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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

  • Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Viveleg’: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 25 Jul 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Viveleg'. ©Wyevale East.Elaeagnus x ebbingei is an invaluable and easy to grow evergreen shrub, especially in its variegated forms. The AGM winning ‘Gilt Edge’, with yellow edges to the leaves, and also ‘Limelight’, with its yellow central splash to the leaves, are widely grown. The oddly named ‘Viveleg’ is like a more dramatic version of ‘Gilt Edge’.

    The foliage of ‘Viveleg’ is irregularly margined in gold but because the basic leaf colour is significantly darker in the colour than that of ‘Gilt Edge’, the effect is brighter. ‘Viveleg’ is also more upright in growth and more vigorous, as well as more dense in growth, and so better suited, for example, as a boundary plant in a new small garden or as a specimen.

    When mature, the plant should reach 8ft/2.4m in height and a width of about 5-7ft/1.5-2m. In September and October, small creamy flowers line the branches and although they tend to be hidden by the foliage their fragrance is often obvious.

    This new variegated form was spotted on a nursery in Toulouse in France amongst many of the usual green-leaved form.

    Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Viveleg’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 19 Jul 2011 at 08:24 PM

    Populus deltoides, Purple Tower. ©GardenPhotos.comStrolling round the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show earlier this month, I came across purple leaved tree I'd never seen before - Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’. This looks to be a valuable addition to the range of purple-leaved trees, especially as it develops into an upright, pyramidal shape, a good contrast to trees with a more rounded habit of growth.

    This is a new form of the cottonwood tree of Eastern North America and not only is 'Purple Tower' tall and relatively narrow, but its colouring is delicious. With its rich, reddish purple leaves held on dark red stems speckled in beige, it will quickly make a bold statement in the landscape eventually reaching more than 10m/30ft in height and with a spread of about 3m/10ft.

    Another valuable feature is that the foliage develops fiery autumnal shades to add to the end of the season colour palette.

    The leaves are quite large, 15-20cm/6-8in long and 10-12cm/4-6in wide, so they will make quite a feature on a naturally grown specimen but I'd suggest it could also be useful in more modest situations where there is no space for it to develop into a mature tree.

    Cut it back hard ever spring as it starts into growth and like catalpa and paulownia it will develop into a bold back-of-the-border feature and the leaves will be significantly larger.

    Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’ is available by mail order from Bluebell Nursery and Madrona Nursery.


  • Exochorda ‘Niagara’: New from Hillier

    Graham Rice on 15 Jul 2011 at 07:39 PM

    Exochorda,Niagara,Hiller. Image © Hiller Garden CentresExochorda, sometimes known as the pearlbush, is one of those not-quite-first-division shrubs that no one has bothered to think about improving since the Lemoine nursery in France created ‘The Bride’ in about 1900. Until now.

    The problem has been that although they look spectacular decked in white flowers in May, the plants are rather straggly and unkempt and they become too big and inelegant. Well, now there’s a dwarf and bushy version.

    Of course dwarf and bushy is not always a good thing, but in this case it’s a valuable step forward. Expected to reach only about 40in/1m in ten years, and flowering profusely in April and May, the pure white flowers open from pearly buds. ‘Niagara’ develops into a rounded plant with none of the ungainly straggliness of other exochordas.

    Ideal in a small garden in a sunny border, it should also thrive in a container perhaps with Clematis integrifolia whose blue flowers and silvery seedheads will take over later and welcome the support from the exochorda. Exochorda ‘Niagara’ will take drought once established, but enjoys rich conditions.

    ‘Niagara’ was raised in Holland by Herman Geers, who has also raised some excellent weigelas. He crossed an unnamed plant of E. racemosa with ‘The Bride’ in 1994 and selected this seedling in 1997. As ‘The Bride’ itself has E. racemosa as one of its parents, ‘Niagara’ has a big dose of E. racemosa in its parentage – but is still much more compact. And, good news for the nursery, also easier to propagate. In North America it's known as Snow Day Surprise.

    Exochorda ‘Niagara’ is available at Hillier Garden Centres and from the Hillier website.


  • New plants at the 2011 Hampton Court show

    Graham Rice on 07 Jul 2011 at 03:33 PM
    Pennisetum macrourum,Short Stuff,Hampton Court. Image © Knoll GardensThere are some interesting new (and not so new) plants at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this year and I've done two reports on them for the RHS Show coverage on the website.

    Firstly, I've done a five minute video on new and interesting plants at the show 9scroll down and hit the link), there's also a slightly different companion slide show report, and also a special slide show report on all the new roses including the Rose of The Year.

    One of the new introductions that I especially liked was Pennisetum macrourum 'Short Stuff (above, click to enlarge)'. At Knoll Gardens, Neil Lucas is developing new ornamental grasses especially suited to the British climate. Pennisetum macrourum 'Short Stuff' is his latest.

    The wild species, from the mountains of South Africa, is lovely grass but tends to be too tall and flower too late in the year in our rather different British climate. 'Short Stuff' is starting to flower now, in early July, and will continue flowering through the summer. As the name implies it's also shorter, reaching only about 90cm/3ft high with its upright, blue-tinted leaves are topped with slender green tipped spikes in rusty pink.

    'Short Stuff' enjoys a well drained soil in full sun, or it can be grown in a container. At the Show it looked especially good as a specimen plant in a square, rusty brown steel pot.

    Pennisetum macrourum 'Short Stuff' is available from Knoll Gardens either at the Show or by mail order.


  • New Plant Award winners

    Graham Rice on 29 Jun 2011 at 06:25 PM

    Dianthus,memories,Alzheimer. Image ©GardenPhotos.comNinety three plants were entered for New Plant Awards at this week's second annual National Plant Show. The judges picked a winner, and the visitors also picked their favourite.

    The Best in Show award went to Dianthus 'Memories'. This pure white garden pink was raised by Whetman Pinks in Devon, the world's leading breeders of new Dianthus, and is said to be one of the most fragrant they've ever raised. Unfortunately, after two and a half days in an exhibition hall it had entirely lost its fragrance, as had the other scented plants in the competition.

    The pure white flowers are fully double, the edges of the petals are prettily drilled, and the flowers keep coming from April to September above blue-grey leaves. A charitable contribution of 25p from each plant sold will go to the Alzheimer’s Society to raise money and awareness.

    Dahlia,Mystic Haze,new plant. Image ©GardenPhotos.comThe visitors voted for a different plant, Dahlia Mystic Haze ('Dark Side of the Moon') came out top. This is a very dark leaved dahlia with large single flowers. The foliage is a slightly glossy mahogany black in colour while the flowers are orange to apricot in colour with yellow highlights; new flowers are more highly yellow tinted.

    Mystic Haze was raised in New Zealand by the eminent dahlia breeder Keith Hammett who has produced an impressive range of dark leaved dahlias.

    The National Plant Show is a show for the horticultural trade and stocks of these new varieties are still being propagated. Both plants should be on sale in nurseries and garden centres next year but I thought you'd like to get an advance look at them.


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year: Five final finalists

    Graham Rice on 18 Jun 2011 at 08:44 PM

    Streptocarpus, Phalaenopsis, RHS, Chelsea, Plant of The Year, Brachyscome, Sarracenia, Nepenthes. Images © Carol Sheppard/RHSThis is the last of my looks at the finalists for the 2011 Plant of The Year award, given at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, with four indoor plants and a bright container plant.

    From Australia comes the neat and bushy Brachyscome 'Magenta Delight', the first of its kind in such a vivid shade of magenta pink. The latest in fifteen years of development of brachyscomes, it was created by RHS Veitch Memorial Medal holder Roger Elliot. It's a prolific plant to hang over the edge of container anywhere in a sunny position.

    Named in honour of Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales, Nepenthes 'Princess' is a hybrid pitcher plant developed in the Sri Lankan nursery of Rob Cantley of Borneo Exotics. He crossed two species he'd collected in the wild, legally of course, and selected this plant from the resulting seedlings for its bright red-lipped pitchers which are spotted in red. 'Princess' can be grown in a greenhouse or on a windowsill but appreciates humid conditions.

    Developed in Taiwan, Phalaenopsis Ming - Hsing Eagle represents the increasingly popular large flowered, pastel coloured phalaenopsis with the delicate rosy pink patterning in its petals being especially appealing.

    Sarracenia 'Johnny Marr' was developed at Hampshire Carnivorous Plants. A hybrid made in 1999, the plant first flowered in 2003 and was selected for colour, its vigour and the fact that its pitchers are so long lasting. The pitchers are very striking in colour, a bright copper shade in spring maturing to dark burgundy later in the season. Named for the guitarist formerly with The Smiths and The Cribs.

    Finally, another streptocarpus from Dibleys whose 'Harlequin Blue' was the winner of the inaugural Plant of The Year award last year. 'Sioned' flowers for most of the year, its creamy booms boldly patterned in magenta pink with orange tones in the throat. A good windowsill plant, it is best kept slightly dry.

    Click on the links below to see posts on the other finalists:
    The Winner
    The two runners up
    Heucherella and Lewisia finalists
    Three lily finalists
    Three container plant finalists
    Two shrubs and an ornamental grass

    Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the images.


  • Chelsea Plant of The Year: Three more finalists

    Graham Rice on 18 Jun 2011 at 07:19 PM

    RHS,Plant of The Year,Chelsea,Rhododendron,Hydrangea,Uncinia. Image © Carol Sheppard/RHS.Continuing my run down of all the finalists for the 2011 Plant of The Year award, given at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, we come to shrubs and an ornamental grass (above, click to enlarge).

    Hydrangea Avantgarde ('Hedi') is a traditional mophead hydrangea – but with three special qualities. First of all the flower heads, and also the leaves, are unusually large so the impact is impressive. Also, the flowers change colour intriguingly as the age, opening white, they mature to pink (blue on acid soils) then finally to green. Finally, other special feature of Avantgarde is that it not only flowers in the usual hydrangea season, but also flowers again later in the season.

    From one of the world's leading rhododendron hybridisers, Hans Hachmann, comes 'Rabatz'. The culmination of a breeding programme begun as long ago as the 1970s, 'Rabatz' features clusters of good deep red flowers which open wide to show off their delicate dark freckles. In this variety, unusually, that rich colouring is combined with a cast iron constitution, 'Rabatz' will take colder winter temperatures than other varieties in a similar shade.

    Finally, a very striking evergreen ornamental grass discovered in New Zealand. I wrote it up here back in February. Uncinia rubra Everflame ('Belinda's Find') is a colourfully variegated form of the familiar U. rubra found by the dispatch manager of a wholesale nursery near Auckland. Its purplish green foliage is brightly striped in pink shades and it keeps its colour all year in sun or light shade as long as the soil is not too dry.

    Click on the links below to see posts on the other finalists:
    The Winner
    The two runners up
    Heucherella and Lewisia finalists
    Three lily finalists
    Three container plant finalists

    Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the images.



  • Chelsea Plant of The Year finalists: Three container plants

    Graham Rice on 15 Jun 2011 at 01:18 PM

    Chelsea,Plant of The Year,Begonia,Lobelia,Petunia. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHS.Some creative plant breeding went into the development of the three container plants (above, click to enlarge) chosen as finalists for his year's Chelsea Plant of The Year.

    Begonia 'Apricot Fragrant Falls' was developed by Charles Valin at Thompson & Morgan, who also produced the third placed Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon'. His aim was to add fragrance to the very popular trailing 'Illumination Apricot Shades' and he achieved this using a plant selected from the well-scented 'Aromatics' with salmon pink flowers and a plant chosen from the less widely grown 'Niagara Yellow Red'. After four years and growing almost 4,000 seedlings 'Apricot Fragrant Falls' is the result.

    The flowers are fully double, and can be quartered almost like an old-fashioned rose. The petals are light apricot with an orange reverse, and the fragrance is a sweet rose and honey scent with notes of citrus.

    Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice' is probably the most dramatic of the recent basket lobelias intended to be raised from cuttings rather than seed. These cuttings-raised types tend to be more resilient in dry conditions, more intensely bushy and have larger flowers than the familiar seed-raised types.

    'Waterfall Blue Ice' features brilliant blue flowers, each with a large bright mark at the centre. The contrast is bolder and brighter than in other bicoloured lobelias. The plants have a very bushy, semi-trailing habit.

    Finally, a genuine innovation – the world's first black petunia. I wrote it up on my RHS New Plant blog in October of last year.

    From Ball Horticultural in the USA, who also developed Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice',  Black Velvet ('Balpevac') is a semi-trailing petunia with flowers which really are absolutely black – not purple or crimson – although the backs of the petals do show some purple tints.

    Derived in part from a lime-green flowered petunia found on a small nursery in Minnesota – yes, really – this is a neat and compact plant for pots and window boxes rather than hanging baskets.

    Look out for Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue Ice' and Petunia Black Velvet ('Balpevac') in garden centres now. All three will be available from mail order suppliers for next season.

    You can find details of the winner, the two runners up, and two other batches of other shortlisted plants here on my RHS New Plants blog. And look out for a more detailed account of every shortlisted plant in the September issue of The Plantsman.

    Thank you to Carol Shppard of the RHS for the images.

  • Chelsea Plant of The Year: Three lily finalists

    Graham Rice on 10 Jun 2011 at 03:28 PM

    lily,Chelsea,Plant of The Year,H W Hyde. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHSContinuing my look at all the plants shortlisted for the 2011 Chelsea Plant Of The Year award, we come to three new lilies all entered by H. W. Hyde and Son.

    'Firebolt' (above left, click to enlarge) is a new Oriental hybrid lily from Holland. Bred as a cut flower, its sultry deep red flowers are unusual in their rich colouring and are carried in elegant, well-balanced heads on extra strong stems. Set off by orange anthers, each petal is deep red at the edges and a slightly fierier red in the centre.

    'Lankon' (above centre, click to enlarge) is the world's first hybrid between the familiar Easter lily, L. longiflorum from Japan, and the Chinese L. lankongense to become available to gardeners. I wrote it up a few weeks ago here on my RHS New Plants blog. New techniques, and persistence, have led to the creation and availability of this hybrid which combines the vigour and pure white colouring of L. longiflorum with the delicate speckling of L. lankongense.

    Finally 'Julie Fowlis' (above right, click to enlarge), an Oriental lily crossed with a Trumpet lily and the result crossed back to Oriental lily. Named for the Scottish folk singer of whom the Dutch breeder is a big fan, its large very well scented, dark vivid pink flowers are a little darker towards the centre of each petal and towards the base. Especially easy to grow in any rich but well drained soil, although developed as a cut flower lily it will also thrive in the garden.

    All three lilies -  'Firebolt', 'Lankon' and 'Julie Fowlis' - are available from H. W. Hyde & Son.

    You can find details of the winner of the Chelsea Plant of The Year award, the two runners up, and other shortlisted plants here on my RHS New Plants blog. And look out for a more detailed account of every shortlisted plant in the September issue of The Plantsman.

    Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the images.


  • Chelsea Plant of the Year: Heucherella and Lewisia finalists

    Graham Rice on 05 Jun 2011 at 04:43 PM
    Plant of The Year,Heucherella,Lewsisia. Images © Carol Sheppard/RHSThe Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award for 2011 went to Anemone 'Wild Swan', which I looked at here recently, and last time I took a look at the two runners up – Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope' and Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon'. Now let's see some of the other finalists.

    Lewisia 'Little Mango' (above, click to enlarge) is the latest in a series of compact, easy-to-grow lewisias created in Germany by Jelitto Perennial Seeds, it was entered for the award by D'Arcy and Everest. Georg Uebelhart, General Manager of Jelitto Perennial Seeds, explained. “I was first introduced to Lewisia ‘Little Plum’ at Inshriach Alpine Plants at least twenty years ago. We first bred that true from seed, and later ‘Little Peach’ and crosses with these and ‘Pinkie’ and other fine lewisias resulted in exciting new colors. Breeding these true from seed is a challenge but can and will be done."

    'Little Mango' is the third in the series, and he also confirmed that all have proved to be excellent garden plants and do not rot at the base or suffer from rust as many other lewisias do.

    Plantagogo had two new heucherellas from America amongst the finalists. These are hybrids between the often sun-tolerant Heuchera and the shade loving Tiarella and come in some unexpected foliage colours. ‘Solar Power’ features yellow leaves patterned in red and turning darker in autumn and is wider than it is tall, 50cm/20in wide but just 12in/30cm high.

    ‘Brass Lantern’ makes a much larger plant, with the same spread but twice the height, with summer foliage in glossy gold with a brassy sheen and reddish tones, and becoming richer and deeper in colour later in the year. Both were bred in Oregon by Janet Egger of Terra Nova Nurseries who's created a wide range of perennials including new heucheras, tiarellas, pulmonarias, corydalis, agastaches and campanulas.

    You can order plants of Lewisia 'Little Mango' from D'Arcy and Everest

    You can order plants of x Heucherella 'Brass Lantern' from Plantagogo.

    You can order plants of x Heucherella 'Solar Power' from Plantagogo.


  • Chelsea Plant of the Year: The runners up

    Graham Rice on 31 May 2011 at 12:47 PM
    Chelsea, Plant of the Year,Saxifraga,Verbascum. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHS.The Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award for 2011 went to Anemone 'Wild Swan', which I looked at here last time. Now, let's take a look at the two runners up. In second place, close behind Anemone 'Wild Swan', the members of the RHS plant committees voted for Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope' (above left, click to enlarge) entered by Kevock Garden Plants, based south of Edinburgh.

    'Anneka Hope' is an encrusted or silver saxifrage, so called because its silver rosettes are encrusted with deposits of lime. To botanists, it belongs to the section Ligulatae. The mass of huge sprays of white flowers above neat green rosettes edged in silver is very impressive, especially as the flowers are held on red stems. The plant was at its peak for the show.

    Reaching about 12in/30cm in height, it thrives in gritty, well-drained soil, especially with some added limestone, and is ideal in a raised bed.

    'Anneka Hope' was raised by Matthew Ruane of Brynhyffryd Nursery and is a selection from his range of hybrids derived mainly from S. callosa and S. longifolia and one of a number of plants raised by Matthew Ruane marketed by Kevock Garden Plants. It is named after the granddaughter of Stella and David Rankin who run Kevock Garden Plants.

    Saxifraga 'Anneka Hope' will be available from Kevock Garden Plants when sufficient stocks have been built up.

    In third place came Verbascum  'Blue Lagoon', which I wrote up here on the RHS New Plants blog back in January.

    'Blue Lagoon' is the first genuinely blue garden verbascum, with spikes of small bright blue flowers on noticeably upright plants about 75cm/30in in height. It's the result of some creative plant breeding and expert propagation under the eye of Thompson & Morgan’s plant breeder Charles Valin, who has created so many interesting new plants in recent years.

    Verbascum  'Blue Lagoon' is available from Thompson & Morgan. Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the pictures.

    Look out for details of more Chelsea Plant of the Year finalists here over the next few weeks, and for more extensive information about all the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year finalists in the September issue of the RHS magazine, The Plantsman.

    Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the pictures.


  • Anemone ‘Wild Swan’: 2011 Chelsea New Plant of the Year

    Graham Rice on 27 May 2011 at 04:58 PM

    Plant of the year,anemone,chelsea flower show. Image ©Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants (all rights reserved)The winner of the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award for 2011 was announced earlier this week. Members of all the RHS specialist plant committees chose the winner from the finalists nominated by the RHS Plants Advisory Committee, I listed the twenty finalists here a few days ago. The winner was a lovely new hardy perennial, Anemone ‘Wild Swan’.

    Reaching about 16-18in/40-45cm high, and blooming from May to November, each pure white flower is shaded and banded with blue on the backs. The result is that, in morning and evening when the flowers nod and half close, the blue backs are revealed, then for the rest of the day the 2-3in/5-7.5cm pure white flowers open wide.

    It grows best in partial shade in humus-rich soil where it would look lovely in a drift after earlier flowering shade plants have passed their peak.

    ‘Wild Swan’ was selected from a group of seedlings derived from five or six different parents which included Anemone rupicola. The precise parentage is difficult to pin down but involves both early and late flowering types. ‘Wild Swan’ was chosen as the pick of a small group of seedlings by Elizabeth MacGregor at her nursery in Kirkcudbright, between Dumfries and Stranraer in south west Scotland, where it has been on trial for ten years.

    Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ is available for delivery next year from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, who entered the pant for the Chelsea Plant of the Year award, from Elizabeth MacGregor’s nursery, and also from Hayloft Plants.


  • Chelsea Plant of the Year winner

    Graham Rice on 24 May 2011 at 12:32 PM
    Chelsea,Plant of the Year,Graham Rice

    This year's Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award has been won by Anemone 'Wild Swan', raised by Elizabeth MacHregor and entered by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants. Second place went to Saxifraga ‘Anneka Hope’ (above centre) bred by Matthew Ruane and available from Kevock Garden Plants, and Verbascum ‘Blue Lagoon’ (above right) bred and available from Thompson & Morgan was third.

    “This year’s competition was extremely interesting with a great range of new plants,” said Raymond Evison, Chairman of the Plant Advisory Committee. “The award has been given to a marvellous performing new perennial plant. Not only does it exhibit a long flowering habit but it is also an exciting flower.”

    “I am absolutely thrilled that ‘Wild Swan’ has been voted plant of the year,” says Jim Gardener, Director of Horticulture RHS. “This plant is going to be a great addition to the boarder with its subtle shades and longevity of flowering.”

    I'll be looking at these plants, and some of the other finalists, here on my RHS New Plants blog over the coming weeks.

    Thank you to Carol Sheppard of the RHS for the pictures.


  • Australian irises: New at Chelsea from Claire Austin Hardy Plants

    Graham Rice on 20 May 2011 at 01:34 PM

    Iris,Claire Austin,'Louisa's Song','Spice Lord','Wearing Rubies',Chelsea. Images ©Claire Austin.

    Irises are a regular feature at the Chelsea Flower Show and this year Claire Austin expects to have ten new tall beared irises including three from top Australian iris breeder Barry Blythe.

    On her blog post about her latest visit to Barry’s farm in Victoria, Claire says: “Barry has become one of the world’s most important iris breeders…. his irises always break the accepted mould of what is currently accepted. They are always interesting…”

    Barry’s family has been in the nursery trade for five generations, he’s related to the Prichards who gave us Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety' and Geranium ‘Russell Prichard’, and he specialises in irises in unusual colour combinations.

    If the weather is kind, Claire expects to have ‘Louisa’s Song’, 'Spice Lord' and ‘Wearing Rubies’ at the show. All have noticeably ruffled flowers.

    The strongly scented ‘Louisa’s Song’ features unusually large, heavily ruffled flowers in rosy purple with paler standards and a matching pale ring around the falls. The beard sparks in orange in the throat.

    'Spice Lord' displays ruffled cinnamon brown standards, and chocolate brown falls centered in white with attractive stippling in the zone where the two shades meet. It also, I’m told, has a chocolate scent.

    Finally, the rather sultry ‘Wearing Rubies’ has pinkish purple standards and rich velvety textured burgundy falls highlighted by an orange beard.

    Look out for these, and Claire’s other new irises, see them on her Chelsea Flower Show exhibit in the Great Pavilion (stand GPE6), fingers crossed. To see more of Barry Blyth’s irises, take a look at his latest introductions on his website.

    You can order the irises ‘Louisa’s Song’, 'Spice Lord' and ‘Wearing Rubies’ from Claire Austin Hardy Plants

  • Lilium ‘Lankon’: New at Chelsea from H. W. Hyde

    Graham Rice on 18 May 2011 at 03:58 PM
    ”Lily,lilium,lankon,longiflorum,lankongense. Images:=The lily displays at the Chelsea Flower Show are some of the most colourful and stylish of all, and there are always good new plants on display. This year, H. W. Hyde & Son will have two rather special new features.

    Of particular interest, they have the first hybrid between two lovely species, Lilium longiflorum and L. lankongense. Lilium longiflorum, the Easter Lily, (left in the picture, click to enlarge) grows wild on a number of Japanese islands. It’s the familiar and widely grown fragrant trumpet flowered white lily. Lilium lankongense (right in the picture, click to enlarge) comes from Yunnan in China, and carries open heads of rosy red, turk’s-cap flowers which darken with age and which are generously spotted.

    Richard Hyde says that this is the first hybrid between these two species that is available to gardeners. Until recently it was not possible to raise seedlings from a cross between these species, but using laboratory techniques it has now been accomplished. It was raised in Holland by Erwin Hoogendijk.

    ‘Lankon’ carries features from both parents and the shape of the flowers is intermediate. It is also nicely fragrant, easy to grow reaching about 4ft/1.2m and the flowers are carried on strong stems.

    Accompanying this breakthrough hybrid will be a range of lilies developed by amateur breeders, including the vivid pink ‘Julie Fowlis’, named for the Scottish singer. This is a vigorous hybrid – an Oriental lily crossed with a Trumpet lily and the result crossed again with an Oriental lily. This results in large flowers, exceptional fragrance and enthusiastic vigour.

    Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show can buy bulbs of both these lilies from the H. W. Hyde & Son exhibit in the Great Pavilion (stand GPE12) if reservations are made in advance, by email to H. W. Hyde and Son. If stocks last, they will also be available at other shows. For more details visit the H. W. Hyde & Son website.


  • Dianthus Fire Star: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 11 May 2011 at 01:36 PM
    “Dianthus,Whetman,FireFor many years now Whetman Pinks, in Devon, have been the leading producers of new pinks – in the world. They’ve developed new pinks in a range of styles, from traditional types to miniatures and Fire Star (‘Devon Xera’), one of the best of their recent introductions, is now available.

    It was outstanding in the continuing trial of pinks at the RHS Garden at Wisley, planted in 2006 and gaining an Award of Garden Merit in 2009. I noticed it in 2007 when its deep, two-tone red colouring stood out.

    The flowers are dark scarlet red with a deeper red eye shading to a touch of purple deep in the throat. The edges of the petals are prettily toothed. The flowers open from early May and continue through the summer, set against well-coloured grey-green foliage. The flowers are, of course, attractively scented.

    The plants are vigorous but neat and compact, not reaching more than 13in/32cm, even on Wisley’s rich soil. They would be ideal at the front of a sunny border, or in containers.

    Fire Star (‘Devon Xera’) is was selected in 2000 from plants grown from seed collected from an earlier Whetman variety, ‘Neon Star’. You could say that is a larger, brighter and more vigorous version of the old favourite ‘Fusilier’.

    You can order plants of Dianthus Fire Star (‘Devon Xera’) from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas': New in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 07 May 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Filipendula.Red Umbrellas. Image: ©Plant Delights NurseryIn the end, I decided to continue my look at the plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries with just one more: Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas'. Top of the list was Actaea pachypoda ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’, then came Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ and then Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior'.

    This is an impressive and very hardy perennial which combines attractive foliage (left, click to enlarge) with colourful heads of flowers.

    Both new and mature growth is boldly veined in red, sometimes more fully than seen in the picture. The colour stands out brightly against the paler younger growth then, as the leaves mature and develop, both colours darken to give a deep red pattern on dark green leaves. In summer the flowers emerge, flattish rose pink heads bringing a whole new season of colour (below, click to enlarge).

    Filipendula,Red Umbrellas. Image: ©Bjørnar OlsenHere I should say that I have revised this blog post and changed it from when I first posted it. Soon after I originally posted this piece I received an email from Norwegian plantsman and nurseryman Bjørnar Olsen who gave me the full story about this plant. This is the great thing about blogging. If you get it wrong, or don’t tell the full story, someone will put you right. Thanks Bjørnar.

    It was not, he tells me, “developed in Holland” as I first thought. This plant has been passed around and sold from Norwegian and Swedish nurseries for years,” he told me, “most commonly under the erroneous name "Filipendula palmata 'Nana'", although I'm almost positive it's pure F. multijuga. No one seems to know where it originated, but my own guess would be that it's something brought back by a Scandinavian botanical garden from a collection trip to Japan, there were several during the second half of the last century.”

    He also tells me that it's happy in shade, even in southern Norway where the sun is less powerful than farther south, and that it's also relatively drought resistant. Expect it to reach about 16in/40cm in height. And it looks to me like a great plant.

    You can order Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

    Thank you for images to:
    Foliage: Plant Delights Nursery
    Flowers: Bjørnar Olsen


  • Headlines from the new RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 30 Apr 2011 at 02:29 PM

    Iris,Rio Rojo,Claire Austin, Image: ©Claire Austin.Today, in my last piece highlighting the plants new to the latest edition of the RHS Plant Finder, I’m taking a step back to view the bigger picture.

    In recent weeks I’ve featured the five plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’, then came Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ and finally the fifth most popular is Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior'. I’ll be picking more of the most interesting and significant newcomers over the next few months but now I’m taking a broader look.

    So which genera are the most popular overall, which feature the most new introductions?

