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November 2014

The snowy morning the deer got in

Deer munching as they wait to be chased out from inside the fence. Image ©
Still in my pjs I wandered into my room with my breakfast at about 7am yesterday morning to take a look at the news online, looked out of the window – and a deer was looking in at me.

This is not good news. The garden is fenced against the deer - without the fence we couldn't garden, the deer would eat everything. Or it was. It turned out that the weight a foot of heavy snow had sagged the fence and three deer had got in. So I scampered into my boots and coat and woolly hat and dashed outside – pausing for a moment to take a quick snap before they carried on my munching through our hydrangeas.

Anyway… I opened the gate, waved a broom and shouted at them and after they’d run about all over – entirely forgetting where they’d come in, of course – they finally left. It won’t be clear till the spring how much they’ve actually eaten.

Transatlantic Gardener wins Garden Blog Of The Year 2014!!!

Silene dioica 'Graham's Delight' marks my pleasure at winning Garden Blog Of The Year. Image © Ray Brown Plant World Seeds ( a few minutes ago I heard that this blog was named as Garden Blog Of The Year by Britain's Garden Media Guild!

I was not able to be at The Savoy in London to accept the award  - we're in a snowstorm in Pennsylvania - but my old friend Fiona Gilsenan accepted it on my behalf.

It's great to be the winner of an award that's judged by one's peers. Thank you.

UPDATE And in the spirit of my recent post on weird and wondeful plant variety names, here I now present a picture of Silene dioica 'Graham's Delight'! Order seed from Plant World Seeds, where Ray Brown developed it.

Take a look at the press release on my award.

Check out all the other award winners on the Garden Media Guild awards page.

I'd especially like to congratulate the runners up in this year's Garden Blog Of The Year award. Please take a look at their work, you won't be disappointed:

Andrew O'Brien -

Richard Jones -

Michelle Chapman -

David Marsden -

Scented roses for Britain and North America

Fragrant English Roses from David Austin that thrive in the USA and the UK. Images © David Austin Roses
We all like scent in our roses, and many of us insist on it. But scent is a subtle and sometimes precarious feature: we all perceive smells slightly differently, it varies with the time of day, and it varies with the weather and the climate. Some say it even varies with the soil.

And scent is one of the three factors that legendary rose breeder David Austin had in mind when he created his English Roses: scent and old fashioned flower form and a long season of flower. The very first English Rose, with its scent of myrrh and introduced in 1961, was ‘Constance Spry’ (although this one missed out on the long season) and they’ve been coming ever since. I’ve been growing them since Mary Rose (‘Ausmary’) and Graham Thomas (‘Ausmas’) were new in 1983. Now there are so many that they’ve been divided into seven sub groups.

But not all will thrive in every garden. This was made clear to me when I took a look at the lists of English Roses recommended for their fragrance – for North America and for Britain. Some of the top choices for fragrance appear on both lists, but not all. And considering the extraordinary range of growing conditions in North America if, after being thoroughly tested, an English Rose was chosen by David Austin himself to thrive both in North America and in Britain, then it must be worth growing pretty much anywhere.

These are the English Roses recommended for fragrance on both sides of the Atlantic. And of the huge number introduced over the years - there are only nine.

Evelyn (‘Aussaucer’) Apricot and pink flowers with fragrance similar to old rose with a fruity note reminiscent of fresh peaches and apricots.

Gertrude Jekyll (‘Ausbord’) Large, rosettes of rich glowing pink. A strong and perfectly balanced old rose scent.

Golden Celebration (‘Ausgold’) Giant, cup-shaped golden yellow flowers with a tea scent.

Harlow Carr (‘Aushouse’) Shallow cups of the purest rose pink with a strong old rose fragrance.

Jude the Obscure (‘Ausjo’) Apricot yellow flowers with a very strong, unusual and delicious fragrance with a fruity note

Lady Emma Hamilton (‘Ausbrother’) Tangerine orange flowers with a strong, delicious, fruity fragrance.

Scepter'd Isle (‘Ausland’) Soft pink flowers, an outstanding example of the English Rose fragrance.

Sharifa Asma (‘Ausreef’) Pale pink flowers with a distinctive and very beautiful fruity fragrance with aspects of mulberry and grapes.

The Generous Gardener (‘Ausdrawn’) Very pale pink flowers with a delicious mix of old rose, musk and myrrh fragrances.

Order the most fragrant English Roses for North America from David Austin Roses.

Order the most fragrant English Roses for Britain and Ireland from David Austin Roses.

All images © David Austin Roses.

Read more from Graham Rice online and in print

My Plant Talk blog for Mr. Fothergill’sIt’s been a long while since I summarized where you can find more of my thoughts and recommendations online – and there are quite now a few options. So here goes.

Here on the Transatlantic Gardener blog
For gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic, a new post goes live every five to seven days.
Transatlantic tomato taste tests 2014
Reviews of books on Dahlias, Snowdrops, Salvias and Sedums
Spoons for escagots - and other whacky plant names
Hostas for late season leaf color

Plant Talk blog for Mr. Fothergill’s
Primarily for British readers, there’s a new post every Friday morning at 9am British time
Wildlife flowers to grow from seed
Time to plant ‘Timeless’ tulips
It’s not too late to plant bulbs

New Plants blog for the Royal Horticultural Society
Primarily for British readers, there are two new posts every month.
A new generation of tasty, healthy, space-saving apples
New giant sunflower
Three new dwarf patio peonies

Ten AGMs for the Royal Horticultural Society
My monthly choice of ten plants that have been awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. Mainly for British readers.
Ten award-winning perennials with autumn foliage or fruit
Ten award-winning conservatory shrubs and climbers
Ten award winning small garden conifers

Plant features for the Royal Horticultural Society
My monthly Royal Horticultural Society plant feature, mainly for British readers
Storing spare seeds
Overwintering exotic plants
Continuing the patio display indoors

Graham Rice @ Organic Gardening Graham Rice @ Organic Gardening
My weekly feature for North American readers on the website of Organic Gardening magazine
Five Plants for Hummingbirds
Longer-Lasting Cut Flowers
Five Multiseason Hostas

Plus, usually in print only and not online
The American Gardener
My occasional pieces for The American Gardener, the membership magazine of the American Horticultural Society, are available online to members only. My most recent was on Foxgloves for American Gardens. They’re not usually available online to everyone, so please become a member.

