Skip navigation.

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

  • Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’: Evergreen perennial for inside and out

    Graham Rice on 30 Dec 2012 at 05:06 PM
    Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’: Evergreen perennial for inside and out. Image ©PlantIppAstelias are unusual perennials. Most silver foliage plants grow best in relatively dry conditions but astelias are more adaptable. They grow naturally in boggy places in New Zealand and so will take more moisture in gardens than you might expect; but they've also proven to be drought tolerant.

    The problem is that although they make very effective foliage plants for the late spring and the summer, in autumn and especially in winter they can look rather ragged.

    The smart approach comes in two parts. First, try this new Astelia hybrid - ‘Silver Shadow'. A cross between two of the most widely grown species, A. chathamica and A. nervosa, it's vigorous, it develops into an impressively architectural specimen up to 39in/1m high and it has more brightly silvered leaves than any others astelias.


  • Petunia Martha Washington: Unique new double petunia

    Graham Rice on 27 Dec 2012 at 07:12 PM

    Petunia 'Martha Washington' - spectacular new double petunia. Image ©

    Cambridgeshire plant breeder David Kerley is known the world over for his Tumbelina series of double petunias. They're the best; that's all there is to it. He's also introduced many many other fine petunias as well as phygelius, primroses, violas, chrysanthemums and more. I've featured him a number of times here on the RHS New Plants blog, and I'm happy to do so again here with a one-off petunia, Martha Washington (‘Kermartha')


  • Spiraea ‘Tor Gold’: New yellow-leaved shrub

    Graham Rice on 17 Dec 2012 at 02:37 PM

    Spiraea betulifolia is not a shrub that most gardeners will know. It has just three stockists in the RHS PlantFinder and I only recollect ever seeing it once or twice. It’s a small shrub with neat rounded, toothed leaves and clusters of white flowers in early summer.

    Then the variety ‘Tor’ appeared, a neatly mounded form with lovely autumn foliage in red, gold, yellow, bronze and purple. Now we have ‘Tor Gold’.

    This neat deciduous shrub reaches about 2ft/60cm high and as much across, and the foliage opens in bright yellow in spring. As the foliage continues to retain its eye-catching colouring, the clusters of white flowers open in June. As the flowers fade the foliage changes to a yellowish green through the summer then in autumn undergoes quite a transformation. In yellow, purple, pink and greenish tones it makes a lovely specimen for its autumn colour.

    ‘Tor Gold’ was found in The Netherlands in 2008 as a sport on a plant of ‘Tor’ which, because it will take very low temperatures, is grown widely in gardens and as a landscape plant in Scandinavia and in Eastern Europe. ‘Tor Gold’ is equally tough.

    Happy in full sun and any reasonable soil, its yellow foliage, white flowers and very colourful autumn foliage – combined with its neat growth – make this a fine plant for small gardens and for containers.

    You can order plants of Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor Gold’ from The Plantsman’s Preference.


  • Two tasty new patio tomatoes

    Graham Rice on 13 Dec 2012 at 02:43 PM

    Tomato 'Donna', a blight tolerant semi-trailing variety. Image © Marda-PrudacWe’ve seen some impressive developments in tomato growing for home gardeners in recent years, and many have come from the world of commercial tomato growing. But some varieties are developed specially for the home gardener, and they include these two new dwarf bush tomatoes from The Netherlands, ‘Donna’ and ‘Tarzan’. Both are ideal for patio pots

    ‘Donna’ (above) develops into a spreading plant 20-25cm high and 50-60cm wide making a broad specimen ideal for baskets and trailing over the edge of large tubs. It does not need support. Even in a 30cm pot each plant should produce about one hundred fruits, in trusses of seven to ten, over a long season. Each fruit is about 3cm across and has a fresh sweet flavour. While not completely resistant, ‘Donna’ is very tolerant of blight.Tomato 'Tarzan', a blight tolerant upright variety. Image © Marda-Prudac

    ‘Tarzan’ (left, click to enlarge) matures into a larger plant, up to 40cm high and 50cm wide, making a more upright specimen better given a tub of its own or used as a centrepiece in a large container. With fruits 5cm or slightly more in diameter, and a very thin skin, a dense meaty flesh and a sharper taste, ‘Tarzan’ is ideal for sandwiches and the barbecue. Each plant should produce at least a kilo of fruit in trusses of three to five. This too has a good tolerance of blight.

    You can order a collection which includes both varieties from Simply Seeds and Plants.


  • Geranium Dreamland: New long flowering hardy geranium

    Graham Rice on 07 Dec 2012 at 02:09 PM
    title=I’ve lost count of the number of excellent hardy geraniums that Alan Bremner has developed at this garden up in the Orkney Islands, but you’ll find that many of the best and many of your favourites originate there.

    Amongst those he raised are ‘Anne Thomson’, ‘Dilys’, ‘Joy’, ‘Orkney Cherry’, ‘Patricia’, ‘Sabani Blue’ and ‘Sirak’. His latest is ‘Dreamland’.

    Originally discovered in Orkney back in 1998, it then underwent five years of trials in The Netherlands where not only did it prove reliable, prolific and long flowering but also it happily survived temperatures down to -5F/-20C.

    Making a plant about 16in/40cm high, and about the same in width, from May to September ‘Dreamland’ produces a long succession of pale pink flowers with darker veins shading down to a white centre, all set against fresh green toothed foliage.

    Ideal as ground cover under well-spaced roses, Dreamland is also very useful towards the front of the border in a small garden. Spilling out of a container, it’s lovely around a purple-leaved Cordyline. Dreamland is happy in any reasonable soil that is not parched or waterlogged in full sun or partial shade.

    Geranium Dreamland (‘Bremdream’) is available from Crocus, from Mr Fothergill, from Plants Galore and from Woottens Plants.


  • Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’: New style petunia

    Graham Rice on 02 Dec 2012 at 06:28 PM
    Petunia 'Sparklers Mixed', developed from seed sent to T&M by a customer. Images ©GardenPhotos.comFor many years Thompson & Morgan have been offering a reward for new plants discovered by their customers and that the company introduces in their catalogue. Now I know some people have been a little sceptical about this offer but in fact quite a few T&M customers have had their new plants taken up and received the reward.

    Plants that T&M have introduced which originated from a find by a customer include: Digitalis ‘Primrose Carousel’, French marigold ‘Mr Majestic’, nasturtium ‘Flame Thrower’, Sweet Pea ‘Ballerina Blue’ and also a vegetable, Tomato ‘Sungella’. Now there’s also a new Petunia, ‘Sparklers’.

    A white form petunia with unique star-shaped flowers was found by T&M customer Edward Cragen of Bexleyheath in Kent and in 1998 he sent seed to Thompson & Morgan. Their plant breeding team set to work to stabilise the variety and add new colours and this year have introduced ‘Sparklers Mixed’ (above, click to enlarge), a mixture of colours, all with these unique starry flowers. Also, the leaves are pointed to match the flowers.

    ‘Sparklers Mixed’ was trialed all over Europe by Fleuroselect, the pan-European organisation that trials new plants and gives awards to the best. Last year Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’ was recognised as an Approved Novelty, confirming it as new, different and without off-types that would spoil the display.

    If you’re interested in finding out more about how to find or breed new plants, and perhaps win that £500, take a look at T&M’s detailed guide to finding or developing new plants.

    You can order seed of Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’ from Thompson & Morgan, or order plants of Petunia ‘Sparklers Mixed’ from Thompson & Morgan