    Of the 3,508 new entries in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder (up from 3,434 last year) there are 237 new irises (199 last year), with Claire Austin Hardy Plants leading the way. Many of the 210 new primulas (111 last year), most of which are auriculas, come from the Welsh auricula specialist Les Allen whose nursery is new in the Plant Finder this year. Mickfield Hostas and Bali-Hai Nursery Hosta,Lakeside,Paisley print,Bali-Hai, Image: ©Bali-Hai Nurserymake big contributions to the 149 new hostas (71 last year) while another Plant Finder newcomer from Wales, Abacus Nurseries, has played a big part in the 131 new dahlias included (55 last year). Last year’s leader was hemerocallis with an amazing 400 new arrivals (just 74 this year).

    Janet Cubey, Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Plant Finder, says: “We’re used to seeing high numbers of new introductions of hostas and irises each year, reflecting the amount of breeding work in these areas, particularly in America, but it’s interesting to see the rise in primula and, especially, dahlia introductions this year. This reflects the increase in demand for dahlias from the gardening public and highlights the growing popularity of these flowers that we’ve seen at our shows, including the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, in the last couple of years.”

    You can order the new RHS Plant Finder from the RHS online store, or find it free online.


  • Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior': New in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 27 Apr 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Echinacea'Magnus,Superior,Jelitto, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds.I’m continuing my look at the plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’, then came Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ and today it’s Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior'.

    Back in the 1990s the RHS ran a trial of echinaceas at Wisley. Most of those raised from seed were poor, in particular the plants were very variable so when they flowered you never knew quite what to expect. But one stood out, ‘Magnus’, and it was the only one to be given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

    Now, twenty five years after it’s original introduction, it’s been upgraded. Georg Uebelhart, General Manager of Jelitto Seeds, told me about ’Magnus Superior’.

    “We have been working on an improvement of ‘Magnus’ for over ten years,” he said. “When ‘Magnus’ became the Perennial Plant of the Year in the United States in 1998, demand for seed multiplied ten times from when it was introduced back in 1985 and demand increased again in 2003 with the AGM. We could not keep up with production and this caused other seed houses to produce seed of lesser quality but still with the name ‘Magnus’. As every one knows it’s our variety, we received a lot of the complaints.

    “We did everything we could to fight this, to keep the ethics at high a standard and not let the money do the talking. So one big reason to introduce ‘Magnus Superior’ is to set the standard again. We will be discontinuing “regular” ‘Magnus’ in a couple of years,’ said Georg, “and will only supply ‘Magnus Superior’.”

    '‘Magnus Superior’ features slightly darker carmine red flowers, even more consistent growth, larger cones in the centre of the flower, and all purple stems (‘Magnus’ had a few plants with green stems).

    Seed of Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus Superior' was available from Jelitto Perennial Seeds last year, now plants raised from this seed are available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’: New in the 2011/2012 RHS Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 20 Apr 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Chasmanthium,River Mist,Plant Finder,RHS. Image ©ItSaul Plants

    I'm continuing my look at plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’, then Erodium ‘Freedom’ and today it’s Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’.

    Chasmanthium latifolium, sometimes called Northern sea oats or oat grass,  is a popular ornamental grass grown for its attractive, oat-like sprays of flowers, its broad foliage which develops bronze tones in autumn and its ability to thrive in the shade.

    ‘River Mist’ (click the image to enlarge) is a new variegated form with its broad foliage striped along its length in white, the leaves often emerge almost entirely white, and develop green stripes as they mature. The late summer flower heads are also distinct, being silver in colour rather than the usual green.

    Reaching about 30-36in/75-90cm in height with a spread of 24-36in/60-90cm, in general it resembles an elegant and extremely refined bamboo – but without the all-too-vigorous drawbacks of many bamboos. And with its tolerance of shade it makes a fine but manageable specimen, creating a bright splash in the shade garden where it looks good with other shade plants, in particular blue leaved hostas. Its flower heads turn coppery in the autumn and can be dried for the winter.

    ‘River Mist’ also makes a fine container plant and, as well as thriving in light shade, will also grow in sun in soil that does not dry out.

    This variegated form was found as a single plant amongst five hundred green leaved plants growing in pots on a nursery in Georgia, USA in July 2004.

    You can order plants of Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Erodium ‘Freedom’: New in the 2011/2012 Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 17 Apr 2011 at 04:31 PM

    Erodium,Freedom,Future,Darwin. Image ©FuturePlants.comContinuing my look at plants new in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are listed by the most nurseries. Top of the list was Actaea ‘Misty Blue’, next came Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’ and this week it’s the dwarf and prolific sun-lover Erodium ‘Freedom’.

    One year old plants reach just over 10in/25cm in height, and develop a tight crown with the foliage also spreading out to just over 10in/25cm in width after twelve months. Each prettily dissected dark green leaf is split into nine triangular leaflets and makes a fine background for the flowers.

    Carried on top of the plant from May to October, flowers are gathered in a mass of clusters with about eight blooms in each. Individual flowers are just over an inch/2.5cm across, pale pink in colour with magenta veins and a dark blotch at the base of the upper two petals which are also more brightly veined. Expect the plant to be covered in flowers.

    Erodium ‘Freedom’ is happiest in full sun and a well drained soil and is ideal at the front of a sunny border, in a raised bed or even in a large trough.

    It was selected in The Netherlands as part of an erodium breeding programme. Seed was collected from an uncommon Erodium hybrid, ‘France Choice’, pollinated by an unnamed Erodium hybrid and this plant chosen from the resulting seedlings.

    Erodium ‘Freedom’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Geranium ‘Midnight Clouds’: New in the 2011/2012 Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 13 Apr 2011 at 01:59 PM

    Geranium,Midnight,Clouds,Klinkhamer. Image ©



  • New Plant Finder now out

    Graham Rice on 11 Apr 2011 at 07:10 PM

    RHS,PlantFinder,2011/2012Yes, the new edition of one of the most important garden books ever published, the RHS Plant Finder, is now out – both in its print edition and online.

    This – I hardly need remind you – is the book that does two very important things. Firstly, it tells you which nurseries stock which plants. In this new edition there are 69,972 plants stocked by 566 nurseries! So whatever plant you’re looking for, the RHS Plant Finder tells you who sells it. And this latest edition contains 3,507 new entries! Plenty of material for this blog!

    It’s also the most comprehensive reference to correct names of garden plants published anywhere – in the world. The team of RHS botanists, and their contacts all over the world, cautiously update the names as botanical science advances. All are carefully cross-referenced, of course, and in the online version all the plants that ever featured in previous editions are also included making it uniquely comprehensive.

    Need I say more? Yes – don’t rely on an old edition, it’s guaranteed out of date. You'll get the plant names wrong and different nurseries may now sell the plants you want.

    You can buy the print edition of the RHS Plant Finder at a discount from the RHS online shop.

    And you can also check the online edition of the RHS Plant Finder. This is free to anyone, an invaluable free service from the RHS.


  • Penstemon 'Margarita BOP': New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 05 Apr 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Penstemon,Margarita BOP,Las Pilitas Nursery. Image used with permission of (all rights reserved) Hayloft Plants are well known for their comprehensive penstemon collections but the vast majority of them have been raised close to their Worcestershire nursery. Now, they’ve introduced a prolific, but more dwarf, and more spreading variety discovered in California.

    Penstemon 'Margarita BOP' reaches 18-14in/45-60cm in height, with a similar spread, and from late spring into late autumn is covered with spikes of sky blue flowers which take on more purplish tones as they mature. It’s ideal in gravel, or tumbling down a low bank or over a low wall.

    It was found in the early 1980s by Bert Wilson of California’s Las Pilitas Nursery, the name 'Margarita BOP' is a combination of "Margarita" in reference to Santa Margarita, California, where Las Pilitas Nursery is located, and the acronym BOP for "Bottom Of Porch", where the chance seedling was discovered.

    On his nursery’s website Bert Wilson explains: “It is a hybrid between Penstemon heterophyllus and Penstemon laetus. Every year it would flower and be gorgeous, clear sky blue, fading to purple, at the bottom of our front porch. We've never watered it nor maintained it. Every year we talked about how beautiful, neat, clean it was. The bicycles, skateboards and dogs had run over it tens of times but it still looked good at the Bottom Of the Porch, it still looked young after 7-10 years.”

    The original plant only died, after 14-18 years, when it was covered in 2in/5cm of cement during renovations!

    Happy in any sunny and well-drained site, this is a remarkably tough plant. It’s drought and heat tolerant, but also hardy down to -12C/10F. If it can take these conditions at Las Pilitas Nursery, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it will thrive in Britain as long as the soil is not too wet.

    You can order Penstemon 'Margarita BOP' from Hayloft Plants.


  • Agastaches: Two new varieties from Jelitto

    Graham Rice on 31 Mar 2011 at 01:03 PM

    Agastache,Bolero,Tango,Jelitto,Georg Uebelhart, Image: ©Jelitto Seeds.
    For a quick display of masses of flowers in a sunny place you can’t beat agastaches. Although they’re perennials, many flower so quickly from a spring seed sowing that they will flower in their first year. There’s still plenty of time to sow seed, even sown in May they will flower in September.

    This season Jelitto Perennial Seeds, the international seed company whose British headquarters is near Cambridge, have two impressive new agastaches, ‘Bolero’ and ‘Tango’. Georg Uebelhart, Jelitto’s General Manager, told me about them.

    “Our new agastaches are more vigorous than existing seed varieties and they are also selected for their dense flowering spikes. They have a compact habit and good branching, and a short production time – they’re first year flowering but remain perennial. They are also less expensive than varieties propagated vegetatively, from cuttings, but just as high in quality.

    “‘Bolero’ is compact, about 14in/35cm, and richly branched and has abundant brilliant rose-purple tubular blooms with purple calyxes and bronze colored, aromatic foliage. The outstanding bronze colored foliage comes 98% true from seed! The similar ‘Heather Queen’ has about 40% bronze foliage and is also taller and branches poorly.

    ‘Tango’ has abundant, brilliant, fiery orange flower spikes with attractive, pleasantly aromatic, grey-green foliage. It’s compact and richly branched and is more vigorous than the similar ‘Apricot Sprite’ which is also more variable in colour, less well-branched and needs more growing time to flower.”:

    More colours involving a range of species are in development but Jelitto intend only to introduce a limited number of the best, not more than half a dozen.

    You can order Agastache ‘Bolero’ and also Agastache ‘Tango’ from Jelitto Seeds.


  • Salvia ‘Madeline’: New bicoloured form

    Graham Rice on 28 Mar 2011 at 02:06 PM
    Most hardy perennial salvias are blue or purplish. A few are white or pink but very few are bicolours – the tall and late flowering Salvia uliginosa comes to mind but nothing much in a smaller, more adaptable style with a really bright contrast between the colours.

    Now the garden designer and plant breeder Piet Oudolf has come up with a sparkling new salvia hybrid which, after very limited mail order availability last year, will be available in garden centres soon.

    Reaching about 2ft high/60cm high and about 20in/50cm wide, Salvia ‘Madeline’ features tall branching spikes carrying clusters of flowers from June and July - deadheading will prolong the display. Each flower has a violet blue hood and a white lip delicately edged in the same violet blue as the hood and also features a long white, blue-tipped stigma stretching out of the flower. The plants are self supporting, even in windy conditions, and the foliage is aromatic.

    ‘Madeline’ is the result of a chance cross between Salvia hians and another unknown salvia in the summer of 1999 at Piet Oudolf’s nursery in The Netherlands. Having sown the seed from S. hians he picked out this plant from the resulting seedlings in 2000. It is sometimes, wrongly, listed as a form of S. pratensis.

    As is clear, the plant was assessed for some years before being made available and it proves to be a strong and vigorous, with a compact and upright plant habit and it flowers freely. ‘Madeline’ enjoys sun and any reasonable well-drained soil.

    Salvia ‘Madeline’ is available from Southon Plants and also, in April, from Squires Garden Centres.


  • Three double hellebores: New from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 24 Mar 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Until recently, almost all the improvements in hellebores came from Britain. But now good new varieties are coming from Germany and, in particular, hellebore specialists across the Atlantic are also making their mark.

    For it’s now the Americans, or rather one American in particular, who is leading the way with double flowered hellebores and her varieties are now becoming available in Britain. Known as the Winter Jewels™ Series, three of the best in various pink shades, all double, have just become available here in Britain from Gardening Express.

    The flowers of ‘Peppermint Ice’ (left in the picture) are pale pink with a crimson picotee edge and with the veins picked out in crimson. ‘Cotton Candy’ (centre) is pale pink, with slightly darker picotee edges, and some of the flowers have a crimson heart, some have a green heart and a few may be dusted with speckles. ‘Berry Swirl’ (right) comes in a range of pink shades, from rose pink to pale pink with dark picotee edges to dark pink with smokey overtones.

    These gorgeous double hellebores are all raised by Marietta O’Byrne who, with her husband Ernie, runs Northwest Garden Nursery in Oregon. Marietta is one of the world’s leading hellebore breeders, specialising in the double forms of Helleborus x hybridus that so captivate gardeners whenever they see them. All her varieties are derived from premier British plants with which she began work many years ago and her latest three varieties are now available from Gardening Express.

    All are happy in the same conditions that other hellebores enjoy: a rich soil and part or light shade suits them just fine.

    Order plants of ‘Berry Swirl’ from Gardening Express
    Order plants of ‘Cotton Candy’ from Gardening Express
    Order plants of ‘Peppermint Ice’ from Gardening Express


  • Osteospermum Flower Power Doubles: New from Suttons

    Graham Rice on 15 Mar 2011 at 05:16 PM

    Osteospermum,Flower Power,Double,Suttons. Image ©Selecta KlemmWe’ve grown to appreciate the cheerful daisies of osteospermums in recent years. So many bright colours creating eye-catching summer displays on bushy plants which are the ideal size for a container. And their deep dark foliage sets off the flowers beautifully.

    But until now all osteospermums have featured single flowers in the traditional daisy style. Here we see the very first doubles, the Flower Power Doubles (above, click to enlarge). Well, actually, to be more precise: these are not doubles in the usual sense, they’re what are often called anemone-centred and feature a sort of ruff of short tubular petals in the centre of each flower instead of the small dark eye.

    The result is flowers which are more intriguing, which repay a closer look than other kinds, but which retain the intense colours and the long flowering season. Also, because of that additional petal tissue in the middle of the flower, the blooms close up less tightly in the evening than other osteospermums so they still provide a little colour as dusk falls.

    Reaching about 12in/30cm in height, grow them in containers or soil that is not soggy, and give them plenty of sunshine. They’ll flower through the summer - especially if dead-headed.

    The Flower Power Doubles are from the same stable as three other impressive osteospermum series. Three varieties of Flower Power Doubles are now available in a collection from Suttons.


  • Nemesia Fragrant Lady Series: New from Simply Seeds and Plants

    Graham Rice on 10 Mar 2011 at 01:53 PM

    Nemesia,Lady,Scented,Vanilla,Sweet,Simply. Image ©Simply Seeds and PlantsPatio plants combining exquisite colouring, a long and prolific season and a lovely fragrance would seem to meet just about everyone’s requirements. So take a look at the Fragrant Lady Series of nemesias (left, click to enlarge).

    The plants in the series each reach about 12-15in/30-38cm in height, perhaps more, with an upright habit and a tendency to relax at the edges so the plants trail just enough to mask the edges of their pots.

    There are three colours in the series. ‘Sweet Lady’ has delicate pink and white flowers, with a yellow lip; ‘Vanilla Lady’ is pure white with a yellow lip and ‘Scented Lady’ is two-tone pink/purple with a yellow lip. All are fragrant.

    Richard Massey of Simply Seeds and Plants, who are listing the three varieties as a collection, told me: “They are UK bred and are certainly the best I’ve seen. I grew all three at home last year they were a mass of flower from June to early November and very fragrant. It doesn’t seem to matter if you cut them back or not – either way they just keep coming! Big flowers too.”

    I saw them at the National Plant Show last summer, where ‘Vanilla Lady’ won a Silver Medal, and was impressed by the mass of flower they produced. The plants were developed by Jimmy Jones of Penhow Nurseries, in Wales, who are well known for their Chelsea and Hampton Court nemesia exhibits.

    You can order all three varieties in the Nemesia Fragrant Lady Series from Simply Seeds and Plants.


  • Viola ‘Tinkerbell’: New from Victorian Violas

    Graham Rice on 05 Mar 2011 at 09:35 AM

    Viola,Tinkerbell,Victorian,Violas. Image ©GardenPhotos.comAt last year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show I noticed a lovely little viola called ‘Tinkerbell’ (left, click to enlarge) on the corner of the Victorian Violas stand. Unfortunately, plants were not available as stocks were still being built up. Now, I’m pleased to say, plants can be ordered.

    I found ‘Tinkerbell’ especially appealing because of its delicate coloring - the flowers open cream and mature to silvery-blue-lilac - and its mass of flowers on a small plant. Rob Chapman, who runs Victorian Violas, selected ‘Tinkerbell’. He told me about it.

    “This little beauty "flew into the nursery" during the summer of 2008,” he explained. “Each year I plant groups of selected named Viola varieties and allow Mother Nature to take control. The 'Tinkerbell' seedling soon blossomed as the front runner in the group.

    “She produces blooms en masse for the entire summer, she seems happy in bowls and pots or in a sunny spot directly into the garden border. Only this week (mid-February) I noticed fresh, vigorous, healthy growth on my garden specimen, after such a severe winter it is a most heart-warming feeling.

    “To sum up we have a fully winter hardy variety of extreme vigour, bloom-full of pale silver blue and dusky primrose cornuta type flowers continuously from April to September.”

    You can order plants of Viola ‘Tinkerbell’ from Victorian Violas.


  • Scaevola Suntastic: New from Jersey Plants Direct

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2011 at 01:34 PM

    Scaevola,yellow,suntastic, Image ©WesthoffOne of the most dependable and colourful of the many new patio plants for containers that have arrived with us in recent years is Scaevola. Its naturally trailing habit and prolific flowering is invaluable. Early introductions, however, proved rather ungainly, with poor branching, but recent introductions have been much better behaved.

    The early varieties were also all blue or purplish blue. These were followed by white flowered forms and then by pink. This year sees the arrival of Suntastic (click the picture to enlarge), the first scaevola with yellow flowers – and it looks delightful.

    Each flower is actually a two-tone yellow: darker yellow towards the centre of each bloom and paler yellow at the edge. The older flowers down at the base of the stems fade slightly so the overall effect is of a range of shades from deep yellow to cream. The foliage is deep green and sets off the flowers well.

    It has to be said that flowers are not as large as those of some of the blue-flowered varieties – but the plant is less vigorous than some of those as well, they can get out of hand.

    So, where does it go in the garden? This looks to be a great plant for hanging baskets and for large mixed containers. Scaevolas are robust plants so can take competition from other flowers. Try them, perhaps, with yellow or white petunias to create a cool effect or with for a bolder display with ivy-leaved geraniums in red or burgundy. Personally, I’d like to try them with the limey yellow foliage of Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’.

    You can order Scaevola Suntastic from Jersey Plants Direct.

    Image © Westhoff. Thank you.


  • Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue': New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 23 Feb 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Actaea,pachypoda,Misty Blue,dolls eyes,Mt Cuba. Image: ©Walters Gardens, IncAs more people appreciate the value of shade as a habitat for so many delightful plants, so more and more special shade plants are being introduced. This latest example is a new form (left, click to enlarge) of an easy-to-grow North American native perennial, Actaea pachypoda, with three attractive features.

    Its plumes of fluffy cream flowers open in April and May and, while not dazzling in colour, are charming and fit well into a woodland garden setting. They’re followed by spikes of white berries, each with a black spot at the tip giving the plant its common name – Doll’s Eyes. Each berry is held on a red stalk, which adds to the appeal. But the additional special feature of ‘Misty Blue’ is that the foliage, instead of being the usual plain green colouring, is a soft, bluish, slightly silvery green.

    Reaching about 75cm/30in in height and making a slowly expanding clump of upright stems, Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue' is ideal in any partially shaded situation and in any reasonable soil that does not dry out.

    It was discovered by Richard Lighty, Director of the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, one of America’s leading native plant gardens. Many exceptional forms of American native plants have been discovered there.

    You can order Actaea pachypoda 'Misty Blue' from Cotswold Garden Flowers and from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.

    Images © Walters Gardens, Inc. Thank you.

  • Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 19 Feb 2011 at 04:03 PM

    zinnia,queen,red,lime,chiltern,distinction. Image ©Benary SeedsSometimes, trends come together in an interesting way.

    For some years now, we’ve seen an increasing range of annuals, for cutting and for summer display, in colours which are described as “antique”. These are shades with overlays of beige tints, with unexpected colour combinations, with a slightly distressed air to them and with the dusty and faded look of old padded furniture. Nicotianas and violas, in particular, come to mind.

    In recent years we’ve also started to see the come back of the Zinnia. Recent varieties, like ‘Zahara Double Fire’, are more robust than older types, and as long as we try not to shoehorn them into the standard ways of raising half hardy annuals, they’re easy to grow and provide an extended and prolific display.

    Now, these two trends have come together with the introduction of a lovely new zinnia, primarily intended for as a cut flower – ‘Queen Red Lime’ (above, click to enlarge). Reaching about 26in/65cm, the plants are well branched and the flowers are held on long strong stems. Each fully double, 3in/7.5cm flower is – well, the colour’s hard to describe, it’s unique. Click the picture to enlarge it and you’ll see for yourself.

    Ideally, sow the seeds in a row outside at the end of May but with only 30 seeds in a packet, you may feel happier sowing them individually in small pots or cells. Keep the compost a little on the dry side, overwatering is fatal.

    You can order seed of Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ from Chiltern Seeds and from Plants of Distinction.


  • Iris sibirica ‘Scramble’: New from Cotswold Garden Flowers

    Graham Rice on 13 Feb 2011 at 04:31 PM

    Iris,sibirica,scramble,grimshaw. Image ©John GrimshawWe’ve seen yellow flowered forms of Iris sibirica before. ‘Dreaming Yellow’ and ‘Forncett Moon’ are lovely but very pale compared with the bright, two-tone, scrambled egg colouring of Iris sibirica ‘Scramble’ (left, click to enlarge), newly introduced for 2011.

    The standards are pale yellow, flared rather than upright, and with a yellow streak running through the centre of each. The falls are almost horizontal, though turned down at the tips, and a much more vivid and brighter yellow; both are attractively waved. The flowers open a little later than those of many Sibirica irises, in June and July. But that arrangement of the standards and falls plays a big part in the effectiveness of the display.

    This is a relatively short plant, about 50cm/20in, so we tend to look at the flowers from above. With both the standards and the falls held in a relatively horizontal position, rather than upright, they give real impact. In much taller varieties, where we tend to view the flowers from the side, upright standards and drooping falls have more impact.

    The plant is vigorous and prolific, and although the tips of the leaves may overtop the flowers this does not detract from the display.

    Iris sibirica ‘Scramble’ was selected by John Grimshaw, who runs the snowdrop garden at Colesbourne Park, from a range of seedlings derived from named forms of Iris sibirica he grew while employed at the Dutch seed company K. Sahin, Zaden. Sadly, the label noting the precise parentage was lost. You can find out more on John's blog.

    Iris sibirica ‘Scramble’ is available from Cotswold Garden Flowers (scroll down the page). At John’s request, Cotswold Garden Flowers will make a voluntary donation to support the education of Massai boy in Tanzania for every plant sold


  • Uncinia rubra Everflame: New ornamental sedge

    Graham Rice on 08 Feb 2011 at 12:58 PM
    uncinia,rubra,everflame,belinda’. Image ©Plantipp.euWe’re always on the lookout for attractive new ornamental grasses, and we’re now seeing quite a few appearing with unusually bright and colourful leaves. In fact, Uncinia rubra Everflame (‘Belinda’s Find’) (left, click to enlarge) is a not a true grass but a sedge, although gardeners tend to lump them all together.

    Uncinia rubra is a neat, rather upright little plant reaching just 30cm/12in in height with reddish or bronzed foliage and is lovely slowly creeping around dampish parts of the garden. Everflame is a more colourful, dramatically variegated form: each leaf is bronze with vivid bright red margins which gleam in the sun.

    One especially valuable feature is that it’s evergreen so this bright colouring persists right through the winter. Grow it at the front of borders that don’t get too dry, near the path where it will stand out, and it’s also an excellent plant for winter containers. Uncinias sometimes become rather tatty in winter, so growing in a container in the shelter of a porch is ideal.

    Uncinia rubra Everflame (‘Belinda’s Find’) was bred by Malcolm Woolmore of Lyndale Liners on New Zealand’s North Island, said to be Australasia’s largest propagation nursery.

    You can order Uncinia rubra Everflame (‘Belinda’s Find’) from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries, as well as Cottage Garden Flowers. Expect it to be available in a wide range of garden centres in spring.


  • Canna Tropicanna Black: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 03 Feb 2011 at 03:04 PM

    Canna,Tropicanna,black,Lon01. Image ©Anthony Tesselaar Plants Pty. LtdIn recent years, and especially since the Rose Garden at Great Dixter was transformed into a Subtropical Garden with such panache, cannas have become more popular. Their crucial role at Dixter has brought them into the mainstream and their vivid colouring is now seen in many gardens. They’re colourful, they’re dramatic, they’re easy to grow – and are now in demand both for their foliage and their flowers.

    The latest on the scene is Canna Tropicanna Black (‘Lon01') (above, click to enlarge). It has two special features. The broad foliage is very dark, a deep purple bronze blended with black and with red highlights in the stems and veins. It quickly makes an impact. Then in summer and autumn the broad-petalled flowers appear in a vivid scarlet, developing more orange tones as they mature, and they’re set off so well by the dark leaves. It’s a great combination.

    Grow Tropicanna Black in seasonal subtropical style summer plantings, or well-chosen sites in mixed and perennial borders, or in large containers. Good companions include dahlias, taller nicotianas, coleus and Coloropsis Series coreopsis.

    Usually treated like dahlias, the rhizomes are dug up in the autumn and stored for the following year, in milder areas Tropicanna Black may survive average winters, especially if mulched deeply.

    Canna Tropicanna Black will be available this season in Homebase, B&Q, and a wide range of garden centres. It’s also available from mail order suppliers including Longacres, and Plant Me Now.


  • Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon': First ever blue verbascum

    Graham Rice on 30 Jan 2011 at 01:08 PM

    Verbascum,blue,lagoon,Thompson,Morgan. Image ©Thompson & MorganWe’ve seen a vast variety of verbascums come and go in recent years, but we've never seen one like this – the first ever bright blue verbascum.

    Reaching about 75cm/30in in height, with a noticeably upright habit, ‘Blue Lagoon’ is the result of some creative plant breeding by Thompson & Morgan’s plant breeder Charles Valin, who has created so many interesting new plants in recent years. He told me how it happened.

    “It actually came about as a result of trying to breed a red verbascum,” he told me. “Red shades usually come from crosses between a yellow plant and a dark violet flowered plant. In 2006 I started growing many species to find one with the deepest possible violet colouring and among those I tried a species native to Armenia and Turkey and selected some of the darkest plants.

    “In 2008 I selected one plant bearing violet flowers with a slight blue hue. In 2009 I expected its offspring to produce only violet flowers but one seedling was an extraordinary “Meconopsis” blue, a rare colour in flowers, let alone in verbascums!

    “Everyone agreed that this was a stunning plant and had to go into immediate production. The plant was sent to a tissue culture laboratory for micro propagation to ensure rapid and identical multiplication. In this case the blue petals were used as the start material. This method has enabled us to offer plants only two years after selecting the first blue plant.”

    This looks to be a dramatic breakthrough. I look forward to seeing it in gardens this summer.

    You can order plants of Verbascum ‘Blue Lagoon’ from Thompson & Morgan.

    Image ©Thompson and Morgan. Thank you.

  • Twelve new irises: From Cayeux Iris

    Graham Rice on 26 Jan 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Cayeux,Iris,Ciel Gris sur Poilly,Dominique C.,Hermès,Nouvelle Vague,Rose de Perse,Séducteur. Images: © Cayeux IrisEvery year Richard Cayeux, one of the world’s top iris breeders, releases a batch of his latest varieties through his nursery Cayeux Iris. I’ve featured his irises here before.

    For 2011 Richard is introducing twelve new varieties, all bred on the family nursery in France and available by mail order to British gardeners. Many of them will also be on show at Chelsea. I’ve picked out six to illustrate (left, click to enlarge), check the Cayeux Iris website to see the others.

