clearly.

    Flowering begins early, the trials staff at Wisley noted that in 2011 blooming began on 14 February and continued for 42 days with 180 flowers being produced from ten bulbs planted in September 2009; that’s quite a display. The daffodil experts on the Trials Assessment Panel who voted to give ‘Spoirot’ its AGM summarised their thoughts in this way: “Beautiful, eye-catching flowers, and very floriferous. The flowers have beautiful form. Flowers are above the foliage and are a consistent height.”

    ‘Spoirot’ is a hybrid between Narcissus bulbocodium subsp. bulbocodium var. conspicuus and N. cantabricus subsp. cantabricus var. foliosus raised at the Glenbrook Bulb Farm in Tasmania by Rod Barwick. ‘Spoirot’ is one of his Little Detective Series named after Agatha Christie's fictional detective Hercule Poirot.

    You can order Narcissus ‘Spoirot’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Verbena ‘Talman’s Fragrant Treasure’: New scented verbena from Mr Fothergill

    Graham Rice on 24 Sep 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Verbena 'Talman's Fragrant Treasure' - new scented Verbena from Mr Fothergill. Imafge ©GardenPhotos.comOver the years, visiting seed companies and looking over the rows and rows of plants grown side by side for testing and comparison, I’ve often noticed individual verbena plants in amongst the seed-raised mixtures that stood out. I even grew some mixtures myself, and picked out a few individual plants that looked promising and propagated them from cuttings. But, in the end, none proved truly exceptional.

    But Brian Talman, Trial Ground Manager at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, has struck gold with a verbena that caught his eye, or rather his nose, on their trials back in 2009.

    “Walking past it one August day, I could smell it,” he told me. “I got down on my hands and knees for a closer look and it was exceptional. The colour was lovely, and that one plant in the row was also more vigorous.

    “I dug it up, potted it, grew it on in the greenhouse and took cuttings. We continued to look at it and found that while all verbenas get mildew in the end, this was the last to get it.” Mr Fothergill’s decided it was so good that they decided to put it in their own catalogue.

    ‘Talman’s Fragrant Treasure’ is spreading rather than trailing. It makes a lovely specimen plant in a container and is a good mixed with other plants in a hanging basket. The individual flowers are lavender blue with a white eye – and then there’s that lovely scent.

    For many many years Brian looked after the trials for one of the huge multinational seed companies and when he spotted a seedling that looked special he reported his find to the plant breeders and let them deal with it. Now, one of his own finds carries his own name.

    You can order plants of Verbena ‘Talman’s Fragrant Treasure’ from Mr Fothergill.


  • Mahonia 'Soft Caress': New spine-free Mahonia from Crocus

    Graham Rice on 20 Sep 2012 at 08:31 PM

    Mahonia 'Soft Caress': New spine-free Mahonia from Crocus. Image © are amongst the most impressive and dependable of flowering shrubs – but they have a problem. They’re spiny, sometimes viciously spiny. Not any more.

    Mahonia eurybracteata is a modestly sized evergreen shrub that grows wild in five provinces of south west China. Reaching 3-4ft/90-120cm in height, and about as wide creating a more or less rounded plant, the long slender divided foliage is slightly greyish green, soft to the touch and not at all spiny or holly-like as so many varieties are.

    From August until October the flowers appear, upright clusters of spikes at the tips of the shoots are lined with slightly fragrant, bright yellow flowers that last for many weeks and are followed by blue berries.

    ‘Soft Caress’ is a new form selected for its extra hardiness and for foliage which has a more noticeably silvery sheen. The leaves may also take on reddish tints as the days shorten and the nights become cooler. ‘Soft Caress’ is neat enough to be grown in a container, or is happy in a sunny or partially shaded border where it appreciates fertile, but well-drained soil.

    ‘Soft Caress’ was selected by Ozzie Johnson and Karen Stever from a group of seedlings of Mahonia eurybracteata grown at ItSaul Plants in Chamblee, Georgia.

    You can order Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ from Crocus.


  • Geranium ‘Blushing Turtle’: New ground cover hardy geranium

    Graham Rice on 17 Sep 2012 at 06:11 PM

    Geranium 'Blushing Turtle': new ground cover hardy geraniumThere’s no shortage of hardy geraniums, cranesbills, in nurseries – in fact there are thousands. So a new one really has got to be good to be worth choosing over the best of those already available. And the strangely named ‘Blushing Turtle’ looks as if it might be up to the task.

    Making a broadly mounded plant about 20in/50cm wide and 6in/15cm high, whose stems branch repeatedly to create a mass of dense growth, flowering is at its peak in June and then starts up again in September and continues until the frost.

    Each small, 1.5in/3.5cm, prettily ruffled flower is vivid pink, boldly marked with an intricate network of darker, magenta pink veins. The mass of bloom is backed by neat, bright green, maple-shaped foliage which takes on bright autumnal colours late in the season.

    This is a fine plant to use as ground cover in mixed borders and amongst roses; it is also ideal to trail over a retaining wall and would also make a lovely container plant.

