Graham Rice knows his Perennials

Graham Rice, author of the AHS Encyclopedia of Perennials

Posted by Susan Harris
Here’s Graham Rice, the British-American plant expert, after speaking at Homestead’s recent Garden Show.   (And how about all that color in the store?  We deserve it after this winter.)   Graham has published more than 20 books, including the American Horticulture Society’s Encyclopedia of Perennials, won six writing awards, and been shortlisted for more.  He’s also a judge at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show.  He writes a New Plants blog for the Royal Horticultural Society and his own blog, aptly named the Transatlantic Plantsman.  Between homes in Pennsylvania and Northamptonshire,  England, and between his English family and wife Judy’s American family, he’s as transatlantic as you can get.

Where New Perennials Come From
For his talk about new perennials, Graham brought along dozens of photos of what we’ll be seeing in the stores before long.  But more than a gorgeous slide show, his talk taught us a thing or two about horticulture.  Turns out new perennials come from lots of places:

  • From the wild.  Examples include rudbeckias, baptisias and lobelias.
  • From nurseries and gardens – like the hellebores of Heronswood (WA & PA), the hostas of Plant Delights (NC), the heucheras of Terra Nova (OR), and plants from less well known sites all across Europe and even in Japan, New Zealand and Israel.
  • From tissue culture ‘sports’.
  • From plant-breeding programs.  Examples include the Chicago Botanic Gardens, Pine Knot Farm (VA) and Walters Gardens (MI).

So, where new perennials come from doesn’t have a quick-and-easy answer.  It’s complicated.   (Plants will do that.)

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