Archive for the ‘Plant Talk with Graham Rice’ Category

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.

 

Queen of Zinnias

March 15th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Zinnia 'Queeny Lime Orange'We’ve seen some significant advances in zinnias these last few years, and two of them have brought us varieties that look good both in the garden and in a jug on the kitchen table.

First we had the Zinderella zinnias. These varieties have crested crowns in the centre of each flower and come in peach and lilac. Lovely. But we’ve also had the Queeny zinnias.

The big thing about the Queeny Series is the fact that the flowers are very tightly double and come with almost no off types – some zinnia varieties are far too variable in the shape and colour of their flowers to be relied upon in the cutting garden or in borders. Queenys also come in some unique colours, often with limey tints.

The highlight of the series is ‘Queeny Lime Orange’ whose tightly double flowers are coral red in the centre opening to almost tubular petals in pale limey green and them maturing to coral orange, almost to the shade of that central button. The flowers are evenly packed with petals and delightfully rounded and regular in shape.

The other thing about ‘Queeny Lime Orange’ is that it’s available both as seed or as plants. If you’d like to grow more than just a few and are confident you can raise them from seed, then the best value is to order thirty seeds for £3.55. Alternatively, you can order five large ready-to- plant-plugs for £7.95 to be delivered at planting time in May.

I grew mine from seed last year and many visitors picked them out as special. This year I need fewer – I have less space! – so I’m going to start with plants. Get yours ordered now before they sell out.

Crazy new double petunia

March 8th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Petunia 'Tumbelina Crazy Ripple'

When double flowered petunias first arrived on the scene a hundred years ago hardly anyone grew them. They looked wonderful but were so easily damaged by rain and storms that they had to be grown in conservatories. Not only that, but they were tall and straggly and often fell over, pot and all. Not any more.

Now, new double-flowered petunias are being developed in many places around the world but it’s in a little village outside Cambridge that the finest double petunias are created. This year sees the launch of the latest, and it’s one that’s especially dramatic.

‘Tumbelina Crazy Ripple’ has all the great features of the many other colours in the Tumbelina Series. These include neat, semi-trailing growth with none of those long straggly trails that get in the way as you pass by; a long and prolific season of flowers, right up till the frosts; neat, weather resistant fully double flowers. And then there’s the colour.

The unique colouring is pale lime green splashed with burgundy purple and although no two flowers are quite the same, they all come in this same dramatic blend of colours.

The best way to use ‘Tumbelina Crazy Ripple’ is as a specimen in a hanging basket. You’ll enjoy it all summer. You can also use it in a basket mingled with calibrachoas or bacopas and as a mixer in large tubs around ‘Sonnet’ antirrhinums or the amazingly prolific Grandaisy marguerites. And don’t forget you can also order a collection of fragrant pastel double Tumbelina petunias.

Growing for cutting

March 1st, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Lupin 'Pink Fairy', Nicotiana 'Babybella' and Ridolphia segetum.A customer came into my friend’s florist shop recently and said: “You can’t get British cut flowers any more.” Well, apart from the fact that if she’d just looked out of the window she’d have seen the cutting garden from which flowers for the shop are cut – well, she could always grow her own!

So could we all and Mr F are helping out with a new range of plants specifically chosen for cutting. They’ll arrive in May, ideal planting time, and give you colourful cut flowers all summer.

Nicotiana ‘Babybella’ is a new deep red variety that I discussed here a few weeks ago that mixes well with ‘Florence Blue’ cornflowers. This cornflower variety is a lovely vivid blue but it’s shorter than most cut-flower cornflowers so doesn’t topple over in anything above a gentle breeze.

Both these plants are new to the Mr F plant range but I also picked out one or two familiar favourites from the Mr F range that are invaluable for cutting.

Salvia viridis, which used to be called Salvia horminum, is exceptionally long lasting in the garden and in the vase – mainly because it’s not the tiny flowers that generate the colour but the large leafy bracts around them.

Annual lupins make lovely cut flowers, they should be better known. The flowers of ‘Pink Fairy’ open white and then take on pink tones as they mature, they come on long string, but not think, stems and they have a strong scent too.

Finally I’d suggest a plant that you may not know, Ridolfia segetum. It’s a little like a sharp yellow cow parsley but far more refined and long lasting and it goes with almost anything in a garden bouquet.

There are more. Check out the new Mr F Cut Flower Range and be sure also to take a look at other annuals and perennials that are ideal for cutting. My list is getting longer, I’m not sure where I’m going to grow my veg this year…

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?

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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