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  • Coreopsis ‘Solanna Golden Sphere’: New from Mr Fothergill’s

    Graham Rice on 22 Apr 2014 at 02:05 PM
    Coreopsis 'Solanna Golden Sphere' is a tough and prolific new perennial. Image ©DanzigerI know there are gardeners who see perennial coreopsis more as workhorses of the summer garden than plants with character and style but perhaps ‘Solanna Golden Sphere’ (left, click to enlarge) will spark some affection as well as admiration for being dependable and tough.

    Developed in Israel, and propagated by division rather than seed so plants are always of a reliably high quality, the dark green foliage makes a neat mound. The bright, sunny yellow flowers open from May to October, each is fully double, with a slightly darker centre. Held one per stem, they are good for cutting and last well in water.

    It’s worth noting that this is a plant that rewards gardeners who nip off the fading flowers with secateurs or the kitchen scissors as this encourages more buds to develop. Plants should still flower right through until autumn without dead heading but they will look more attractive and less messy – and there will be more flowers open at any given time – if the dead blooms are snipped of at the base of their stems.

    This is a very hardy perennial which can be planted in a container for its first summer then moved into the border before winter, or can be planted direct into any reasonable soil in a sunny place.

    You can order plants of Coreopsis ‘Solanna Golden Sphere’ from Mr Fothergill’s (last orders for this season 30 April).


  • Veronica 'Blue Bomb': New from Parkers

    Graham Rice on 13 Apr 2014 at 04:21 PM
    Veronica 'Blue Bomb' is compact and long flowering. Image © Jan VershoorVeronicas, long lost in the second or third division of hardy perennials, have been making a name for themselves as cut flowers in recent years. Their long spikes and their lasting quality have encouraged florists to take them up.

    But while plant breeders have been developing new varieties for cutting, they’ve not forgotten gardeners and the latest addition to the gardener’s range is Veronica ‘Blue Bomb’.

    Developed in Holland by Jan Vershoor, well known for his phlox and other perennials, this is a very distinctive plant with tall straight stems which branch repeatedly at their tips to create a cluster of short blue spikes.

    Plants reach about 45-60cm in height, with fresh green foliage which makes a good background to show off the flower heads, and they have a very long flowering season - May to September - which is exactly what so many gardeners need now that gardens are getting smaller: every plant must give its best for as long as possible. So a long flowering plant like Veronica ‘Blue Bomb’ with an extended season of colour is ideal in a small space. And the clumps fatten up steadily without ever becoming a nuisance.

    You can order Veronica ‘Blue Bomb’ from J. Parkers.



  • Colourful new fragrant antirrhinums

    Graham Rice on 20 Mar 2014 at 04:38 PM

    Antirinca Antirrhinums are both colourful and fragrant.Most gardeners enjoy antirrhinums but the familiar traditional types have been joined by a number of colourful and interesting new varieties, such as the Antirinca Series (above, click to enlarge). At once it’s clear that they’re different.

    Upright in growth and reaching about 30-40cm, the rich, dark green foliage is tightly packed on the stems and is the ideal background to show off the flowers – which are unique. We’ve seen antirrhinums with flared flowers before, but nothing as colourful and striking as these. And one thing that’s often forgotten is that bees, familiar with the traditional snapdragon flower, find it very difficult to pollinate these flared flowers and the result is that each individual flower lasts much longer before fading and so significantly extending the display.

    Each flower is in fact bicoloured, with a patch of dark contrasting colour in the throat. There are four colours in the series: Bronze Apricot (above centre, click to enlarge) has apricot-and-peach flowers with deep orange centres; Peachy has pink and pale apricot flowers; Rose (above left) has pale pink flowers with a deep pink centre; Yellow Maroon (above right) has yellow flowers with contrasting red centres. In addition to the lovely colouring they’re all scented.

    These are ideal plants for sunny containers, nip off the individual flowers as they fade and when each spike is over cut it off just above the leaves to encourage more to develop. These plants are raised from cuttings so there will be no annoying off-types.

    You can order plants of Antirrhinum ‘Antirinca’ from Dobies (order by 11 April), from Suttons (order by 11 April) and from Thompson and Morgan (order by 31 March) and you well also find them in good garden centres.


  • Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Graham Rice on 10 Mar 2014 at 12:35 PM
    Agastache 'Arcado Pink' flowers in its first year from a spring sowing. Image ©FleuroselectIn recent years, more and more agastaches have appeared in catalogues and many of them are very good plants - but few seem have really taken off and become widely popular. Perhaps this one will prove to be the exception.