    ‘Apostrophe’ Delicate pale peachy pink, slightly pinker on the falls, the coral-coloured beards are extended by a curled “spoon” of the same colour. Strongly ruffled, with about nine buds per stem. 80cm/32in

    ‘Charlie’ Pure white standards and large pinkish purple falls with a bold white heart, contrasted against the orange-yellow beards. Moderately ruffled and with excellent branching. 95cm/37in

    ‘Ciel Gris sur Poilly’ (see image, click to enlarge) Mid-grey standards, the golden yellow beards light up the grey of the nearly horizontal falls. A delicate and unusual colour combination. 80cm/32in

    ‘Dame de Coeur’ The colours hover between plain pink amaranth and light raspberry red, becoming paler under the tangerine beards. Beautifully shaped flowers with ruffled edges and nine to ten buds per stem. 90cm/36in

    ‘Dominique C.’ (see image, click to enlarge) Pure bright yellow standards, white falls with a wide yellow border creeping towards the centre and with a golden yellow beard. 80cm/32in

    ‘Faïence de Gien’ Pure white standards contrast dramatically with the velvety darkest violet falls, nearly black when the flower first opens, sparked by deep yellow beards. 75cm/30in

    ‘Hermès’ (see image, click to enlarge) Rich copper red, delicately ruffled at the edges, and with beautiful tangerine beards. Branched stems carry about eight buds. Named for the French fashion house. 80cm/32in

    ‘Magnétisme’ Sumptuous flowers with sky blue standards and satiny dark violet falls and dark rusty orange beards, shouldered with amaranth. Branches low on the plant and very prolific. 85cm

    ‘Ma Pomme’ Wide rounded flowers, strongly and evenly ruffled, in a lovely shade of pinkish apricot with tangerine beards as highlights. 80cm

    ‘Nouvelle Vague’ (see image, click to enlarge) White standards with a touch of lavender on their edges, the wide white falls have a crisp amethyst border and coral beards. 85cm

    ‘Rose de Perse’ (see image, click to enlarge) Pure pink standards and pale pink falls with a wide pinkish purple border, streaked with pale pink, and coral-red beards. About nine buds per stem. 85cm/33in

    ‘Séducteur’ (see image, click to enlarge) White standards are faintly flushed with blue, especially on the edges, the pure white falls have a crisp lavender blue border and bright red beards. 75cm /30in

    You can order these new irises at the English language Cayeux Iris website.


  • Lobelia ‘Superstar’: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 24 Jan 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Lobelia,Superstar,Hot Blue with Eye. Image ©WesthoffLobelia is an old favourite for hanging baskets and for traditional summer annual displays – but no one really gets very excited about it. It’s certainly valuable, but you never hear genuine heartfelt enthusiasm. Well, that could be about to change.

    This season sees the introduction of a new lobelia from Germany, ‘Superstar’ (above, click to enlarge), whose flowers are truly dramatic. Each unusually large bloom is deep indigo blue but the difference is that it also features a bold, clean, bright white eye.

    I know, there’ve been blue lobelias with white eyes before - I’ve often grown ‘Regatta Blue Splash’ - but nothing with such a brilliant contrast, with such a large clean eye and without the blue colouring staining its purity.

    Of course one of the things that puts gardeners off growing lobelia is that the seeds are minute and tend to damp off the moment you so sow them. ‘Superstar’ is raised from cuttings, so you buy young plants and not seed. It makes things a whole lot easier.

    In size, ‘Superstar’ comes in between the dumpy little varieties used for edging and the big airy trailing varieties better suited to for baskets. Its semi-trailing habit allows it to be used in baskets and tubs without it hanging down too low. While in beds and borders you’ll need far fewer plants than if you grew traditional bedding varieties.

    And on top of all that, Lobelia ‘Superstar’ is more tolerant of hot summers than most other varieties.

    You can order Lobelia ‘Superstar’ from Thomson & Morgan, and also from D. T. Brown, from Mr Fothergills, and from Woolmans.

    Image © Westhoff, with thanks to Thompson & Morgan.


  • Astilbe ‘Mighty Pip': New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2011 at 08:01 PM

    Astilbe,chinensis,Mighty Pip,Hayloft,Suttons. Image © Visions BVIn recent years, astilbes seem to have been getting smaller and smaller, but this brand new introduction takes things in a new direction: it’s not a neat little plant for the front of the border, instead it makes a tall and imposing plant for closer to the back.

    Astilbe chinensis ‘Mighty Pip’ (left, click to enlarge) reaches about 1.2m/4ft in height, sometimes a little more, with boldly divided, dark green foliage which may be gently tinted in bronze, especially along the edges.

    In July and August the whole plant is topped with upright plumes of pink flowers. Each plume is relatively narrow, and its branches strike upwards creating a noticeably vertical look to the display. The individual buds are dark pink, opening to a softer, slightly salmony shade as they mature.

    Like all astilbes, ‘Mighty Pip’ is not happy in dry soil. But given a soil which rarely dries out and in full sun, or perhaps just a little shade, it will soon develop into a striking specimen. And while some astilbes develop a very tight and compact crown, ‘Mighty Pip’ develops short runners so it spreads more quickly than other types.

    ‘Mighty Pip’ can be grown in a containers, as in the picture, but in a container needs so much watering that it’s far wiser to grow it towards the back of a border. For use as cut flowers, snip the plumes when they’re about half open; they can also be dried.

    You can order Astilbe ‘Mighty Pip’ from Hayloft Plants and from Suttons.
    Image © Visions BV, with thanks to Hayloft Plants.


  • Hemerocallis ‘Vanilla Fluff’: New double daylily

    Graham Rice on 17 Jan 2011 at 02:08 PM

    Hemerocallis,vanilla,fluff,double,daylily. Image ©Hayloft PlantsAfter many years in the doldrums here in Britain, daylilies (Hemerocallis) are enjoying a revival. Varieties raised here and in Europe were grown in the 1950s and 1960s, but in America they’ve long been the most popular perennials of all. Unfortunately, the failure of many US varieties to perform in our climate led to gardeners turning to other summer perennials.

    Now, two things have changed. Hour hotter summers have proved more suitable for many American varieties and, as well, American daylilies that will do well in our climate are being more carefully selected. One that is well worth looking out for is ‘Vanilla Fluff’, recently introduced here.

    Raised by top breeder Enman R. Joiner and introduced in the USA as long ago as 1988, ‘Vanilla Fluff’ is a large flowered double variety. Carried on stems about 75-85cm/30-34in tall, each bloom is about 15cm/6in across and a lovely pale cream in colour with apricot overtones, and sometimes richer cream tones, and slightly darker streaking. Six broad outer petals set off the additional shorter petals in the centre of each flower.

    Winner of three awards in the USA, ‘Vanilla Fluff’ has proven one of  the best double flowered daylilies for British conditions, never seems to revert to single flowers and keeps on blooming until well into the autumn.

    During the coming year I’ll be keeping a special eye out for more newly introduced daylilies that will do well in our British climate. In the meanytime, take a look at Hemerocallis 'Black Stockings' that I wote up back in November last year.

    Hemerocallis ‘Vanilla Fluff’ is available from John Bowers Daylilies and from Hayloft Plants.

    * I apologise for the break in the regularity of postings to this New Plants blog, I’ve been laid low with an especially nasty dose of flu.


  • Yucca Bright Star: New from Notcutts

    Graham Rice on 02 Jan 2011 at 06:21 PM

    Yucca,Bright Star,Walbristar. Image ©David HideThis is one of the most dramatic plants you could ever grow. A form of Yucca gloriosa, which grows wild in the south eastern USA, Bright Star (‘Walbristar’) (left, click to enlarge) features dramatic rosettes of sharp-pointed, narrow, blue grey leaves with a bold and bright variegation.

    The leaf edging is broad and bright yellow, altogether more dramatic than the existing variegated form. The early leaves are short and held vertically, then as they lengthen they are pushed outwards as new leaves emerge in the centre. Eventually they become horizontal, and the result is a full rosette of dazzling foliage.

    Mature plants then send up a branched flower spike, with pink buds opening to a mass of white flowers.

    This new variegated yucca arose like this. Every year, nurseryman Tim Crowther propagates the widely grown, much paler variegated form of Yucca gloriosa by removing the side shoots, commonly known as “pups”, from the base of the stems of the parent plants.

    In 2000 he noticed one side shoot with more variegation. He rooted it, then removed the tip to encourage branching and finally selected the new side shoot with the broadest variegation in the richest colour. That plant became Bright Star - and he’s justifiably proud of his find.

    Yucca Bright Star is the supernova of yuccas for visual impact,” he told me. “Dramatic evergreen blue grey leaves with broad creamy gold margins have a huge impact summer and winter in both tubs or border. In July, the flower spikes are 1 to 2 metres tall, flushed pink in bud and opening as large waxy ivory flowers. What’s more, under the stress of drought or high temperatures, the rosette centre and leaf tips can turn a rich flamingo pink.”

    This is a fine plant for a sunny site, and will not object to dryish well-drained soil. It can also be grown as a specimen in a container, especially as it will take a few years to reach flowering size. Be sure to stand the container on pot feet to avoid waterlogging.

    Yucca gloriosa Bright Star (‘Walbristar’) has been available from the RHS Plant Centre at Wisley, but is now available by mail order from Nottcuts.

    Image © David Hide. Thank you.


  • New plants in December

    Graham Rice on 02 Jan 2011 at 05:51 PM

    Here's a run down of the six new plants posts featured here on the RHS New Plants blog December.

    Two new epimediums: Now available

    Two impressive new hydrangeas: From the RHS Online Plant Shop

    Linaria ‘Peachy’: New from Special Plants

    Digitalis Polkadot Series: New hybrid foxgloves from seed

    Five aquilegias: New from Touchwood Plants

    New plants for 2011: Keep a look out for these exciting newcomers


  • New plants for 2011: Keep a look out for these exciting newcomers

    Graham Rice on 29 Dec 2010 at 09:22 AM

    Hosta ‘Raspberry Sundae’,Ajuga reptans 'Pink Lightning',Phygelius Croftway Snow Queen (‘Crosnoque’),Syringa Bloomerang Purple (‘Penda’),Chaenomales Double Take Series. Image ©Terra Nova Nurseries,Walters Gardens,Proven Winners,Plants For EuropeIt’s time look ahead to the new year so, as I did last year, I’ve picked out five plants not yet available (as far as I can tell) but which you should look out for next year. All look to be excellent new plants, some truly innovative, and all well worth trying.

    Hosta ‘Raspberry Sundae’ (left in picture, click to enlarge) In recent years we’ve seen a number of new hostas with red leaf stems and then with the red colouring starting to spill out into the leaf itself; most have been green leaved or gold leaved. In ‘Raspberry Sundae’, we have the first with a creamy white centre to the leaf brightened by that red colouring.

    Developed by hosta breeder Gary Gossett at Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, it took ten years to create but with that dramatic leaf colouring plus purple leaf and flower stems and deep lavender purple summer flowers it looks to be really special.

    Ajuga reptans 'Pink Lightning' (centre top in picture, click to enlarge) Pink flowers and white variegation combine to bring a new style to bugle. The foliage is a fresh pale green, with an interesting crinkled look, and each leaf is edged in creamy white - but the margin is relatively narrow so the plant retains good vigour. The short spring spikes of flowers make a great combination against the foliage background.

    ‘Pink Lightning’ is a variegated sport of the uncommon ‘Purple Torch’, found at Sunny Border Nurseries in Connecticut.

    Phygelius Croftway Snow Queen (‘Crosnoque’) (centre bottom in picture, click to enlarge) The first pure white phygelius, I’ve been waiting for this to appear in nurseries and garden centres but so far I can find no one who’s taken it up. 2011 might just be its year.

    Raised in Sussex by Malcolm Spencer of Croftway Nurseries, it’s one of five varieties in the Croftway Series – the others are Croftway Coral Princess (‘Crocorpri’), Croftway Purple Emperor (‘Crocpurpri’), Croftway Red Emperor (‘Croredemp’) and Croftway Yellow Sovereign (‘Crocyelemp’).

    Croftway Snow Queen has been available in the US for two or three years now, but in Britain nurseries seem more interested in dwarf types for patio containers. This will reach about 30in/75cm but that clean pure white colouring is unique.

    Syringa Bloomerang Purple (‘Penda’) (right in picture, click to enlarge) An impressive re-blooming lilac, growth is vigorous yet compact and rather spreading and the plants branch well to show off the heads of fragrant purple flowers. The first flowers open in late spring but then continue coming all summer.

    There are some similar lilacs, Josee (‘Morjos 060f’) is paler pinkish lavender in colour while the flowers of S. meyeri ‘Paladin’ are pink. Bloomerang Purple is rich purple in colour and is also more resistant to soil born diseases than others of this type.

    Developed by Tim Wood of Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan, Bloomerang is a seedling of Josee; it’s other parent is not known.

    Chaenomales Double Take Series (centre middle in picture, click to enlarge) These new double flowered “japonicas” represent a big step forward. First of all, the flowers are huge, much larger than those of existing varieties, and they’re also double – almost like camellias in form - and come a great burst of spring colour.

    The plants are modest in size, reaching about 3-4ft/0.9-1.2m high and 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m across and here’s another plus – they have no thorns. This series really looks to be a big step forward in these tolerant and easy-to-grow shrubs.

    Developed by Dr. Tom Ranney at the Mountain Crops Research and Extension Center in North Carolina, three varieties have been launched so far, you can guess the colours – Orange Storm, Pink Storm and Scarlet Storm.

    None of these plants are yet available here in Britain, look out for them in 2011.

    Image ©Terra Nova Nurseries, Walters Gardens, Proven Winners, and Plants for Europe.


  • Five aquilegias: New from Touchwood Plants.

    Graham Rice on 22 Dec 2010 at 11:11 PM

    Aquilegia,Elegant,Elegance,Touchwood. Image ©Carrie ThomasI’m a big fan of aquilegias with coloured foliage. I’ve used them as foliage plants in containers, sowing the seed in early spring and growing them on like half hardy annuals then enjoying the colourful mound all summer. Then in the autumn I plant them in the garden and they flower profusely the following year.

    In 2008 Carrie Thomas, who runs Touchwood Plants and has two Plant Heritage National Collections of Aquilegia, introduced ‘Elegance’ (top left, in the quartet, click to enlarge) with a rich dark flower and golden leaves.

    This year she’s expanded the idea into a series by adding three more colours. 'Elegant Opal' has white flowers, 'Elegant Moonstone' has pale blue and white marbled flowers while 'Elegant Ruby' has ruby red flowers – all with the same golden leaves.

    Aquilegia,Shootingstars,Touchwood,yellow. Image ©Carrie ThomasShe also has new aquilegias in a different style. Last year around this time of year I told you about ‘Volcano’, a new mixture of double aquilegias in red, orange, gold and yellow shades. This year Carrie has refined the colouring with ‘Touchwood Shootingstars’ (left, click to enlarge), a mix whose colouring is restricted to double flowered forms in yellow shades. Some are pure yellow, some have pinkish overtones.

    Finally, the last newcomer for this year is ‘Touchwood Dreamtime’. This is the stylish and green-leaved form of the 2008 variegated introduction ‘Sweet Dreams’, with a stellata flower in pale rose pink fading through cream and to green at the tips. It really is very pretty.

    You can order all these aquilegias from Touchwood Plants and also take a look at Carrie’s advice on seed sowing.

    Images © Carrie Thomas. Thank you.


  • Digitalis Polkadot Series: New hybrid foxgloves from seed

    Graham Rice on 20 Dec 2010 at 11:10 AM

    Foxglove Digitalis Polkadot Pippa. Image ©Thompson and MorganHybrid foxgloves, like the recently introduced ‘Goldcrest’, are well known for their long and prolific displays of flowers. Now Charles Valin, the plant breeder at Thompson & Morgan, has created a whole series of them which are raised easily from seed - the Polkadot Series.

    Reaching about 1m/40in in height, and initially released in four colours, the plants branch well, the spikes are tightly packed with flowers and because they’re sterile they flower for a very long season.

    Charles Valin told me about them: “I originally had the idea of developing sterile foxgloves because they tend to sow themselves around in the garden, to the point of invasiveness, and when they do they bloom in unpredictable colours that can easily ruin a carefully planned border. I also thought there might be a longer flowering period if the plant did not spend all its energy in producing seeds.

    “The breeding program was started in 2005,” he continued, “and the results are actually better than I expected: you can sow Digitalis Polkadot to get a plant that will remain several years in the garden as it is a good perennial. They do not set seed so you won’t get any multicoloured offspring popping up everywhere and they flower from spring to autumn!Foxglove Digitalis Polkadot Princess. Image ©Thompson and Morgan

    “‘Polkadot Princess’ (let, click to enlarge) and ’Polkadot Pippa’ (top, click to enlarge) are especially good in their reflowering ability; I remember having plants flowering until December in a mild year!

    “I can’t reveal the parents,” he said, “but various species are involved and Polkadot foxgloves are mostly triploids, if you open the seedpods they’re empty. The flowers are also larger than typical Digitalis.

    “There are more hybrids with new colours, habits, and flower sizes in the pipeline.”

    Three colours are available at present. ‘Polkadot Princess’ is a rich pink with very tightly packed stems; ‘Polkadot Pippa’ is pale apricot pink on the outside and creamy yellow within ‘Polkadot Polly’ is dark pinkish apricot. The fourth in the series, ‘Polkadot Pandora’, is not yet available. I gather that orange and yellow are on the way.

  • Linaria ‘Peachy’: New from Special Plants

    Graham Rice on 14 Dec 2010 at 12:44 PM

    Linaria,purpurea,dalmatica,hybrid,Peachy. Image: ©d.wagt@planet.nlThe purple toadflax, Linaria purpurea, in its purple and pink and white forms, is a familiar cottage garden plant. I wrote up a new dwarf type, 'Freefolk Piccolo', that I spotted at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this year but interesting hybrids also sometimes occur. ‘Peachy’ seems to be one of these.

    Perhaps a cross with the yellow-flowered L. dalmatica, the flowers of ‘Peachy’ (left, click to enlarge) are a lovely combination of peachy cream, pink and magenta-pink shades. Sourced from a French nursery by Derry Watkins of Special Plants, Derry told me: “This is one of those changeable colours,” she said, “yellower in cold weather, warmer and peachier in warm weather – or perhaps it’s the brightness of the light. But it has better colour in summer than in the occasional flowers it throws in October.

    “To my amazement,” Derry continued, “ it grew about 40in/1m or more tall and re-grew when I cut it hard back, although the resulting growth was shorter. It’s clump-forming, and easy from cuttings and appears to be sterile so does not seed around in the same was as L. purpurea.” Strangely, though, seed is offered in Germany but I’d suggest sticking with plants from Special Plants. You’ll be sure of what you’re getting.

    Plants that probably have the same parentage include ‘Sue’, last listed in the RHS Plant Finder in 2003 and ‘Tony Aldiss’ last listed in 2008.

    Linaria ‘Peachy’ is available from Special Plants.


  • Two impressive new hydrangeas: From the RHS Online Plant Shop

    Graham Rice on 09 Dec 2010 at 08:17 PM

    Hydrangea,arborescens,Incrediball,Abetwo. Image ©Proven Winners.Two excellent new hydrangeas have recently been introduced from the United States. Both are forms of Hydrangea arborescens and both feature unusually large heads of flowers which are held on strong stems from July into the autumn.

    Incrediball (‘Abetwo’) (above, click to enlarge) produces enormous heads of flowers, they can be up to 30cm/12in across, which open in pale green, mature to white and then fade back to green. Each flower head may carry more than 2500 flowers, each up to 2cm/3/4in across!

    With such huge flower heads, it’s of course important that the stems are sufficiently strong to support them – whatever the weather. And, unlike the related ‘Annabelle’, the stems of Incrediball hold the flowers high even after a thunderstorm. Plants reach about 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m high and 4-6ft/1.5-1.8m wide and with those 30cm/12in flower heads, it’s really impressive.

    Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball was developed from the old favourite ‘Annabelle’ by Tim Wood of Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan and selected there in 2004.

    Hydrangea,arborescens,Invincibelle,'NCHA 1'. Image ©Proven Winners.In a similar style is the pink flowered H. arborescens Invincibelle ('NCHA 1') (left, click to enlarge). This too has large flower heads and stems strong enough to support them when they’re battered by rain.

    The first widely available pink-flowered form of H. arborescens, everything about Invincibelle is a little smaller than Incrediball: it matures at a slightly smaller size, 3-4ft/0.9-1.2m high and 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m wide, so it can even be grown in a container, and the flower heads are a little smaller, up to about 20cm/8in across That’s still big, and so the stems need to be correspondingly strong – and they are.

    The colour is very striking, opening in dark pink and then fading to a paler rose pink and finally to green. Like Incrediball, pruning is simple, cut back in spring.

    Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle was developed by Dr Thomas Ranney of North Carolina State University.

    Both these new hydrangeas can be grown in full sun or partial shade in any reasonably moist, humus-rich but well-drained soil and, unlike many hydrangeas, both are easy to prune - just cut back each spring to encourage new growth. Again unlike many hydrangeas, flower colour is not influenced by the acidity of the soil.

    Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball (‘Abetwo’) is available from the RHS Online Plant Shop.

    Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle ('NCHA 1') is available from the RHS Online Plant Shop.

    Images © Proven Winners. Thank you.

  • Two new epimediums: Now available

    Graham Rice on 04 Dec 2010 at 01:59 PM

    Two epimediums created by the world’s top two epimedium experts were new additions to the 2010/2011 RHS Plant Finder and are slowly getting around.

    Epimedium,Flowers of Sulphur,Robin White. Image ©‘Flowers of Sulphur’ (left, click to enlarge) was developed by master plantsman Robin White, creator of the ‘Party Dress’ double hellebores as well as some exciting new daphnes. It’s is a hybrid between Epimedium flavum and E. ogisui. Epimedium flavum is a small, upright, yellow-flowered species from Sichuan province in China. Lacking in vigour, it’s not really a good garden plant but features the largest cup of any Chinese species. Epimedium ogisui, also from Sichuan, is more vigorous, with large white flowers and a more spreading habit.

    The result is an elegant plant with a large cylindrical cup in pale yellow with a white spur and white petals over the top. The flowers are held up above the evergreen foliage which provides an ideal background and sets the flowers off well.

    Epimedium,Pink Champagne,Probst. Image ©‘Pink Champagne’ (left, click to enlarge) comes from renowned Massachusetts epimedium collector and breeder Darrell Probst. He describes it as “perhaps the most all round beautiful Epimedium of those that we have grown so far!” The two-tone pink and raspberry red flowers hover above spring foliage on upright stems, so they are displayed well. The leaves are mottled in purple against a green background which stays in good condition, and good colour, all year. “A vigorous grower, it puts on an incredible show,” say Darrell.

    Look out for more new epimediums next year.

    Epimedium ‘Flowers of Sulphur’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.
    Epimedium ‘Pink Champagne’ is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

    Images © Darwin Plants.

    Check here for more images of Epimedium ‘Flowers of Sulphur'


  • Rose Pomponella: New from the RHS Online Plant Shop

    Graham Rice on 29 Nov 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Rose,Pomponella,Korpompan,Kordes. Image ©GardenPhotos.comAt the National Plant Show, back in the summer, I was very taken with a dainty new rose in the old-fashioned style. It didn’t win any prizes, unfortunately the actual specimen on show was not at its peak, but I marked it down as a rose to look out for when it appeared on the market. And here it is.

    Pomponella (‘Korpompan’) is a Floribunda (Cluster Flowered) rose with small dark pink flowers, but masses of them. Each has the form of an old fashioned rose, a rounded almost ball-like shape that opens out flat, but is only about 5cm/2in across. The flowers open from appealingly spherical buds. Each flower cluster has five to seven blooms but there are so many that the bush is covered in flowers and they keep coming all summer. The flowers are scented, but not heavily.

    This is a short variety, reaching about 80cm/32in in height and 60cm/24in wide so is ideal as a specimen in a small sunny border, in a sunny place in any small garden or in container.

    And you won’t need to spray against rose diseases. Like so many of the recent introductions from renowned German rose breeders Kordes, Pomponella is also unusually healthy. The dense, dark green, glossy foliage is mildew resistant and also highly resistant to black spot.

    This is a delightful new style of Floribunda rose, let’s hope varieties in other colours follow Pomponella.

    Rose Pomponella is available from the RHS online Plant Shop.

    Image ©


  • Delphinium Highlander Series: New from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 24 Nov 2010 at 01:01 PM

    Delphinium,Highlander,Crystal Delight,Coakley. Image ©Tony Coakley.Since I first heard about these delphiniums three or four years ago, I’ve been waiting – not so very patiently – for them to become available. And now they are. And there are four things which make these impressive Highlander delphiniums stand out.

    First, it’s the unusually frilly double flowers, each with between 45 and 58 petals and lightly ruffled and dissected at the tips. Each individual flower is about 21/4in across and between 41 and 53 are carried in each spike. And they're sterile, so the individual florets last longer than those of normal delphiniums.

    Then there’s the unusual colours, you can see for yourself that these are not the colours of standard delphiniums.Delphinium,Highlander,Blueberry Pie,Coakley. Image ©Tony Coakley.

    They’re tough too, raised in Glasgow by delphinium enthusiast Tony Coakley they can take harsher conditions than many varieties and will take winters down to -20C/-4F. And the plants are bold and vigorous. I’m not convinced that they will only grow to the 60cm mentioned in the Hayloft Plants catalogue, they grow over 1m in their first year and look to me to be just a little shorter than normal delphiniums.

    Three varieties are now being introduced for the first time. ‘Blueberry Pie’ (above right, click to enlarge), ‘Crystal Delight’ (top, click to enlarge) and ‘Morning Sunrise’ (below, click to enlarge). ‘Blueberry Pie’ is deep lilac in colour with a green centre and a blue tint to the rear petals, ‘Crystal Delight’ is pale lilac with green centre and is the frilliest of the three while ‘Morning Sunrise’ is white with a green centre. All three are good for sunny well drained borders and also for cutting.

    Delphinium,Highlander,Morning Sunrise,Coakley. Image ©Tony Coakley.Tony Coakley began growing delphiniums nearly thirty years ago and his rigorous selection process, choosing only the very best and the very toughest, has finally led to the introduction of the Highlander Series. And unlike most delphiniums, these have been propagated in the laboratory using tissue culture – the only way it is possible to produce enough plants to meet the demand.

    The Highlander delphiniums are available separately or in a collection from Hayloft Plants.

    Find out more about how Tony Coakley got started with delphiniums.

    Images © Tony Coakley.


  • Malus Jelly King: new ornamental crab apple

    Graham Rice on 21 Nov 2010 at 12:28 PM

    malus,crab apple,Jelly King,Mattfru,Matthews Nurseries. Image: ©Matthews NurseriesCrab apples offer two bursts of colour, spring flowers and autumn fruits, and in small gardens this is especially valuable. And there are few varieties that are as prolific and colourful as Jelly King (‘Mattfru’), raised in New Zealand and at last now reaching Britain.

    It features clean white flowers (below, click to enlarge), which are not only fragrant but produced in generous numbers, followed by prolific, long lasting, orange fruits with pink, cream and red overtones which make excellent jelly (above, click to enlarge).

    Developed by Tom Mathews at Matthews Nurseries in Wanganui on New Zealand’s North Island, his son Bob told me all about it.

    malus,crab apple,Jelly King,Mattfru,Matthews Nurseries. Image: ©Matthews Nurseries“The flowers are spectacular in the spring,” he said, “which is always the first criteria in the selection process. Always good on the tolerance of any disease here in New Zealand, this was the second criteria, and when the fruit starts to colour the magic takes over. The creamy orange yellow, which is overlaid with the classic apple red, is the most spectacular sight on a fully established tree.

    “It can be a very vigorous grower, reaching 3m/10ft easily, and is a very prolific producer of fruit, excellent for crab apple jelly, though it pays to harvest the fruit early. Because it is so prolific, only some fruit needs to be harvested leaving the rest on the tree for the beautiful affect.

    “The birds leave the fruit alone, maybe they don’t like the taste, but it’s great to be able to have this colour in the garden all through the winter.

    “Jelly King (‘Mattfru’) is from a planned breeding programme undertaken by my father Tom Matthews, mostly in the 1970s; we have introduced some and we still have several varieties we are evaluating many years after he passed away. Jelly King (‘Mattfru’) was in its final selection in the late 80s and was marketed here in New Zealand in the mid 90s, alongside the many other selections that can be attributed to Tom.”

    This looks to be an excellent addition to the ornamental crab apples we have available, combining good flower and fruit colour, prolific flower and fruit production, excellent jelly quality and relatively modest size. We look forward to seeing more of the varieties raised by Tom Mathews becoming available.

    Malus Jelly King (‘Mattfru’) is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and also Whispering Trees Nurseries and Frank P. Mathews.

    Images ©Matthews Nurseries.

  • Hemerocallis 'Black Stockings': new from the RHS Online Shop

    Graham Rice on 16 Nov 2010 at 03:02 PM

    Hemerocallis,black,stockings,tetraplod. Image ©DarwinPerennialsAmazing four hundred new hemerocallis (daylilies) were added to this year’s RHS Plant Finder but most are available from just one supplier. One newcomer that is a little more widely available, and which continues the theme of black flowers from recent posts, is Hemerocallis ‘Black Stockings’ (left, click to enlarge).