    ‘Blushing Turtle’ was developed by Karin Kosick of Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, as part of a project to develop, drought tolerant, repeat flowering hardy geraniums with large flowers. It’s a hybrid between Geranium sanguineum and either Geranium × oxonianum ‘Julie Brennan’ or Geranium asphodeloides. Further research will doubtless reveal which. Originally sold as ‘Breathless’, and it may still occasionally be found under that name, but it turned out that it was illegal to use that name as it had been trade marked for another plant. So now it's 'Blushing Turtle'.

    You can order Geranium ‘Blushing Turtle’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and from Mr Fothergill.


  • Greigii tulips: New and returning from de Jager

    Graham Rice on 10 Sep 2012 at 01:15 PM

    Griegii tulips from de Jager: 'Cape Cod' (left), 'Albion Star', 'Sweet Lady'. Images © de JagerDwarf tulips are ideal for tubs, window boxes and other containers as well as in clumps at the front of sunny borders. And, as well as colourful flowers on short, wind-resistant stems most Greigii tulips also feature foliage striped in dusky purple.

    Varieties available from mail order sources seem to come and go so here I’ve brought together one newcomer with two older varieties which are available by mail order this year having been missing from the catalogues last year.

    The newcomer is ‘Albion Star’ whose white flowers feature a delicate pink blush on the outer petals. Plants reach about 12in/30cm in height in full flower and are at their peak towards the end of April. In this case the foliage is plain green but ‘Albion Star’ would look lovely with the short pink forget-me-not ‘Rosylva’.

    ‘Cape Cod’, on the other hand, has been around since 1955 but was strangely absent from this year’s RHS Plant Finder. Now it’s available again. The outer petals of ‘Cape Cod’ are mostly deep apricot orange shading to a yellow edge; the inner petals are yellow with a matching apricot orange flash through the centre. The heart of the flower is black. ‘Cape Cod’ flowers in March and April and would look well in a container with a yellow-leaved heuchera such as ‘Citronelle’. It also features foliage striped in dusky purple.

    Finally, another oldie returning to the fold, ‘Sweet Lady’ is shorter at only about 6-8in/15-20cm and features pinkish red flowers with an apricot haze towards the base which is olive green around the stem. Flowering in March and April, with its short stature and striped leaves it can be planted at the very front of a container and will be attractive from when the leaves first emerge.

    You can order all three of these Greigii tulips from de Jager.


  • Narcissus ‘Jamestown’: An elegant Irish daffodil

    Graham Rice on 06 Sep 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Narcissus 'Jamestown' is an elegant daffodil for borders or containers. Image © Suttons.There’s no shortage of daffodils from which to choose. There are over two thousand varieties in the current RHS Plant Finder, although most are only available in small numbers from one specialist supplier, but any new daffodil has still got to be good to be worth choosing above established varieties.

    ‘Jamestown’ (left, click to enlarge) is a lovely elegant daffodil. Not gaudy and shockingly yellow like some, but more of a more subtle combination of colours, the wide pure white petals - the perianth – can make a flower which is over 3in/7.5cm across and form a bright, clean background for the small cup. Golden yellow in colour, the cup has a neat orange rim, which is noticeably frilly, and shades to vivid green in the centre.

    Flowering in April, and reaching about 14-16in/35-40cm in height, ‘Jamestown’ is ideal in spring containers where you can appreciate its elegant form, it would look well growing through the yellow foliage of Heuchera ‘Pastiche’ or with blue forget-me-nots. It’s also ideal in clumps of ten towards the front of the border.

    ‘Jamestown’ was raised in Northern Ireland at the Ballydorn Bulb Farm in Co. Down. One of its parents is the Award of Garden Merit winning ‘Irish Minstrel’. ‘Jamestown’ was available from a specialist a few years ago, then disappeared from catalogues. It is now re-introduced by Suttons and much more widely available.

    You can order Narcissus ‘Jamestown’ from Suttons.


  • Bloomerang: New reblooming lilac

    Graham Rice on 03 Sep 2012 at 01:35 PM

    'Bloomerang': a new reblooming lilac. Images © ProvenWinners.comWay back in December 2010 I picked out a new repeat-flowering lilac from America as likely to be one of the top newcomers for 2012. It’s now available here in Britain.

    Syringa Bloomerang (‘Penda’) (left, click to enlarge) makes a strong-growing plant about 5ft/1.5 high and as much across with a bushy, rounded habit and foliage which is smaller and neater than that of the more familiar larger lilacs. This lilac is more manageable and more adaptable.

    Flowering begins in late spring and continues through to late summer – quite different from the two or three week burst of so many lilacs. There may be a period after the first flush when flowering eases off a little, but blooming soon kicks in again. Regular dead heading will help ensure the most prolific display. Each flower head is about 4in/10cm tall and 3in/7.5cm across and may contain over 250 individual flowers, each well scented and slightly bluish lavender purple in colour.

    So while the flower heads are much smaller than those of traditional lilacs, the number of flowers and their long season more than compensates.

    Happiest in full sun and fertile but well-drained soil, another useful feature of Bloomerang is that it’s more resistant to soil born diseases and mildew than others of this type.

    Bloomerang is a form of Syringa pubescens subsp. microphylla and is a seedling of Josee (‘Morjos 060f’) selected by Tim Wood at Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan.

    You can order Syringa Bloomerang from Thompson and Morgan and also from Van Meuwen.