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  • ‘Gold Dust’ rosemary: New from Norfolk Herbs

    Graham Rice on 20 Dec 2013 at 01:33 PM
    'Gold Dust' rosemary - a new vigorous variegated form. Image ©Kernock Park PlantsA number of variegated forms of rosemary have appeared on the market in recent years, but none seem to have caught our imagination or proved especially fine garden plants. Perhaps 'Gold Dust' will be different. It certainly has some valuable features.

    Firstly, each narrow leaf is larger than the leaves of most varieties of rosemary, thicker too and with a noticeably heavier texture. Each leaf has a bold green stripe along the centre and is edged in rich yellow-gold creating a sparkling feature.

    Individual plants are unexpectedly vigorous – variegated shrubs are usually weaker than green-leaved types - upright in habit, densely branched and plants should mature to about 1m high and 90cm wide. The fragrance of the leaves is said to be unusually strong and the deep blue flowers are unusually large.

    ‘Gold Dust’ is derived from the rarely seen variety ‘Rex’, and was spotted by Stephen and Julie Head on their nursery, Fragroplants, in British Columbia in 2004. ‘Rex’ is noted for its, vigour and its bold upright look.

    Like other varieties of rosemary ‘Gold Dust’ appreciates plenty of sun and a rich but well-drained soil; it makes a substantial and upright plant, so siting out of strong winds is probably wise.

    You can order plants of Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Gold Dust’ from Norfolk Herbs


  • Carrot ‘Dara’: Lovely new cut flower

    Graham Rice on 09 Dec 2013 at 09:23 AM
    New coloured carrot for cutting. Image ©FloragranWe’ve all become accustomed to seeing carrots in unusual colours – purple, yellow, white – we see them in the supermarket. But what about carrot flowers in unusual colours, for cutting?

    More and more florists are using flowers of wild carrot, I’ve seen slightly pink-tinted wild carrot flowers growing by the roadside, and I came across seed of a very pale pink-flowered form a few years back. ‘Dara’ is altogether more dramatic – with pink flowers maturing to crimson purple.

    But why would I want to grow a carrot with purple flowers in the first place? Cut flower growers have been increasingly growing wild carrots for cutting as the white flowers, although similar to the popular Ammi majus, are much longer lasting. ‘Dara’ is different; the flower heads of ‘Dara’ open white, then become pink and finally mature to dark reddish purple. The individual plants vary a little in colour, but all move through this same progression of colour and should reach 60-120cm in height.

    It’s recommended that seed is sown in spring to cut the flowers in summer – but in North America carrot for cut flower is treated as a biennial and I suspect it would also be worth sowing seed here in Britain in late summer to flower the following year. Cut the stems when about three quarters of the individual florets are open.

    They should also look lovely amongst roses, and can be allowed to self sow.

    You can buy seed of Daucus carota ‘Dara’ from Plants of Distinction.



  • Scabious ‘Little Cracker’: New from Binny Plants

    Graham Rice on 25 Nov 2013 at 03:45 PM

    ScabiousScabious are well known as long flowering perennials, and for being fine valuable not only for their flowers but for the fact that they attract so many bees and butterflies. Until recently, those with cream flowers have tended to be much taller than those in the many other colours which have come on the market in recent years but now there’s a variety which is small enough for containers.

    ‘Little Cracker’ has flowers in the familiar scabious style but opening to white from cream buds. The first blooms appear in June and keep coming until the frosts and although the plants are a little taller than some other recent introductions, at 50cm they are small enough for containers and large enough to make an impact in the border.

    Developed by British plant breeder Peter Moore, better known for his shrubs which include Choisya ‘White Dazzler’, ‘Little Cracker’ enjoys full sun and a well-drained soil. It’s especially happy on the kind of chalky soil that so many perennials find hard to take. Stems can be cut for the house, cut them just as the first florets in the flower head are opening; the stems may need re-cutting after a few days to keep the flowers fresh. Regular dead-heading, or cutting, will increase the flower power of flowers on the plant all through summer.

    In containers, partner ‘Little Cracker’ with other flowers in pastel shades and with contrasting foliage of coleus or begonias in rich reds.

    You can order plants of Scabiosa ‘Little Cracker’ from Binny Plants.



  • Choisya ‘Royal Lace’: New for containers

    Graham Rice on 11 Nov 2013 at 01:10 PM

    Choisya 'Royal Lace': New for containers. Image ©ProvarSince the arrival on the scene of Choisya ternata Sundance (‘Lich’) back in the 1980s, there’s been a steady succession of new choisyas. In June 2009 I brought you news of White Dazzler (‘Londaz'), then in April last year there was Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’. Now, there’s another, ‘Royal Lace’ - and we’ve gone from two varieties to eleven different choisyas in just a few years.

    Basically, the development of new choisyas has sprung from the popularity of the old ones. And, as a result of the fact that they’re especially popular in Britain, where the climate suits them very well, all the new introductions from Sundance until now have been developed in Britain – in fact most have been developed by just two plant breeders.

    This latest, ‘Royal Lace’, was developed by Peter Moore, former propagator at the well known shrub specialist Hillier Nursery and now at Longstock Park Nursery in Hampshire.