    Reaching about 60cm/2ft in height, with unusually dark green foliage, the 12.5-15cm/5-6in wide single flowers are a sumptuous deep burgundy black - not really a true black, but still very dark – more burgundy with black overtones. Each bloom is prettily ruffled along the edges of the petals and features a bright fiery gold star in the centre and a green throat. Flowers open from July onwards.

    ‘Black Stockings’ is a tetraploid, with twice the number of chromosome as normal, and this brings increased substance to the flowers and foliage as well as good vigour. It was developed in Holland in 2004 by Gerard Heemskerk of Heemskerk Vaste Planten, situated near the coast about 45 minutes west of Amsterdam. Gerard specialises in breeding hemerocallis but also works with hostas and iris.

    Black flower are increasingly appreciated, this looks like an impressive new addition to the range.

    You can order Hemerocallis ‘Black Stockings’ from the RHS Online Plant Shop and from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Sweet pea ‘Villa Roma Scarlet’: New award-winner

    Graham Rice on 10 Nov 2010 at 01:12 PM

    Sweet pea,'Villa Roma Scarlet',Fleuroselect,Gold Medal,2011. Image: ©FleuroselectFleuroselect is the Europe-wide organisation which grows new varieties of seed-raised plants, mostly annuals, and gives awards to the very best of them. The plants are grown on about thirty locations right across Europe and assessed by a team of experts at each. The closest existing variety is grown alongside for comparison.

    Just two Gold Medals have been awarded for 2011 and for the first time, after two years of trials in a range of climatic conditions across Europe, the Gold Medal has been awarded to a sweet pea - ‘Villa Roma Scarlet’.

    This is the latest in a line of dwarf and bushy sweet peas that began with the introduction of ‘Cupid Pink’ way back in 1898. Ideal for the front of the border and for containers, ‘Villa Roma Scarlet’ reaches only about 14in/35cm in height but branches well to create a rounded plant with real impact.

    The judges across Europe were impressed by its very bright colouring, its excellent performance in the garden and its ability to continue blooming through the heat of summer; it flowers profusely from July to September from a spring sowing. And on top of all that, unlike many dwarf sweet peas, it’s well scented.

    You can order seed of sweet pea ‘Villa Roma Scarlet’ from Suttons and from Plants of Distinction, and four colours in the Villa Roma Series from Dobies.

    The other Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner for 2011 is Zinnia ‘Zahara Double Fire’.


  • Tradescantia 'Sunshine Charm': New from Larch Cottage Nursery

    Graham Rice on 05 Nov 2010 at 01:18 PM

    Tradescantia,Sunshine Charm,Terra Nova. Image ©Terra Nova NurseriesSome of the most effective plants in containers and borders in small gardens are those that feature dramatic foliage colour for a long season and are then transformed by their flowers over a shorter period.

    The brilliance of the foliage of yellow-leaved perennial tradescantias has been appreciated since ‘Blue and Gold’ appeared on the scene many years ago. Then we had ‘Sweet Kate’, with yellow leaves and purple flowers, and now ‘Sunshine Charm’.

    The yellow foliage is bright from spring to autumn and, in ‘Sunshine Charm’, the colour is retained right through the season; it’s not one of the those yellow-leaved plants that turns green after a few weeks. Reaching about 20in/50cm high, in summer the plant is dotted with three-petaled lavender-pink flowers. This something of a love-it-or-hate-it colour combination but it certainly is striking.

    Tradescantia ‘Sunshine Charm’ is happy in full sun or in a little shade. And while the breeder says that it doesn’t scorch in full sun, as tradescantias are happy in damp spoil that’s what it should have; damp conditions will minimise any risk of scorch.

    This is also a great container plant, as a specimen or in a colourful blend with other summer foliage plants like cannas and dark-leaved dahlias.

    Tradescantia ‘Sunshine Charm’ was raised in the USA at Terra Nova Nurseries, from where so many new perennials have come in recent years. Look out for their next tradescantia, ‘Lucky Charm’ is a dwarf version of ‘Blue and Gold’ reaching less than 12in/30cm and should be with us next year.

    You can order Tradescantia ‘Sunshine Charm’ from Larch Cottage Nurseries.


  • Two new variegated hebes

    Graham Rice on 01 Nov 2010 at 01:21 PM

    We’ve seen a number of new variegated hebes in recent years, these two from Holland look especially colourful. Both develop attractive seasonal foliage tints as well as all year round variegation.

    Hebe,Magicolors,Magic Summer,Hebe Center,centre. Image ©Hebe Center,‘Magic Summer’ (left, click to enlarge) has narrow evergreen grey-green foliage about 3cm/11/4in long with white edges to each leaf and in spring and summer the shoot tips develop rich red and purple colouring to create a delightful combination. Then for about two months in summer there are also 5cm/2in spikes of lavender blue flowers. In three years the plant reaches 40-60cm/15-24in high and 80cm/31in wide.

    ‘Frozen Flame’ (below, click to enlarge) has slightly longer and narrower grey-green evergreen leaves edged in white, but in this case the shoots tips develop their rich red and purple colouring in winter, Hebe,Magicolors,Frozen Flame,Hebe Center,centre. Image ©Hebe Center,becoming richer in colour as the weather becomes colder. ‘Frozen Flame’ also features slightly longer spikes of lavender blue summer flowers. This is a larger plant reaching 60-70cm/24-28in high and 1m/39in wide in three years.

    Both these two newcomers are ideal as specimens in containers sited in a sunny position, as both provide year round colour from both flowers and foliage.

    They are part of the Magicolors range, created at the Hebe Center in Holland by Han Van Niekirk. The first of the range was ‘Heartbreaker, a sport of ‘Dazzler’, and ‘Magic Summer and ‘Frozen Flame’ are both thought to be seedlings of ‘Heartbreaker’.

    Look out for both these hebes in garden centres around the country.

    Hebe ‘Magic Summer’ is also available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.

    Hebe ‘Frozen Flame’ is also available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Petunia ‘Phantom’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 22 Oct 2010 at 04:24 PM

    Petunia,Phantom,black. Image ©Thompson and MorganWell, no sooner have I written up Petunia ‘Black Velvet’, the first ever black petunia, and mentioned that two more black petunias were on the way - than one of them is listed.

    As you can see, Petunia ‘Phantom’ is black with a yellow star pattern and this colouring might well prove easier than pure black to integrate in containers with other plants as it will be possible to make colour connections with both the black and the yellow tones.

    Raised by the same breeder as ‘Black Velvet’, Jian Ping Ren of the American breeding company Ball FloraPlant who've raised so many of the petunias and other patio plants we grow, it has the same bushy rather than trailing growth and is ideal for mixed containers.

    That just leaves the third of their black varieties, ‘Pinstripe’, as still unlisted here in Britain. This is actually more of a deep purple, with a creamy or rosy stripe. When it’s available to order, I’ll let you know.

    You can order Petunia ‘Phantom’ from Thompson & Morgan


  • Petunia ‘Black Velvet’: New for 2011

    Graham Rice on 19 Oct 2010 at 01:09 PM

    Petunia,Black,Black Velvet,Ball Horticultural. Image ©BallHort.comYes, the first ever black petunia. And it’s not just dark purple, it really is black with just a hint of purple in some conditions. Launched with the catch line “Black goes with everything”, this is a breakthrough from one of the world’s leading petunia breeders; they’ve bred many of the varieties we already grow.

    Almost everyone loves black pansies and now, for an unmistakeable summer display, we have a black petunia.

    This is not a variety that’s raised from seed, like the Surfinia petunias ‘Black Velvet’ is raised from cuttings. And this is a relatively upright petunia, ideal for mixed containers but less suitable for hanging baskets. It’s easy to grow, treat it like any other petunia, and plants branch freely without the need for pinching; in fact pinching will only cause flowering to be delayed for about two weeks.

    Petunia,Black,Black Velvet,Ball Horticultural. Image ©BallHort.comPetunia ‘Black Velvet’ is being promoted as the equivalent of the Little Black Dress or the black leather jacket: it goes with anything, the breeders say. Well, that’s a matter of opinion, I suppose, I'm not sure that a black leather jacket goes with everything. But with dainty white bacopa, with lime green coleus as a background or with Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ snaking through it, or with other petunias in yellow, deep red or white – there are plenty of options. Personally, I like the idea of choosing a coleus as a companion in a shade that you think goes well with the black.

    From the same stable as ‘Black Velvet’ are ‘Phantom’, black with a gold star pattern, and ‘Pinstripe’, deepest purple with a slim pink star. These are on their way, but are not yet available to order. I'll tell you when they are.

    Petunia ‘Black Velvet’ is available from Unwins and also from Mr Fothergills.


  • Potato ‘Sunrise’: New from D. T. Brown

    Graham Rice on 13 Oct 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Potato,Sunrise,Valor,Cultra,DT Brown. Image ©DT BrownWe’ve seen a number of new potatoes recently, many from France and other parts of mainland Europe, but here’s a new potato from closer to home, from Scotland.

    The first variety bred by Zella Doig on her farm near Perth, in sight of the Loch Lomond hills, ‘Sunrise’ is an early maincrop with a rich traditional flavour and is suitable for baking in its jacket, roasting, mashing, wedges and chips - a true winter spud. It stores very well through the winter and has oval to round, yellow fleshed tubers with white skin and red eyes.

    ‘Sunrise’ is also a high yielding variety, it shows valuable resistance to late blight on both foliage and tubers and very high resistance to virus - much appreciated by all potato growers and by organic gardeners in particular. This variety is so new that tests on other pests and other diseases are still being completed.

    To create her new variety, Zella crossed the familiar eelworm and blight resistant ‘Valor’, highly valued for roasting and chips, with the multi-purpose ‘Cultra’, which also shows valuable pest and disease resistance and is superb for chips.

    The result is an excellent all round potato – named by Zella as she awoke one morning and saw the rich red sunrise over her farm.

    Potato ‘Sunrise’ is available from D. T. Brown.


  • Zinnia ‘Zahara Double Fire’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 09 Oct 2010 at 03:18 PM

    Zinnia,Zahara,Double Fire,Plants of Distinction. Image ©BallHort.comThe number of gardeners who enjoy the vibrant colours of zinnias has been almost outweighed by the number who’ve found them less easy to grow than they imagined they would be.

    But in recent years a wide range of smaller flowered, easy-to-grow zinnias has appeared and this year sees the arrival of the most brilliantly coloured of all.

    ‘Zahara Double Fire’ is the first double form of the Zahara™ zinnias which have proved so successful in recent summers. The plants are much bushier and more rounded than those of many traditional zinnias and the flowers are smaller but produced in large numbers all summer.

    Reaching about 14in/35cm high and across, sometimes larger, the plants are covered in medium-sized double flowers in vivid scarlet orange. ‘Zahara Double Fire’ brings together the qualities of the tall, traditional, double flowered zinnias until recently known as Zinnia elegans and the daintier, small-flowered types, Z. angustifolia, which are so much easier to grow. The result is prolific, disease-resistant, easy to grow varieties in a wide range of colours.

    Zinnia,Zahara,Double Fire,Plants of Distinction. Image ©‘Zahara Double Fire’ is the winner of Gold Medal for 2010 from Fleuroselect, the European flower trialing organisation and it’s also a winner of the American equivalent, it’s been named an All-America Selection. Plants do not win these awards unless they perform outstandingly well in a wide range of conditions.

    There’s also a pale cherry flowered version, ‘Zahara Double Cherry’, which narrowly missed out on a Fleuroselect Gold Medal but which is also an All-America Selection.

    Zinnia ‘Zahara Double Fire’ and ‘Zahara Double Cherry’ are available from Plants of Distinction (scroll down)


  • Anemone Pretty Lady Series: new dwarf Japanese anemones

    Graham Rice on 02 Oct 2010 at 01:31 PM

    Anemone,Pretty Lady,Diana. Image ©plantnovelties.comA series of four new Japanese anemones is new this autumn. The Pretty Lady Series includes four new introductions, two single and two double, and all are shorter and more prolific than most varieties so are ideal for the front of the border or even in containers.

    Reaching only about 60cm/2ft in height, many Japanese anemones grow to twice that height, the four varieties in the Pretty Lady Series start flowering in late summer then continue through the autumn.

    The two single flowered forms are ‘Pretty Lady Diana’ (above, click to enlarge), with soft pink single flowers with a contrasting golden boss of stamens in the centre, and ‘Pretty Lady Susan’ with flowers in a darker pink, again with a bright golden centre. The two forms with semi-double flowers are ‘Pretty Lady Emily’ (below, click to enlarge) in deep pink and ‘Pretty Lady Julia’ in pale pink.Anemone,Pretty Lady,Emily. Image ©Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants

    Raised as part of a large development programme in Japan, and now becoming available in Britain for the first time, with their neat foliage, short growth and a tendency to spread less than older varieties, plants in the Pretty Lady Series will provide good companions for hardy chrysanthemums, the shorter perennial asters and other late perennials.

    Their short growth brings one particular advantage. Taller Japanese anemones tend to be weighed down by autumn rains but their tall slender stems are difficult to support without the supports being more obvious than the flowers. These short forms do not need staking.

    The Pretty Lady Series is available in garden centres now in distinctive blue pots. Two of the four, ‘Pretty Lady Emily’ and ‘Pretty Lady Susan’ are also available by mail order from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.


  • Coreopsis ‘Unbelievable’: New from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

    Graham Rice on 29 Sep 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Coreopsis,Unbelievable,Sahin,Mr Fothergill. Image: Mr Fothergill's SeedsThere’s been quite a flood of new coreopsis on the market in recent years, some for perennial borders and others for summer containers. But now comes a hardy annual mixture in a wide range of colours most not seen before in annual coreopsis.

    Coreopsis are annuals and perennials in the daisy family, until recently mainly seen in orange and yellow shades. Many are very prolific and easy to grow.

    ‘Unbelievable’ is the first annual coreopsis in the newer colours. Now I know not everyone likes mixtures, using mixtures always makes planning your borders a more unpredictable business. The colours include white, cream, primrose, pink, lavender shades, crimson and yellow but at least they all have the unifying factor of that dark eye. The colours are similar to some of the cuttings-raised Coloropsis Series developed for containers.Coreopsis,Unbelievable,Sahin,Mr Fothergill. Image: Mr Fothergill's Seeds

    And they’re not the dumpy little squibs that I’ve often complained about in new annuals. But ‘Unbelievable’ reaches about 1m/40in in height and as well as a colourful border planting, my preference would be to grow it in a row for cutting and to cut individual stems in colours that suit your latest bouquet. They'll be lovely in wild, cottagey harvestings.

    Tom Stimpson, Plant Product Manager at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds who have an exclusive on this variety, told me more about it: “It’s difficult to say how many individual colours there are,” he said, “but the mix does contain pinks and rusty colours, ones not really associated with seed raised coreopsis. The mix focuses on these more unusual colours with the more common colours selected out.  The flowers are around the size of a 2p piece.

    “This mixture was found by the Dutch seedsman the late Kaes Sahin and has since been developed and refined. We chose the name because ‘unbelievable’ was a frequent catch word Kaes used to use!”

    Coreopsis ‘Unbelievable’ is available only from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds.


  • Echinacea ‘Magic Box’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 24 Sep 2010 at 02:56 PM

    Echinacea,Magic Box,Thompson & Morgan. Image ©Thompson and MorganReaders of this blog love echinaceas. It’s clear from the statistics that whenever I tell you about a new echinacea, the number of people who take a look at the blog goes up. So plenty of you will be excited about this new echinacea mixture for the 2011 season.

    ‘Magic Box’ is a new mixture which contains an amazingly wide range of flower colours. Not only are there the familiar purple, white and pink shades plus the newer yellow, orange and red shades - but there are also some attractive new bicolours. And there are new flower forms too. Thompson & Morgan’s plant breeder Charles Valins explained the background.

    Echinacea ‘Magic Box’ is the result of a breeding programme started in 1998. The colours produced now were achieved after years of ruthless selection. Now the mixture contains a kaleidoscope of colours, including the first bicolours for echinacea (right, click to enlarge) and some new flower shapes.Echinacea,Magic Box,Thompson & Morgan,bicolour. Image ©Thompson and Morgan

    “Many plants are strongly fragrant, they are a delight for bees and butterflies while in flower, and later the seed heads attract birds.

    “The mixture contains a broad colour range and also many special types, including bicolours, spider, and quilled flower types each in a small proportion. The spider types (below, click to enlarge) have curved petals, giving them a unique ‘windmill’ shape, the quilled types have fluted petals and look very different. There are also the first bicolours, including red and white, and red and orange while some can even be Echinacea,Magic Box,Thompson & Morgan,spider. Image ©Thompson and Morganspider and bicolour. All of them, from the standard to the special flower shapes, make a great cut flowers and colourful bouquets.” And they’re ideal in mixed borders, perennial borders and prairie plantings.

    But my advice would be to plant them in rows to begin with to cut for the house. And choose your favourites, divide them after a year or two and only move the best into borders.

  • Blackberry ‘Karaka Black’: New from Blackmoor Nurseries

    Graham Rice on 19 Sep 2010 at 02:58 PM

    Blackberry,Karaka Black,Blackmoor,meiosis. Image ©Blackmoor NurseriesOne of the plants I mentioned in my round up of new food plants at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in early July, has been lingering in my mind since then. I spotted it on the exhibit staged by Blackmoor Nurseries and it seemed so exceptional that I thought it well worth telling you more about it - especially as the show came just a little too early for it to reveal itself at its best.

    The new blackberry ‘Karaka Black’ looks to be a valuable new introduction. Firstly its flavour is the flavour of those wonderful hedgerow blackberries that those of us of a certain age used to gather when we were young. But its shape is very different, the berries are unusually long and ideal for dipping in cream (or natural yoghurt if you’re watching the calories). The fruits are firm, they last well both on the plant and after picking, and the yield is exceptional.

    ‘Karaka Black’ starts to crop in early-mid July and you should be able to keep picking until early September; the combination of earliness, high quality fruits, a fine flavour and a heavy yield really is valuable. The plant is a little thorny, though less thorny than some varieties, but the fruits are easy to pick as their stalks hold them away from the stems.

    Raised in New Zealand as part of a dedicated programme to develop better blackberries, in addition to its other qualities ‘Karaka Black’ shows some resistance to downy mildew and other blackberry diseases.

    You can order plants of blackberry ‘Karaka Black’ from Blackmoor Nurseries.


  • Allium jesdianum ‘White Empress’: new this autumn

    Graham Rice on 14 Sep 2010 at 08:17 AM

    Allium,jesdianum,White Empress,’. Image © (all rights reserved)We tend to think of the bold drumstick alliums as being purple but there are some excellent white flowered varieties as well. First spotted on the Avon Bulbs exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show back in 2008, Allium jesdianum ‘White Empress’ is now available by mail order and deserves your attention.

    The problem with some white forms of these invaluable alliums is that the stems are weak, and that the foliage is dying and curling up when the alliums are in flower. Not so with ‘White Empress’.

    Reaching about 30in/75cm in height, and flowering in May, the stems are stout enough to hold the 4in/10cm flowers and the foliage remains in fairly good condition at flowering time so doesn’t distract our attention from the full heads of starry white flowers.

    To be honest, I’ve not yet quite yet fathomed the origins of this plant. There seem to be two completely different stories, not helped by the fact that these alliums have been classified both as A. jesdianum and A. rosenbachianum.

    One version of its origins is that ‘White Empress’ is a sport of A. rosenbachianum – although most of the plants grown as A. rosenbachianum are actually A. stipitatum! The other version is that ‘White Empress’ is a sister seedling of the purple A. jesdianum ‘Early Emperor’, differing only in its flower colour – although ‘Early Emperor’ is listed in the PlantFinder as a hybrid. Got that? Me neither!

    Suffice it to say that A. jesdianum ‘Early Emperor’ is a fine white allium and well worth growing. It’s available from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries.


  • Narcissus ‘Wisley’: new, and named for the RHS garden

    Graham Rice on 09 Sep 2010 at 11:01 PM

    Daffodil,Narcissus,Wisley. Image © (all rights reserved)There are a number of good plants named for the RHS Garden at Wisley – the excellent Clematis Wisley [‘Evipo001’] comes to mind – and now here’s another. It’s a superb garden daffodil.

    ‘Wisley’ came to prominence in the RHS trial of daffodils that was planted in 2005 and assessed in 2006 and 2007. It’s a bold bicoloured variety, reaching just over 20in/50cm in height and flowering relatively early: in 2007, for example, it flowered for thirty nine days beginning on 2 March.

    The stems are mainly upright in habit, the leaves too, and the flowers, one on a stem, face outward or even slightly upwards. The result is that the blooms make a good impact and don’t hang their heads.

    Each flower is just under 4in/10cm across, with a large frilly yellow cup and slightly swept back white petals. And not only did it flower for five and a half weeks, but each bulb produced an average of five flowers.

    The assessment panel awarded ‘Wisley’ an Award of Garden Merit saying: “An excellent garden plant, good flowers and persistent; stood up well to the weather; a good strong flower colour and plant; flowers held well above the foliage; has lots of flowers and superb impact.”

    This new daffodil makes an excellent plant in drifts in the garden – it was impressive at the Savill Garden at Windsor a year or two back – and with its capacity to bulk up and produce so many flowers it’s also ideal in clumps amongst early perennials. It would be good in containers too.

    Narcissus ‘Wisley is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow': new variegated euphorbia

    Graham Rice on 05 Sep 2010 at 02:18 PM

    Euphorbia,Ascot Rainbow,variegated. Image: ©Perennial Resource/Walters Gardens. All Rights Reserved.Variegated forms of the handsome Mediterranean euphorbias are always tempting as they provide bright foliage colour for the whole year. But experience has shown that some are hardier than others.

    In the second of my looks back at the perennials I picked out as hot newcomers for 2010 right at the end of last year, Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow' stands out for its bright variegation and its winter hardiness.

    Reaching about 20in/50cm in height, and about as much wide, the narrow blue-green leaves are edged in yellow and, especially in cool weather, the shoots tips are tinged with pink. Even the heads of dark-eyed green flowers areEuphorbia, Ascot Rainbow,variegated. Image: ©Perennial Resource/Walters Gardens. All Rights Reserved. tinged with yellow as they open the late winter and spring.

    Found originally in Australia as a sport on the familiar dark-green-leaved E. x martini, it soon proved it could take the Australian summer heat. On trial in much colder climates than ours it also proved it could take a harsh winter. In parts of the country with cool summers that winter pink tinting will never entirely disappear.

    An exceptional container specimen in a terracotta pot, ‘Ascot Rainbow' will also thrive in a sunny border in any soil that is well-drained; the two things it hates are all-day shade and wet feet.

    Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow' is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and selected garden centres across the country.

    Acanthus,Whitewater,TerraNova,variegated. Image: ©Terra Nova Nurseries. All Rights Reserved.Still not in nurseries: Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ I picked this for its dramatic white variegated foliage, its white flowers on pink stems and its vigour. But, as far as I can tell, nurseries are less enthusiastic and it’s not yet available. Not to everyone's taste, it's true. But an opportunity for an enterprising nursery, perhaps…


  • Caryopteris x clandonensis 'White Surprise': new variegated form

    Graham Rice on 30 Aug 2010 at 03:15 PM

    Caryopteris,clandonensis,'White Surprise'. Image ©PlantHaven.comIn recent years we’ve seen quite a few new forms of that dependable summer shrub, Caryopteris – new forms which add attractive foliage to those valuable blue blooms.

    Some of the new yellow-leaved forms of Caryopteris really are bright, but they’ve often proved less hardy than the plain green-leaved forms. ‘White Surprise’, a sport of the old favourite ‘Heavenly Blue’, seems just as hardy so there’s no worries about it coming through the winter. And the foliage really is bright, with clean white edges to the dark, slightly greyish green leaves, making the perfect background for the rich blue flowers.

    Prune it back hard in the spring, as with all caryopteris, and you’re rewarded with a bright flush of dark grey-green foliage with its bright white edge. Then, from about August onwards, those clusters of blue flowers appear.

    Caryopteris,clandonensis,'White Surprise'. Image ©'White Surprise' reaches about 3ft high, and as wide, and makes a good container plant in any well-drained compost in a sunny place; in a sunny border, place it in the middle ground or towards the front. In prolonged hot and dry conditions, the edges of the leaves may burn a little so keep container plants watered and, when necessary, give border plants an occasional bucketful.

    Caryopteris x clandonensis 'White Surprise' was discovered in Holland in 2005 by Jan Jacob Bos on his nursery at Wilp. One day he noticed a variegated shoot on a plant of ‘Heavenly Blue’, simple as that.

    Caryopteris x clandonensis 'White Surprise' is available from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.


  • Digitalis ‘Goldcrest’: New foxglove hybrid

    Graham Rice on 23 Aug 2010 at 01:34 PM

    Digitalis,obscura,grandiflora,Goldcrest. Image: ©FarplantsAt the end of last year, on New Year’s Eve in fact, I highlighted some perennials to watch for this year, some exciting newcomers to look out for in nurseries and garden centres in 2010. So, have they arrived, are they available yet? Over the next few weeks – interspersed with news of other new plants - I’ll be bringing you news of two that have certainly arrived, and two still mysteriously missing from our nurseries.

    Let’s start with the digitalis with Digitalis ‘Goldcrest' (left and below, click to enlarge), created by David Tristram, one of our most thoughtful plant breeders. He also developed the breakthrough Helleborus Walberton’s Rosemary (‘Walhero’) that was so impressive just inside the main gate at Wisley back in the winter and spring.

    ‘Goldcrest' is the first hybrid between the relatively uncommon Digitalis obscura, with rusty or sometimes pink-tinted yellow flowers, and the more familiar primrose yellow flowered D. grandiflora. Digitalis obscura brings its rusty colouring to ‘Goldcrest’, but it’s a Mediterranean plant, from Spain, and Digitalis,obscura,grandiflora,Goldcrest. Image: ©Farplantsappreciates sunny summers, warm winters and good drainage. By contrast, the larger flowered D. grandiflora grows in eastern Europe, and is more adaptable and much hardier.

    In combining qualities from both parents, ‘Goldcrest’ has large honeyed gold coloured flowers on self-supporting upright stems, each flower speckled on the inside and with hints of red on the outside. It’s also sterile, and in never producing any seeds the plant responds with an unusually prolific display. Ideal in a large container where you can appreciate the intriguing colouring, it’s also big and bold enough for a sunny border.

    Digitalis ‘Goldcrest' is available from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries and in a few good garden centres around the country.

    Still not in nurseries: Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream’ (left, click to enlarge) Leucanthemum,Shatsa daisy,Banana Cream,Walters. Image: ©Perennial Resource/Walters Gardens. All Rights Reserved.This yellow form of the familiar Shasta daisy is short and self-supporting, but not too dumpy, branches well and has rich yellow flowers that fade to pale yellow. I assure you it’s superb. But, as far as I can tell, there’s still no nursery is listing it. An opportunity for an enterprising nursery.


  • Clematis ‘Celebration’: new golden leaved clematis

    Graham Rice on 17 Aug 2010 at 12:25 PM

    Clematis,Celebration,yellow,gold,Jackmanii Alba,Thorncroft. Image ©Sussex Plants (all rights reserved)Yes, ‘Celebration’ is the first large flowered clematis with golden yellow leaves.

    As you can see from the picture (click to enlarge), the leaves really are bright yellow. What’s more the edges of the leaves are lined in red and the stems are red too. So the plant looks amazing even before flowering begins.

    Then, in May and June, the double flowers open. Each flower is about 6in/15cm across, white with a blue tint, and with a gold flush on the basal petals. Later in the season the blooming is repeated, this time with single flowers. Prune every year after the display of double flowers, the plants should reach a height of about 6-8ft/1.8-2.4m).

    Having said all that, the foliage looks so colourful that I’d be tempted to prune it hard in spring, miss out on those early flowers and grow it specifically as a foliage plant. There would still be single flowers later. I’m looking forward to trying both approaches. Leaf colour is best in full sun and in soil which is not too rich; Sussex Plants, who introduced the plant, say “avoid overfeeding”.

    ‘Celebration’ is a gold-leaved sport of the nineteenth century variety ‘Jackmanii Alba’ which has green foliage and double flowers with a little less blue colouring. ‘Celebration’ was discovered back in 1993 by Fred Godfrey of Sussex Plants, so it’s taken many years to bring the plant to the point when it can be made available.

    For more information take a look at the ‘Celebration’ clematis website. To reserve a plant for dispatch next spring, go to the Clematis ‘Celebration’ page on the Thorncroft Clematis Nursery website.


