These are blog posts that Graham Rice has made.
New plants. There are more and more of them accompanied by more and more hype. But we all like to see the latest varieties and to try those which look especially enticing in our own gardens.
So here I'll be bringing you news of the latest introductions - some too new even to be in the very latest edition of the RHS Plant Finder - like this gorgeous double white hardy geranium which I'll be telling you more about soon.
I'm sharing this space with the team from the RHS Trials Office at Wisley, and it's at the trials that the best of the new varieties often come to light. They'll be updating you on news from the trials, I'll be bringing news of the most interesting new plants - and where you can get them.
So check back here regularly. And if you're a nursery, a grower, a seed company, a plant breeder or a garden centre introducing something new - email me and tell me all about it. And in between reading this blog, and the other great RHS blogs, you can also keep an eye on what I'm up to on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog - where I've also sometimes been discussing new plants.
Have you got your copy yet? Don't make do with last year's Plant Finder. Apart from anything else there are over four thousand new plants included this year - 4,183, to be precise. I know, some of these are returning after not being available last year - but still, that's an impressive number.
And these newcomers include thirty five new Agapanthus, forty five Aloe (almost all from Agave Nursery), forty new Clematis, too many dahlias to count, far far too many fuchsias (many from P & B Fuchsias), hemerocallis and hostas to count), forty three hardy geraniums... The list goes temptingly on. There's an intriguing range of Lachenalia species from Choice Landscapes and enough Primula sieboldii for any woodland garden... Not to mention a variegated dandelion (Taraxacum officinale 'Tapeley'), a lovely flowering plectranthus for containers (Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender'), a dramatic red-and-white bicoloured salvia (Salvia x jamensis ‘Hot Lips') which you may have seen at shows last year and Raymond Evison's new clematis (REBECCA), not to be launched until Chelsea next month.
But don't let anyone tell you that the newly included Phlox paniculata ‘David's Lavender' is mildew resistant. Sorry, RHS Plant Centre, it's a lovely shade, and vigorous - but not at all mildew resistant. And neither, in spite of what you might read, is its parent ‘David'.
You can access the RHS Plant Finder online, or buy your own copy.
The RHS Plant Finder is a wonderful thing (as we all know) – but it’s not perfect. For one of the best new hardy geraniums of this season is not included – it came on sale just too late to meet the deadline. But it’s a great plant with a great story and it’s now available.
Geranium pratense ‘Laura’ was a star of the recent hardy geranium trial at Wisley. But, strangely, it was not such a star that my fellow judges and I gave it an Award of Garden Merit. To be honest, I can’t remember why the vote went against me. But here’s the story.
‘Laura’ is a double, white-flowered form of G. pratense which was discovered by Cheshire gardener Christine Morley and named in honour of her mother. This is what she told me: “Over twenty years ago I sowed a packet of G. pratense, mixed colours, which I bought from Chiltern Seeds. I pricked out half a dozen seedlings and the resulting single-flowered plants were deep violet blue, silver blue and white but one plant turned out to have white double flowers. At that time I hadn't realised that G. pratense ‘Plenum Album' is a weak plant seldom grown. My plant was vigorous and flowered every year without any special treatment. I didn't feed it and only rarely lifted and divided it.
“It was many years later that I began to suspect it might be something different when I realised that I had never seen another one like it. In my garden it grows in clay soil in semi-shade and always flowers prolifically from mid June for about four or five weeks. Unlike the single G. pratense it doesn't set any viable seed.”
Geranium pratense ‘Laura’ is now available from Hayloft Plants. Another new hardy geranium tomorrow.
One plant I’m especially pleased to see amongst the new hardy geraniums in the 2008/2009 RHS Plant Finder, if only from one nursery, is the excellent G. phaeum ‘Mrs Withey-Price’. I brought it over from America to my Northamptonshire garden more than ten years ago and it’s the foliage that’s special, opening bright yellow with red spots at the base of each leaf division - lovely early in the season. As the season progresses the brightness fades to yellowish green but the display continues with white-centred, light purple flowers.
It was found as a chance seedling in the Seattle garden of plantsman Jerry Flintoff. “It was growing near G. phaeum and G. x monacense,” he told me, “and I believe also G. reflexum but I haven't seriously tried to ID it. There was either a sibling or a sport growing with it that had a yellow leaf but without the purple blotches in the sinuses of the leaf lobes - unfortunately it is also being sold and grown as 'Mrs. Withey-Price'.
“The name is a joke as there isn't a Mrs. Withey-Price, the plant was named in an oblique honor of friends (garden designers) Glenn Withey and Charles Price who love gold-leaved plants.” And note that the name has a hyphen.
There’s not much sign of those leaf spots in the picture, I found that they’re most prominent when the leaves first emerge and then seem to fade.
The Plant Finder treats as a cultivar of G. phaeum and lists just one source for ‘Mrs Withey-Price’: The Plantsman’s Preference.
Now here's a cracker, a bicoloured double-flowered meadow cranesbill, Geranium pratense! Just look at that picture, click on it to enlarge it. Have you ever seen anything like it? This is new in the RHS Plant Finder this year - though listed simply as Geranium ‘Double Jewel' and not under G. pratense.
The plant was discovered a few years ago in Holland by Jan Verschoor, well known as the breeder of phlox such as ‘Peppermint Twist'. He spotted it in a batch of G. pratense ‘Plenum Album' which had been raised by tissue culture, immediately realised its appeal and named and propagated it. Many growers would have restricted propagation by applying for Plant Breeders' Rights. However, Jan told me: "We did not apply for breeder-rights as it is in our opinion unfair to do so." So anyone can propagate it.
