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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

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  • Dianthus Diadoble Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 30 Jan 2013 at 01:22 PM
    Dianthus Diadoble Series: Fragrant new Dianthus hybrids. Images ©AllPlantWe see a great many new pinks every year but they’re all pretty much the versions of the same old familiar type. Nothing wrong with that, as they become better scented and more prolific and long flowering. But sometimes, we just look for something a little different. So step forward the Dianthus Diadoble Series (above, click to enlarge).

    I was very taken with their more relaxed and informal style of flowers; they’re in between the tight doubles of so many pinks, and the old single-flowered types. And it turns out these are unusual hybrids between Chinese pinks, Dianthus chinensis, and the traditional Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus. If you think about it, you can see hints of both species.

    All have bold colours, ‘Diadoble Crimson Picotee’ (above centre) is especially eye-catching, and all are well-scented with the scent being especially strong warm sunny days.

    Reaching 10-12in/25-35cm in height, with a spread of 6-8in/15-20cm, these Diadoble dianthus are neat enough to grow in containers with other summer flowers, or to site at the front of a sunny border in any reasonable soil. But the stems are also long enough to cut for small bouquets and the more you cut them – or deadhead them – the longer they’ll flower.

    Three colours are available this spring, all have prettily toothed semi-double flowers: ‘Diadoble White’ is pure white; ‘Diadoble Purple’ is a very vivid shade of purple with a red flash at the base of each petal; ‘Diadoble Crimson Picotee’ is bright red with a white edge. Lovely.

    You can order these Diadoble dianthus, either individually or as a collection, from Hayloft Plants.



  • Tomato ‘Tastyno’: Plenty of flavour, disease resistant

    Graham Rice on 26 Jan 2013 at 02:05 PM

    Grafted tomato 'Tastyno', disease resistant, full of flavour. Image ©Histil LtdWe’ve seen some impressive developments in tomato growing for home gardeners in recent years, and while they all came from development for commercial growers some are invaluable for home gardeners. The top two are disease resistance and the revival of grafting as a way to increase vigour and prevent root diseases. The two ideas come together in grafted plants of the cherry tomato ‘Tastyno’.

    ‘Tastyno’ has a high resistance to tomato mosaic virus and five strains of leaf mould as well as good resistance to three strains of eelworm, and to tomato yellow leaf curl virus. But graft ‘Tastyno’ on to a disease resistant rootstock, just the way that apples are grafted on to rootstocks, and the rootstock provides the roots with resistance to fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, tomato mosaic virus, crown and root rot, eelworm, and corky root rot.

    Of course none of this is any use at all unless the fruits have a good flavour and you get plenty of them. Well, ace veg grower Medwyn Williams, says the round, deep red fruits, up to twenty or sometimes more on each truss, and weighing in at 12-15gm each, have an “exceptional flavour”. They have a great combination of sweetness and sharpness.

    It’s the combination of the tasty, prolific and disease resistant variety with the vigorous disease resistant rootstock, which also tolerates a wider range of soil conditions that the varieties own roots, that gives these plants the edge. Shame abouit the silly name.

    You can order grafted plants of ‘Tastyno’ from Simply Seeds and Plants. Or order seed from Medwyn’s of Anglesey or order seed from Simpson’s Seeds


  • Digitalis ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’: Follow-up to Plant Of The Year Winner

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2013 at 03:57 PM
    Digitalis 'Illumination Chelsea Gold': New hybrid foxglove. Image ©Thompson & MorganOne of last year’s outstanding new perennials was Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’, the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of The Year for 2012. This unexpected hybrid between our familiar biennial foxglove and a rare perennial relation from the Canary Islands, originally known as Isoplexis canariensis, was deservedly popular around the world. Now it has a sister, a gorgeous yellow-flowered form called ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’.

    Like its award-winning predecessor, ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ reaches about 3ft/90cm in height and branches well. Over its long flowering season from early summer almost to winter, the flowers just keep coming. Each flower is peachy orange in colour, darker on the outside and paler on the inside with a delicate patterning of spots. Bees love it.