  • Three new heleniums: to be unveiled at the National Collection

    Graham Rice on 11 Aug 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Helenium,Gelbe Waltraut,Hartmut Rieger,NCCPG,National Collection,Special perennials. Image: © Hartmut Rieger. All Rights Reserved.Three new heleniums will be unveiled this weekend when the Plant Heritage National Collection holds its annual open days at Special Perennials near Crewe. Two of the newcomers were raised in Germany and one in Cheshire, in their various ways all three represent significant steps forward.

    National Collection holder Martin Blow told me about them.

    “The first, ‘Gelbe Waltraut’ (top, click to enlarge), is a seedling from the old favourite ‘Waltraut’,” he explained, “and is a beautiful clear, pure yellow with a high quality flower with a solid circular outline. Gelbe is German for yellow. Flowering from late June into the autumn it only reaches about 2-21/2ft/60-75cm tall. The flowers are numerous and create a dome of colour above the leaves. The cone is light tan in colour and complements the petals admirably. It was raised by Hartmut Rieger at his wonderful collection of Heleniums in Germany.

    Helenium,Oldenburg,Hartmut Rieger,NCCPG,National Collection,Special perennials. Image: © Hartmut Rieger. All Rights Reserved.“Also from Hartmut Rieger is ‘Oldenburg’ (right, click to enlarge), which arose as a chance seedling in his garden. It is unique in its pale orange colouration with deeper orange backs to the petals. The petals are curled at the edges giving a bicolor effect. About 5-6ft/1.5-1.8m tall, it makes a welcome addition to the back of the border flowering from early August through September.

    "The last of the three is ‘Blanche Royale’, raised by Ray Clarke from Macclesfield in Cheshire who has also raised many Hemerocallis. ‘Blanche Royale’ (left, click to enlarge) is the result of deliberate crosses using many of the best varieties around at the Helenium,Blanche Royale,NCCPG,National Collection,Special perennials. Image: © All Rights Reserved.moment. The plants are about 21/2-3ft/75-90cm tall and develop a mass of blooming stems - the plant was selected for its flower power. The petals have a deep yellow ground with streaks of warm rich red radiating from the brown cones. Flowering starts in mid July and continues through September.”

    With their wonderful colouring and, in two cases, their relatively dwarf and manageable habit they all look very tempting.

    All three will be unveiled to visitors to The National Collection of Helenium Cultivars at Special Perennials at Hankelow in Cheshire this coming weekend (14 & 15 August, 12-5pm) when orders can be placed for delivery next spring. Check the Special Perennials website for details and directions.


  • Blackcurrant ‘Big Ben’: new, and with huge berries

    Graham Rice on 09 Aug 2010 at 12:07 PM

    Blackcurrant,Big Ben,SCRI,Ben Lomond. Image: ©SCRI. All Rights Reserved.‘Big Ben’ is a breakthrough blackcurrant with many good qualities but one very special feature. The fruits are huge, far far larger than the fruits of other blackcurrants.

    Most blackcurrant berries weigh in at about 1.1g, but the average weight for a ‘Big Ben’ berry is 2.9g – that’s almost three times the size. The result is that each mature plant can produce 4.5kg (10lb) of fruit ripening about eight to ten days before the well known ‘Ben Lomond’.

    Mature bushes of ‘Big Ben’ develop a slightly arching habit – not because they’re weak, they’re not, the branches are strong but just grow that way. It makes the fruit easier to pick and allows the plants to be trained on wires more easily if that’s what you prefer.

    Developed specially as a variety for eating fresh – most new blackcurrants are developed specifically for commercial juice production – the large fruits are shiny, with a strong skin and are relatively sweet. They’re ideal for eating fresh.

    Also valuable is the fact that ‘Big Ben’ is resistant to both powdery mildew and leafspot so you won;t need to spray to control these diseases.

    ‘Big Ben’ blackcurrant was developed at the Scottish Crops Research Institute near Dundee. All their previous blackcurrants have been named for Scottish mountains - ‘Ben Lomond’, ‘Ben Hope’ etc – but the enormous berries of ‘Big Ben’ led to an adjustment to their naming theme this one time.

    Blackcurrant ‘Big Ben’ is available from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries as well as Blackmoor Nurseries, Crocus, Garden Bargains and Suttons.


  • Hosta ‘Snow Mouse’: New from Bowden Hostas

    Graham Rice on 03 Aug 2010 at 11:50 AM

    Hosta,Snow Mouse,Blue Mouse Ears,Mark Zilis,Bowden Hostas,Hostapedia. Image © (all rights reserved)Since its introduction in the USA about ten years ago, Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ has become one of the most popular of small hostas and in the five years its been available in Britain, it’s captured our attention for many reasons.

    It’s small and neat, not more than 6in/15cm high, so is ideal at the very front of a border or even in a container; the dainty, slightly cupped leaves are indeed just like mouse ears; their faintly rippled blue colouring is very distinct; and the prolific flowers, like lavender hyacinths, sit tightly on the mound of foliage. On top of that, because the texture of the leaf is so heavy, it’s one of the hostas least likely to be eaten by slugs.

    ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ is also a plant that has produced some lovely sports – spontaneous genetic mutations. This happens a lot in hostas, variegated forms being the most frequent to turn up.

    ‘Blue Mouse Ears’, itself a sport of ‘Blue Cadet, spawned ‘Green Mouse Ears’, with green leaves, and then ‘Royal Mouse Ears’ with its leaves speckled and streaked in cream and white. Then came ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’, with a broad white edge to the leaves, and ‘Holy Mouse Ears’, with a white splash and streaking in the centre of the leaf. These last two were both developed by Mark Zilis, author of The Hostapedia – probably the most comprehensive hosta book available.

    Most of these were on show at the Bowden Hostas exhibits at various shows this summer along with the very latest in the series – ‘Snow Mouse’. ‘Snow Mouse’ features a bolder white central zone in each leaf yet retains the same heavy, slug-resistant texture. It would make a lovely specimen in a terracotta pot.

    Hosta ‘Snow Mouse’ is available from Bowden Hostas.


  • Linaria 'Freefolk Piccolo' - New from Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants

    Graham Rice on 28 Jul 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Linaria,Freefolk Piccolo,Hardy's,Mini Me. Image © (all rights reserved)One of the most striking new plants I came across at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show earlier this month was a new linaria. I’d spotted it on the Twelfth Night garden, tucked up against a pink bee hive, and wondered what it was, it didn’t look familiar and there was no label. Then in the floral marquee, Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants showed it to me.

    It proved to be an unusually dwarf form of Linaria purpurea, reaching only about 18in/45cm in height. Rosy had spotted it in the gravel on their Hampshire nursery, and it caught her eye not only because it was a lot shorter than the usual form – less than half the height – but was also unusually bushy with side shoots appearing all the way up the stem. It also seemed to be sterile (one reason it was so prolific), with none of the infuriating seedlings that the usual form produces and which you then have to weed out. Its colour also seemed a little softer, perhaps a little more blue.

    Linaria,Freefolk Piccolo,Hardy's,Mini Me. Image ©Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants (all rights reserved)On her exhibit, Rosy had it labelled simply Linaria purpurea “Dwarf” – not such a catchy name, really, so I urged her to choose something better. Later, she told me they’d decided to call it ‘Mini-Me’. I wrote it up in my New Plants selection in the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show coverage and included it in my video covering much of the same ground.

    But that wasn’t then end of the story. After the show Rosy sent me an email. It wasn’t possible to call the plant ‘Mini-Me’ as one of the big international plant breeders had registered Mini-Me as a Trade Mark for any horticultural products. They use it for a series of petunias, for example. So Hardy’s came up with a new name – ‘Freefolk Piccolo’ (the Freefolk part of the name comes from the name of the Hampshire hamlet where the nursery is located: Freefolk Priors). So, finally, this breakthrough new linaria is called Linaria purpurea ‘Freefolk Piccolo’.

    Such has been the interest that the nursery has now sold out. But check the Hardy's website so see when it’s back in stock.


  • Pelargonium 'Quantock Double Diamond': first double Angel from Fir Trees Pelargonium Nursery

    Graham Rice on 23 Jul 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Pelargonium,‘Quantock Double Diamond’,Fir Trees,Ken Dymond,Derek Lloyd Dean. Image © (all rights reserved)It was back in 1913 that the first Angel Pelargonium was created. It was developed from the scented-leaved Pelargonium crispum and an old Regal Pelargonium called 'The Shah' by Arthur Langley-Smith, a headmaster by profession, as revealed in the fascinating display by Derek Lloyd Dean at the recent Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

    In recent years two breeders have continued to take Angel Pelargoniums forward: Mervyn Haird, whose varieties all have the Cottenham Prefix, and who sadly passed away in 2004, and Ken Dymond, whose varieties all have the Quantock prefix.

    And it was from one of Ken Dymond’s Quantock varieties that the first ever double-flowered Angel arose. It’s taken almost a hundred years.

    Five years ago a double flowered shoot arose on a plant of ‘Quantock Ultimate’ at Fir Trees Pelargonium Nursery. ‘Quantock Ultimate’ is a semi-trailing type with deep maroon blooms edged in white. The name indicates how good it is.

    Pelargonium,‘Quantock Double Diamond’,Fir Trees,Ken Dymond,Derek Lloyd Dean. Image © (all rights reserved)Named ‘Quantock Double Diamond’, the new double form features the same gently trailing habit, the same maroon petals edged in white – but every flower is double. And because its flowers are sterile they just keep on coming. I thought it was one of the stars of the recent Hampton Court Palace Flower Show where it was unveiled. It would make a splendid specimen in a patio container.

    Angel pelargonium ‘Quantock Double Diamond’ is available exclusively from Fir Trees Pelargonium Nursery (scroll down). And they’ve clearly worked hard to build up stock because, as I write, it’s still available.


  • Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’: New from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

    Graham Rice on 18 Jul 2010 at 04:04 PM

    Geum,Totally Tangerine,Walberton,Crowther,Hardy'. Image: FarPlantsSometimes a plant breeder sets out with an aim in mind - and ends up creating an entirely different plant. That was the case with this dramatic new geum. Plant breeder Tim Crowther tells the story.

    “What I was looking for in 1988 was a compact free flowering clone that I could take further and use to create plants in a range of colours. To achieve this I crossed Geum coccineum with G. rivale to reinforce the compactness. Then I crossed the best resulting seedlings with G. chiloensis expecting colour breaks - but most of the resulting offspring were dull with rather a lot of plants having small petals like those of G. rivale.

    “However, I selected three of interest but found that two were too similar to existing cultivars. The remaining one, ‘Totally Tangerine’, ended the line as it was sterile and so could not be used as a parent -  not at all what I intended so in a way it could be classed as a failure.

    “But ‘Totally Tangerine’ proved to be an excellent plant. Its main attributes are robustness, length of flowering season, number of flowers, sterility, vigour and colour. It was doing its best to flower in late January, in spite of the snow, and will continue flowering until November. In its second year it produced well over two thousand blooms counted from the seed heads.”

    So instead if creating a compact and free flowering plant, Tim produced an unusually tall and free flowering plant.

    Geum,Totally Tangerine,Walberton,Crowther,Hardy'. Image: 
FarPlantsThe flowers are a lovely soft tangerine orange, and plants usually start flowering well at about 60cm/2ft in late April or early May. They then continue flowering October or even November by which time the plant may reach an astonishing 1.4m/41/2ft. Growing happily in most soils in a sunny position, the plant I saw in the autumn a couple years back was really impressive.

    Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ has been introduced by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants.


  • Hydrangea Twist-n-Shout: new re-blooming variety

    Graham Rice on 15 Jul 2010 at 07:01 PM

    Hydrangea,Twist-n-Shout,Twist,Shout,Endless Summer,Piihm-I. Image: ©Endless Summer Collection.Hydrangeas that flower all summer are a relatively new innovation but they are now being grown more widely. The Endless Summer Collection started it all off and there’s a new addition to the series now available.

    The trick with these repeat flowering hydrangeas is that they flower on both the old growth from the previous season, which produces the earlier flowers, and also the new growth from the current season – this produces the later flowers.

    The first of these was simply called Endless Summer ('Bailmer'). It’s a hortensia (mophead type) and like most hydrangeas it makes a rounded plant 0.9-1.5m/3-5ft high and across. Not only does it flower all summer but the large heads are crowded with flowers and there’s also bronze autumn colour.

    Next came ‘Blushing Bride’ with semi-double white flowers blushing as they age. And now we have the latest in the series, Twist-n-Shout (‘Piihm-I’).

    Twist-n-Shout is the first lacecap in the Endless Summer series. Its broad lacecap heads are delightful and it has another very attractive feature – the stems are red, a colouring it derives from one of its parents ‘Lady in Red’.

    The story of these re-blooming hydrangeas began in 1998. Dr. Michael Dirr, America’s leading woody plant expert, was visiting a nursery in Minnesota when a hydrangea caught his eye. It had been picked out by one of the nursery’s staff but since then had been largely ignored. Dr Dirr took cuttings back to his base at the University of Georgia where the plant proved to be perpetual flowering. That was the original Endless Summer.

    As with all these hydrangeas, the flower colour largely depends on the soil – acid soil gives blue flowers, alkaline soil gives pink flowers.

    You can order Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.


  • New Clematis at Hampton Court

    Graham Rice on 08 Jul 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Clematis Amethyst Beauty™ (‘Evipo043’). Image © (all rights reserved)Four of the most impressive new plants at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show are the four new clematis raised by Raymond Evison. In my coverage of the plants at the Show I mentioned two of them in my choice of ten new flowering plants and one of those featured in my new plants video interview. But let’s take a look at the other two.

    Amethyst Beauty™ (‘Evipo043’) (top, click to enlarge), on the Taylor’s Clematis Nursery stand, is a deep and sultry colour, rich dark purple and then adding dark bluish tones as the flowers mature; in the centre of each flower is a cluster of red anthers. The flowers start to open in June and continue into September.

    Reaching just 1.8m/6ft in height, like many of  the clematis from Raymond Evison it’s much more manageable than most traditional varieties. Just cut the whole plant back to 15cm/6in in spring.

    Clematis Reflections™ ('Evipo035'). Image © (all 
rights reserved)Also on the Taylor’s Clematis Nursery exhibit is Reflections™ ('Evipo035') (left, click to enlarge). This has such cool and subtle colouring, it was much admired. The semi-double flowers are lilac blue in colour but fade gently as they age so the result is that when in full flower the plant presents a harmonious blend of shades that is really captivating. Like Amethyst Beauty, Reflections reaches about 1.8m/6ft and can be cut back to 15cm/6in each spring.

    Over in my Hampton Court plants coverage you can read about the two other new clematis. Shimmer (‘Evipo028’), with a similar harmonious blend of colouring in slightly bluer shades, also features on the Taylor’s Clematis Nursery exhibit. Rather shorter, at 1.2m/4ft, is Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo53’), with slim, wavy purple blue petals.

    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo53’) will be available soon. The other three clematis are available from Taylor’s Clematis Nursery.

    The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show closes on Sunday, tickets are still available.


  • New plants at the Hampton Court show

    Graham Rice on 07 Jul 2010 at 08:48 AM

    Rose,Claire Marshall,Harunite,Harkness. Image: ©Harkness Roses.I’ve again been checking up on the new plants released at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which runs till Sunday.

    So far there are two batches of choices on the RHS website:

    New Roses – with the focus on healthy varieties.
    New Flowers – climbers, perennials and annuals

    And coming soon is my pick of the new food plants and also a short video featuring some of the most interesting new plants at the Show. Check back here for the links in a day or two.

    I've also been looking at some other aspects of the plants at the show, start here for links to them all.


  • National Plant Show - all the New Plant Awards

    Graham Rice on 30 Jun 2010 at 07:17 PM
    NemesiaSugarFrosted4486HTA The first National Plant Show has just closed at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry. This show is geared towards professional plantspeople but we’re all interested in the New Plant Awards. Time to wrap up the coverage.

    I ran through the Gold Medal winners late yesterday and highlighted the Best in Show earlier yesterday. So let’s have a quick recap and then look at the Silver and Bronze awards.

    Best in show
    Begonia 'Glowing Embers'

    Gold Medals
    Begonia 'Glowing Embers'
    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053)
    Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’
    Nemesia ‘Blueberry Ripple’
    Nemesia ‘Framboise’

    Silver Medals
    Gazania ‘Apache’ Large plants and large flowers which are red with yellow petal tips LeucanthemumRealGalaxy4541HTA
    Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer Twist ‘n’ Shout’ The latest in the repeat flowering series
    Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bombshell’ Greenish white flowers on compact plants
    Leucanthemum ‘Real Galaxy’ (Right, click to enlarge) Large eyed flowers with a mass of frilly creamy petals
    Nemesia ‘Vanilla Lady’, Prolific, white and heavily vanilla scented
    Rosa ‘Joie de Vivre’ Rose of the Year, neat, compact, prolific, disease resistant

    Bronze Medals
    Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’, glossy bronze foliage with a red centre
    Gerbera Garvinea Series, Very hardy gerberas for the open garden
    Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ Very long flowering with soft orange flowers
    NemesiaMirabelle4563HTA Nemesia ‘Mirabelle’ (Left, click to enlarge) Slightly smoky blue purple flowers in great numbers
    Nemesia ‘Sugar Frosted’ (Top, click to enlarge) Misty pink flowers and very brightly variegated leaves
    Salvia eigii ‘Christopher Fairweather’ Vivid pink hooked flowers on vertical stems
    Sambucus nigra
    ‘Black Tower’ very upright with almost black leaves

    Book next year's National Plant Show in your diary - 28 and 29 September 2011.

    [Cross posted from my Transatlantic Plantsman blog]



  • Gold Medal winners at the National Plant Show

    Graham Rice on 29 Jun 2010 at 06:19 PM
    Clematis,Guiding Light,Evipo053,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved) [Cross posted extra from my Transatlantic Plantsman blog.]

    So here’s more on the New Plant Awards at the first National Plant Show (last day tomorrow). Sponsored by ProVar, the non-profit agency that markets new plants, yesterday afternoon and evening I helped judge the awards – which were announced this morning. So here’s the full roster of Gold Awards
    Begonia Glowing Embers, which I told you about this morning;
    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053), the latest from Raymond Evison;
    Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’, a dwarf shrub in brilliant colours;
    Nemesia 'Blueberry Ripple', an amazingly prolific bicoloured nemesia;
    Nemesia ‘Framboise’, also prolific and a wonderful fruity colour.

    We gave the Best in Show award to Begonia Glowing Embers, for its combination of sultry chocolate bronze foliage and its many orange single flowers.
    Coprosma,Tequila Sunrise,National,Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved)
    Clematis Guiding Promise™ (‘Evipo053')  (top, click to enlarge) is the latest from ace clematis breeder Raymond Evison. It’s short, reaching just 0.9-1.2m/3-4ft, so is ideal sprawling through a low shrub and produces masses of six-petalled blue-purple flowers with dark centres in early summer and then again in late summer and autumn.

    Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (right, click to enlarge) originated in New Zealand as a sport of Coprosma ‘Yuanne’ and its very glossy,  wavy, evergreen green leaves are edged in rusty orange in summer turning red in winter. This looks to be a fine plant to use as a container specimen.
    Nemesia,Blueberry Ripple,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved)
    Nemesia 'Blueberry Ripple' (left, click to enlarge) stood out from across the hall. A mass of scented blueberry and white flowers, the two colours separated by a yellow lip, keep coming on bushy plants all summer.

    Nemesia ‘Framboise’ (right, click to enlarge), five nemesias gained awards in all, I liked this one for its rich fruity colouring and the way the foliage stayed even and compact and the flowers all stood up above it. Nemesia,Framboise,National Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved)

    I’ll tell you about the other award winners tomorrow. These are all new in Britain and just starting to become available in garden centres and soon by mail order. Look out for them.

    Finally, without naming names, it was interesting to see that a number of entries simply failed to follow the rules. Following the rules is absolutely basic.
    For example:
    Five plants of each entry were required, so don’t submit just one.
    Don’t turn up two hours after the deadline, when judging is almost complete, and expect your entry to be accepted.
    If the main feature of a plant is its flowers, enter plants which are actually flowering!


  • Best in Show at the National Plant Show

    Graham Rice on 29 Jun 2010 at 01:13 AM

    Begonia,Glowing Embers,Allensmore,National,Plant Show. Image: © (all rights reserved) Yesterday afternoon and evening I helped judge the New Plant Awards at the very first British National Plant Show.

    We started out with almost sixty entries, and, after much careful deliberation, we gave the award for the Best New Plant in the Show to a new begonia exhibited by Allensmore Nurseries called Glowing Embers (left, click to enlarge). The other judges were: David Clark, formerly Managing Director of Notcutts Nurseries; David Gilchrist of the Horticultural Trades Association; Kate Lowe, editor of the trade magazine Horticulture Week; and Caroline Owen, Managing Director of Scotsdales Garden Centre near Cambridge, one of the country's largest independent garden centres.

  • National Plant Show

    Graham Rice on 25 Jun 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Heuchera,Autumn Leaves,National Plant Show,Terra Nova Nurseries. Image: ©Terra Nova Nurseries Next Tuesday sees the opening of the very first National Plant Show. Held at Stoneleigh Park, near Coventry in the English Midlands, on June 29 and 30. Over a hundred nurseries and seed companies will be exhibiting their plants. No patio furniture, no mock-stone containers, no plastic turf, no Christmas holiday gifts, no barbecues, no novelty hand tools, no cure-all pesticides, no cheesy lighting and no plastic anything.

    Just plants.

    Intended for garden centres, retail nurseries, florists, landscape and garden designers, and other industry professionals of all kinds – the National Plant Show does what so many of us have always wanted a show to do. It forgets everything else and focuses on the plants. Hundreds and hundreds of plants - trees, shrubs, perennials, patio plants - everything, as long as it's a plant.

    Plus. There are also seminars from the likes of Raymond Evison (Guernsey Clematis), Andy McInroe (Hillier Nurseries) and Sarah Raven.

    I’m honoured to be one of the judges for the New Plant Awards, the winners will be announced on the morning of June 29, and I’m looking forward to seeing the best of what the British plant trade has to offer. Like Heuchera ‘Autumn Leaves’ (above, click to enlarge), a star in the making, perhaps, from America’s Terra Nova Nurseries.

    You can sign up as a visitor online here.


  • Rose Claire Marshall: New from Harkness Roses

    Graham Rice on 24 Jun 2010 at 05:13 PM

    Rose,Claire Marshall,Harunite,Harkness. Image: ©Harkness Roses.New roses appear every year and at the forthcoming Hampton Court Palace Flower Show there will be a flood of newcomers. But one of the most interesting of this year’s new introductions was launched at Chelsea and short listed for the Chelsea Plant of the Year Award.

    Claire Marshall (‘Harunite’) is a Floribunda (Cluster-flowered) rose, reaching just 2ft/60cm in height, and is a gorgeous colour, a rich plummy shade evoking the classic old roses. Its heavy fragrance, too, is reminiscent of the old roses.

    Carried in clusters of seven, the flowers are large with the central flower in each cluster being as much as 4in/10cm across. The flowers keep coming all summer and the combination of colour, fragrance, manageable height and repeat flowering make this an ideal rose for small gardens or even containers. But Claire Marshall (‘Harunite’) has another important feature: disease tolerance.

    “As far as health is concerned, we haven't used any fungicides on our new rose testing or trials since 1994/95 season," Philip Harkness told me. “So any new varieties that emerge have to show good tolerance to disease and, should they suffer, also have a constitution that enables them to regrow and recover without the plant suffering. Claire Marshall has good resistance in most situations although under stress or overcrowding she will succumb to some disease.”

    The rose is named for the daughter of Jim Marshall, holder of the Plant Heritage National Collection of Malmaison Carnations. It’s the result of a cross pollination made back in 2003, so it has been assessed over quite a few seasons. It includes blood from four different roses: ‘Anne Harkness’, ‘New Dawn’, ‘Miss Dior’ and ‘New Age’.

    A donation of 80p from the sale of each rose will be donated to *** Cancer Care.

    You can order the rose Claire Marshall (‘Harunite’) from Harkness Roses.


  • Creating a new plant – the story

    Graham Rice on 24 Jun 2010 at 03:44 PM

    Alcea 'Mars Magic',hollyhock,Spotlight Series,Jelitto. Image: ©Jelitto Seeds.Back in March, I wrote here about the impressive new Spotlight hollyhocks that had recently become available - like the ‘Mars Magic’ seen here on the road to its release.

    Now, over on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog, I have the full story of the many years of work that went into their creation – starting with seeds sent to the international seed company Jelitto by a customer.

    And it’s not just about hollyhocks – the story typifies the years, sometimes decades, of work that goes into creating the new varieties which add new colour and textures to our gardens.

    Take a look at the story of the Spotlight hollyhocks.


  • Trailing pansies: The first ever from cuttings

    Graham Rice on 20 Jun 2010 at 04:59 PM

    Viola,pansy,Balconita,Cheeky Yellow. Image: ©David Kerley.Pansies are probably the most popular of all spring container plants: sparkling colours, tough, and easy to grow. For decades all the varieties were tight and compact; then we had trailing types from seed. Now, we have the final step: trailing pansies grown from cuttings.

    We’ve had trailing violas from cuttings, but these British-bred Balconita pansies have much larger flowers, in much brighter colours and instead of hanging down in sheets like the early Surfinia petunias they develop a much more elegant habit. And why from cuttings? Because they’re guaranteed uniform, no off colours and no variation in how – or if – they trail.

    Developed by British plant breeder David Kerley, he also created the Tumbelina double petunias and the Belarina double primroses.Viola,pansy,Balconita,Meridian Blue,Friolina. Image: ©David Kerley.

    “We started to breed the trailing pansies in 2000,” David told me, “but it proved difficult to incorporate the trailing habit… It was four seasons before we saw the first signs that we were on the right track and by then we were perilously close to giving up. In the end I think we grew around 80-90,000 plants to get these first four varieties and the three we have in the pipeline.

    “The habit is fairly horizontal initially, then hanging as the stems elongate. They are not the “grow upright and fall over” type, that’s not really trailing at all. The challenge was to produce a compact plant in a pot which looked attractive and was easy to manage in the garden centre but still trailed well after planting.”Viola,pansy,Balconita,Deep Red. Image: ©David Kerley. The picture above (click to enlarge) shows 'Balconita Meridian Blue' with the trailing viola 'Friolina Blue White Cascadiz' and the buy-in-the-garden centre stage.

    Those first four in the Balconita Series are ‘Cheeky Yellow’ (top, click to enlarge), ‘Deep Red’ (left, click to enlarge), ‘Meridien Blue’, and ‘White Surprise’ but at the moment they are only available in a mixture.

    You can order Trailing Pansy 'Balconita Mixed' from Thompson & Morgan. The plants will flower in the autumn, but the main display will come in spring.


  • Apple Redlove® Era®: New from Suttons

    Graham Rice on 15 Jun 2010 at 10:53 PM

    Apple,Redlove,Era,Luber,Suttons. Image: ©Suttons.What do we want from a new apple variety? Flavour must be first, and good texture as well. Disease resistance is a big help. It must crop heavily… It helps if it stores well… If it’s a good cooker as well as being a good eater straight off the tree, that’s great… And I always like an apple that simply looks tempting.

    Redlove® Era®, new from Suttons today (!), has all this and more. It also has long-lasting deep pink flowers and the flesh of the apples is red too! It even keeps its colour when it’s cooked. Think of it, pink apple pie.

    This variety is so new that you can’t even buy it in the supermarket or the greengrocer. It was raised in Switzerland by ace apple breeder Markus Kobelt who spent many years developing it. It’s the first of a series of red-fleshed apples, the Redlove® Series. Apple,Redlove,Era,Luber,Suttons. Image: ©Suttons.

    Starting with parents which were disease-resistant and with sweet firm flesh, he spent many years of careful pollination and selection before choosing this unique variety. After all, think how long it takes an apple to go from a germinating seed to a fruit you can taste. And if you’re a plant breeder you may well have to go through this time and again before you get something really good.

    The round, medium-sized fruits of Redlove® Era® have a lovely deep red skin. The firm, crisp and juicy red flesh has a hazy white marbling and its flavour has a good balance of sweetness and acidity with berry overtones. The flowers are Apple,Redlove,Era,Luber,Suttons. Image: ©Suttons.unusually long lasting and deep pink in colour and Redlove® Era® is also highly resistant to apple scab – a feature which, which in my garden, is invaluable. It’s ready to eat from the tree around mid September and will store till Christmas.

    Redlove® Era® is supplied on an M9 rootstock and will produce an easily managed tree up to about 2.5m (8ft) tall.

    It’s red on the outside, red on the inside, the flowers are red and it’s red when it’s cooked! Sounds wonderful, I can’t wait to try it.


  • Coreopsis ‘Redshift’: New for 2010

    Graham Rice on 10 Jun 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Coreopsis, Redshift,Big Bang,Darrell Probst. Image: ©Walters GardensThere’s been quite a flurry of new coreopsis appearing in nurseries and mail order catalogues recently. Some, like the Coloropsis Series and Punch Series, are intended for summer containers and are not hardy. But others like the Big Bang series are tough as anything – as tough as our old friend C. verticillata. And they come in some exciting new colours. Latest on the scene in the Big Bang series is ‘Redshift’.

