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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

  • Phlox Paparazzi Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 27 Nov 2012 at 02:48 PM

    Phlox Paparazzi Series: Angelica (top), Lindsay and Miley. Images ©Hayloft PlantsThere’s been a great deal of new development in phlox recently, but most of it has been with the tall, summer flowering border phlox. The new Paparazzi series of phlox are different. These new phlox are spring flowering, fragrant and they’re short and bushy.

    Developed in Japan mainly from forms of the familiar spring flowering species Phlox divaricata and P. subulata, plants in the Paparazzi Series reach about 8-10in/20-25cm high and about 12-18in/30-45cm across. The mass of flowers, often held on dark stems opens over neat narrow foliage.

    Hayloft Plants are offering three varieties from the series. ‘Paparazzi Angelina’ is lavender, with a tiny purple eye, and is named for the actress Angelina Jolie; ‘Paparazzi Lindsay’ open in rose pink and develops richer pink tones, and is named for the actress Lindsay Lohan; while ‘Paparazzi Miley’ is pink with sparky dark purple eye, and is named for singer and actress Miley Cyrus.

    Flowering from March to May, these evergreen perennials will thrive in retentive soil in full sun or in partial shade and make lovely additions to the spring tapestry. Clipping them over as the flowers fade will neaten them up and may prompt the appearance of more flowers.

    You can order these Paparazzi Series phlox individually or as a collection from Hayloft Plants.


  • Kale ‘Black Magic’: An improved Cavalo Nero

    Graham Rice on 22 Nov 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Old forms of black kale could be very variable but not ‘Black Magic’. Image ©Tozer SeedsOver the last twenty years, black kale has gone from a plant that no one had heard of, to a fashionable vegetable, to an unexpected ornamental and then to cause of frustration. Also known as Tuscan kale, Cavolo Nero, Lacinato kale and Tuscan cabbage, amongst other things, it’s an important ingredient in traditional Italian minestrone.

    The problem has been that while many of us wanted to grow it, the plants we grew were rarely very consistent. I know when I grew it years ago as a summer foliage plant no two were quite the same. Now comes a British-bred variety, ‘Black Magic’, which solves that problem and which also brings other great qualities.

    As well being uniform in colour, the foliage of ‘Black Magic’ is darker than earlier forms and with more intense puckering. The leaves are a little narrower, it’s much less likely to bolt, and its frost resistance is even better than before. Ready to pick about three months from sowing, baby leaves are ready in about 30 days and when harvested as a baby leaf crop, its leaves are more tender. And there’s one more thing.

    I found that plants I’ve grown in the past tended to stretch up on leg, making them unstable; you really don’t want to have to stake kale. ‘Black Magic’ stays more compact and produces its rosette of leaves closer to the ground.

    You can order seed of kale ‘Black Magic’ from Plants of Distinction and from Suttons.


  • Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’: Sparkling new six colour mixture

    Graham Rice on 19 Nov 2012 at 02:07 PM

    Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ comes in six bright colours. Image ©FleuoroselectNew echinaceas seem to be appearing on all sides but there’s still a relatively small choice for gardeners who like to raise their echinaceas from seed.

    Winner of a Gold Medal from Fleuroselect, the Europe-wide flower trialling organisation, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ (left, click to enlarge) is an echinacea mixture to raise from seed. It produces plants with large single flowers in six colours: red, orange, yellow, purple, rosy-red, and cream. So there’s an excellent range of colours (although no pure white), and, great news for the gardener, the plants flower in their first year from a spring sowing – treat them like a half-hardy annual to give them a good early start.

    The plants all reach about the same size, whatever the colour – 27-31in/68-80cm in height and 25-30in/64-76cm wide – the plants are very bushy and while in their second year they should flower from June to September, flowering will begin later in the first year.

    ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is ideal in sunny borders, where as well as providing its own shining colours, it attracts bees and butterflies and it’s also good as a cut flower. Cut the stems just as the petals are unfurling. And once your plants are flowering, you can pick out your favourite color and divide the plant so you have more for the future.

    You can order seed of Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ from Nicky’s Nursery.


  • Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’: Dark foliage and fiery flowers

    Graham Rice on 13 Nov 2012 at 01:49 PM

    Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ has dark foliage and fiery flowers. Image ©Ball ColegraveAlstroemerias with more than just flowers seem to be demanding more attention these days. There were a number in the recent RHS trial and two variegated varieties, ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Spitfire’, were given Awards of Garden Merit. Back in February the brightly variegated Alstroemeria ‘Rock and Roll’ featured here on the RHS New Plants blog. Now, another with good foliage but in a different style: ‘Indian Summer’ is the first with dark foliage and is too new to have featured in the trial.

    Making a rounded plant no more than 30in/75cm high, the foliage of ‘Indian Summer’ is dark green stained with smoky bronze. So even before the flowers open the foliage marks its mark.

    Then, from June to October, the flowers open in a fiery mix of orange and yellow. The intensity of flowering may vary a little over the months but even when flowering is less intense, there are the red buds.

    ‘Indian Summer’ makes an excellent specimen in a container. In a large container partner it with calibrachoas in fiery or autumnal shades, the old tall single French marigold ‘Striped Marvel’, with gold and orange lantanas, or with other plants in fiery colours. It will also thrive in rich soil in a sunny border.

    You can order plants of Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ from Thompson & Morgan, or look out for it in garden centres next year.


  • Digitalis Dalmatian Series: gorgeous colours, quick to flower

    Graham Rice on 08 Nov 2012 at 01:32 PM

    Dalmation foxgloves have attractive spotted flowers and are quick to bloom. Images ©Kieft Seed” align=Every few years a new series of foxgloves comes along, each said to be better than the last. The Dalmation Series really does look to be an improvement, with some lovely colours and the ability to flower just a few months after sowing. And, as the name indicates, all are beautifully spotted.

    Dalmation Series foxgloves reach 31-43in/80-110cm in height, and can produce their well-filled spikes of flowers in just sixteen weeks from sowing. Start seed in February, in heat, and raise as a bedding plant for June flowering or sow later to flower later in the summer. Unlike traditional foxgloves, plants do not need a cold spell (vernalisation) to prompt flowering but late spring and summer sowings will not flower until the following year when the plants will then be larger and produce more flower spikes.

    There are five colours in the series, although not all are available from all suppliers. ‘Dalmation Cream’, sometimes listed as ‘Dalmation Crème’, is a lovely soft creamy yellow with deep crimson spots; ‘Dalmation Peach’ is soft apricot-peach with pale, delicate spotting; ‘Dalmation Purple’ is foxglove purple with bold spots; ‘Dalmation Rose’ is purple-pink with fewer spots; ‘Dalmation White’ is bright white with small crimson spots.

    One interesting feature of these plants is that as the flowers open they tend to hang down in the same way as a wild foxglove, then as they mature they move to a more horizontal position where their markings can be seen more easily.

    Seeds of varieties in the Dalmation Series of foxgloves are available from Mr Fothergill, Nicky’s Nursery, and Thompson & Morgan.

    Plants of varieties in the Dalmation Series of foxgloves are available from Crocus, and Woolmans


  • Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’: Sparkling new bicolour

    Graham Rice on 05 Nov 2012 at 05:26 PM

    Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’: Sparkling new bicolour from Dobies and Suttons. Images ©Proven Winners.” align=Since the Million Bells series of calibrachoas came on the market about twenty years ago they’ve come a long way. Often called mini-petunias, the earliest varieties had brittle stems, they tended to become hang in vertical sheets when trailing out of baskets and other containers and soon became bare at the base. They tended to suffer from root diseases and although the flowers came in bright single colours, they were not always very prolific.

    Now, things have changed and Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’ is a fine example of how far calibrachoas have come. Slightly bushy and semi-trailing, the habit is ideal for baskets and other containers. The plants stay well-furnished with foliage and flowers towards the base, are disease resistant, and the stems don’t snap in breeze.

    As you can see (above, click to enlarge) the plants are very prolific and this new colour is simply delightful. Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’ comes in bright yellow with five white flashes and, unlike similar patterns in petunias, the star pattern is very stable in a range of growing conditions. It’s ideal as a specimen in a container by itself, with other calibrachoas, or with the colourful foliage of coleus or oxalis.

    To get the best from calibrachoas, grow them in full sun or just a little shade, feed them regularly and don’t let plants become parched.

    You can order plants of Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’ from Dobies and from Suttons.