    This is a first year flowering perennial - if seed is sown early in spring it will flower from summer into autumn – and, as can be seen in the picture (above, click to enlarge), it’s extraordinarily productive. The following year it will start to come into flower earlier.

    The spikes of vivid purple-pink flowers open over a long season above fresh green aromatic foliage and are unusually attractive to butterflies, bees and many other beneficial insects. Plants reach about 2ft/60cm and branch well from the base to create a mass of flowers. They’re good for cutting, too; cut when the spikes are about half open and be sure to add flower food to the water. They should last about ten days.

    ‘Arcado Pink’ is best in full sun and in a site that where the soil is fairly well drained. Good drainage will help ensure that plants overwinter well and start into growth early to begin a long summer and autumn display. Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’ has been awarded Fleuroselect Approved Novelty Status.

    You can order seed of Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’ from Plants of Distinction.



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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  • Three new Barnhaven double primroses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  • Skimmia japonica ‘Pabella’: Vigorous and prolific

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

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

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

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

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

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



  • Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winterbells’: A lovely new hellebore hybrid

    Graham Rice on 20 Jan 2014 at 01:37 PM

    Helleborus x sahinii 'Winterbells': A lovely new hellebore hybrid from Hayloft Plants. Image ©TakiiSome unexpected hellebore hybrids have come on the scene in recent years, hybrids between species that you’d just never expect to see. But this is probably the most surprising of all. Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winterbells’ is a cross between the stinking hellebore, H. foetidus, and the Christmas rose, H. niger. And that’s pretty much what it looks like.

    ‘Winterbells’ looks rather like a taller version of a Christmas rose, but with nodding flowers midway in size and shape between those of the two parents. The colour is especially pretty. The peachy pink buds open to good sized, flared, bell-shaped flowers that mature to pink on the outside and creamy white on the inside and then fade to green and remain on the plant for some time. The flowers are sterile and this helps prolong the display.

    In addition to this attractive colouring and the pretty pendulous flowers, ‘Winter Bells’ is unusual in other ways. Firstly, although flowers open mainly in winter and early spring, on my plants they also sometimes open in summer. Plants can also be rooted from cuttings in summer and may well flower the following winter.

    Many breeders have tried to cross these two species, but in 2004 breeders at the Dutch seed company K. Sahin Zaden BV, best known for developing unusual annuals, raised a single seedling from one pod of seeds and this is it - named in honour of the company’s founder, the late Kees Sahin.

    You can find more on this plant in John Grimshaw’s article on new hellebore hybrids in the December 2010 issue of the Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine, The Plantsman. Unfortunately, it’s not avalable online.

    You can order Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winterbells’ from Hayloft Plants.


  • Forsythia Gold Mine (‘Mindor’): Compact and prolific

    Graham Rice on 06 Jan 2014 at 02:05 PM
    Forsythia Gold Mine (‘Mindor’): compact and prolififc. Image ©ProvenWinners.comGardeners tend to think that forsythias all look the same – and of course, it’s true, they’re all yellow. The shade of yellow varies a little, but look carefully and you notice that there are other differences. This new introduction from France is a case in point.

    Gold Mine (‘Mindor’) has a number of good qualities. Its upright and spreading habit is welcome as so many others, including the popular ‘Lynwood’, are more arching and untidy. Its bright flowers are also crowded tightly along the stems – which is especially striking when the stems are cut for the house – and the stems are covered with flowers right to the base.

    The leaves are an unusually dark shade of green so make a better summer background for flowers and climbers than that of other forsythias, especially as they’re flat rather than folded along the midrib as in some other varieties. The freely branching stems of Gold Mine are also unusually dark.

    Gold Mine is not the most dwarf of forsythias, it reaches about 75cm in three years but eventually makes a taller plant. But it’s more compact than most and, like all forsythias, is best pruned after flowering and this can be used to control the height.

    This plant was actually available for a couple of years about six or seven years ago under then name Show Off but only a very few plants were sold. Now it’s available much more widely. It arose as a sport on the variegated form ‘Fiesta’ (itself a sport of the old favourite ‘Lynwood’) on the Minier nursery in France in 1997.

    You can order plants of Forsythia Gold Mine (‘Mindor’) from The Garden Centre Group and from Notcutts.



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