    The Big Bang series was developed over many years by intercrossing a range of species collected in the wild in the southern USA by plantsman and breeder Darrell Probst (better known, up to now, for his work on epimediums). Back in Massachusetts in the north east, where it’s a lot colder than here, he worked on bringing exciting new colours to hardy coreopsis. The plants in the Big Bang Series can take temperatures down to -20C/-5F. Yes, they’re tough. The cool yellow ‘Full Moon’ was the first, ‘Redshift’ is the next.

    When they first open in summer the flowers of ‘Redshift’ are creamy yellow with a bold deep red zone around the eye. Then, as autumn approaches and temperatures begin to cool down, the red colouring seeps along the length of the petals until the whole flower is deep red. It’s like having two different varieties growing together. The flowers are about 5cm/2in across (not 4in/10cm as one catalogue states!), and the plants reaches 60-75cm/24-30in in height.

    All the varieties in the Big bang Series have cosmological names. First there was ‘Full Moon; ‘Redshift’ (not ‘Red Shift’) is named for the optical effect caused by the expansion of the universe which makes distant objects take on a red colouring. Others on the way include ‘Galaxy’, ‘Cosmic Eye’, ‘Half Moon’, ‘Star Cluster’ and ‘Venus’.

    You can order plants of Coreopsis ‘Redshift’ from Hayloft Plants and also from Dove Cottage Nursery.


  • Golden rosemary: New from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 03 Jun 2010 at 08:56 PM

    Rosemary,Rosmarinus,Wilma's Gold. Image ©Gardening ExpressForms of rosemary with colourful foliage are few and far between. There are three variegated forms around but you hardly ever see them in nurseries and almost never in garden centres. And variegation on a leaf as narrow as that of a rosemary is not always very effective. But now there comes a golden leaved form.

    ‘Wilma’s Gold’ is a prostrate type – it comes under the Prostratus Group, making arching, semi-trailing growth. The leaves open bright yellow then become a little less vivid as they mature and the plants are dusted with pale blue flowers. Its habit and bright colouring make ‘Wilma’s Gold’ ideal as a specimen in a container or it will trail effectively at the front of a raised bed.

    Like all forms of rosemary, ‘Wilma’s Gold’ appreciates plenty of sunshine and a well drained, though not impoverished soil.

    Found on a small family run Dutch nursery by Wim Timmermans, it is thought to be a sport of ‘Capri’. He named it in honour of his wife.

    You can order rosemary ‘Wilma’s Gold’ from Gardening Express.


  • New foxglove at Chelsea

    Graham Rice on 31 May 2010 at 09:22 PM

    Foxglove Digitalis 'Serendipity'. Image ©Carol Sheppard/RHSFor two years running, unusual foxgloves in a similar vein have been stars at the Chelsea Flower Show. This year it was ‘Serendipity’, last year it was ‘Pam’s Split’. Both have flowers which are split into segments instead of formed into a tube. Both are delightful.

    The flowers of ‘Serendipity’ are basically pale pink. Each flower is split into four slender waved segments that actually make it look as if there are even more flowers on the plant than there are (and there are many). But the insides of the segments are either boldly speckled or stained in purple and the result is wild blend of colours and patterns.

    ‘Serendipity’ produces very little seed, perhaps because the bees have far more trouble pollinating it than they would a normal foxglove. It was raised at Hillier Nurseries in Hampshire by Alan Postill and is derived from another of their foxgloves with split flowers, ‘Saltwood Summer’, which they introduced at the show in 2002.

    Foxglove Digitalis 'Pam's Split'. Image ©Thompson and MorganI wrote about ‘Pam’s Split’ last year when it was launched on the Scotsdale Garden Centre stand at Chelsea. Raised by Thompson & Morgan Seeds, seed has been available in their current catalogue but now plants are on sale.

    Derived from ‘Pam’s Choice’, with white flowers dramatically blotched in crimson, ‘Pam’s Split’ is similar in colouring but each flower is split into four long segments. It’s also shorter than many foxgloves, at just 4ft/1.2m, and has the unusual habit producing a number of vertical stems from the base instead of just one.

    Seed of Digitalis purpurea ‘Pam’s Split’ is available from Thompson & Morgan. Plants are also now available for the first time from Hayloft Plants and from Hidden Valley Nursery.

    Plants of Digitalis purpurea ‘Serendipity’ are available from Hillier Garden Centres and from other garden centres across the country. It’s also available by mail order from Crocus.


  • Two Plant of the Year Finalists: New from Cayeux Iris

    Graham Rice on 27 May 2010 at 03:10 PM

    Iris,‘Impressions de Jouy’, Cayeux Iris. Image: ©Cayeux IrisTwo French irises were chosen as finalists for the Plant of the Year award at the Chelsea Flower Show this week. Both are tall bearded irises and both were raised by Richard Cayeux at his family’s iris nursery, Cayeux Iris, south of Paris.

    ‘Impressions de Jouy’ is a very dramatic plant. The boldly waved standards are pure white with a lavender haze around the edges and an occasional buttery tint at the very edge, while the falls are more tightly rippled and shade from a rich deep purple at the edge to a white centre. In the throat is a fiery orange-scarlet beard. This is a vigorous and prolific, mid season variety, named for the finely stitched Jouy tapestries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

    Iris,‘Rose de la Vallée’, Cayeux Iris. Image: ©Cayeux IrisThe second iris on the Chelsea Plant of the Year shortlist was ‘Rose de la Vallée’, an early to mid season variety. This is altogether softer and more delicate in its colouring. The frilly standards are pink tinted apricot in colour, with a fine butterscotch edging, while the more delicately frilled falls are a similar shade but with a striking golden cast. The beard is a vivid orange.

    Both these irises feature on the Cayeux Iris stand, which was awarded a Silver Gilt medal.

    Iris ‘Impressions de Jouy’ is available from Cayeux Iris

    Iris ‘Rose de la Vallée’ is available from Cayeux Iris


  • Hosta ‘Sara’s Sensation’: New from Bali-Hai Nursery

    Graham Rice on 25 May 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Hosta,Sara's Sensation,Bali-Hai,Paul and Linda Hofer. Image: Bali-Hai Nursery.‘Frances Williams’ is one of our most popular hostas. Basically it’s like Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ but with a gold edge to the leaf and indeed it is thought to be a sport of ‘Elegans’. ‘Frances Williams’ itself has produced a number of sports and this new introduction, ‘Sara’s Sensation’, looks to be one of the best.

    ‘Sara’s Sensation’ is an altogether brighter plant with a much broader gold border and smaller blue-green centre – in effect each leaf is gold with a central blue-green flash. Its rounded leaves are very thick and corrugated indeed it’s thought to be a tetraploid – that is, with twice the normal number of chromosomes – which helps create this extra substance. With such thick leaves it’s likely to be slug resistant. It will slowly but steadily make a plant about 50cm/20in high and 1.2m/4ft across and make a fine specimen in shady borders. In early summer almost pure white flowers appear on short stems.

    ‘Sara’s Sensation’ has been around for some time, it was registered with the American Hosta Society back in 1998, but is only now available here in Britain for the first time. It was found as sport of ‘Frances Williams’ by Paul and Linda Hofer from Ohio, Paul also discovered one of the finest hostas of all, the gold-centred ‘Paul’s Glory’ which was Hosta of the Year in 1999.

    You can order Hosta ‘Sara’s Sensation’ from Bali-Hai Nursery.


  • RHS Chelsea 2010 Plant of the Year - The Winners!

    Graham Rice on 25 May 2010 at 11:37 AM

    The winners of the first Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year were announced this morning. The winner is Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue', introduced by Dibley's Nurseries. Here are three winners.

    Winner: Streptocarpus 'Harlequin Blue'
    Raised by Lynne Dibley and exhibited here for the first time. The first flat-flowering bi-colour streptocarpus, with yellow on the lower petals making a striking contrast to the baby-blue upper petals. A compact plant with masses of flowers. Available from: Dibleys Nurseries, as plug plants, by mail order. 

    Second: Gaura lindheimeri 'Ruby Ruby'
    Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants have been working with Gaura breeding for the last six years. Initially with 'Chiffon' then 'Rosyjane', now on this line comes 'Ruby Ruby'. It is a continuing breeding programme using G. lindheimeri in open pollination and with judicial selection. Available from: Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants - currently out of stock

    Third: Cypripedium flavum - white flowered form
    A hardy lady's slipper orchid, Cypripedium flavum is found in China but these are mostly yellow flowered with reflexed sepals and petals. White flowers are very uncommon and superior. Plants can be grown in a pot or planted in the garden; they require partial shade, good drainage and moisture in summer. Available from: McBeans Ltd - but not currently listed on their website.

  • Chelsea Plant of the Year - finalists announced

    Graham Rice on 23 May 2010 at 09:14 PM

    Contenders have just been announced for the first RHS Chelsea 2010 Plant of the Year - the award for the most inspiring new plant at the Chelsea Flower Show.

    This new award is chosen from a shortlist of twenty plants, entered by floral and garden exhibitors at the show, and will be voted on by the RHS Plants Advisory Committee tommorow (Monday, 24 May) at a special Plantsman's Conference


  • New variegated culinary sage: coming soon...

    Graham Rice on 22 May 2010 at 10:59 PM

    Salvia,sage,variegated,La Crema. Image: © All rights reserved.How about this for a new sage? Yes, a brand new variegated culinary sage. Doesn’t it look great?

    Now, I have to say, before you get too excited – it’s not available yet. I know, I normally only tell you about plants you can order via a link at the end of my piece. But I thought you’d enjoy this glimpse into the future.

    Yesterday I received a small plant to try, to assess how good it really is. So the picture is of that little plant at just 3in/7.5cm high. But it looks very promising, doesn’t it? It’s a variegated sport of the broad-leaved ‘Berggarten’ and will be available in the USA this year.

    I’m almost certain no one in Britain has it for sale yet – but perhaps it will be at Chelsea? If you spot it there, please let me know.

    And when it’s available I’ll be sure to pass on the news.


  • Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’: new in garden centres and nurseries

    Graham Rice on 17 May 2010 at 08:10 PM

    Coprosma,Pacific Sunset,Pacific Night,Graham Hutchins. Image: ©John Woods NurseriesWe’ve become used to some fairly wild colouring in perennials in recent years, and in heucheras in particular. Just take a look at this earlier post and this one to see some of the shades now available. But now there’s an evergreen shrub with leaf colouring the like of which I’ve never seen before.

    The foliage of Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ is vivid coral red in the centre, chocolate-bronze at the edge and, in between, there’s an irregular zone in which the two shades are mixed. Each leaf is prettily waved, and the colour is at its most intense in the spring, and again in the autumn, but is always striking. It’s also evergreen so you can enjoy this extraordinary colouring all the year round.

    This is a fine patio shrub for a container. It’s not as tough as some other colourful evergreens like variegated hollies, it starts to suffer when the temperature drops below -5C/23F. But when grown in a pot it can be moved to a porch or into the conservatory for the winter. Happy in full sun or partial shade, it will eventually reach about 1.5m/5ft so is quite manageable.

    Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ arose as a sport on a plant of the chocolate-leaved ‘Pacific Night’ at the wholesale nursery of John Woods in Suffolk. ‘Pacific Night’ with uniformly deep chocolate brown foliage (about the same shade as the edges of the leaves of ‘Pacific Sunset’) was developed by Graham Hutchins of County Park Nursery who has been such a pioneer grower of New Zealand plants.

    You can buy Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ from these three RHS PlantFinder nurseries.

    Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ is also available in garden centres.


  • Dark-leaved dahlias: new in garden centres

    Graham Rice on 12 May 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Dahlia,Star Wars,(‘Vtdg14’),Dark Angel. Image: ©FarplantsSince ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlia began to enjoy a revival in its popularity about twenty years ago, other dark-leaved dahlias have been revived and found their way into more nurseries and more gardens. There’s also been a steady trickle of new dark-leaved varieties. Now one of the world’s foremost breeders of new dahlias has made their own contribution with the Dark Angel series.

    Kees and Aad Verwer of Verwer Dahlias in The Netherlands are responsible for creating the Gallery Series, the Karma Series, the Happy Single Series and many other fine varieties. Now they’ve released the Dark Angel Series which features single flowers set against shiny, dark purple-bronze foliage which is much prettier and more finely divided, like ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, than that of many dark-leaved varieties.Dahlia,Star Wars,(‘Vtdg17’),Dark Angel. Image: ©Farplants

    The plants are also very neat in growth, reaching only about 60cm/2ft, and branching repeatedly so they are much more manageable, especially in containers or in a small garden, than ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and similar taller types.

    Four varieties will be available in garden centres around the country in May and June, others will be available from the RHS Plant Centre at Wisley. All are named for famous Hollywood films. Well, most of them are: I’m not sure Dragon Ball quaifies as a Hollywood blockbuster. Perhaps the selection of names simply reflects the personal enthusiasms of the raisers! This is the full range:

    Dracula (‘Vdtg17’) (above right, click to enlarge) is purplish red, almost magenta, becoming darker around the eye.
    Dragon Ball (‘Vdtg31’) is deep salmon orange, darker around the eye and paler at the tips of the petals.Dahlia,Taxi Driver,(‘Vtdg57’),Dark Angel. Image: ©Farplants
    Taxi Driver (‘Vdtg57’) (left, click to enlarge) is bright lemon yellow with faint orange streaks.
    Star Wars (‘Vtdg14’) (top picture, click to enlarge) is bright yellow with contrasting fiery orange tips to the petals.

    You will find these four at Klondyke and Strikes Garden Centres (in Scotland and the north of England), Squires Garden Centres in the south, and the RHS plant centres at Wisley (Surrey), Harlow Carr (Yorkshire), Hyde Hall (Essex) and Rosemoor (Devon).

    The following four will be available from the RHS Plant Centre at Wisley, and perhaps at other garden centres.
    American Pie (‘Vdtg26’) is soft pink fading to white at the edges.
    Braveheart (‘Vdtg67’) is deep violet purple.
    Pretty Woman (‘Vdtg43’)  is vivid pink, darker around the eye and paler at the tips of the petals.
    Pulp Fiction (‘Vdtg61’) is very similar to the scarlet ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, though much shorter and much bushier.


  • Grafted vegetables now in garden centres

    Graham Rice on 07 May 2010 at 02:56 PM

    Tomato 'Conchita' Image: ©Suttons Seeds. All rights reserved.At the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show last year, Suttons Seeds showed their grafted vegetables. An extensive collection was available for mail order customers earlier this season but these plants are now available in selected garden centres across the country.

    But what’s so great about grafted vegetables? Well, the idea is that tasty and productive varieties are grafted on to specially developed disease resistant rootstocks. This enables you to plant the same crop in the same greenhouse or garden soil year after year. The plants also produce crops on average about two thirds heavier than they would if the same varieties were grown from seeds.

    So you can either enjoy heavier crops from the same number of plants you normally grow. Alternatively, grow fewer plants than usual without sacrificing yield – and try some other crops as well. Or perhaps grow vegetable for the first time. If you’re new to growing these crops, these grafted plants are more likely to be successful.

    So these four tomatoes and four other crops are available in selected garden centres now:
    Cherry Tomato ‘Conchita’ (above, click to enlarge) – Large cherry tomatoes with a fine flavour.
    Beefsteak Tomato ‘Belriccio’ – Prolific and tasty, ideal for the barbecue and Mediterranean salads.
    Standard Tomato ‘Elegance’ – Robust plants with deep red, delicious standard-size fruits.Chilli pepper 'Medina' Image: ©Suttons Seeds. All rights reserved.
    Plum Tomato ‘Dasher’ – Small plum fruits, very tasty.
    Aubergine ‘Scorpio’ – Very early and crops heavily.
    Chilli Pepper ‘Medina' (left, click to enlarge) – Vigorous, with 15cm/6in chillies ripening from green to red. “Sensibly hot”!
    Red Pepper ‘Britney’ – Tasty and productive peppers to harvest red.
    Green Pepper ‘Prego’ – Large virus-resistant and tasty peppers to harvest green.

    These grafted vegetables can all be grown outside in a sunny, sheltered position. Plants cost £3.99 each and are available in one hundred selected garden centres across the country, including all four RHS plant centres. For specific information on stockists in your area ring 0800 783 8074.


  • Three new brunneras in the 2010/2011 Plant Finder

    Graham Rice on 04 May 2010 at 07:26 PM

    Brunnera 'King's Ransom'. Image: ©Walters GardensSince the arrival of the silver-leaved Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ a few years ago, there’s been a slow but steady stream of new forms of this valuable shade loving perennial. This year there are three more.

    It all started when a plant of the old variety ‘Langtrees’, with its silver spotted green leaves, produced a sport with leaves that were almost entirely silver. Now, new this year, we have ‘Emerald Mist’ (above, click to enlarge) which is like a superior form of ‘Langtrees’. What makes it special is that not only are the silver markings bold, and set against a contrasting green background but also that they are very evenly spread in a consistent ring on the leaf. It looks very stylish.

    Brunnera 'King's Ransom'. Image: ©Walters Gardens

  • More new heucheras in the new RHS PlantFinder

    Graham Rice on 29 Apr 2010 at 12:54 PM

    Heuchera,Midas Touch,TerraNova Nurseries, Image: ©TerraNova NurseriesHeucheras continue to be launched at a fast pace, there are twenty two in the new RHS PlantFinder. I covered the two available from the most nurseries three weeks ago, but another five are available from five or six nurseries. Four are American, one is from France. There are some startling colours.

    Firstly, those from America. With ruffled and rippled lobed foliage, the leaves of ‘Midas Touch’ (above) bring a blend of peach and gold with an attractive network of veins. This is strong but compact plant, ideal in mixed containers and in vivid planting schemes.

    ‘Mysteria’ appeared at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show last year and is now more widely available. This is one of the best in combining good foliage and good flowers. The prettily ruffled leaves are attractively silvered, with pinkish tinges and glimpses of the red undersides as they unfurl. The flowers are coral pink, open in late spring and summer, and are held low over the leaves. ‘Lipstick’, too, is a fine flower and foliage combination, the bright scarlet flowers carried above intriguingly puckered silvery green leaves.

    Heuchera,Shanghai,TerraNova Nurseries, Image: ©TerraNova NurseriesThe exceptionally winter tolerant ‘Shanghai’ (left), also seen at last year's Hampton Court, features silvery purple leaves which emerge almost purple yet retain their colouring through the winter making this a valuable plant for winter containers. Then in summer there’s a long succession of white flowers carried on purple stems.

    Finally from France, from the breeder who brought us the popular ‘Tiramisu’ and the superb ‘Citronelle’, comes ‘Kassandra’. A vigorous plant, the leaves open in caramel colouring then mature into orange and amber, and finally flourish in maroon with pinkish tints in the autumn. There are also white flowers in summer.

    I’ve just been checking up and it looks as if I’ll be writing up more new heucheras later this year.

    Heuchera ‘Midas Touch’ is available from these six RHS PlantFinder nurseries
    Heuchera ‘Kassandra’ is available from these five RHS PlantFinder nurseries
    Heuchera ‘Lipstick’ is available from these five RHS PlantFinder nurseries
    Heuchera ‘Mysteria’ is available from these five RHS PlantFinder nurseries
    Heuchera ‘Shanghai’ is available from these five RHS PlantFinder nurseries


  • Lovely bicoloured phlox - new in the 2010/2011 PlantFinder

    Graham Rice on 26 Apr 2010 at 09:16 PM

    Bicoloured phlox,Jan Verschoor. Image: ©Luc KlinkhamerMany traditional border plants which have been favourites for a very long time are now receiving concentrated attention from plant breeders. New delphiniums, new perennial asters and new Shasta daisies are appearing. Now, in The Netherlands, border phlox are in focus.

    Plant breeder Jan Verschoor has created many new varieties of border phlox in recent years, looking for new colours, shorter and bushier plants, good vase life when used as cut flowers and mildew resistance. He also introduced the unique Geranium pratense ‘Double Jewel’. The picture (above, click to enlarge) shows arange of his recently created new plants and some are now arriving in Britain. As is clear, bicolours are of special appeal.

    ‘Peppermint Twist’ (second in the left hand row) has been a great success and he has more exciting new varieties on the way. The double-flowered white ‘Tiara’, introduced last year, has also been a great success. New this year, with seven stockists in the new 2010/2011 RHS PlantFinder is Phlox paniculata‘Jade’.

    Phlox paniculata 'Jade'. Image: ©Walters Gardens

  • Two clematis from Raymond Evison – new in the 2010/2011 PlantFinder

    Graham Rice on 20 Apr 2010 at 07:49 AM

    Every year the world’s leading clematis breeder Raymond Evison releases more new varieties and two of them are amongst the new entries in the 2010 PlantFinder which are listed by the most nurseries – seven nurseries are listing both Clematis Shimmer ('Evipo028') and Clematis Reflections (‘Evipo035’).

    Clematis,Reflections,‘Evipo035’,Raymond Evison. Image ©Raymond Evison Clematis

  • Latest RHS PlantFinder now online

    Graham Rice on 18 Apr 2010 at 10:53 AM

    RHS PlantFinder,online, Image: ©RHSI’m delighted to say that the 2010/2011 RHS PlantFinder is now available online. This is great news. Now we can get all the latest plant availability information and all the latest updated plant names online – and it’s free! You don’t even have to be a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. It’s free online to everyone as part of the Society's charitable work in helping bring good information to gardeners.

    I love to have the book in my hand, I use it just about every single day. And it’s bulging fatness, all 978 pages of it, is such a re-assuring presence in the horticultural world. It’s the most important gardening book published in my lifetime.

    But having the whole thing available online is just indispensable. Start with the search page, it will quickly show you the details of the nurseries stocking the plants you’re looking for and connect with their websites.


  • Echinaceas: new in the 2010/2011 PlantFinder

    Graham Rice on 08 Apr 2010 at 10:00 AM

    Echinacea 'Hot Summer'.Continuing our look at the new plants in the recently published 2010/2011 RHS PlantFinder, echinaceas now take the stage. There are fifteen new echinaceas included, although a number of them are only available from one source, but three of the new echinaceas are easier to find.

    The new echinacea with the most stockists is ‘Hot Summer’ (left), which I wrote up as long ago as January last year when it appeared in a plant catalogue issued by one of the seed companies. Now seven PlantFinder nurseries have it. ‘Hot Summer’ is a single-flowered type whose flowers open yellow, mature through orange to scarlet – the result is flowers in all three colours on the plant at the same time.

    Echinacea 'Flame Thrower'. Image ©Terra Nova Nurseries

  • Most popular plants in the new RHS PlantFinder

    Graham Rice on 03 Apr 2010 at 12:49 PM

    Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie'. Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission.Two new foliage plants are top of the charts as newcomers in the 2010/2011 RHS PlantFinder. Two heucheras, both seen for the very first time at last year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, are listed by more nurseries than any other plants and they really look impressive.

    Both these new heucheras are from the plant breeding programme at Terra Nova Nurseries in Portland, Oregon, who introduce more new perennials each year than any other breeder in the world.

    Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’ (above, click to enlarge) is way out in front, being listed by twenty nine nurseries in the new RHS PlantFinder (out a couple of days ago). The foliage is a fantastic colour. The leaves open rosy pink, maturing into silver with pink overtones and a touch of scarlet at the base of the veins. It develops into bold, good sized plants.

    This also looks to be one of the toughest and most climatically adaptable heucheras we’ve seen. It has in its background both H. americana, which grows as far north as Ontario, Canada, so can take the cold, and H. villosa which grows as far south as hot and humid Alabama and Georgia.

    Heuchera 'Fire Chief'. Image: © Do not reproduce in any way without permission. Read More...

  • The new RHS PlantFinder is out this week

    Graham Rice on 29 Mar 2010 at 01:21 PM

    RHS,PlantFinder,2010/2011This is such an exciting time of the year. Not just because it’s spring at last, but because on Thursday (1 April) the new RHS PlantFinder will be published. As well as over 73,000 plants in all (almost 2,000 more than last year) and over 600 nurseries, the brand new 2010/2011 edition includes an amazing 3,424 new plant entries.

    I’ll be looking at some of the most interesting newcomers over the next few weeks but they include one hundred and ninety nine new irises, over a hundred new Narcissus, over a hundred new primulas (mainly auriculas), seventy three new pelargoniums, seventy one new roses, almost seventy new rhododendrons, over fifty new dahlias and over fifty new salvias, over forty new fuchsias, but only twenty six new hardy geraniums. There are also almost four hundred – yes, not forty… four hundred - new day lilies. And just two new verbascums.

    Even if you have last year’s edition you should still go and buy this year’s version. All those new plants are a temptation, of course. But the team of horticultural botanists who work on the RHS PlantFinder have also updated all the names so the book serves as the most comprehensive up-to-date reference on correct plant names.

    But I see that some people making comments on the 2009 edition's page on are less than thrilled by the book.

    “The limitation is that the RHS often uses trivial names rather than the botanical name.” No, this is complete rubbish. The truth is the exact opposite. The whole book is based on the correct botanical names for the plants. (Is this person looking at the right book?!)

    “…has grown like a noxious weed and is in desperate need of culling… A useful buy every ten years, more often than this and your shelf will be over stuffed with too much useless and unworthy information.” No. It’s important to buy the latest edition as after one year, let alone after ten years, some of the names will be out of date and plants may well no longer be stocked by the nurseries mentioned. And of course every year there are thousands of new plants added.

    So, that’s that got out of the way.

    “Another must have edition of this amazing book,” says another comment on That’s more like it.

    The 2010/2011 RHS PlantFinder will be published on Thursday, 1 April.

    Order it now from the RHS

  • Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star': New in garden centres

    Graham Rice on 24 Mar 2010 at 06:07 PM

    Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star',variegated,wallflower. Image: ©FarplantsLast time I highlighted some new seed-raised perennial wallflowers, this time a new variegated perennial wallflower. And it’s a stunner.

    For many years my two favourite perennial wallflowers were the old favourite ‘Bowles Mauve’, which we all know, and the less well known ‘Bredon’. With its rich dark green leaves, bright buttery flowers and lovely fragrance ‘Bredon’ is fine plant.

    Then came Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine (‘Walfrasun’), a seedling of ‘Bredon’ raised by David Tristram, who in recent years has raised a number of fine plants. This is more vigorous, has slightly greyer foliage, larger flower spikes, deep chocolate purple buds and large deep yellow well-scented flowers. It’s a superb plant.Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star',variegated,wallflower. Image: ©Farplants

    Now, in another step forward, there’s a variegated form of Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine (‘Walfrasun’), it’s called ‘Walberton’s Fragrant Star’ and its appearing for the first time this spring.

    Basially, it’s similar to Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine (‘Walfrasun’) but each leaf has a narrow creamy margin. The result is a plant that is colourful when it’s not in flower and then when the flowers come the variegation and the flower colour are in harmony. And unlike some other variegated wallflowers, it doesn't revert to plain green.

    Like all perennial wallflowers it enjoys plenty of sunshine and is best in a fertile but well drained soil. Plant some short, sunloving campanulas around it to create a lovely plant picture. It will also grow well in a container and is superb as a specimen in a terracotta pot, perhaps with trailing campanulas around it.

    Erysimum 'Walberton's Fragrant Star' will start to become available next week from The RHS plant centres at Wisley, Harlow Carr, Rosemoor and Hyde Hall, from Haskins, Notcutts, Stephen H. Smith, Squires and Strikes garden centres and from The Potted Garden in Maidstone, Kent.


  • Erysimum ‘Plant World Rainbows’: New from Plant World Seeds

    Graham Rice on 18 Mar 2010 at 07:34 PM

    Erysimum 'Plant World Rainbows',new,Plant World,Ray Brown. Image: ©Ray Brown/Plant WorldPerennial wallflowers are always popular especially ‘Bowles Mauve’ which combines a tight habit, good greyish foliage and almost year round flowering… But what happens when you cross ‘Bowles Mauve’ with other wallflowers? You get some real treats.

    Ray Brown of Plant World in Devon tried it more than once. Now he’s done it again and is releasing some seed. Here’s what he says about ‘Plant World Rainbows’.

    “Years ago I crossed erysimums including 'Bowles Mauve', E. linifolium and E. scoparius (from seeds I collected high in The Canary Islands) with the familiar dwarf wallflowers,” Ray told me by email. “Truth be told the bees did it! I tried but I’d never succeeded and so finally planted them all together in a tight patch. Let the bees get on with it and then simply harvested the seed. I was told that the receptivity of the flowers was measured in hours and only the bees knew when!!

    “Many of these hybrids have been named (not just by me),” he continued, “and are now sold worldwide! We are now releasing a few more valuable, individually hand-collected seeds from these lovely hybrids (they only set a few seeds!).

