Posts Tagged ‘hardy perennial’

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.

The finest foliage perennials

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

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’, ‘Lime Marmalade’ and ‘Forever Purple’.

The number of different heuchera varieties now available is simply astonishing. These tough evergreens have established themselves as the finest coloured leaved perennials we can grow but the problem is that some are better than others – but how do we know?

The RHS lists almost seven hundred different varieties – seven hundred! -but which can we depend on?

The good people at Mr F have made their choice and picked a trio with foliage in wonderful colours: ‘Berry Smoothie’, ‘Forever Purple’ and ‘Lime Marmalade’. But it’s not just the colours of the leaves they’ve had in mind. These three varieties are strong and reliable growers, the leaves retain their colour all the year round, although they may change with the seasons, the neat overlapping foliage creates a dense cover and they’re reliable in propagation so there shouldn’t be any supply problems.

The leaves of ‘Berry Smoothie’ open bright rose pink, bronzing as the season progresses, and with creamy flowers in early summer. ‘Forever Purple’ has glossy purple, black-veined leaves all the year round, with purplish pink flowers in summer and the slightly larger ‘Lime Marmalade’ has ruffled lemon yellow leaves that turn lime green as they mature but with relatively insignificant flowers.

All three are good in containers and I like to grow them individually in terra cotta pots where they can be groomed as specimens to look their best all the time. Site them on the shady side of the patio. They’ll also thrive in shaded borders and appreciate well drained but rich soil.

The leaves are very long lasting when cut for posies and tabletop arrangements and I like to plant snowdrops and other spring bulbs amongst them for a sparkling spring display. And they bring you unique foliage colours that no other perennial provides. Why wouldn’t you try this colourful collection?

Best lupins money can buy

February 8th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 1 Comment

Lupins ‘Blossom’, ‘Masterpiece’, and ‘Polar Princess’ (l-r)These are the best lupins you can buy. It’s as simple as that. Let me explain.

George Russell, back in the 1930s, was the first to develop lupins in this style, allowing bees to cross the yellow-flowered tree lupin with the blue-flowered perennial L. polyphyllus to create – eventually – dazzling, long spiked plants in amazing colours and colour combinations. He worked for decades slowly improving them year by year. He raised an astonishing 152 named varieties in all but there was always a problem; his lupins were difficult to propagate.

Each plant only produced a few cuttings so there were never very many plants to sell. One attempt to solve the problem was to grow them from seed and it’s certainly possible to grow seed-raised lupins without much difficulty. They’re colourful, it’s true, but the fact is that the quality is just not there and purple colouring and then gappy spikes tend to dominate. In the end his named varieties faded away. Virus diseases didn’t help.

In 1985, Woodfield Lupins won the first of ten Gold Medals at Chelsea having used the remaining Russell Lupins to develop new varieties. But, again, propagation was a problem.

Then for many years, down in Devon, Sarah Conibear worked on creating her own named varieties in the same style and she too won Gold Medals at Chelsea with them. But now there’s a difference. Modern laboratory propagation techniques have made it easier to produce these impressive named lupins in sufficient numbers to offer them here.

They come in a collection of five varieties: ‘Blossom’, ‘Masterpiece’, and ‘Polar Princess’ (l-r above) plus ‘Manhattan Lights’ (purple and yellow) and ‘Tequila Flame’ (red and yellow).

And you know what else? They’re all deliciously fragrant! Why not try the very best of all lupins?

Tough new long flowering perennial

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

Heliopsis 'Burning Hearts'

This is a great year for new perennials. I discussed Echinacea ‘Green Twister’ here a week or two back, now here’s another superb new easy seed-raised perennial that flowers for months: Heliopsis ‘Burning Hearts’.

This tough perennial has two main features. The bronze foliage shows off its rich colouring from the moment it peeps through the soil in spring and still retains its dark tones now, in October.

Then from early summer onwards, the flowers open. Each bloom features, two or three rows of narrow, slightly twisted, slightly rolled back petals that are yellow changing to orange at the base around the reddish-orange eye.

Each stems carries opposite pairs of leaves, and two flowering shoots develop from the leaf joint. Then each leaf joint on each flowering stem also produces two flowering shoots and the result is a long succession of flowers giving a striking display. Dead heading is easy and makes a huge difference, prompting more branching and so more and more flowers.

I planted some small trial plants in the spring of last year and in their first summer they were superb. They all came back strongly after the winter, with the addition of a few self sown seedlings scattered around the garden. This summer they took the heat very well and I was still dead heading them yesterday and new flowers are still developing.

Heliopsis ‘Burning Hearts’ is one of the best new perennials I’ve seen for years.