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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

  • Weigela Magical Rainbow: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2013 at 04:07 PM
    Weigela Magical Rainbow ('Kolmagira'): good flowers and good foliage. Image ©Hayloft PlantsWe’ve seen quite a few new variegated weigelas in recent years, some have been very colourful while some have been disappointing. Magical Rainbow ('Kolmagira') is different in that as well as the attractively cream-edged foliage there’s a strong pink or reddish tint in the summer growth.

    Reaching about 3-5ft/0.9-1.5m in height, and about the same in width, Magical Rainbow branches well to create a bushy plant. The leaves are wider than those of most weigelas and retain their variegation from when the leaves open in April till they fade and fall in October. The red colouring of the shoots harmonises with the red tinted summer leaves.

    In May and June, the flowers open. In the usual flared trumpet shape, each bloom is pale pink and a darker shade, almost red, on the backs – especially towards the base of the tube of the flower. This dark colouring shows through into the throat of the flower. The flowers are sterile, they produce no seed capsules or seeds, which helps encourage prolific flowering.

    Happiest in full sun, the foliage does not scorch, and in any reasonably fertile soil, trials at the RHS Garden at Wisley revealed that it does not thrive in shade. Prune after flowering, or not at all.

    Magical Rainbow was developed by Dutch plant breeder Peter Kloster in a breeding programme designed to develop attractive new variegated weigelas.

    Weigela Magical Rainbow ('Kolmagira') has been available very occasionally in the past, but is now available more widely from Hayloft Plants.



  • ‘Candy Love’ hellebore: New from Cotswold Garden Flowers

    Graham Rice on 25 Feb 2013 at 01:22 PM
    Helleborus 'Candy Love': New from Cotswold Garden Flowers. Image © Het Wilgenbroek/Thierry Van PaemelSome of the best new hellebores of recent years have been hybrids involving the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, and this new one, ‘Candy Love’ is a fine newcomer.

    Described by Bob Brown who runs Cotswold Garden Flowers, and is also vice chair of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee ,as “better than any I've grown so far” - which considering he named an earlier plant of this type ‘Bob’s Best’ is quite an accolade.

    The leathery, boldly toothed, evergreen foliage is deep green overlaid in pewter with contrasting purple stems and veins. Then from late December well into April and May the clusters of creamy buds open to pale apricot flowers steadily darkening to pink then misty purple with red and pink tints.

    Flowering well as a young plant, ‘Candy Love’ is vigorous and soon develops into a specimen for a container or the front of a sunny border.

    Helleborus ‘Candy Love’ was created in Belgium by Thierry Van Paemel who crossed his own selections of H. niger and H. lividus. This plant was picked out from the resulting seedlings in 2005 for its prolific flowering, its long flowering period and for its vigorous growth as well as its exceptional flower colour. Considering that it has the relatively tender H. lividus in its background, it’s very heartening to see that ‘Candy Love’ has proved hardy down to -20C.

    Helleborus ‘Candy Love’ is available from Cotswold Garden Flowers (scroll down).



  • Alpine clematis in new colours and styles

    Graham Rice on 24 Feb 2013 at 02:15 AM

    Clematis 'Purple Dream' - new double flowered purple spring clematis. Image ©Szczepan MarczyńskiWe tend to think of those valuable spring flowering Alpine clematis (sometimes known as Atragene clematis) – C. alpina, C. macropetala and their hybrids – as, basically, blue. Or perhaps white, or maybe, occasionally pink. But this spring sees the arrival of two new large-flowered double pink forms, as well as a new double flowered purple, and single- and double-flowered varieties in pale yellow.

    All these new clematis are being introduced by Thorncroft Clematis, who in recent years have established a reputation for bringing fine new clematis from Europe to British gardeners. These new alpine clematis have all been developed in Poland by Szczepan Marczyński, a clematis breeder who’s introduced fine new varieties of all kinds.

    There are two new double pink flowered forms. The flowers of ‘Pink Dream’ (below, click to enlarge) are pink on the outside and a creamier pink shade on the inside, while in ‘Pink Swing’ Clematis 'Pink Dream' - new double flowered pink spring clematis. Image ©Szczepan Marczyńskithe flowers are lovely subtle blend of cream and pink. Both are have an attractive grapefruit scent. ‘Purple Dream’ (above, click to enlarge) is also double, and again it’s grapefruit scented, with a flush of creamy purple flowers in May, and then again in summer.

    In pale yellow there’s ‘Lemon Dream’ and ‘Lemon Beauty’. ‘Lemon Dream’ has exceptionally large flowers with lime green buds which open to pale lemon yellow, fading to white. ‘Lemon Beauty’ features very large double flowers, again with limey buds opening to lemon yellow.

    All these varieties reach about 6-8ft/1.8-2.4m in height, they enjoy full sun that is not too scorching or open positions without full sun. Little pruning is needed, simply tidy them up after flowering.