As well as its unique, dark-eyed double flower ‘Double Jewel' is noticeably dwarf for a cultivar of G. pratense. Jan tells me it only reaches 25cm in its first year - and that the plant is too new to tell what the height of a long-established plant might be.
[As an aside... Oddly, last autumn, the same mutation occurred with another Dutch grower, also in a batch of G. pratense ‘Plenum Album' produced by tissue culture. This plant, although apparently identical to ‘Double Jewel', has been named ‘Alegra Double' and it seems this second grower is applying for Plant Breeders' Rights. Presumably this application will fail as the same plant is already on the market as ‘Double Jewel'.]
Anyway, whatever the confusion, this looks to be a great plant and seven nurseries are already listing it in the new Plant Finder. I'm looking forward to growing it.
This is not the only place I'm writing about new plants. Last month I wrote a piece for the Daily Telegraph about the top ten new perennials this spring. You can read it here.
And over the last year I’ve been posting on new plants over on my Transatlantic Plantsman blog. You can find them all here. Recent ones include one on the two newcomers in the latest RHS Plant Finder which are stocked by the most nurseries (a Brunnera and a Salvia), one on a strange new polyanthus, one on a prolific new clematis, one on new drought-tolerant perennials, one a new blue impatiens and one on new epimediums bred by Robin White of Blackthorn Nursery
New on the Nottcuts stand in the Great Pavilion at Chelsea this year will be the first weeping redbud - Cercis canadensis Lavender Twist' (Covey).
Very popular in the USA, redbuds are less often grown in Britain than they should be. Perhaps this lovely weeping form will encourage us to plant more.
Making a lovely, spring-flowering, small tree, the vivid pink flowers stand out brightly against the almost black branches. The young, heart-shaped foliage is bronzed, then blue-tinted green, then turns bright yellow in the autumn. Prolific flowering is encouraged by hot summers - which are now more frequent than they once were - giving three phases of colour.
Lavender Twist is a small weeping form, ideal for small gardens and even large containers. It was found in the garden of Connie Covey, not far from Lake Erie in New York state, in 1991. The original tree was thirty-five years old but only 1.4m high, with a central stem staked and trained it may reach 3m in height with the slightly twisted branches cascading down to the ground. ‘Covey' is the cultivar name, Lavender Twist is the marketing name or Trade Designation.
First seen in Britain in 2004 when listed by Large Cottage Nurseries, they no longer list it but do list six other cultivars, including a white-flowered form. Lavender Twist is now available from Notcutts Garden Centres and from these RHS Plant Finder stockists.
Another, weeping form, ‘Cascading Hearts', is listed by just one Plant Finder nursery, Swines Meadow Garden Centre.
You can read more about Cercis in an excellent article in The Garden
Many of the Chelsea exhibitors will have new plants on display this year, but what does "new" actually mean? There are three main types of "new" Chelsea plants.
1. Plants which have never have been seen on display anywhere in the country - or perhaps anywhere in the world - before.
3. Plants on display at Chelsea for the first time which may have been seen elsewhere recently, most often at other RHS shows or in RHS trials.
3. Plants a particular nursery is showing for the first time but which may have been around for a few years.
The tree fern Cyathea aramaganensis, from the Mariana Islands in the Pacific, which will be on the Desert to Jungle exhibit in the Great Pavilion, come into the never-seen-before group. David Root of Desert to Jungle says it's the only specimen in the country: "Very rare, virtually unobtainable, and not for sale!!" he told me. But it will be great to see it. The five new clematis from Sheila Chapman also seem to fit into this category.
Many plants will be at Chelsea for the first time but will have been seen occasionally before like the lovely Dianthus ‘Starburst', from Whetman Pinks, which was on trial at Wisley last year.
Then there are plants which are new to a particular nursery, but which have been around a while. The gorgeous Cercis canadensis Lavender Twist (‘Covey'), new for Notcutts at this year's show, comes in this category as it was available back in 2004 and is listed by nine nurseries in the new Plant Finder. However, now that Notcutts have it, this superb plant will be much much easier for gardeners to find. More on Cercis Lavender Twist tomorrow
In the last few years echinaceas have come a long way - in terms of new colours at least. So far these have all been raised in America and Antonia Fiander at Future Primitive Plants in Worcestershire has just emailed to say that she now has stock of the latest to hit these shores - ‘Tiki Torch'. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Bred by Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, who've raised hundreds of good perennials in recent years, ‘Tiki Torch' is derived in part from the very robust E. purpurea ‘Ruby Giant' and also from the yellow-flowered E. paradoxa. The flowers are a vivid pumpkin orange, slightly darker at the base of each petal, with bright red cones and a strong scent. I've not grown it yet, but it looks to be the most vivid orange echinacea so far.
As well as being available from Future Primitive Plants, ‘Tiki Torch' is listed by these Plant Finder nurseries and Thompson and Morgan Young Plants.
As well as over eighty new plants at Chelsea, this year sees the arrival of a couple of old timers - one over a hundred years old.
Cayeux Iris from France will have four impressive new introductions at the Show but also on display will be Iris ‘Ma Mie', originally introduced in 1906. Click on the picture to see how lovely it is.
The four newcomers were raised by Richard Cayeux, ‘Ma Mie' was bred by his great-grandfather, Ferdinand Cayeux who founded the company. ‘Ma Mie' is a vigorous prolific Plicata type, white with pretty purple-blue stitching on the falls and slightly richer edging in the standards. The flower is endearingly old fashioned in its shape and still well worth growing after all these years.
Iris ‘Ma Mie' is available from Cayeux's British agent, Viv Marsh Postal Plants