    Thompson & Morgan, whose ace plant breeder Charles Valin raised this unique plant, say that plants of ‘Illumination Pink’ are hardy down to -15C/5F and ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ should be as hardy. Though it’s only fair to say that some gardeners have not found ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ so tough.

    This should prove a fine plant for a container in a sunny place, make sure the pot stands on pot feet to ensure good drainage, and you only need to dead head occasionally to improve the look of the plant.

    And by the way: although Isoplexis canariensis was not considered a member of the genus Digitalis when Charles Valin began his development of these plants, partly as a result of his work botanists now consider Isoplexis canariensis to be a Digitalis, and it’s known as Digitalis canariensis.

    You can order plants of Digitalis ‘Illumination Chelsea Gold’ from Thompson & Morgan.



  • Peach 'Crimson Bonfire': For flowers, foliage and fruits

    Graham Rice on 15 Jan 2013 at 01:39 PM

    Grow patio peach 'Crimson Bonfire' for its flowers, foliage and fruits. Images ©YouGarden.comOne of the themes of the year is multi-season and multi-use plants, plants that provide different pleasures at different seasons. In fact I've written a whole book on the subject, and it's just out.

    This impressive little peach, ‘Crimson Bonfire' (left, click to enlarge), has two distinct and valuable features in addition to its succulent fruits. The fruits themselves are dark red,  almost purple, and gold in colour taking the tones of their colouring from the foliage.


  • Monarda ‘Bergamo’: Perfect for Pollinators

    Graham Rice on 10 Jan 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Monarda 'Bergamo' is colourful and attracts pollinators. Image ©Ball ColegraveHere's a new Monarda, a first-year-flowering perennial, which is prolific, colourful, easy-to-grow and attracts pollinating insects.

    'Bergamo' (left, click to enlarge) is a hardy perennial, not an annual as some catalogues say, and reaching 20-24in/50-60cm in height, sometimes as tall as 3ft/90cm, this is a well branched plant, needing spacing of 14-16in/36-41cm to show itself off well. Often considered more elegant than the more familiar forms of Monarda didyma, this hybrid has its flowers gathered in a series of tiers making up long, elegant spikes in two tones of rosy purple.


  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Midnight: New from Plantify

    Graham Rice on 05 Jan 2013 at 01:53 PM

    Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Midnight: New from Plantify. Image ©Seiont NurseriesUntil about ten years ago, hardly anyone had even heard of Physocarpus and even fewer actually grew it. Now it’s at last being recogised as amongst the best deciduous foliage shrubs we have, and a new dark-leaved variety emphasises the point.

    The wild species, Physocarpus opulifolius, is originally from eastern North America, where it’s named ninebark from the fact that the bark peels away in thin strips which curl into the shape the number nine. In the wild it tends to grow in damp woods and along streams but in gardens seems much more adaptable. Last winter in Poland, it survived outside in pots at -30C/-22F!

    ‘Midnight’ has the darkest foliage of any variety so far, a deep midnight purple with a lovely sheen, and unlike some other dark-leaved types it has a neat, compact and bushy habit - better for smaller gardens. In June and July clusters of pink-tinted white flowers line the branches, and these are followed by  black berries.

    ‘Midnight’ was named by John Jones of Hyfryd Plants, a small nursery in Mid Wales. “Three seedlings were selected from a batch of about 150 in the early 2000s,” John told me. “One was an exceedingly bright gold form (now discontinued as it suffered very badly from late frosts) and another was the same type as 'Lady in Red' which may be introduced in the USA. The third was ‘Midnight’. All the seedlings came from 'Diablo' which was planted next to 'Darts Gold' and obviously cross pollination had taken place.”

    Look out for more Physocarpus varieties from John, and elsewhere, over the next few years.

    You can order plants of Physocarpus opulifolus ‘Midnight from Plantify.