    All these new clematis are available from Thorncroft Clematis. Click on the names to order ‘Lemon Beauty’ or ‘Lemon Dream’ or ‘Pink Dream’ or ‘Pink Swing’ or ‘Purple Dream’.


  • Two new self fertile runner beans set pods in all weathers

    Graham Rice on 20 Feb 2013 at 01:26 PM
    'Snowstorm': new self fertile runner bean from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Tozer SeedsOne of the most irritating things about runner beans is when they flower – and then the flowers just drop off without the beans actually setting. It happens in dry weather, and it happens when there are no bees around to pollinate. And with our increasingly unpredictable weather, and with fewer bees, it seems to happen more and more often.

    A Surrey-based vegetable specialist has been working on solving this problem by crossing runner beans with climbing French beans. Climbing French beans are self fertile, they don’t need bees, and also happily set pods in a wide range of growing conditions. But runner beans have the flavour. Bring the two together and you have tasty stringless beans that reliably produce pods.

    White-flowered ‘Moonlight’ was the first. Then last year came red-flowered ‘Firestorm’. Now this year we have we have two more white-flowered varieties, ‘Snowstorm’ and ‘Stardust’. Both are improvements on ‘Moonlight’, both have an even greater ability to set pods in difficult conditions.'Stardust': new self fertile runner bean from Marsalls. Image ©Tozer Seeds

    ‘Snowstorm’ has better flavour than ‘Moonlight’, better texture, smoother skin and longer pods – and of course it’s stringless. ‘Stardust’ is similar to ‘Moonlight’ but has pods that are longer and although it’s a little later to start cropping once it gets going it’s much more prolific.

    Grow these new runner beans in just the same way as traditional runner beans, but you’ll probably need even fewer plants as there’s far less chance of flowers dropping off without producing any beans. And of course that long succession of white flowers brings a fresh and colourful look to the veg garden.

    You can order seed of runner bean ‘Snowstorm’ from Thompson & Morgan.

    You can order seed of runner bean ‘Stardust’ from Marshalls.



  • Gerbera Spider Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 16 Feb 2013 at 12:18 PM
    These new hardy spider gerberas have survived -20C in Worcetsershire. Images ©Florist Holland B.V.We’ve seen a lot of talk about hardy gerberas over the last few years, and quite a few new plants have appeared that claim to meet the description. And, though uou may be surprised to hear it, some really are hardy. These new spider types have survived -20C in two different Worcestershire trial sites.

    Developed in The Netherlands, like all gerberas they form a bold rosette of rich green leaves from which the stems arise, each carrying a single flower. Flowering from May to November on 12-18in/30-45cm stems, the long-lasting flowers just keep coming, especially if dead-headed or picked for the house.

    There are five colours (above, click to enlarge), Lemon, Orange, Pink, Red and Salmon, all with the same mass of slender rays surrounding a golden eye. When planted in containers, this distinctive flower formation can be more easily seen in close up.

    These Spider Series gerberas appreciate good drainage, especially in winter. In containers, use a compost that drains well and stand the pot on pot feet as container composts tend to be mostly peat or peat-substitute and can hold too much winter moisture. Allow the plants to become a little dry before watering. In the garden plant in a sunny border with fertile soil that drains well.

    These Spider gerberas also make long lasting cut flowers. Cut them as the ray petals are unfolding but before you see pollen in the central eye. Gerberas are especially susceptible to the build-up of bacteria in the water so be sure to use a flower food.

    You can order these Spider Series gerberas as a collection or as individual colours from Hayloft Plants.



  • Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’: Prolific trailing begonia from seed

    Graham Rice on 07 Feb 2013 at 10:47 PM
    Begonia 'Santa Cruz Sunset': Prolific trailing begonia from seed. Image ©BallColegave.There are over nine hundred different species of Begonia, so it always seemed a little odd that we only ever saw two different kinds used in summer borders and containers – known by the shorthand of fibrous-rooted, and tuberous-rooted. But the re-discovery in the wild of the South American Begonia boliviensis has led to the introduction of a whole new range of selections and hybrids.

    Most of these are designed to be raised from cuttings – the excellent Million Kisses Series is perhaps the best example – but now we have the first of this type that’s raised from seed, ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’.

    Plants are bushily semi-trailing, ideal for baskets and tubs, and feature long narrow, fresh green leaves with reddish toothed margins. This attractive foliage makes a fine background for the prolific display of swaying reddish-orange flowers, each made up of four long flared petals and which are held on reddish stems. Flowering is from early summer to the frosts and each plant always carries plenty of colour.

    The seed is raised in the same way as more familiar begonias, or plug plants are also available. One other advantage of ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ is that while the cost of each plant of a cuttings-raised variety includes a royalty payable to the breeder, no royalty is paid on the seed-raised ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’. So ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ is more economical.

    You can order seed of Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ from Mr Fothergill and from Nicky’s Nursery.

    You can order plug plants of Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ from D T Brown, and from Mr Fothergill, and from Unwins.

    And look out for Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ in garden centres in May.