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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

  • Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Improved': Scented trailing begonias from T&M

    Graham Rice on 20 Feb 2014 at 03:35 PM
    Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Improved': Scented trailing begonias from T&M. Imes ©Thompson & MorganScented trailing begonias for hanging baskets – doesn't that sound marvelous? Well, here they are, after almost ten years development – the latest from the breeding work at Thompson & Morgan.

    T&M introduced ‘Aromatics’, the work of a Belgian breeder, in 2005 but they felt that the scent needed to be stronger and the colours needed to be better. So in 2006 they began to develop their own range and introduced ‘Fragrant Falls Apricot’ at Chelsea in 2011. Unfortunately, it proved rather difficult to propagate as it produced so few cuttings. But, now, after more development, T&M are introducing ‘Fragrant Falls Improved’, in three colours (left, click to enlarge) – all scented, all with double flowers.

    Each flower of ‘Apricot Delight’ features a blend of apricot shades with a rose fragrance while the flowers of ‘Lemon Fizz’ come in shades of lemon with a sharp citrus scent. The rose-scented ‘Rose Syllabub’ is pale pink with a dark pink picotee edge.

    All are ideal for hanging baskets, with a compact semi-trailing habit. They will bloom through the summer until frosts and even put on a good show in wet summers and on shady parts of the patio.

    You can order a collection of ‘Fragrant Falls Improved’ begonias from Thompson & Morgan. Or you can order Begonia ‘Apricot Delight’ and Begonia ‘Lemon Fizz’ and Begonia ‘Rose Syllabub’ separately.




  • Pelargonium ‘Angel’s Perfume’: Colourful flowers, fragrant foliage

    Graham Rice on 14 Feb 2014 at 01:21 PM
    Pelargonium 'Angel's Perfume' is ideal for basketsDevelopments in what we all call geraniums – zonal pelargoniums – are fast and furious around the world with new colours and colour combinations, and continual refinements and improvements in habit and reliability. Ivy-leaved geraniums, too, are steadily being improved and in recent years we’ve also seen better Regal pelargoniums, especially for outdoor containers. Now Angel pelargoniums are also in focus.

    Many of us will remember the long series of fine exhibits at flower shows from Derek Lloyd Dean who did such an admirable job ensuring that so many Angel pelargoniums were preserved. Now PAC-Elsner, for many years the world’s top pelargonium breeders, have turned their attention to these small-flowered prettily patterned Angel types in the form of the Angel Eyes Series – the latest of which adds aromatic foliage to the colourful flowers.

    ‘Angel’s Perfume’ features a mass of flowers, over a long summer season, each bloom made up of two burgundy upper petals and three pink lower petals splashed in burgundy. The plants start to bloom in June, continue into the autumn, and if containers are brought into the conservatory they should flower into the winter. Reaching 30-38cm in height, plants develop a spreading, slightly arching habit making them ideal in containers, especially as specimens.

    The final flourish - the perfume - comes in the form of the lemon-scented foliage giving this plant the rare combination of an amazingly colourful floral display plus aromatic leaves. Ideal in a patio container.

    By the way, just to be clear, the correct name for this plant is Angel’s Perfume (‘Pacperfu’) but some nurseries are selling it as ‘Angel Eyes Perfume’.

    You can order Pelargonium ‘Angel’s Perfume’ from Thompson & Morgan and also, as ‘Angel Eyes Perfume’, from de Jaeger and from J. Parker’s.



  • Three new Barnhaven double primroses

    Graham Rice on 06 Feb 2014 at 02:03 PM
    Three new Barnhaven primroses. Images ©Barnhaven PrimrosesBarnhaven is a name known the world over for primroses of all kinds, but for double primroses in particular. From their early days in Oregon to their present home in Brittany, Barnhaven Primroses have maintained the quality of their wide range of beautiful hardy, seed-raised primroses and polyanthus in colours found nowhere else.

    For so long, only seed was sent out by mail order and with double primroses in particular the results can be unpredictable. But, in recent years, Barnhaven have also been sending out plants and, at the same time, selected choice individual double flowered primroses have been named and propagated by division or tissue culture so that every single plant is guaranteed true.

    They have three new Barnhaven double primroses this season. Lynne Dawson who, with her husband David, now runs Barnhaven told me about them.

    “Pink double primroses are in great demand and seem to be the most difficult to create. The percentage of doubles that appear is less and the plants are often weak. ‘Pink Star’ (top, click to enlarge) is an exception, being vigorous and it divides easily – so we’re dividing it by hand. It has come from a cross between a double pink and our (single-flowered) ‘Candy Pinks’.

    “The blue one is called ‘Blue Ice’. I have a weakness for the pale blue doubles and have been working on them extensively for a while. It originated from putting double pollen onto a (single-flowered) ‘Barnhaven Blue’ several years back.”

    ‘Guernsey Cream’ has genes from our (single-flowered) ‘Osiered Amber’ and one of our yellow doubles. One of a series of creamy, honey coloured doubles contrasting with very dark bronze foliage.”

    You can order these new double primroses ‘Pink Star’, ‘Blue Ice’ and ‘Guernsey Cream’ from Barnhaven Primroses where you can also check out their other doubles.



  • Skimmia japonica ‘Pabella’: Vigorous and prolific

    Graham Rice on 02 Feb 2014 at 02:24 PM
    Skimmia 'Pabella' is prolific and vigorous. Image ©Ronald van der WerfGardeners are often disappointed by skimmias. The foliage looks pale and sickly, the berries are scattered over the plant and never make a dramatic display. But this new variety from Holland looks as if it will restore our confidence. It has three special features.

    First of all, the foliage is a rich dark green and sets off the berries well. And secondly, instead of clusters of just a few berries scattered all over the plant, on ‘Pabella’ the berries come in more generous clusters. Finally, while some skimmias have berries in a thin, pale red the berries on ‘Pabella’ are a dark and intense in colour and often last into spring. The combination of dark foliage and dark berries looks very impressive. Plants will reach about 1m in height and are very tolerant of shade.

    Of course, skimmias do have their growing requirements and ‘Pabella’ is no different. Neutral and acid soils are definitely preferred, if your soil is limey either add composted bark or grow your skimmias in a container filled with ericaceous compost.

    Also, like most skimmias that produce berries, ‘Pabella’ is a female plant and so needs a male plant to provide pollen; S. japonica ‘Rubella’ is a good choice as it’s the most attractive of the male forms with lovely dark red buds. Both ‘Pabella’ and ‘Rubella’ have fragrant white flowers in April and May.

    Oddly, the female ‘Pabella’ arose on a Dutch nursery as a sport on a plant of the male ‘Rubella’.

    You can order plants of Skimmia japonica ‘Pabella’ from Johnstown Garden Centre and from Plants Galore.