Archive for the ‘Plant Talk with Graham Rice’ Category

Delightful dicentras

April 19th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Dicentra 'Burning Hearts'

Plants with good flowers and good foliage are always in demand – their leaves bring us pleasure before and after the flowers are over so it’s like having two different plants in the same place. And if the plants love shade yet have bright silvery leaves… well, we’re on to a winner. Step forward dicentras.

These lovely low and spreading, shade loving perennials grow wild in two different parts of the world, the widely grown Dicentra eximea in North America and the rarely seen D. peregrina in Japan. But in the 1980s a Japanese plant breeder by the name of Akira Shiozaki decided to bring the two species together and created a range of superb hybrids.

All feature slowly spreading mounds of delicately dissected silvery blue leaves and in spring the foliage is topped by sprays of pretty lockets in red (‘Burning Hearts’, above) or pink (‘Candy Hearts’) or white (‘Ivory Hearts’). They come in a collection of three.

All grow best in shady situations and in humus-rich but well-drained soil. They work well in shady patio beds, amongst and around deciduous shrubs, and also, in larger numbers, as ground cover. I also cut both flowers and foliage for posies for the house.

On top of all that, you’ll also usually find that after a year or two the plants will have spread enough to be divided and replanted to cover a wider area.

Rather than plant the three different varieties together, I’d suggest planting them in different places then divide them and spread them out as they increase. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.

Exciting daisy hybrids

April 12th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Argyranthemum Grandaisy Series

A couple of years ago I enthused here about a new marguerite, arygyranthemum, with the slightly odd name of ‘Grandaisy Pink’. This was the first widely available variety of what had been a very rare hybrid between a traditional marguerite (Argyranthemum) and an annual chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum carinatum). It combined the wonderful flower colours of the annual chrysanth with the bushy, twiggy habit of the marguerite.

Now we have a whole series of them, five colours in all: pink, gold, white, reddish orange and one called “pink tourmaline” which is pink speckled with white and with a white ring around the dark eye.

All make neat and bushy little shrubs that reach about 50cm in height and they flower from June to the frosts – and often beyond. Moved into a conservatory in the autumn, a specimen in a pot may well flower right through the winter.

And as individual specimens is a very good way to grow them, one plant in a 30-45cm pot. They’re well matched for height so you could also plant all five in the same pot and they’re also superb as border specimens surrounded by lower spreading plants or even ground covering petunias or calibrachoas.

The stems on the individual flowers are long enough to snip for posies – or they will be if you keep the plants moist and feed them every couple of weeks.

And the name? In the wild marguerites grow in the Canary Islands, including Gran Canaria… They’re daisies, so Grandaisy. These exciting new daisies are easy and colourful… Give the a try.

Goodbye to the dreaded orange alstroemeria

April 5th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Alstroemeria 'Inticancha Imala'

We sometimes still see those fiery orange alstroemerias, romping through neglected borders and smothering everything in their path. They’re undeniably colourful, but they can also be a menace.

When I was a student at Kew – long, long ago – I remember planting a collection of alstroemeria species grown from seed harvested in the wild in mountains of South America. They were noticeably different from those orange ones in the range of their pink and purplish and white flower colours, they were also much shorter in growth and spread less vigorously.

It’s blood from these wild South American species that’s gone into the creation of modern varieties. Many of the resulting varieties are tall and were developed as cut flowers, and let’s remember that two weeks looking good in a vase is nothing for an alstroemeria.

But some of the most useful varieties are those in the much shorter Inticancha Series. Reaching just 35cm in height, one plant is ideal for a 30cm pot or they can be planted at the front of a sunny border. Flowering begins in June and continues into the autumn, dead heading by pulling out the individual stems as their final flowers fade is preferable to cutting off the stems.

To be honest, those I planted in May of last year were a little too short last summer, now they’ve settled down I’m sure they’ll develop more typically. But they’ve been well behaved, they’ve stayed as neat clumps. I also planted the taller Majestic Collection, one of which, ‘Authion’ – in just one year – has already escaped its bed and emerged in the bark path.

There are twenty three varieties in the Inticancha Series, but Mr F have picked the very best Inticanchas and narrowed the collection down to just five including ‘Inticancha Imala’ (above). For containers, borders and for cutting – give them a try.

Terrific ‘Toto’ rudbeckias

March 29th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Rudbeckia 'Toto Mixed'

On my first trip to California, long ago, I remember visiting one of the world top flower breeders. They developed new geraniums and petunias and marigolds and all sorts of new summer flowers for containers and borders. And they were working on rudbeckias.

At that time, rudbeckias were more or less yellow and they were tall. Developments were mainly in terms of how reliably double they could be made and whether or not the best doubles produced enough seed to sell.

But on that California visit I found rudbeckias were being created that were only a foot high. Not only that, but they came in mahogany and chestnut shades, as well as yellow and orange, and they also included some striking bicolours. They were called ‘Toto’.

Since then the ‘Toto’ rudbeckias have been refined and improved and they’re still available, as young plants and as seeds, and are still popular. Quite right too. Not only that, but ‘Toto’ has also received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Their dark-eyed single flowers look right up at us, individually they’re very long lasting, collectively the display lasts for months as the buds open in a steady succession – and they’re so easy to deadhead!

Grow them at the edge of large containers, as specimens in smaller ones, in groups at the front of borders. They’re robust and easy to raise from seed.

Just give them sunshine.

Moisture loving marsh marigolds

March 22nd, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Caltha palustris 'Flore Pleno'
The marsh marigold is one of our most startling native wild flowers. Huge buttercup flowers sparkle in boggy sites and streamsides like reflections of the sun. They’re doing it now, walk in the right places at this time of year and you’ll see them. There’s only one problem: the flowers are short-lived. They dazzle and die.

But there’s a solution. Instead of growing the single-flowered form, grow this double-flowered variety, ‘Flore Pleno’, that lasts so much longer in flower.

The single flowered wild form is a lovely thing, with the same rounded glossy foliage, but the petals soon drop – partly because they’re more popular with pollinators than the double flowered form.

Both forms appreciate the same conditions. They like sun, or the thin shade of sparsely branched trees like moisture loving birches (think Betula nigra). The soil needs to be consistently damp, in fact the plants will thrive in up to about 15cm of water – pondsides, ditches, and streamsides are all ideal. I’ve even seen the double form grown in a container stood in a deep saucer kept constantly filled with water.

So in the end it turns into a trade-off… Same growing conditions, but a longer flowering season and a more dramatic display from the multi-petalled flowers against the single-flowered form helping pollinators and, as a result, sometimes throwing a seedling or two. It’s your choice.


Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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