    “All habits from compact to leggy, and all colour combinations will appear so expect some surprises. The more compact ones give an absolutely stunning statement, often of bi-coloured flowers, in April, May and June before returning to their quite tidy overwintering state of a green dome!  The nicest ones are best re-propagated from cuttings every 3 or 4 years to perpetuate  their compact habit. They do best on a hot dry bank obviously.”

    Need I say more? Only that as well as the colours in the picture expect primrose, orange and shades of purple.

    You can order seed of Erysimum ‘Plant World Rainbows’ from Plant World Seeds.


  • Daphne odora Rebecca: New in garden centres

    Graham Rice on 14 Mar 2010 at 01:00 PM

    Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’),Farplants,RHS,Wyevale,Hayes,RHS. Image: ©FarPlantsMany daphnes with their colourful flower clusters and their sumptous scent are invaluable garden plants. And then there are those with variegated foliage which, if they retain the vigour of their green-leaved counterparts, are amongst the finest of all garden shrubs. Now step forward an improvement on one of the most popular variegated daphnes.

    Daphne odora has the colour and the scent. ‘Aureomarginata’ features the addition of a very slender yellow edge to every leaf and, strangely, has proved hardier than the green-leaved original.

    Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) has the flower colour, the fragrance and is blessed with a much broader yellow edge to the leaf so that the foliage colour really makes an impact. It flowers at a valuable time of year – January to March – and then its foliage brings colour to the garden till the end of autumn.Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’),Farplants,RHS,Wyevale,Hayes,RHS. Image: ©FarPlants

    Found in Devon as long ago as 1989 by nurseryman Steven Watson, there is uncertainty as to exactly how this plant was discovered. It is said that he first noticed a branch on a plant of ‘Aureomarginata’ that had a much broader yellow margin to the leaf and that he propagated it in 1993. It is also said that he spotted the plant in a pot on a market stall and bought it. (If I get a definite answer, I’ll let you know.) Either way, it’s taken till now for enough stock to be created so that it can be made available.

    Basically, its broad and colourful yellow edge to the leaf is the only way in which Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) differs from ‘Aureomarginata’. But that extra coloring makes real impact. The plant is modest in size, 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m, so with its three impressive appeals – flower, fragance and foliage - it’s an ideal plant for small gardens.

    Daphne odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) is available from the Plant Centre at RHS Garden at Wisley, and from Strikes, Squires, Wyevale these garden centres.


  • Diervilla sessiliflora Cool Splash: New from Crocus and selected garden centres

    Graham Rice on 04 Mar 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Diervilla Cool Splash (‘LPDC Podaras’),Cornell,new Image: ©John Woods Nurseries.Diervillas are not normally thought of as top ten garden shrubs but this new variegated form will certainly ensure a lot more people grow them. Sometimes known as dwarf honeysuckle or bush honeysuckle, diervillas are related to honeysuckles but are best thought of, perhaps, as rather like yellow-flowered weigelas. They’re tough and easy-to-grow shrubs happy in a variety of garden situations.

    Diervilla sessilifolia is probably the pick of the four species with the largest clusters of flowers – and now we have the first one with variegated leaves.

    In Cool Splash (‘LPDC Podaras’) (above, click to enlarge) each green-centred leaf is edged in almost white, the border on the opening foliage is creamier in colour. Individual leaves look a little like those of a variegated border phlox, but seen on a well branched, bushy shrub the effect is dramatic.

    Cool Splash was found by Dr Peter Podaras, a plant breeder at Cornell University in New York working on the landscape plant breeding project begun there 2003. He spotted a variegated shoot growing on a plant of Diervilla sessilifolia, propagated it, and grew it for a few years to ensure that it was stable. And now it’s available here in Britain.

    It makes a dense twiggy bush reaching only about 1m/40in high and as wide in five years. Happy in full sun to partial shade, the clean bright variegated foliage develops best in a little shade and really lights up dim corners. It’s also said to thrive in dry shade. Cool Splash also has the advantage of holding its leaves later into the autumn than many shrubs, the clusters of yellow flowers are produced in late spring.

    Diervilla Cool Splash (‘LPDC Podaras’) is available by mail order from Crocus. Plants may also be found in Notcutts, Wyevale, Bridgemere, Blooms and other garden centres with wider availability in May.


  • Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’: new from Plant World

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2010 at 04:50 PM

    Lomelosia 'Blue Mound',new,Plant World,Ray Brown. Image: ©Ray Brown/Plant WorldIsn’t great when not just a new plant is introduced, but a whole new genus? Ray Brown of Plant World in Devon has done just that with the arrival of Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’.

    Lomelosia is in the scabious family (Dipsacaceae) and there are around seventy species from the Eastern Mediterranean – it’s possible you’ve seen them if you’ve been on holiday in Crete or Turkey. It’s easy to see that they’re related to scabious and in fact they’re sometimes included in Scabiosa. They tend to grow in very hot, dry, gravelly places and most are difficult to grow in gardens – indeed they’ve never been in the RHS PlantFinder.

    ‘Blue Mound’ is an exception. It develops a dome of rather leathery green leaves topped by a long succession of blue scabious-like flowers all summer. One especially valuable feature is that the flowers are held on quite short stems so sit neatly above the foliage. Ray Brown of Plant World told me about it.

    “Unidentified seeds were sent to us by a customer who I believe collected it in Turkey walking in the Taurus mountains,” he said. “It seems to be very hardy in a hot or well-drained spot, like so many Turkish plants it just doesn't like winter wet.  After 3 or 4 years the plants gets leggy and untidy and it can be propagated it from cuttings although it is easier from seed.”

    Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’ produces very few seeds which are painstakingly collected by hand and only those which can be seen to be fertile (many are not) are included in the packet.

    This looks to be an exciting new plant for the Mediterranean garden.

    You can order seed of Lomelosia ‘Blue Mound’ from Plant World Seeds.


  • Ceanothus 'Tuxedo': the first black-leaved ceanothus

    Graham Rice on 28 Feb 2010 at 01:57 PM

    Ceanothus 'Tuxedo',Fitzgerald Nurseries,black plant. Image: ©Fitzgerald Nurseries.A sport is a small genetic variation in a plant and is usually noticed when it gives rise to a new flower colour or a shoot with variegated leaves. When it’s propagated it can prove to be a valuable new variety.

    Black leaved sports are much less common so the arrival of a new black-leaved Ceanothus - the first of its kind - is quite an event. Patrick Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Nurseries, a wholesale nursery in Kilkenny, Ireland, found this one on his nursery back in 1998 – this is what he says about it on his blog:

    “Let me tell you first I was genuinely shocked, out of a batch of about 6,000 young plants of Ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’ here was this one plant that definitely was not green.” In fact the foliage is the colour of bitter chocolate.

    “Tuxedo proved quite difficult to propagate thereafter,’ Patrick continues, “and it took a lot of work to save the original plant. Eventually I learned it likes sunlight, and lots of it, probably due to the darkness of the foliage. Eventually we produced enough and the rest is our own little piece of Hort history. I managed to grow the first three stable plants from this one plant and from there bulked it up in numbers year by year.”

    Ceanothus 'Tuxedo',Fitzgerald Nurseries,black plant. Image: ©Fitzgerald Nurseries.

  • Silene 'Ray's Golden Campion': New from Plant World Seeds

    Graham Rice on 24 Feb 2010 at 01:31 PM
    Silene dioica 'Ray's Golden Campion',new,Plant World,Ray Brown. Image: ©Ray Brown/Plant WorldA spring combination of yellow foliage and vivid pink flowers may not be to everyone's taste but it certainly brightens up the spring garden. In essence, 'Ray's Golden Campion' is a neater, yellow-leaved form of the British native red campion, Silene dioica, and makes a lovely plant for a dark border where its unusual pale yellow leaves stand out vividly. The colour varies slightly from plant to plant.

    Raised after many years of work by Ray Brown, who's developed so many exciting new plants over the years at his Plant World in Devon, Ray told me about its background.

    "Years ago I bought a rather anaemic looking, pale-leaved, red campion at a Hardy Plant Society plant sale," Ray explained. "It was sterile and had a pretty weak constitution and burned in the sun. I grew this near ordinary ones and got no fertile golden seedlings at all or indeed any golden leaved plants. But the next generation threw up a couple of golden-leaved ones and these were the parents of the new strain.

  • Primula Sylvan Series: New from Owl’s Acre

    Graham Rice on 21 Feb 2010 at 10:37 AM

    Primula 'Sylvan Lilac Rose' Jackanapes polyanthus. Image ©Simon Crawford.There’s a mystique about the unusual forms of primroses and polyanthus. Plants and seed have always been difficult to find, and if you grew them from seed you never knew how many were going to be true. Jackanapes flowers have one normal flower sitting inside another which has green leafy tissue at the tips of the petals. The intriguing flower form and that sense of history – they go back hundreds of years - are always captivating.

    So the news that seed of hardy Jackanapes polyanthus is now available in five separate colours, and that there’ll be no duds, is more than just welcome.

    Simon Crawford, a member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and renowned as a plant breeder around the world, told me: “These new hybrids have come about through a project I have been working on with Otka Plavcova at the Silva Tarouca Institute at Pruhonice near Prague. This follows on from her project creating Hose-in-Hose polyanthus that resulted in the You and Me Series. The basic material for this Jackanapes project came many years ago via Barnhaven Primroses, when they were still in Cumbria.”

    Primula 'Sylvan Burgundy' Jackanapes polyanthus. Image ©Simon Crawford.These plants are unusually challenging to breed so this is quite an achievement. The number of colours and the amount of seed available is still very limited so seed is available exclusively through Owl’s Acre Speciality Seeds.

    And they should be easier to grow than many that we’ve seen in the past. “These varieties are extremely hardy because of their genetic background,” Simon told me, “and their polyanthus habit helps to display the charming and unusual blooms to best effect whilst keeping them away from soil splash. They can be displayed in containers of course and are perhaps best shown in this way but I have no doubt they will be long lived and prosper in the border.”

    The Sylvan Series Jackanapes polyanthus are available in five separate colours: lilac-rose, yellow shades, violet shades, gold-laced burgundy shades, and a pastel pink mixture.

    You can order these hardy Sylvan Series polyanthus from Owl’s Acre Speciality Seeds.


  • Eremurus ‘White Beauty’: New For 2010

    Graham Rice on 18 Feb 2010 at 06:55 PM

    Eremurus 'White Beauty' Ruiter. Image ©, or foxtail lily, is one of the most dramatic of garden perennials. Tall slender spikes are lined with hundreds of starry flowers in white, pink, yellow and orange shades. But this is a case when it’s important to choose named plants, don’t raise plants from seed unless you don’t mind what colours you end up with.

    Dutch hybridiser N. C. Ruiter raised many fine varieties derived from crosses between yellow E. stenophyllus and the rarely seen pink E. olgae. Selections have been made from these Ruiter Hybrids over many years but they often deteriorate in quality. It’s good advice to buy them when they’re first released.

    So the time is right for ‘White Beauty’, a gorgeous new white form. At 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m in height, ‘White Beauty’ is a little more manageable in height than many and much more likely to be self supporting in most gardens. The buds open from the bottom up to create quite a spectacle and a clump of three or five plants really is impressive – especially set against the plain green background of a trimmed hedge.

    ‘White Beauty’ will also makes a fine cut flower – so order plenty of plants. Cut the spikes when the bottom third of the flowers have opened and keep them upright – if you lay them on the ground, as well as damaging the flowers the tips will tend to turn towards the light and you’ll lose that straightness in the spike. They take up a lot of water, so be prepared to keep topping up; they should last about two weeks.

    You can order plants of Eremurus ‘White Beauty’ from the RHS Online Plant Shop, from de Jaeger and from Rose Cottage Nursery.


  • Osteospermum Falling Stars: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 09 Feb 2010 at 02:01 PM

    Osteospermum Falling Stars 'Sunbrella' trailing, hanging basket, container. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds.In the last decade osteospermums have moved from sprawling more-or-less hardy plants for the front of the sunny border – with a few used in containers – to valuable bushy container plants in a very wide range of colours and flower forms.

    Almost all container plants are developing as trailing types as well as bushy types but good trailing osteospermum varieties have been hard to come by. The arrival of Falling Stars (Sunbrella Series) looks to change all that.

    As you can see from the picture, the plants knit together well to create a flowering basket in which the plants make a neat rounded display; they never trail down too far – remember those long long Surfinia petunias which only seemed to get in the way?

    Another valuable feature is that unlike some of the old creeping varieties, which would trail awkwardly if planted in a basket and show off their fat succulent stems, the stems on Falling Stars, while strong, are relatively thin and unobtrusive. And, actually, I think they’d be worth trying at the front of a sunny border as well – they’d probably make attractive summer ground cover.

    Osteospermum Falling Stars 'Sunbrella Taurus' trailing, hanging basket, container. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds. Read More...

  • Aquilegia ‘Volcano: New from Touchwood Plants

    Graham Rice on 28 Jan 2010 at 11:37 AM

    Aquilegia 'Volcano' yellow, double, columbine, red, orange. Image ©Touchwood Plants.There’s a lot happening in columbines these days and the latest innovation is red, orange gold and yellow doubles. And you can see from this first picture (click to enlarge)… They really are startling.

    Carrie Thomas, who runs Touchwood Plants near Swansea, is the holder of two Plant Heritage National Collections - Aquilegia vulgaris cultivars and Aquilegia hybrids. In her small garden in Wales she has a vast collection of aquilegias of all kinds and in all colours - and she is also the creator of Aquilegia ‘Volcano’.

    “I had no idea that the American red and yellow species were available as doubles until about 10 years ago,” she told me. “I'd had some mixed doubles seed from an American lady but could only grow on about six plants, assuming them to be things that I'd likely already have. Imagine my surprise when I saw red and yellow, and orange and yellow doubles! These gave me a good Aquilegia 'Volcano' yellow, double, columbine, red, orange. Image ©Touchwood Plants.seed-base from which to start to develop my 'Volcano' mix. I also have a hybrid that has very variable flowers in red and yellow. The offspring of this has given most of my current range.”

    Carrie is now working with new acquisitions from other sources to improve her fiery doubles and to produce varieties in single colours which are consistently stable. Scroll down her webpage to see the variety of doubles now available in these fiery colours. On the way through you’ll be able to get a sense of all the other columbines in her collections.

    You can order seed of Aquilegia ‘Volcano’ from Touchwood Plants.


  • Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 22 Jan 2010 at 03:29 PM

    Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’, seed, first year flowering. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds.When nurseries propagate delphiniums from cuttings it’s a slow business. Each plant only yields a few cuttings so it can take many years to build up sufficient stocks of new varieties so that they can be introduced. So, naturally, thoughts turn to raising them from seed.

    However, as with hellebores, only careful and painstaking hand pollination of selected parent plants will result in seed that produces plants which are true to colour. After all, if you want a purple delphinium for a special place in your border the last thing you need is for half the plants to have white flowers.

    The first of the Centurion Series of seed raised delphiniums from The Netherlands was introduced in 1997 and now with the arrival of ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’, the total comes up to seven colours. It takes time to get it right.Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’, seed, first year flowering. Image ©Thompson & Morgan Seeds.

    The bicoloured flowers of ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’ are soft lilac and pale blue with a clean white bee in the centre; the result is tall, well filled spikes in a lovely soft shade ideal for a pastel border. This variety is too new to have featured in the 2008 Wisley trial of delphiniums from seed, but its sister ‘Centurion Sky Blue’ was given an Award of Garden Merit.

    Sow the seed before the end of February and the plants should flower in late summer in their first year, though often not at their full height. Next year they’ll be majestic.

    You can order seed of Delphinium ‘Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour’ from Thompson & Morgan Seeds


  • Brand new vegetable!

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2010 at 08:12 PM

    Over on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog I've just posted about a brand new vegetable - a hybrid between kale and Brussels sprouts! Seed and plants are available. And... it'll be in the shops next week. Flavour reports would be welcome.


  • Delbard French roses: New from Mr Fothergill’s and DT Brown

    Graham Rice on 16 Jan 2010 at 01:36 PM

    Rose La Rose du Petit Prince Delbard, France. Image ©Delbard Roses.We see so many new roses launched every year, mostly through the familiar rose nurseries we see at the Chelsea and Hampton Court shows, that it's refreshing to see some good new varieties from a less familiar source.

    Delbard Roses in France has a long tradition of introducing fine varieties. They began breeding in 1954, makes 40,000 rose crosses every year and have introduced over 260 new varieties. Their roses have occasionally been available here in the UK before but this season sees the introduction of new varieties available by mail order from Mr Fothergill's and DT Brown. They're long flowering and disease resistant and fragrant - and they look gorgeous.

    La Rose du Petit Prince (‘Delgramau') (above) is a new Floribunda (Cluster Flowered) variety and another with a powerful fragrance and good disease resistance. The flowers are attractively loose in style, and its scent has overtones of citrus and verbena. It's also neat in growth, reaching just 2ft/60cm.

    Ma Normandie (‘Deljumb') is a deep pink Hybrid Tea (Large Flowered) rose specially selected for its resistance to powdery mildew and its intoxicating fragrance with fruity raspberry overtones. The flowers are large too, just a little less than 6in/15cm across. It's named (My Normandy) for the unofficial anthem of that region of France.Rose Soleil Vertical, climbing, Delbard, France. Image ©Delbard Roses.

    Soleil Vertical (‘Delsar') is a climber but it's not one of those climbing roses which soon disappears over the fence. It remains a manageable size and also tends to flower low down on the plant where many climbers have nothing but bare stems. Its name (Soleil = sun) tells you that each flower is a lovely warm yellow in colour and the old-fashioned shape is always appealing. It has good disease resistance too.

    It's unfortunate that Delbard have chosen this name for this lovely rose as Rose Ma Normandie Delbard, France. Image ©Delbard Roses.there's already a rose of this name - in rather similar colours - introduced back in the 1930s and still grown. This new La Parisienne (‘Delpartrico') is a Floribunda (Cluster Flowered) variety which opens in yellow then matures through orange to pink and for much of its life shows an intriguing mix of colours. Its fragrance has lemony hints.

    You can buy Ma Normandie (‘Deljumb') from Mr Fothergill's and from DT Brown.

    You can buy La Rose du Petit Prince (‘Delgramau') from Mr Fothergill's.

    You can buy ‘Soleil Vertical' (‘Delsar') from Mr Fothergill's and from DT Brown.

    You can buy ‘La Parisienne' (‘Delpartrico') from Mr Fothergill's and from DT Brown.



  • Cordyline Pink Passion: sparkling new container plant

    Graham Rice on 09 Jan 2010 at 08:45 PM

    Cordyline australis 'Pink Passion' - variegated, containers. Image ©Farplants. Do not reproduce without permission.Nurseries have been turning their attention to cordylines this last year or two, and both introducing brand new varieties and picking up existing varieties from other parts of the world and bringing them to British gardeners. One of them, ‘Southern Splendour', was introduced at Chelsea and there's also been another.

    Pink Passion (‘Seipin'), which appeared for the first time in the latest RHS PlantFinder and is now turning up in garden centres and even on eBay. Time it got its mention here.

    Pink Passion (‘Seipin') is, I have to say, rather a startling colour. Each long and slender leaf is a combination of greyish purple in the centre and pink at the edges with the addition of white and/or beige at the tip and on older leaves and with rich magenta tones. ‘Pacific Coral' may be thought to be similar, but has olive green foliage with pink edges. Spectacular as a container specimen, Pink Passion (‘Seipin') occupies a similar place at the dazzling end of the colour spectrum as the Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks' that I featured last time.

    Best used as a specimen in containers - although many cordylines are hardy in many areas, the variegated ones tend to be less hardy and after this week's weather... Containers can be moved into the porch, the conservatory or the garage in this fierce winter weather.

    Pink Passion (‘Seipin') was found by Paul Hummel of wholesale growers Seiont Nurseries as a sport on a batch of the old favourite Cordyline australis ‘Red Star' at a tissue culture laboratory at Myerscough College in Lancashire in 2002.

    Cordyline australis ‘Pink Passion' is available from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries, from and, as I write at least, on


  • Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 04 Jan 2010 at 03:33 PM

    Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks' - new variegated fountain grass. Image ©ItSaul Plants.The African fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum, is an elegant and attractive, but rather tender, ornamental grass most often seen in the form with burgundy red foliage – ‘Rubrum’. But now the first variegated form has been released.

    And it’s not a variegated form of the wild green-leaved version but of ‘Rubrum’ – so the leaves really are colourful.

    Reaching about  90cm/3ft in height, the attractive arching foliage is deep burgundy in colour in the central part of each leaf but pink at the edges. In the heart of the plant, where the foliage is shaded from full light, the foliage fades to green and white. The overall effect is dazzling. ‘Fireworks’ also flowers, in summer, the plumes opening in reddish-purple and turning light brown as they mature.

    Unlike the more familiar fountain grasses grown in perennial borders this is not a hardy grass. It makes a superb centrepiece in a large container and with the trailing lime-yellow foliage of Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ around it, or with orange calibrachoas (not for the faint-hearted!), it makes a stupendous summer display. Make sure it gets not only plenty of sunshine but is fed regularly and does not dry out.

    This new variegated form was found by Ron Strasko of Creekhill Nursery in southern Pennsylvania. He noticed a single variegated shoot on a container grown plant of P. setaceum ‘Rubrum’ on his nursery back in the spring of 2004. He separated it off, grew it on to prove that it was stable and a good grower as well as attractive. And now it’s available for the first time.

    You can order Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’ from Thompson & Morgan


  • New hellebore breeding

    Graham Rice on 02 Jan 2010 at 04:53 PM

    The Garden, December 2009, hellebores. Images ©RHS.Last month I published two articles on recent and upcoming developments in hellebore breeding. Both are now available online at the RHS website.

    In the December issue of The Garden I wrote about hybrids between the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, and other hellebore species. Read it here.

  • Five to Jive: Perennials to look for in 2010

    Graham Rice on 31 Dec 2009 at 01:25 PM

    Acanthus,Digitalis,Euphorbia,Geum,Leucanthemum - new in 2010. Images ©. Do not reproduce without permission.On this the last day of the year, I'm looking ahead to 2010 and picking out five perennials to watch for in the coming year (click the picture to enlarge it). One or two may have been available in very restricted quantities recently, but I expect all to become available by mail order during the year.

    Digitalis ‘Goldcrest' With gorgeous honey-gold spikes, this is a hybrid between Digitalis obscura and D. grandiflora from David Tristram, who also raised the new hellebore hybrid I wrote up here recently. It's sterile and so is very prolific, with strong upright stems lined with those gold flowers which are speckled inside and red-tinted on the outside.

    Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow' A new variegated euphorbia reckoned to be hardier and easier too grow than so many of the others we've seen. Found in Australia as a sport of plain, green-leaved E. x martinii, the foliage combines bluish green and cream with extra reddish pink tones in winter.

    Acanthus ‘Whitewater' A startling new acanthus with non-spiny foliage boldly variegated in white and bright pink and with white flowers on red stems. This hybrid of Acanthus ‘Summer Beauty' is slow to get started but matures into a bold clump up to 4ft/1.2m tall.

    Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream' The best yellow flowered Shasta daisy yet. Opening in lemon yellow and maturing to buttery yellow and then cream, flowers emerge from the leaf joints below the first flower to extend the flowering season.

    Geum coccineum ‘Eos' From ace Dutch breeder Marco van Noort, who also brought us Geranium ‘Sweet Heidy', this new geum brings together bright orange flowers and bright golden yellow foliage in a fiery combination.

    Look out for these in the coming year, when I find sources for them I'll let you know.


  • Six penstemons: New from Hayloft Plants.

    Graham Rice on 27 Dec 2009 at 12:52 PM

    Penstemon 'Pensham Skies' - new from Hayloft Plants/Edward WilsonEdward Wilson began breeding penstemons in the little Worcestershire village of Pensham in 1985. In all he raised almost seventy varieties before he passed away in August and his final introductions from his breeding programme are now available from Hayloft Plants.

    These include ‘Pensham Skies', the last variety he named - just a week before he passed away. As his wife Stella left Pershore Cottage Hospital that afternoon she looked at the sky and noted how similar its blue and purplish tones were to the plant he'd just named.

    Also available for the first time is ‘Ted's Purple', finally naming a variety after himself - after much persuasion from his family. In deep, rich purple with flickering white highlights in the throat, like many of his introductions it's derived from his favourite ‘Pensham Just Jane' and has the same stout stems and long flowering period.

    Also new is the pure white, with blushed buds, ‘Louise Wilson', named after Edward's daughter. ‘Marilyn' is vivid pink with a white throat, ‘St James' is scarlet Penstemon 'Freshwater Pearl' - new from Hayloft Plants/Edward Wilsonwith a red and white throat and named for a school in Malvern that raised money for the Desmond Tutu School in South Africa. ‘ Freshwater Pearl' is a lovely pale pearly pink with a white throat and a fine companion for ‘Pensham Skies'.

    Ideal in sunny borders or large containers, they begin flowering in may or June and - especially if dead-headed regularly, will continue to bloom even into November.

    You can order these varieties as a collection, or individually, from the Hayloft Plants penstemon page.



  • Green-edged petunias: Update and look ahead

    Graham Rice on 21 Dec 2009 at 02:39 PM

    Petunia 'Midnight Eclipse'. Image: SuttonsBack in February I mentioned a new petunia from Suttons that was needing a name.

    Well, I just thought I'd mention that the winning entry in their competition to name the plant was  - ‘Moonlight Eclipse'.

    The blue flowers have a very dark throat and are edged in green - a unique combination. And the flowers are carried not on vigorous trailing plants that get in the way but on plants with a neater, bushier habit of growth.

    And here's another with a green edge, ‘Pretty Much Picasso'. With its startling combination of vivid magenta purple flowers with a green edge and a blue Petunia 'Pretty Much Picasso' - 2010. Image: Suttonspurple throat it's another love-it-or-loathe-it variety. More upright in habit than many, it's said to be "self cleaning", that is the flowers don't need dead heading as they drop off naturally.

    Petunia 'Moonlight Eclipse' is available from Suttons.

    Petunia ‘Pretty Much Picasso' is not yet available in catalogues, as far as I can see, but may well be in a few garden centres next year. If I get any news I'll let you know.  

  • New dicentras from Japan

    Graham Rice on 18 Dec 2009 at 10:10 PM

    Dicentra 'Fire Island' - new Japanese dicentra hybrid from Akira Shiozaki. Image: ©Luc KlinkhamerLast month I wrote up a new dicentra from Japan - Dicentra 'Burning Hearts'. I had so many comments, emails, tweets and even a phone call about it that over on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog - recently shortlisted for the Garden Blog of the Year award! - I've discussed all the varieties in this series and others, like Fire Island (seen here, click to enlarge), from the same Japanese breeder.

    These look to be genuinely valuable new plants for shade. Just click here to take a look


  • Helleborus Walberton’s Rosemary: New in RHS plant centres

    Graham Rice on 18 Dec 2009 at 01:42 PM

    Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary ('Walhero') - H. niger, H. x hybridus. Image: ©Farplants

    Something important is happening this month... In the run up to Christmas and into January the RHS plant centres will be stocking a new hybrid between H. niger, the Christmas Rose, and H. x hybridus, the Lenten Rose, for the first time. And, from what I've seen. it looks to be a great plant


  • Caryopteris Sterling Silver: New multi-season shrub

    Graham Rice on 11 Dec 2009 at 02:23 PM

    Caryopteris Sterling Silver  (‘Lissilv’) - good foliage, good flowers. Image: © with both good foliage and good flowers are always welcome, especially in small gardens where the benefit of being rewarded by two seasons of colour from one plant is invaluable.

    Caryopteris, long known for their prolific late summer and autumn flowers, have been receiving a great deal of attention from plant breeders recently - in particular, new forms with gold or silver foliage have appeared. And one of the best is Sterling Silver  (‘Lissilv').

    With its intensely silver foliage it makes a superb foliage plant from spring into the fall and then in September and October the clusters of bright blue flowers appear.

    Just as easy to grow as other caryopteris - sun, soil that is not too wet, prune hard in spring - Sterling Silver  (‘Lissilv') was raised by veteran shrub breeder Peter Catt. Honoured by the RHS with the Veitch Memorial Medal (VMM), Peter's first introduction was the well known Choisya Sundance almost twenty five years ago.

    For many years Peter had sought to combine intensely silver foliage with a prolific show of  intense violet-blue flowers and after sowing and examining thousands of seedlings only one achieved his high standards - Sterling Silver  (‘Lissilv').

    Caryopteris Sterling Silver  (‘Lissilv') is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and is now becoming more widely available.

