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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

  • Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’: New dark foliage form

    Graham Rice on 21 Mar 2013 at 11:59 AM
    Hydrangea 'Hot Chocolate' has richly coloured foliage as well as attractive flowers. Imagfes ©van Vliet New Plants BVHydrangea aspera is a lovely shrub with large and colourful summer lacecap flowers and interesting peeling winter bark. ‘Hot Chocolate’, with its chocolate brown foliage, adds another colourful feature.

    It’s the broad, 20-30cm, lacecap flowers which are the plant’s main appeal. The ring of large pink florets around the rim of the flower heads surrounds a broad mass of much smaller violet florets in the centre, and when the plant is covered with them in July the effect is dramatic. Flowering may continue into September.

    In ‘Hot Chocolate’ there is a valuable additional feature, the foliage. The leaves open in spring in dark chocolate brown, eventually becoming dark green and making an ideal background for the flowers. Then, in autumn, the foliage changes to amberish yellow with orange highlights. And all the way through, the underside of each leaf is wine red.

    ‘Hot Chocolate’ makes an impressive specimen up to about 3m high and 2m wide, if necessary it can be pruned thoughtfully in spring. It is happiest in light shade in well-drained soil, and is unusual amongst hydrangeas in growing well on chalk; wet soil should be avoided.

    You can order Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’ from Gardening Express and also from Hayloft Plants.

    Also look out for these new plants…

    Antirrhinum ‘Twinny’ - a new double flowered form from DT Brown, from Mr Fothergill’s and from Thompson & Morgan.

    Crocosmia ‘Twilight Fairy Gold’ – golden flowers and bronze foliage, from Cotswold Garden Flowers.

    Tomato rootstock ‘Estimo – if you’d like to try grafting your own tomatoes, from Kings Seeds.



  • Cosmos ‘Pink Popsocks’: New from Nicky’s Nursery

    Graham Rice on 07 Mar 2013 at 01:00 PM
    Cosmos 'Pink Popsocks': pink flowers in many forms. Image ©Thompson & MorganCosmos is one of the easiest annuals to grow. The seeds are relatively large, and easy to handle; seeds germinate quickly; young plants are strong and vigorous; flowering plants are prolific. And there are varieties in a wide range of colours and flower forms. They’re great in borders and good for cutting. Convinced? You know there’s a “but” coming, right? Right – well, kind of....

    The problem is that varieties tend to deteriorate over the years, as it’s expensive for the seed companies to keep them as good as they should be. In particular, season after season, they can get taller, and develop more leaves and fewer flowers. So cosmos varieties are often at their peak when they’re new, or soon after.

    ‘Pink Popsocks’ is new out this year and this is the time to grow it. With its intriguing range of flower forms including singles, doubles and anemone-centred forms as well as flowers in pure colours and two-tone flowers - and all in soft pink - not to put too fine a point on it, but in five years time it may not be quite so impressive.

    Reaching about 60cm in height, ‘Pink Popsocks’ integrates well into mixed borders in sunny sites, and can also be grown as a cut flower – what better way to liven up the allotment than a row of ‘Pink Popsocks’ between the cabbages? Sow indoors in March in gentle heat and keep the plants growing well, or sow outside in May.

    You can order seed of Cosmos ‘Pink Popsocks’ from Nicky’s Nursery.