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

  • Dianthus Green Trick: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 27 May 2012 at 03:38 PM

    Dianthus Green Trick (‘Temarisou’), a new green flowered Sweet William for cut flower or patio pots. Image © Hilverda KooijGreen flowers are always tempting, and as cut flowers they’re especially valuable as they go so well with so many other colours. Until recently, white carnations were often dyed green - never very satisfactory - but now here’s a natural solution.

    Green Trick (‘Temarisou’) is not a carnation, in fact it’s a Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), but as you can see from the picture (click to enlarge) each flower develops into a 2in/5cm wide fuzzy ball of delicately and repeatedly dissected green petals. Flowers are unusually long lived in a vase, lasting at least four weeks. This is not raised from seed, unlike most Sweet Williams it’s propagated vegetatively, by tissue culture, so every plant is identical.

    You may have seen this unique new flower in florists or supermarkets this year and it was also a finalist in the Plant of The Year competition at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Thompson & Morgan’s Paul Hansord described it for the RHS experts who voted on the award.

    “Green Trick was bred in Japan for the cut flower market,” he said. “It’s sterile, so as a cut flower it lasts for a long long time and in the garden we’ve been amazed… We grew it in a container and we didn’t stake it; it’s normally 24in/60cm tall and it falls over and you get these green puffs of flowers that just fill in; if you put other colours with it looks superb in a patio pot. So you can grow it as a cut flower or you can use it in a patio pot.”

    Dianthus Green Trick (‘Temarisou’) is available from Thompson & Morgan.


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012: The Winners

    Graham Rice on 22 May 2012 at 07:27 PM

    Digitalis Illumination, Chelsea New Plant of The Year, with Dianthus Memories and Hyacinth 'Royal Navy'. Images © Plant Novelties,, and RHSThe winner of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award is Digitalis Illumination. In second place came Dianthus Memories and in third place came Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy'.

    I have to say that I’ve been enthusing about Thompson & Morgan’s Digitalis Illumination ('Tmdgfp001') for quite a while (above left, click to enlarge). It’s a hybrid between the familiar foxglove and what used to be called Isoplexis canariensis, a slightly shrubby relation from the Canary Islands.

    I wrote it up here on this blog back in January when T&M’s plant breeder Charles Valin said this: “I started in 2006. I had a feeling that although Ispolexis was classified as separate from Digitalis, they are so similar that Isoplexis should probably be called Digitalis. I kind of wanted to prove botanists wrong! And I wanted to combine the exotic looking bird pollinated flowers of Isoplexis with the hardiness of Digitalis.”

    He was right, not only did he create this beautiful new plant but in the latest edition of the RHS Plantfinder, the botanists have reclassified Isoplexis canariensis as a Digitalis.

    Chelsea Plant of The year Award presented to Thompson & Morgan by Elizabeth Banks, Chair of the Council of the RHS . Image ©Fiona GilsenanThe trophy was presented (left, click to enlarge) by Elizabeth banks, Chair of the Council of the RHS, to Paul Hansord (centre) and Michael Perry, both of Thompson & Morgan.

    Dianthus Memories ('WP11 Gwe04'), from Whetman Pinks (above centre, click to enlarge), was voted into second place. I first came across this fragrant double white garden pink when it won the Best New Plant award at The National Plant Show in the summer of last year. The National Plant Show is a trade show and plants that do well there often make their mark with gardeners the following year. I wrote about it at the time.

    In third place in the Chelsea New Plant of the Year awards was Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy' from JS Pennings De Bilt (above right, click to enlarge). This double-flowered dark blue hyacinth is beautifully fragrant and the colour is a deep and dark sultry blue.


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012

    Graham Rice on 21 May 2012 at 03:45 PM

    The expert plants people of the RHS chose the shortlist for the 2012 Chelsea Plant of the Year. Thirty seven entries were brought down to a Top Twenty of new plants from all over the world. The winner, as I forecast yesterday, was Digitalis Illumination Pink ('Tmdgfp001') (below, lick to enlarge). Here's the full Top Twenty.
    Digitalis 'Illumination' - top candidiate for Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012. Image © Thompson & Morgan

    Aeonium 'Cornish Tribute' makes a tight mass of succulent green rosettes turning red with age. Ideal in a container, and drought tolerant. (Trewidden Nursery)

    Aeonium 'Logan Rock' has glossy purple-bronze rosettes with green centres. Ideal in a container, and drought tolerant. (Trewidden Nursery)

    Choisya × dewitteana 'Aztec Gold' is a bushy shrub with aromatic, golden-yellow foliage. (Hillier Nurseries) Find out more.

    Clematis 'Shikoo' has densely double, purplish blue flowers in May and June. (Thorncroft Clematis)

    Dianthus barbatus Green Trick ('Temarisou') has extraordinary fluffy green flowers the size and shape of tennis balls. Ideal for cutting. (Thompson & Morgan)

    Dianthus Memories ('WP11 Gwe04') has double white flowers with an exceptionally strong spicy perfume (Whetman Pinks) Find out more.

    Digitalis Illumination Pink ('Tmdgfp001') has pink flowers with honey centres. (Thompson & Morgan) Find out more. This is my tip for the winner! (Above, click to enlarge)

    Digitalis 'Silver Cub' with multiple flower stems carrying white blooms, from a rosette of silvery-white, woolly leaves. (Thompson & Morgan)

    Heuchera 'Circus' has foliage which changes from deep to light to silver green then in autumn it turns pink. (Plantagogo)

    Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy'
    has spikes of deep blue double flowers. (J S Pennings "De Bilt")

    Leucanthemum × superbum 'Freak!' flowers repeatedly throughout the summer (Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants)

    Lilium 'Bethan Evans'
    is an extremely hardy yellow and pink Martagon lily with a powerful fragrance. (HW Hyde & Son.)

