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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

  • Lavatera ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’: new colour from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 24 Sep 2013 at 03:28 PM

    Lavatera 'Dwarf Pink Blush': new colour from Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson & MorganAnnual lavateras (Lavatera trimestris) are amongst the easiest and most colourful hardy annuals to grow from seed and would be grown far more widely but for one thing: the colour range has been limited.

    So fare we’ve had a shining pure white, a carmine pink and a veined pink but now there’s a new colour. Not blue or yellow, no, but white with a crimson heart and pink veins. Lovely. Reaching about 70cm in height, in spite of its name ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’ is not as short as the 50cm, bright pink ‘Novella’ but is a more attractive colour.

    This is a hardy annual to sow outside in a fertile but well-drained soil in a sunny position. Alternatively, for bushier and earlier flowering plants, seed can be started in a cool greenhouse and moved on into 7.5 or 9cm pots before hardening off and planting out about 30-38in apart. Plants grow quickly and are ideal in new gardens.

    Grow ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’ in front of shrub roses, amongst perennials or in a mixed border and it also makes a lovely cut flower but, because it does not transport well, is rarely seen in florists. Pick stems for the vase just as the buds are starting unfurl but before they are fully open. Give a slightly wider spacing, 45cm if growing specifically for cutting and expect about ten stems per plant.

    You can order seed of Lavatera ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’ from Thompson & Morgan.


  • New sweet peas to sow this autumn

    Graham Rice on 11 Sep 2013 at 02:06 PM

    Sweet Pea 'Just Janet': New from Unwins for 2014. Image ©Unwins
    I’ve written a piece for the Daily Telegraph on why sweet pea seed should be sown in the autumn, and how to go about it. And I’ve added my selection of some of the most interesting new sweet pea varieties which are available this autumn for the first time.

    But there is only room for a selection, so here are all the season’s new sweet peas that I’ve come across so far.

    ‘Alexander Flett’
    Large, frilly, very well scented lavender flowers on strong stems. Raised by the Bobby Chisholm and awarded a First Class Certificate by the Scottish National Sweet Pea Society. Available from Kerton Sweet Peas.

    ‘Baby’s Blush’
    Standards blush pink with a lemon tint, fading paler blush. Wings white. Developed by Roger Parsons. Available from Roger Parsons.

    Mixture of modern Grandiflora types in pink and mauve shades developed by Keith Hammett. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Cherub Northern Lights’
    Strongly scented dwarf type in white with a red flash on the standards and blue on the wings. Developed by Mark Rowland. Available from Owl's Acre Sweet Peas.

    ‘Coronation Festival’
    Well scented mix of modern Grandiflora types in red, white and blue. Available from Suttons.

    ‘Dark Sprite’
    Maroon and violet bicolour dwarf type, opening at least two weeks earlier than other dwarf sweet peas. Developed by Mark Rowland. Available from Owl's Acre Sweet Peas.

    ‘Deborah Devonshire’
    Pink picotee Spencer developed by Andrew Beane, named for the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, patron of the National Sweet Pea Society. Available from Myers Sweet Peas.'Earl Grey', the first bicoloured flake variety. Image ©Keith Hammett

    ‘Earl Grey’ (left, click to enlarge)
    Unique bicoloured flake type developed by Keith Hammett, white with red streaks on standards, blue streaks on the wings. Available from Roger Parsons.

    ‘Fairy Tale’
    Mixture of modern Grandiflora types in blue and purple shades developed by Keith Hammett. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Father and Daughter’
    Mix of two heirloom Grandifloras: ‘Henry Eckford’ (salmon orange) and ‘Dorothy Eckford’ (pure white). Available from Mr Fothergill's.

    Strongly scented Spencer mix in blues, bright purples, and pastel pinks including bicolours. Available from Suttons.

    ‘Just Janet’ (top, click to enlarge)
    Soft salmon pink over a cream background. Named for the recently retired seed buyer at Unwins. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Lavender Sprite’
    Dwarf, rich lavender. Recently received an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Available from Owl's Acre Sweet Peas.

    Vivid, bright, slightly orange-tinted scarlet flowers. Available from Unwins.

    ‘More Scent’ (below)
    Probably the sweet pea with the strongest scent, Keith Hammett’s mauve and white modern Grandiflora is even more strongly scented than his ‘High Scent’. Available from Somerset Sweet Peas.

    Winter-flowering, semi-multiflora soft pink bicolour for commercial cut flower production. Another from Keith Hammett. Available from Roger Parsons.

    ‘Pip’s Cornish Cream’
    A good cream Spencer, suitable for exhibition. A replacement for 'Jilly', which has deteriorated; developed by Roger Parsons Available from Roger Parsons.

    Beautifully formed long stemmed rosy-pink blooms on a white ground are carried on long strong stems. Available from Unwins.

    ‘Purple Pimpernel’
    Bicoloured Spencer in deep purple and paler purple, originated with a Thompson & Morgan customer. Available from Thompson & Morgan.

    ‘Ruby Charm’
    Sweetly scented rich crimson. Launched at the Chelsea Flower Show this year. Available from Matthewman's Sweet Peas.

    ‘Sgt Blott’
    Large, frilly, scarlet flowers on strong stems. Raised by the Bobby Chisholm and awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Scottish National Sweet Pea Society. Available from Kerton Sweet Peas.

    ‘Sir Henry Cecil’
    Strongly scented flake type, with white flowers streaked in shades of red through to almost chocolate. Another from Keith Hammett. Available from Mr Fothergill's. More on ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ here.
    Sweet Pea 'More Scent': Probably has the best scent of all. Image ©Keith Hammett


  • Sweet Pea 'Sir Henry Cecil': New from Mr Fothergill's Seeds

    Graham Rice on 09 Sep 2013 at 04:52 PM
    Sweet Pea 'Sir Henry Cecil': new from Mr Fothergill's Seeds. Image ©Mr Fothergill's seeds
    This new sweet pea is raised by the world’s most innovative sweet pea breeder, Dr Keith Hammett, and named to commemorate Newmarket’s great racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil.

    Formerly known as ‘Chocolate Flake’, this sweetly scented variety features white flowers streaked on both sides of the petals in shades from bright red through to milk chocolate. This type of sweet pea is inherently a little variable and the colour can also be affected by weather conditions, but the range of shades makes a very harmonies bouquet. It is now available from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.

    "We knew Sir Henry loved his flower garden as a form of relaxation from the pressure of training racehorses, and so we were honoured when Lady Cecil agreed to our request to name the new variety in his memory", said the company's joint managing director John Fothergill.
    Sweet Pea ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ was developed in New Zealand by RHS Cory Cup winner Dr Keith Hammett. Such is his reputation that Mr Fothergill’s now puts a special flash on the packets of all its sweet pea varieties bred by Dr Hammett to highlight their origin.
    In a training career based at Newmarket, close to Mr Fothergill’s offices and trial ground, Sir Henry Cecil won 3431 races worldwide including twenty five British Classic races.

    Sweet Pea ‘Sir Henry Cecil’ is available only from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.

    For more on Keith Hammett, take a look at this profile in the RHS magazine The Plantsman.