    The features that set ‘Royal Lace’ apart are its uniquely neat and compact growth, it reaches only 75cm, combined with its slender golden evergreen foliage and its mass of fragrant white flowers in late spring. It’s similar to ‘Aztec Gold’, but noticeably more dense and compact and so ideal in a container – it would look especially good in a modern garden setting in a blue glazed pot.

    ‘Royal Lace’ enjoys any reasonable soil, plenty of sun but should not be allowed to dry out, especially in a container.

    You can order plants of Choisya ‘Royal Lace’ from these RHS Plant Finder Nurseries.


  • Viola ‘Teardrops’: New fragrant blend from You Garden

    Graham Rice on 25 Oct 2013 at 01:36 PM

    Viola 'Teardrops' is new fragrant blend from You Garden. Iamge © BallColegraveViolas have become staples of the winter garden, providing charming colour when little else is there to delight us. And their small flowers are so much more weather resistant than the large flowers of pansies. ‘Teardrops’ is a new variety that provides delightful winter and spring colour, but on neat semi-trailing plants that are ideal for hanging baskets.

    The plants trail but are not long and lank; they branch well creating a neat look and ensuring that there are no gaps in the display – who wants to see the basket through the flowers? And, although the flowers are small, each plant carries so many flowers over such a long season that the display is always colourful. Plus – they’re scented.

    There are eight colours in the mixture: some are almost pure colours, some have a few whiskers, and some have a bolder blotch.

    Plants should flower in mild spells in winter, and in favoured areas and sheltered situations, may start flowering at Christmas. They really get into their stride in February and continue right through spring until it’s time to preplace them with summer plants. They should not be allowed to dry out and although they may appreciate a little liquid feed in long mild spells it’s more important to feed them in spring as the weather becomes consistently warmer.

    You can order large plugs of Viola ‘Teardrops’ from You Garden.


  • Colourful new heleniums from Special Perennials

    Graham Rice on 09 Oct 2013 at 04:16 PM

    Helenium 'Hot Lava', new from Special Perennials. Image ©Darwin PlantsOnce seen as reliable workhorses of the autumn garden, heleniums are now being appreciated for the fine perennials they are and their value is increasingly appreciated not only in sunny borders but as cut flowers. Two new introductions, both developed in Holland, and available from Helenium specialists Special Perennials, continue the development od these easy-to-grow perennials.

    An important feature of Helenium 'Hot Lava' (left, click to enlarge) is the fact that the petals do not turn down, as they do in so many heleniums, and so greatly reduce the impact of the colour. In fact the tips of the petals are slightly upturned; it makes a huge difference. The petals open almost yellow, the develop orange and red streaks and mature to red.

    The plant is stout and upright, with unusually sturdy stems, and reaches about 90cm, with a constant succession of bloom from July to October, each individual flower lasting unusually well.

    Helenium 'Ruby Charm' (right, click to enlarge) also features slightly upturned petals and its other Helenium 'Ruby Charm', new from Special Perennials. Image ©Darwin Plantsstandout features are its consistently rich red colouring - this is probably the darkest red helenium around – maturing to a slightly fierier shade and its unusually compact habit, reaching just 60cm in height. And, like ‘Hot Lava’, its flowering season is unusually long.

    The flowers of these heleniums last well in a vase if not cut too soon; wait until most of the flowers on a stem are open before cutting.

    You can order plants of Helenium 'Hot Lava' from Special Perennials
    You can also order plants of Helenium 'Ruby Charm' from Special Perennials


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

    Graham Rice on 24 Sep 2013 at 03:28 PM

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

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

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

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

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


  • New sweet peas to sow this autumn

    Graham Rice on 11 Sep 2013 at 02:06 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Rose Lady Marmalade: Rose Of The Year for 2014

    Graham Rice on 23 Aug 2013 at 01:31 PM
    Rose Lady Marmalade - Rose Of The Year 2014. Image ©Harkness RosesThe Rose Of The Year award began in 1982, when the yellow Floribunda Mountbatten (‘Harmantelle’) was the first winner. Ten years later Mountbatten received the RHS Award of Garden Merit and is still recognised as an excellent variety. Last month at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the 2014 Rose Of The Year award-winner was announced – Lady Marmalade (‘Hartiger’).

    Lady Marmalade is a neat Floribunda rose reaching about 90cm in height. The 10cm flowers are a gorgeous rich and bright tangerine with amber overtones, cupped in the old fashioned style with about fifty petals in each flower and with the outer petals reflexing attractively as the flowers mature. With up to eleven flowers in each cluster the impact is impressive and, especially with regular dead-heading, the flowers keep coming from June into the autumn.

    And then of course there’s the scent. Rated by the breeder as 6, the fragrance is not exceptionally outstanding – that would rate a 10 – but the spicy perfume is certainly impressive.

    Lady Marmalade (‘Hartiger’) was developed by Hertfordshire specialists Harkness Roses, who've developed a huge number of fine roses, including that first Rose Of The Year winner Mountbatten, since the nursery began creating new varieties in 1959. The name is sometimes seen spelled as Lady Marmelade (with an e) but this is incorrect.

    You can order the Lady Marmalade rose from Harkness Roses or from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries.



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