    Lilium 'Cream Tea'. (HW Hyde & Son.)

    Nepenthes 'Linda' has large dusky red pitchers up to 40cm long. (Hampshire Carnivorous Plants)

    Osteospermum 'In The Pink' is repeat-flowering with vivid pink daisies. (Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants)

    Petunia × atkinsiana Gioconda Series, which is a free-spreading plant in five colours and said to be the first hardy petunia. (Ideal World)

    Rosa The Queen's Jubilee Rose ('Beajubilee') from has fragrant blooms that are white-blushed with peach. (Peter Beales Roses)

    Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Lace' has large lobelia-blue flowers withy purple and white patterned lips. (Dibley’s Nurseries)

    Streptocarpus 'Sweet Melys' is the first streptocarpus with a strong scent, the pale blue flowers mature to pale pink (Dibley’s Nurseries)

    Tillandsia 'Samantha' has pale green and pink candelabra-like flower head above glossy green leaves. ( Every Picture Tells A Story )

    Last year’s winner was Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ while the first Chelsea Plant of the Year. In 2010, was Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue'.


  • Geum ‘Fire Storm’: New in the 2012 Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 16 May 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Geum ‘Fire Storm’: New in the 2012 Plantfinder. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesContinuing our occasional look at the plants most widely available in the new RHS Plant finder…. Fiery colours used to be ignored or even despised in favour of soft pastel shades, but not any more. And one of the most widely grown new plants in this years RHS Plantfinder is a very sparky looking perennial, Geum ‘Fire Storm’.

    Like the old favourites ‘Mrs J. Bradshaw’ and ‘Lady Stratheden’, this is a tough and easy-to-grow plant which, while preferring a rich soil that never becomes too dry, should also do well in drier, less fertile conditions – as long as it has plenty of sun.

    You could say that ‘Fire Storm’ is in between those old timers in terms of colour. The flowers are semi-double, opening a rich fiery orange with scarlet overtones then maturing to a brighter, slightly yellower orange shade. And they open over many months. With dark foliage – purple-leaved berberis behind, perhaps, and dark-leaved heucheras in front – the display will be dramatic.

    Also, this is a much neater, more self-supporting plant reaching about 20in/50cm in full flower with the foliage making a fresh looking mound about 12-14in/30-35cm high. So it’s also 10in/35cm less tall and so less floppy than ‘Fireball’. And the flowers even last well in water.

    Geum ‘Fire Storm’ is available from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Pelargonium ‘Skyscraper’: New from Vernon Geranium Nursery

    Graham Rice on 11 May 2012 at 07:47 AM

    Geraniums, or pelargoniums as we should call them, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Creating varieties that are more bushy and more prolific, or which trail more effectively, and in new colours and colour combinations, seems to have been a high priority in recent years. But this variety climbs.

    Well, ‘Skyscraper’ (left, click to enlarge) doesn’t climb like a clematis or a honeysuckle; it needs tying in. But it’s vigorous and determined to grow upright. The soft foliage with its rounded lobes has a faint dark zone, and the clusters of salmon orange flowers keep coming over a very long season.

    Liz Sims of Vernon Geranium Nursery told me more about it: “The plant will require tying in to a support… preferably a support all around the outside of the pot or a triangle of stakes up the centre. Increased pinching will result in more laterals and a greater number of flowers but it will take longer to achieve a 6ft/2m plant if the tip is pinched out.

    “I've noticed it has extra long flower stems - hence it's great height! - and have also noticed it flowers a great deal better than other climbing geraniums. The picture (click to enlarge) shows it at the end of one season’s growth.
    “It remains extremely vigorous in temperatures above 53F/12C. Without the top growing tips being removed it will continue to grow and spread. However, trimming to keep to a neater shape will reduce the height if the top tips are removed.”

    ‘Skyscraper’ was discovered by Ellene and Derek Simmonds from Lincolnshire. It was a chance seedling which survived the first winter in their garden as a very small plant under a canopy of other geraniums. It’s thought to have blood of both zonal pelargonium and the ivy-leaved geranium .

    Pelargonium ‘Skyscraper’ is available from Vernon Geranium Nursery.


  • Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret'): New in the 2012/2013 Plantfinder

    Graham Rice on 03 May 2012 at 09:27 AM

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret'): new in the 2012/2013 PlantfinderNew variegated daphnes have been appearing regularly over the last few years. Two years ago we had Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) and now another is one of the new plants most widely listed by nurseries in the 2012-2013 RHS Plantfinder.

    Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ has been the standard for many decades but Robin White, the authority on daphnes says in his book “the narrow band of variegation is not significant in the garden.” It’s more creamy than yellow and really very narrow.

    New this year is Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') which features a broader band of colour around the edge of each leaf and in a more vivid yellow shade. It also features clusters of highly scented flowers in February and March, each flower reddish purple on the outside and pale pink within.

    Marianni, like Rebecca, is much more colourful in its variegation than ‘Aureomarginata’. But unlike both ‘Aureomarginata’ and Rebecca, Marianni keeps most of its foliage right through the winter while the other two can look rather sparse in the colder months. Marianni is also more spreading in growth than Rebecca and its flowers are a slightly redder shade.

    Found as a sport on a plant of ‘Aureomarginata’ in France in 2004, this looks to be an exceptional garden shrub, its bright variegated foliage providing colour all the year and its colourful early flowers bringing a powerful fragrance.

    Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret') is available from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.