    For more on Caryopteris take a look at:
    RHS Caryopteris Plant Bulletin (free download)
    American plant breeder Tim Wood's blog



  • Three heucheras: New from Plantagogo

    Graham Rice on 04 Dec 2009 at 11:08 AM

    Heuchera 'Electric Lime' - New from Plantagogo’ Image: ©Terra Nova NurseriesHeucheras are now the second most popular perennials with RHS members, so with three brand new varieties available to order it only seems reasonable to feature them. They are ‘Electric Lime', ‘Midnight Bayou', and ‘Shanghai'.

    All are from the extensive Heuchera breeding programme at Terra Nova Nurseries in Portland, Oregon.

    ‘Electric Lime' makes a big plant. In summer, its large leaves in a tight mound are rather like those of the well-known ‘Citronelle', plain lime-tinted yellow. And there's a bonus of white flowers. Then in cool conditions the foliage develops red veins a little like ‘Tiramisu'. Looks impressive.Heuchera 'Midnight bayou' - New from Plantagogo’ Image: ©Terra Nova Nurseries

    ‘Midnight Bayou' is an extraordinary colour. Reddish purple, or even simply red, with black veins in the summer, in winter the foliage becomes much more purplish and more silvery. It makes a large plant, topped with pink flowers.

    Heuchera 'Shanghai' - New from Plantagogo’ Image: ©Terra Nova NurseriesFinally, there's ‘Shanghai' which has proved one of the best of all heucheras for retaining good looking foliage right through the winter. Silvery purple leaves look good all year round then re-blooming all through the summer are white flowers on purple stems. Great combination.

    These three heucheras are all available from Plantagogo - scroll through the extensive list till you get to them.


  • Petunia Corona Series: New from Mr Fothergill’s

    Graham Rice on 30 Nov 2009 at 12:10 PM

    Petunia 'Corona Amethyst' - new, stable, British-bred bicolour. Image: ©David KerleyBicoloured petunias are amongst the most colourful of all petunias for summer containers but in most varieties the colouring is unstable, ruining the display. The British-bred Corona Series, from Mr Fothergill's, changes all that. (Click the pictures to enlarge them.)

    So often the picture in the catalogue is nothing like what you see in the garden because changing weather causes the neat bicoloured patterns to revert to a single colour.

    But ace British petunia breeder David Kerley, who introduced ‘Priscilla' and the many other Tumbelina petunias as well as the Fanfare Series, has spent the last eleven years creating the Corona Series - whose colours are stable.Petunia 'Corona Rose Rim' - new, stable, British-bred bicolour. Image: ©David Kerley

    "These varieties give an extra bright display by virtue of the contrasting rings of lighter or deeper colour surrounding the centres of the flowers," David told me, "and the colour does not vary all season. The ring pattern is stable in many different environmental conditions, unlike many bicoloured petunias.

    "Compact and blooming profusely all summer, all the varieties are early flowering when compared to Surfinia. The habit is mounding and semi-trailing, which means the top of the plant does not become bald -  there are always flowers in the crown of the plant, not just at the ends of the stems


  • Two double hellebores: New for 2010 from Hayloft Plants

    Graham Rice on 23 Nov 2009 at 07:35 PM

    Helleborus Winter Jewels® 'Onyx Odyssey' - New from Hayloft Plants. Image: ©Terra Nova NurseriesThe first double flowered hellebores were developed in Kent and in Germany but the best currently available are probably the Winter Jewels® Series developed across the Atlantic in Oregon. And two of these, ‘Golden Lotus' and ‘Onyx Odyssey', are now available to order here in Britain. (Cick on the pictures to enlarge them.)

    ‘Onyx Odyssey' features double flowers ranging in colour from black to deepest purple or deepest crimson, all with a golden green centre. Not only is the colouring fabulous, but the flowers retain their colour as they age and do not fade to green. This ensures that they remain a valuable feature in the garden for much longer than many other hellebores.

    Helleborus Winter Jewels® 'Golden Lotus' - New from Hayloft Plants. Image: ©Terra Nova NurseriesAlso available to order for the first time now is ‘Golden Lotus'. In rich yellow and golden shades, some of the flowers are pure in colours, some have red speckles and some feature a slender red picotee.

    Both these new double hellebores were developed by Marietta O'Byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery in Oregon. Staring with stock from the best European hellebore breeders, and in particular Ashwood Nurseries, in recent years she's introduced many superb strains - both singles and doubles.

    If you'd like to get a taste of her plants, take a look at galleries of her single-flowered varieties and also her double-flowered varieties although unfortunately many of these are NOT yet available to order here in Britain. You should also know that Northwest Garden Nursery does not sell by mail order - to Britain or anywhere else.

    But ‘Golden Lotus' and ‘Onyx Odyssey' are now available to order here in Britain. But note that plants will not be sent until May of next year. However, ordering now should ensure you get your plants when they become available.

    You can order ‘Onyx Odyssey' from Hayloft Plants

    You can order ‘Golden Lotus' from Hayloft Plants


  • Dicentra ‘Burning Hearts’: New this year

    Graham Rice on 21 Nov 2009 at 02:48 PM

    Dicentra 'Burning Hearts'. Image: ©Walters Gardens, Inc.Dicentras have always been valued as colourful shade plants, often with good foliage as well as good flowers. But new introductions from Japan have taken them a big step further.

    ‘Burning Hearts' combines the virtues of D. peregrina and D. eximia to create a plant whose spectacular flowers and beautiful foliage make a superb combination.

    The foliage is bright blue-grey and unusually finely dissected to create the look of a shimmering silvery blue fern. Set against the lovely leaves are the flowers. Opening from rich red buds, they emerge deep red flowers edged in white.

    Grow ‘Burning Hearts' in any partially shaded place in humus-rich soil - but make sure the soil does not dry out in summer or become waterlogged in winter. Good woodsy, shade-garden soil should be ideal.

    Developed in Japan by Akira Shiozaki, he used pollen from the widely grown, robust and vigorous D. eximea, which grows in the woods of the eastern United States, to fertilize flowers of D. peregrina, a mountain species from China and eastern Siberia (sometimes growing on the sides of volcanoes) with tight tufts of silver foliage dissected almost into threads.

    From this a series of plants with intense blue-grey foliage has been developed, ‘Burning Hearts' is the latest - following ‘King of Hearts' and ‘Candy Hearts' - and there are still more to come.

    Dicentra ‘Burning Hearts' is available from these five RHS PlantFinder nurseries.



  • Mahonia ‘Cabaret’: New from Crocus

    Graham Rice on 15 Nov 2009 at 11:48 AM

    Mahonia 'Cabaret' - new from Image: © all know what wonderful shrubs mahonias are. They're statuesque, making imposing plants in the garden; their bold evergreen foliage is invaluable all year round; their long strings of dainty yellow flowers brighten any winter garden; and finally those flowers are followed by long strings of blue berries.

    The only problem is that they only come in yellow. And they get quite tall if you don't prune them. And wouldn't it be good to extend the season a little? Not possible - until now.

    The flowers of ‘Cabaret' are, actually, yellow (I have to say) but they emerge from furnace-red buds which for many weeks transform the colouring of the plant. And the foliage develops red tints as well. I'll let Peter Clay of Crocus, who are introducing this excellent shrub to Britain, tell you more:

    "‘Cabaret' has fabulous colouring: with those glowing beads of molten steel on dark green holly-like leaves trimmed with red. But what we like most is that it flowers from August through to November. Most mahonias are winter flowering but this would be a valuable addition to a hot autumn border. It's nice and compact, so suitable for most people's gardens and would look great with rudbeckias or tall red (annual) salvias and grasses such as Anementhole leesonia (Stipa arundinacea as was) or dahlias like 'Ragged Robin'.

    "In fact, it is a pretty good all rounder. During the spring and early summer it's architectural foliage provides a structural foil for more flamboyant neighbours. In late summer it starts it's valuable pyrotechnics and during winter it develops attractive bluish grey berry-like fruits that stand out well against the foliage."

    You can order Mahonia ‘Cabaret' from Crocus.



  • Verbena ‘Strawberry Kiss’: New for 2010

    Graham Rice on 10 Nov 2009 at 01:12 PM

    Verbena 'Strawberry Kiss' - new for 2010. Image: ©GardenPhotos.comI first saw this gorgeous new fragrant verbena on The Sun's exhibit at this year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. I wrote it up in my Hampton Court coverage of new plants. It was tucked away in a corner, and I have to say, it didn't look too happy. But for colour and fragrance and sheer charm this is a special plant. And now it's available to order.

    The way the flowers on this lovely bicolour are held creates a ring of dark colour around the centre of each flower head with skirt of paler colour below. It's a very pretty combination.

    'Strawberry Kiss' is a trailing variety, raised from cuttings. It's not one of the stocky little verbenas which are more often raised from seed. The stems hang downwards but the flower heads themselves turn to face upwards. ‘Strawberry Kiss' is ideal for tubs and hanging baskets by the front door, on the patio or by gates where you can enjoy the bicoloured flowers and especially rich fragrance.

    Just one thing: In my Hampton Court piece I mentioned the striking similarity of ‘Strawberry Kiss' to an older variety, ‘Pink Parfait'.  I still haven't managed to resolve this with any certainty - but if ‘Strawberry Kiss' should be sold out, try ‘Pink Parfait' instead.

    You can order plants of Verbena ‘Strawberry Kiss' from Mr Fothergill and Unwins. It's also available in a Verbena collection from Thompson and Morgan.

    You can order Verbena ‘Pink Parfait' from Thompson and Morgan.



  • Hostas ‘Color Festival’ and ‘Border Street’: New from Bali Hai Nursery

    Graham Rice on 05 Nov 2009 at 01:16 PM

    Hosta 'Color Festival' - new from Bali Hai Nursery and Sue Proctor Plants. Image: ©Bali Hai NurseryLast time I looked at an old American hosta coming to Britain for the first time. Now two brand new hostas from Belgium, both raised by Danny van Eechaute.

    ‘Color Festival' (left, click to enlarge) is a very dramatic hosta in spite of its medium size. It features rich, deep green foliage, a little over 6in/15cm long and 3in/7.5cm wide, with a bold cream central splash tinted with green as each leaf unfolds and which matures into bright white with rich creamy yellow and greeny cream flashes at the edge. The contrast between the consistently deep green edge and the bright centre is very striking and made more stylish by those neat flashes and the slight variability of the central splash.

    Maturing to a clump about 21in/53cm across by about 131/2in/34cm high, pale lavender tubular flowers are held above the foliage in mid summer.

    ‘Color Festival' is a sport of ‘Enterprise' registered in 2007.

    Hosta 'Border Street' - new from Bali Hai Nursery. Image: ©Bali Hai Nursery‘Border Street' is a bold variegated hosta with a very attractive pattern of harmonising tones. The green rippled foliage, about 10-12in/25-30cm long and 8-10in/20-25cm wide at maturity, with a slight bluish tint and edged with a variable margin of cream, is bold without being too garish. It also has tubular pale lavender flowers. The plant itself matures into a clump about 40in/1m  across and 24-28in/60-70cm high .

    ‘Border Street' was raised from open-pollinated seed of a streaked seedling of ‘Lakeside Roy' and registered just last year.

    You can order ‘Color Festival' from Bali Hai Nursery and also from Sue Proctor Plants. You can order ‘Border Street' from Bali Hai Nursery.


  • Hosta ‘Big John’: New from Bali-Hai Nursery

    Graham Rice on 03 Nov 2009 at 12:35 PM

    Every year new hostas arrive on the scene. You'd think that with so many being grown already - there've been almost two thousand listed in the RHS PlantFinder over the years - that we wouldn't need any more.

    Hosta 'Big John' - the hosta with the largest leaf, new from Bali Hai Nursery. Image: ©Bali Hai NurseryWell, some perhaps we truly don't need. But as hosta enthusiasts bring together new combinations of size, leaf shape, colour and pattern - not to mention flowers - valuable new types are appearing.

    Bali Hai Nursery in Northern Ireland make a point of bringing many new hostas to British gardeners. But they also bring over from the United States varieties which have somehow been ignored over here.

    ‘Big John' has been around in the States for some time (it was registered in 1986) but it's not been available here before. And it really is big. Mark Zilis, writing in his superb Hosta Handbook, says: "'Big John' is synonymous with "huge" in hostas. Not only does the mound of foliage become massive, but the individual leaves are the largest of any hosta, narrowly beating out ‘Sum and Substance' for that honor. The record breaking 21in x 163/8in (53.3x41.6cm) leaf was measured in 1988... Since then no leaf I have measured (probably more than 5,000) has exceeded those dimensions."

    Setting aside what we'll charitably call the "dedication" of someone who measures over 5,000 leaves of just one variety of hosta - that really is an impressive plant.

    ‘Big John' reaches a massive 32in/81cm high by 6ft/1.8m wide! The leaves are bluish green at first, becoming dark green by early summer and have the puckered look of H. sieboldiana parentage; in fact ‘Big John' is a seedling of H. sieboldiana ‘Mira'. It also features bell-shaped white flowers striped in lavender which are held just about leaf level in summer.

    If your garden is large enough to feature such an impressive plant, or you have a huge container, you can order Hosta ‘Big John' from Bali Hai Nursery.

    Two more new hostas next time.


  • Photinia Pink Marble: New from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 30 Oct 2009 at 03:09 PM

    Photinia x fraseri Pink Marble ('Cassini') - new from Gardening Express. Image: ©Gardening ExpressIn recent years we've all got used to those photinias with their bright red young growth. They're evergreen, vigorous, easy to grow, and colourful, and when their clusters of hawthorn-like flowers appear, followed by red berries, it's an added treat. Now we have a new variegated form.

    Discovered in Oregon as long ago as 1991, Photinia x fraseri Pink Marble (‘Cassini') is a relatively upright, evergreen shrub whose foliage opens reddish green with irregular deep pink margins then as the foliage matures it becomes a rich green with white edges and with splashes of white on the green part of the leaf. With leaves in all colour stages on the plant at the same time the effect is dramatic.

    Photinia x fraseri Pink Marble ('Cassini') - new from Gardening Express. Image: ©ProvarPink Marble is less vigorous than other photinias, which is not bad thing, and so will not only make a more accommodating garden plant but is suitable for large containers. It can also be grown as a low hedge and each trim will be followed by a new flush of pink-edged red leaves.

    Pink Marble was found as a sport on a plant of P. x fraseri at a wholesale nursery in Salem, Oregon. I would guess the parent would probably have been ‘Red Robin' but this is not confirmed.

    You can order Photinia x fraseri Pink Marble (‘Cassini') from Gardening Express.


  • Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’: New this year from five nurseries

    Graham Rice on 27 Oct 2009 at 12:37 PM

    Dahlia 'Karma Choc' - new this year. Image: ©Verwer DahliasDahlias are enjoying a new resurgence and rich dark colours are also becoming increasingly popular. Bring the two together and you have a sumptuous new dahlia - ‘Karma Choc'.

    The Karma Series of dahlias, developed by the same Dutch breeder that created the popular Happy Single series of garden varieties, has been bred as a cut-flower dahlia but its special features make it a great garden dahlia too.

    So Karma dahlias are not only prolific, and with flowers carried on strong straight stems, but each bloom lasts up to twelve days in water. And of course the flower form is excellent and the colours are tempting.

    The latest to be introduced is ‘Karma Choc'. Reaching about 90cm/3ft high, everything about the plant is dark: the foliage is rich purple-bronze in colour, the stems are reddish-black and the elegant 5in/12.5cm water lily flowers open deep a Bourneville chocolate colour and mature to deep black-tinted crimson.

    ‘Karma Choc' was raised in The Netherlands by Aad Verwer and was selected in 2002 from seedlings resulting from the pollination of an unnamed dahlia seedling by the rich red ‘Karma Naomi'.

    You can order Dahlia ‘Karma Choc' from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and from Mr Fothergill's.



  • Get Trials and Awards blog updates on Twitter

    Graham Rice on 26 Oct 2009 at 12:43 PM

    You can now follow me on the micro-blogging service Twitter at !

    This will help me let you know when new posts go up here at my RHS Trials and Awards blog as well as at my RHS New Plants blog and my Transatlantic Plantsman blog. And I’ll occasionally bring you other news - such as when I have an article in the RHS magazines The Garden or The Plantsman.

    But, you may ask, how do you follow me on Twitter? Well, there’s a page of ideas on the Twitter website. And for real newbies there’s a handy video on the Twitter help pages.

    Twitter is just another way of keeping in touch and passing on the news. First there were drawings on the walls of caves, now there's Twitter!


  • Buddleja 'Blue Chip': New from Gardening Express

    Graham Rice on 24 Oct 2009 at 01:48 PM

    Earlier this year I mentioned the excellent new dwarf hybrid buddleja from America both over on my RHS Trials and Awards blog, and also on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog. It's also bveen a big hit at the RHS Buddleja trial. It's not been available in Britain till now but as of yesterday you can order it from Gardening Express.

    Buddleja 'Blue Chip' (Lo and Behold™ Series). Image: ©Proven WinnersBuddleja 'Blue Chip' (Lo and BeholdTM Series) has a number of good things going for it


  • Get New Plants updates on Twitter

    Graham Rice on 22 Oct 2009 at 10:29 PM

    You can now follow me on the micro-blogging service Twitter at !

    This will help me let you know when new posts go up here at my RHS New Plants blog as well as at my RHS Trials and Awards blog and also at my Transatlantic Plantsman blog. And I’ll occasionally bring you other news - such as when I have an article in the RHS magazines The Garden or The Plantsman.

    But, you may ask, how do you follow me on Twitter? Well, there’s a page of ideas on the Twitter website. And for real newbies there’s a handy video on the Twitter help pages.

  • Nicotiana ‘Whisper’: New, and disease resistant, for 2010

    Graham Rice on 20 Oct 2009 at 08:34 PM

    Nicotiana 'Whisper' - new for 2010. Image: ©FloranovaThe Norfolk-based plant breeding company Floranova has been a pioneer in the creation of new annuals and container plants for the last thirty years. Many of the best annuals that we grow have been developed by them and this years see another breatkthrough - a new type of Nicotiana (flowering tobacco).

    In recent years nicotiana have been plagued by a highly destructive disease, tobacco blue mould. It wiped out the last nicotiana trial at Wisley and, especially for parks but for home gardeners too, there's always a risk that the nicotiana season will be cut short.

    Nicotiana 'Whisper' - new for 2010. Image: ©Floranova‘Whisper' is a completely new type with two unique qualities. Firstly, its flowers change colour as they age - they open pure white, then blush and turn pink then deep pink. With all shades on the plant together the effect is delightful. Plus - it's disease resistant.

    Nick Bellfield-Smith, the Floranova plant breeder responsible for creating ‘Whisper', told me: "It's derived from a cross between the rarely seen N. mutabilis and the familiar type, N. x sanderae. It's been about five years in development. We were looking for different routes to disease tolerance/resistance as well as the characteristic of the N. mutabilis flower starting white and turning to pink.

    "In our trials this year ‘Whisper' has done extremely well remaining healthy and showing plenty of colour well into September. And at 80-100cm/32-40in it gives height and elegance to the back of the border. In contrast the standard bedding types became infected at the beginning of August and were dead sticks within three weeks!"

    You can order seed of Nicotiana ‘Whisper' from Mr Fothergill's Seeds and from Plants of Distinction or order plants from Dobies.


  • Grafted vegetables: New from Dobies and Suttons

    Graham Rice on 10 Oct 2009 at 02:12 PM

    At the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this summer, Suttons showed their expanding range of grafted vegetable plants. Now you can order them.

    Tomato 'Zebrino' - grafted plants new from Suttons. Image: ©Suttons SeedsGrafting tomatoes is not a new idea, far from it, but this whole new generation of grafted vegetables will transform your veg growing. There are tomatoes of course, but also a wide range of other vegetables available as grafted plants.

    The idea is that heavy cropping and full flavoured varieties are grafted on to rootstocks specially developed to resist soil pests and diseases, bring extra vigour, be happy in cooler greenhouse conditions (or even outside) and fruit over a longer period. They cost more than seedling plants - but the extra heavy p&d-free crop more than makes up for it.

    Both Suttons and their sister company Dobies - whose list features one plant with two different tomato varieties grafted on to it! - have these grafted vegetables available to order now.

    To order, just click the variety name to go direct to the page on the website.

    Chilli pepper ‘Fireflame' Delicious and hot (but not too hot), 17cm/7in red chillies.
    Chilli pepper ‘Sunflame' Yellow sister of ‘Fireflame', with 15cm/6in chillies.
    Cucumber ‘Pacto' Prolific 20cm/8in cues with mildew resistance.
    Melon ‘Sienne' Sweet and aromatic orange-fleshed melon with attractive striped skin.
    Pepper ‘Magno' Virus-resistant green pepper maturing to orange, and unusually easy to grow.
    Tomato ‘Twins' Two plum-fruited varieties - ‘Dasher' (red) and ‘Sunorange' (orange') - on each plant


  • Zinnia ‘Frazzy Jazzy’: New from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

    Graham Rice on 07 Oct 2009 at 11:17 AM

    Zinnia 'Frazzy Jazzy' - New from Mr Fothergill's Seeds. Image: ©Mr Fothergill's SeedsZinnias have developed into one of our easiest and most colourful of summer annuals - as long as you sow the seed direct into the soil. And it's not so much the large flowered types that remind us of show chrysanths that are so successful, it's the bushier, more prolific, smaller flowered varieties.

    New in this style is ‘Frazzy Jazzy'. Each fully double flower has petals which are dark at the base and pale at the tips, creating dazzling colour combinations: crimson and cream, scarlet and orange, purple and white... The result is a continuing sparkling display of delightful double flowers which can be enjoyed in any sunny place in the garden and also cut for posies for the house.

    But they dislike being sown in pots or trays and then pricked out for planting later. Better to sow them very thinly, direct into the soil, in May or June, thin them if necessary and them just let them get on with it. I always find that the best technique is to make your drills with the corner of the rake or the point of a cane, then soak the drills thoroughly, sow the seed on the wet soil and cover them with dry soil. That will give them a flying start.

    You can order seeds of Zinnia ‘Frazzy Jazzy' from Mr Fothergill's Seeds.



  • Sweet pea blends: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 30 Sep 2009 at 10:11 PM

    The range of colours available in both old-fashioned Grandiflora sweet peas and the modern Spencer sweet peas is simply amazing and for this new season Thompson & Morgan are releasing two exclusive blends that bring together a huge range of varieties.

    Sweet pea 'Heirloom Bicolour Mixed' - New from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & Morgan‘Heirloom Bicolour Mixed' (left) is exactly what it says on the packet: a blend of old-fashioned heirloom Grandiflora sweet peas, renowned for their exceptional scent, and all with bicoloured flowers. The blend includes the classic ‘Cupani', in maroon and mauve; ‘Painted Lady', in pink and white; ‘Lady Turrall, in magenta and lilac; ‘Butterfly', in mauve and white, and ‘Indigo King' in violet-maroon and violet and many more.

    T&M are also introducing ‘Sweet Dreams' (below), a blend of fifty one - yes fifty one - different varieties all chosen for the their fragrance, their exhibition quality blooms and their good garden performance. Many of the varieties included are award-winners and this blend comes with more than the usual number of seeds in the packet - sixty seeds rather than the forty five or even twenty five of many mixtures. Of course, with more than fifty Sweet pea 'Sweet Dreams' - New from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & Morgandifferent varieties included you still probably won't get a plant of every single one.... You'll just have to buy more packets!

    And don't forget: the best time to sow sweet peas is not in the spring but in the autumn. October and November are the best months so the time is right to sow these new sweet peas now. Let them get established in pots through the winter ready for planting out in spring at the time when you would otherwise be sowing seeds. It gives them a real head start.

    You can order seed of sweet pea ‘Heirloom Bicolour Mixed' and sweet pea ‘Sweet Dreams' from Thompson and Morgan Seeds.


  • Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy': New from Dobies Seeds

    Graham Rice on 30 Sep 2009 at 09:41 AM

    Rudbeckia 'Denver Daisy' - New from Dobies Seeds. Image: ©Dobies SeedsWe've seen some lovely rudbeckias appear in recent years but this one is a little bit special. Selected for planting all over the great American city of Denver, Colorado, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city, Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy' is now available in Britain from Dobies Seeds. And it's a very dramatic plant.

    Reaching about 60cm/2ft in height, the large single flowers are brilliant yellow with a dark chocolate zone at the base of each petal creating a zone of chocolate brown around a purple eye ringed with yellow anthers.

    Easily grown from seed as an annual, peak flowering is in mid summer but regular dead-heading will keep it performing well into the autumn. It's especially valuable as it does well in hot summers, in dry conditions, on windy sites and even in a summer deluge - it's altogether a tolerant variety which does not need rich soil or regular feeding to thrive. And, once established, it doesn't need much water either.

    Although ‘Denver Daisy' is a self-supporting variety, it's stems are long enough to cut and because the flowers are so large and dramatic you only need one or two in a mixed arrangement - although a whole jugfull would be spectacular. Cut them just as the flowers are starting to open, make sure there's flower food in their water and they should last about ten days.

    ‘Denver Daisy' is a hybrid of the American native Rudbeckia hirta which was developed in Germany.

    You can buy seed of Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy' from Dobies Seeds from 1 October.



  • Cosmos ‘Sweet Kisses’: New from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

    Graham Rice on 25 Sep 2009 at 09:54 AM

    Cosmos 'Sweet Kisses', Image: ©Mr Fothergills SeedsCosmos seem to be enjoying a surge in popularity at the moment, I think that not only are gardeners realising what dependable flowers they are for the mixed border but are also beginning to value them as cut flowers. There are number of new cosmos from various seed companies this year, I'll look at some of the others another time.

    ‘Sweet Kisses', from Mr Fothergill's Seeds, is a lovely semi-double form with broad white petals edged in magenta pink with smaller petals emerging around the bright yellow eye. If you remember the old variety called ‘Picotee', it's the same basic colouring but with semi-double flowers and - unlike the last batch of ‘Picotee' that I grew - every plant will feature that lovely bicoloured look.

    An excellent mingler for mixed borders, if you like to pick cosmos for cutting cut them when the buds are showing colour - don't wait for the flowers to open fully on the plant. As soon as you bring them indoors they should open. The flowers should last seven to nine days if flower food is added to the water and it always pays to pick flowers every day, just to keep them coming.

    You can buy Cosmos ‘Sweet Kisses' by mail order from Mr Fothergill's Seeds.



  • Onion ‘Santero’: New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 19 Sep 2009 at 03:40 PM

    Disease-resistant Onion 'Santero' - new from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & MorganOnions are not the most difficult vegetables to grow but there's one problem which can destroy a whole crop in no time - downy mildew. So as we're all now so reluctant to spray our vegetables the arrival of the first onion variety which is resistant to downy mildew is quite a breakthrough.

    ‘Santero' is a ‘Rijnsburger' type onion with coppery, round to oval bulbs. It's an early maincrop onion for planting in spring as sets and compares well with other varieties of this type - with the addition of that invaluable disease resistance.

    Disease-resistant Onion 'Santero' - new from Thompson & Morgan. Image: ©Thompson & MorganResearch on creating a downy mildew resistant onion began in the 1980s. Natural resistance to downy mildew was found in a wild species of onion growing in rocky places in the Mediterranean region, Allium amethystinum, which is occasionally seen in gardens. Its resistance was transferred across into our familiar onions using traditional plant breeding techniques but it took a great deal of work to retain all the good growing and cooking qualities of our garden onions and only the disease resistance from the wild species.

    Fortunately, you can now order onion ‘Santero' from Thompson and Morgan for spring planting


  • Viola 'Allspice': New from Thompson & Morgan

    Graham Rice on 16 Sep 2009 at 08:18 AM

    Viola 'Allspice' - new scented trailing winter viola from T&M. Image: ©Thompson & MorganAs the new seed catalogues start to drop on to the doormat, the time is right to take a look at some of the new varieties appearing in the mail order catalogues for the coming season. So the next few posts here will concentrate on new seed introductions.

    Thompson and Morgan have a number of interesting newcomers this season, including some from their own flower breeder Charles Valin, and one of his most exciting new varieties is Viola ‘Allspice’.

    ‘Allspice’ is a prolific trailing viola for baskets and other containers. It comes in five sparkling colours and here’s the exciting thing – each colour has a different scent. T&M called in Suffolk wine expert Chris Heseltine, with forty years experience in the industry, to apply his expert nose to naming accurately the fragrance of each colour and he came up with these descriptions: white – “honeycomb”, yellow – ‘broom and pineapple”, purple with yellow eye – “woodland”, purple and yellow – “exotic” and pale mauve/pale yellow – “green tea and spring flowers”.

    Michel Perry, New Product Development Manager at T&M said: “It’s unique in that it brings fragrances in the depths of winter, a quality not often found in hanging basket plants. Each colour has a distinctly different fragrance. We’ve tried our best to give some idea of the scents, but customers may disagree and we’d love to hear about the fragrances detected!"

    You can order seeds of Viola ‘Allspice’ from Thompson and Morgan.


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