Archive for the ‘Plant Talk with Graham Rice’ Category

Begonia in a different style

May 10th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Begonia 'Gryphon'

We always tend to think of begonias as flowering plants – whether it’s the dramatic double-flowered types, the neat bedding types or the prolific basket varieties. But there are also varieties grown for their foliage and the star is one called ‘Gryphon’.

‘Gryphon’ makes a big plant, 40-45cm high and 45-50cm wide. Every large darkly metallic leaf is jaggedly divided into points and streaked in silver but the stems and undersides are completely different. Beneath each leaf the colour is orange-red and that vivid colouring peeps out whenever the leaves turn or are held at an angle or are ruffled by wind.

As a specimen in a container it makes a dramatic patio plant that’s happy in sun, if kept consistently moist, or in partial shade if watering is a little less regular. Once established, ‘Gryphon’ is unexpectedly drought-tolerant.

Three plants in a 45cm pot will develop into a bold specimen plant for the patio. Alternatively use ‘Gryphon’ towards the front of bold tropical-style plantings featuring cannas and dahlias to hide their bare basal stems.

‘Gryphon’ is also more cold tolerant than many begonias, it will take 5C outside but in the autumn it pays to wheel your pot into the conservatory where it will continue to look good right through the winter. So why not give this very different style of outdoor begonia a try?

Beans for flowers

May 3rd, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Runner Beans 'Aurora', 'Painted Lady' and 'Snowdrift'

Everyone can grow runner beans. And with the arrival of plants that look and taste like runner beans, but which are actually hybrids with climbing French beans, we don’t have to worry about them failing to set in unsuitable weather.

But we grow runner beans for more than just the beans. We grow them for their flowers too. And here there comes a different distinction.

If you like red flowers, then grow ‘Firelight’, the latest in the range of hybrid runner beans that reliably sets pods in bad weather. If you like white flowers, then ‘Snowdrift’ (above right) is the variety to look for. But if you like runner bean flowers in other colours, then you must turn your attention to traditional runner beans.

‘Painted Lady’ (above centre) features red-and-white bicoloured flowers. This is an old heritage variety that had deteriorated but has been brought back to its former standard. One of the good things about it is that the plants are less vigorous than those of other runner bean varieties and that can be useful in a small garden. ‘St George’ also has red-and-white flowers but is more vigorous and with more pods per cluster.

Then there are those with pink flowers. ‘Celebration’ has flowers in reddish pink while the flowers of ‘Aurora’ (above left) are more of a pale salmon pink. Be sure to keep these traditional runners moist to encourage good fruit set.

There’s also a very attractive red-and-white flowered dwarf variety, ‘Hestia’, that you can grow in patio pots for a compelling combination of colourful flowers and home-grown beans.

Order seeds now, or pick up packets from the garden centre over this holiday weekend, and sow them indoors straight away or outside over the next Bank Holiday. Looks good, tastes good – can’t beat it.

Time to plant garden chrysanths

April 26th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Chrysanthemum 'Spartan Canary'

There’s an astonishing eighty eight different types of chrysanthemum and tens of thousands of varieties have been introduced over the years. This post is about just a few of them, the hardy outdoor garden chrysanthemums that we can grow in our perennial and in our mixed borders.

These varieties, single and double flowered, are tough enough to survive our winters outside in the garden in the same way as other perennials. They also flower early enough to be at their peak before winter weather can damage the blooms.

Hardy garden chrysanths have enjoyed phases of popularity over the years, enthusiasm waxing and waning, but now gardeners are again appreciating their value in the garden. This is largely due to the work of chrysanthemum enthusiast Judy Barker whose recent book is just the latest phase in her work reminding us all what superb garden plants they can be.

Today’s top selections are taken from the best of the old varieties and joining these are choices from more recent British-bred series (including ‘Spartan Canary’, above) , between them a fine range of excellent varieties is available.

All have the same simple requirements. First, they enjoy sunshine. Not necessarily 100% all day full sun, but good light for much of the day and with no shade from overhanging tree branches.

Secondly, they appreciate good soil. Chrysanthemums are hungry plants and good soil plus good preparation makes a big difference to their performance.

Thirdly, they hate soggy soil in winter. Poor drainage in winter is the main killer of garden chrysanths so working organic matter into heavy soils helps break up the clay.

But thing to remember is, basically, that they’re tough and prolific. Now is planting time, so why not try the Hardy Chrysanthemum Collection?

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.

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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