Posts Tagged ‘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.

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?

Ferns come out of the shade

June 15th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Athyrium otophorum var. okanum

We tend to think of ferns as plants for shady places and it’s true that for many of them full shade is essential. But some thrive in full sun or partial shade with just one proviso – they must have wet soil.

This makes them ideal plants for pond margins, those areas around the edges of the pond that are sunny but where the soil is always damp.

The royal fern, Osmunda regalis, is a tall and impressive plant – stately, almost – that can reach 2m in height when happy. It grows wild in Britain and you’ll see it mostly in the west and south where it grows on river banks and lakesides, in wet ditches and around the edges of wet woods.

The erect, pale green fronds often turn yellow or orange in the autumn and surround vertical stems topped with bold rusty tufts that look a little like brown flowers, but which are in fact packed with dusty spores.

Although less tolerant of sun than the royal fern, there’s another much smaller and more manageable waterside fern that will grow in a combination of sun for part of the day and moisture. This is a very pretty form of lady fern, Athyrium otophorum var. okanum. It’s often suggested that it demands full shade, but I’ve found that it’s happy in some sun if the roots are never allowed to become dry.

What marks this plant out is the creamy colour of the young fronds and the rich red colouring of the stems and veins which becomes more intense as the fronds mature.

Rarely reaching more than about 60cm, this Asian species also makes a fine specimen for a cool corner of the patio, stand its pot in a saucer to collect moisture and keep the roots damp.

In fact, I’ve also seen the royal fern grown in a pot – but you’ll need a very large one.

Gentler geums

April 13th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Geum 'Totally Tangerine'

There are two geums that we seem to have been growing for ever: ‘Mrs J. Bradshaw’ (bright scarlet) and ‘Lady Stratheden’ (bright yellow). They’re prolific, tough as old boots and flower for months in most soils. But don’t you sometimes wish that there were varieties that were just as long flowering and prolific but that were, well, less bright?

Plant breeders around the world have got the message and have been crossing different species together to create varieties that are prolific, adaptable, long flowering and colourful – but in slightly softer shades.

From Holland comes ‘Flames of Passion’, developed by the renowned plantsman and garden designer Piet Oudolf, is red, but a richer and softer shade than ‘Mrs J. Bradshaw’. ‘Mai Tai’, created by Illinois nurseryman Brent Horvath, is apricot with richer pink tints while, from British nurseryman Tim Crowther, ‘Totally Tangerine’ (above) is peachy pink with a rich dusting of gold that adds subtlety to its brightness.

All are sun lovers, all are tolerant of a wide variety of soils but are best in fertile conditions with good drainage, especially in winter. If you’re looking for a geum for wetter conditions, try the demure British native Geum rivale.

Regular dead-heading helps prolong their season and keeps the plants looking fresh and if you’d like to cut some for the house, they’ll last well. I recommend them.

Kudos for ‘Kudos’ agastache

March 2nd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Agastache 'Kudos Coral', 'Kudos Mandarin' and 'Kudos Yellow'

One of the great things about getting to try new varieties before they appear in the catalogue is that I can grow them and report on them for you at ordering time. Step foreword the ‘Kudos’ agastache. These are superb.

The neat foliage is fragrant, the flowers start to open early (some had already developed their first buds when the young plants arrived), they were in full flower when still quite small and they bloomed more and more as the plants became established. Right through to the frosts.

One of the reasons that they looked so impressive for so long was this: the flowers are small and are produced in clusters at the leaf joints. But the flowers in each cluster open in a long succession so there are always open flowers all the way up the stem.

Also, the plants throw new stems from the base at the same time as the older stems are flowering so they become steadily more prolific. The bees love them, and they’re good for posies.

I’ve just been out to look closely at how well they’ve come through the winter – but of course they’re under the snow. But when I was tidying through last week I noticed that they’re all starting to develop new shoots at the base.

There are seven varieties in the Kudos Series, and Mr F have chosen the best three: ‘Kudos Coral’ has dark coral red plumes with a honey-mint fragrance to the foliage; ‘Kudos Mandarin’ is vivid mandarin orange with more citrus-flavoured foliage; ‘Kudos Yellow’ is a bright but soft yellow with, I thought, a touch of eucalyptus in the aroma. All thrived for me last year and I’m looking forward to some early flowers – once the snow passes and allows them to grow. Give them a try… Sun and reasonable drainage is all they need.