Posts Tagged ‘annual’

RHS Award Winner: Best Behaved Convolvulus

February 2nd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 1 Comment

Convolvulus 'Blue Ensign'

I’ve often wondered why so few plant breeders have worked on improving the annual convolvulus, the dwarf morning glory. The wild species, Convolvulus tricolor, grows around the Mediterranean, especially on the African side, as well as in the Balearic Islands and it’s impressively colourful even in its natural wild form.

With blue edges to the bold trumpets, there’s a white ring and a yellow eye and in the spectacular ‘Blue Ensign’, included in the new Mr F range of seeds that have received the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit, the blue is a deep and shining shade.

‘Blue Ensign’ has the neat and restrained growth habit of a semi-trailing petunia with a combination of flower colours never seen in a petunia – and it’s a hardy annual. It’s related to bindweed, yes, but the whole plant dies after flowering.

And here’s the thing. The ‘Flagship’ mixture gives us a glimpse of the potential: so many other colours. Most of the colours have that starry yellow eye with a white zone round it but as well as flowers with deep blue edges there’s red, pink and pale blue edges as well as simpler pale blue and yellow and pale pink and yellow. They’re very pretty.

AGM winning ‘Blue Ensign’ is prolific and good in baskets and the front of sunny borders. ‘Flagship’(not an award-winner) is a little more variable in habit and flower-power, sometimes rather straggly, but I’m sure that with a little work neat and prolific plants could be developed in some lovely colour combinations.

In the meantime,‘Blue Ensign’ is easy to raise from seed sown outside and a packet of a hundred seeds costs only £2.05. I haven’t grown it for years but it’s on the list for this year. I’m going to plant it on the corners of my 1.2m raised veg beds – to hide my less than expert carpentry where the boards join!

  • Please take a look at my article on RHS award-winning lobelia for containers and borders in this week’s Amateur Gardening magazine – print edition only.

RHS Award Winner: Lovely Lavatera

January 26th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Lavatera 'Silver Cup'

Back in 1978 the very first Silver Medal was awarded by Fleuroselect, the across-Europe flower seed awards organisation that trials new varieties in 20+ countries and gives awards to the very best. It went to Lavatera ‘Silver Cup’ (it wasn’t until 1989 that the first Gold Medals were awarded).

But here’s the thing. Forty years after it received its Fleuroselect Silver Medal, ‘Silver Cup’ is still going strong. Not only is it still around, but it received the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1996 and still retains both that and its Fleuroselect award. And it’s a star of the new RHS range of award-winning flowers from Mr F.

I rated it so highly that I put ‘Silver Cup’ on the front cover of my first book about annuals back in 1986. Here’s what I said then:
“It is a hardy annual to sow in spring or autumn which grows to about 2ft (60cm) making bushy plants branching from low down if thinned to about 15in (38cm).

“The flowers are stunning. Big, soft pink, open bells up to 2in (5cm) across with dark veins, they appear from mid-June to the autumn. Lavateras like sunshine and any soil which is reasonably fertile and well-drained. The only problem is that in hot dry summers they tend to give up flowering rather early in the season leaving a singularly unattractive clump of dead twigs. So soil that retains a little moisture helps. Ruthless thinning at the seedling stage will encourage branching low down to give a succession of flowers.”

And then I wrote: “‘Silver Cup’ is ideal in the favourite pink, blue and silver schemes with tall or short ageratum, silver foliage cinerarias and pyrethrums, and maybe white petunias and Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’.”

The advice still stands. Even after all these years Lavatera ‘Silver Cup’ is still a star.

  • Please take a look at my article on RHS award-winning dogwoods for winter twigs in this week’s Amateur Gardening magazine – print edition only.

RHS Award Winners: Super Sunflowers

January 19th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sunflower ' Valentine' Image © GardenPhotos.com

Isn’t it a treat to have sunflowers in the garden? And the varieties that come on the market are getting better and better, with new colours, sturdy growth and better branching – the days of stems taller than you are with one flower on the top are long gone.

Last year I grew two that are included in the new RHS range from Mr F, although I had to be careful. The previous autumn I’d left the heads for the finches but they missed some of the seeds so I had self sown seedlings popping up all over the place. And the question then, of course, is this: which are the unpredictable self sown seedlings and which are the seedlings of the carefully chosen varieties I actually wanted to grow.

This year I’m going to solve the problem by raising my chosen sunflowers in 9cm pots in the cold greenhouse, sowing in late March or April. At the same time I’ll be ruthlessly removing any self sown seedlings that pop up in the garden. Then, when I plant my seedlings in May, there’ll be no doubt about which are the sunflowers I really want.

And I’ll be growing two RHS award winners. ‘Claret’ is a lovely deep red, with brighter petal tips and with an almost black centre. When it was grown in the RHS trial the judges summarised its qualities like this: “very dark reddish brown; very good foliage, nice dark stems; flowered well over long period; good cut flower”.

The other AGM winner I’ll again be growing is ‘Valentine’, with dark-eyed flowers in a lovely soft primrose shade. The RHS judges reported: “striking dark centre with pale yellow rays; excellent cut flower, basal branching”.

Apart from removing self sown seedlings, the other lesson from last year was to support them well. A head-high sunflower can be weighed down by summer storms and fall into the plants around it. So support them well with stout stakes set behind the plants so they’re hidden by the fat sunflower stems. Just remember to tie them in as they grow.

RHS award winners: Essential climbers

January 5th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue' and Mina lobata

The new collaboration between Mr F and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) features seeds of flowers and veggies that have been awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). I discussed these new ranges briefly here last year but I thought, as seed sowing season approaches, I’d take a closer look at some of the floral highlights. And the ipomoeas are especially interesting.

There are two AGM ipomoeas in the Mr F catalogue and, at first sight, they look completely unrelated.

Mina lobata (above right) features in the RHS range and, although long known by that name, it’s now been recognised as so similar to ipomoeas that it needs to be classified as one: so it’s now known, botanically, as Ipomoea lobata.

Fiery orange buds are held along arching stems, maturing to yellow and then cream but even as they pass their peak the new flare and the flowers stay tubular. It makes a great deal of growth, reaches 1-8-2.4m depending on the richness of the soil and the watering, and needs stout support. It flowers for months. Sow in frost free conditions from April.

The closely related Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ (above left) is also an AGM variety but has been listed for years so is not in the new RHS range. It’s very different, with large flared sky blue flowers that open early in the day and close by afternoon – which is why it’s called morning glory. It reaches the same height as Mina lobata but its growth is less bushy and dense. It’s one of the most beautiful of garden climbers, no garden should be without it.

Just to emphasise how varied the ipomoeas are, Mr F also lists two special varieties of sweet potato grown for their coloured foliage; they’re ideal in sunny containers and trail neatly. These foliage varieties of Ipomoea batatas do not have AGMs – but I suspect this is only because the RHS has not yet held a trial.

I think these varied ipomoeas deserve a try, don’t you? I’ll be growing them all this year.