Gardeners’ World magazine
My Plant For All Seasons feature appears every month and, although intended for British readers, North American readers will also find my recommendations useful. It’s only in the print edition, not available online. So please subscribe. In North America the magazine is available in Barbnes & Noble stores.

Amateur Gardening magazine
My regular pieces in Britain’s Amateur Gardening magazine are rarely made available online. So why not subscribe?

The Garden magazine
I write two or three times a year for The Garden, the monthly members’ magazine of the Royal Horticultural Society, most recently on new plants for containers and plants that come true from seed. You need to be a member to receive the magazine. So please join.

The Plantsman magazine
Once or twice a year I write for The Plantsman, the Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine for more knowledgeable gardeners around the world, most recently on the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year. Please subscribe (scroll down). If you’re a Royal Horticultural Society member you’ll receive a discount.

And finally… There are also these non-horticultural ventures
Wagonload Of Monkeys
My new radio music show featuring folk and roots music from Britain and Ireland
Lies I Told My Little Sister
The multiple award-winning feature film written by my wife judywhite in which I have a small role

Transatlantic tomato taste tests 2014

Tomato 'Sweet-Aperitif' was top in the UK taste testA year or two back I did a pairing of posts here on the annual tomato taste tests at Morningsun Herb Farm in California and the tomato taste testing at Ball Colegrave in Oxfordshire. Now the results from this year’s tomato taste tests at these two locations are in – so what’s the news?

At Morningsun Herb Farm the top three varieties this year, out of eighty six tasted, were ‘Sungold’ at number 3, ‘Italian Sweet Beefsteak’ at number 2 and ‘Sun Sugar’ (below, click to enlarge) at number 1.

Rose Loveall at Morningsun reports that because of problems with water pumps, the tomato field was kept drier this year and, as a result, flavor was generally better but the skins were tougher. This led to fewer cherry tomatoes, with their high skin-to-flesh ratio, towards the top of the ratings. ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’, which we’d enjoyed enormously this year when I bought it from our local farmers’ market, has especially small fruits and sank down the ratings compared with previous years. Tomato 'Sun Sugar' was top in the American taste test

Older British readers will remember Clay Jones, a much loved host of Gardeners’ World TV show thirty years ago, and the author of a book on tomatoes. He told me exactly the same thing: less water, better flavor – but, he pointed out, a lower yield.

You can see the full results for 2014, as well as for 2010 to 2013 plus the five year average on the Morningsun Herb Farm 2014 Taste Test Results page.

The results from Ball Colegrave are less comprehensive and they concentrate on cherry tomatoes. They list the top ten for 2014 and also for 2011, 2012, and 2013. The winner this year was ‘Sweet Aperitif’ (top, click to enlarge), with ‘Nectar’ second and ‘Sungold’ third. Last year’s winner was ‘Sungold’, ‘Sweet Aperitif’ won in 2012 but the 2011 winner, ‘Sweet Million’ slipped to number six this year. Find out more on the Ball Colegrave 2014 results page.

‘Sungold’ is the only variety to be highly rated in both tests this year and I’m not sure if the absence of other varieties in both top tens is down to different conditions and growing methods or tasters’ different preferences. But ‘Sungold’ is clearly adaptable and much appreciated – it’s also naturally resistant to two races of fusarium wilt as well as verticillium – a big plus.

British gardeners might like to take another look at my piece from last year on American tomatoes for British gardeners. In reverse, well… There are so many varieties available in North America that American gardeners don't need to look to Britain. Sweet peas, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.

Four plant books from Timber Press: Dahlias, Snowdrops, Salvias and Sedums

Plant Lover's Guide To Dahlias by Andy Vernon. ISBN: 9781604694161A new series of books for gardeners on individual plants is a big deal. In recent years we've seen fewer specialist plant books published and, as the market for books on many plants is limited, publishers will rarely sanction a new book on a subject even if an earlier one is not up to scratch.

Neither will publishers produce different editions for the British and American markets. So the one book on a specific plant has to provide good information for both British and American gardeners – and this is a definite challenge when the gardening conditions and techniques are so different, tastes are so different, and the plants grown are often very different.

The first four titles in the new Plant Lover’s Guides series from Timber Press came out earlier this year. I’ve been using them, let’s see how they stand up. There are four titles: Dahlias and Snowdrops are written by Brits, Salvias and Sedums by Americans. Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops by Naomi Slade. ISBN: 9781604694352All the books share the same structure though, oddly, the book on salvias has the fewest pages in spite of the fact that there are at least twice as many salvias grown as there are snowdrops. All four are attractively designed, accessible, with excellent photography and clear typography. The authors clearly know their stuff, and write well.

The individual entries are similar in their structure, although organized differently, and each book includes 150 main entries – a tiny proportion of the more than 1500 salvias grown in gardens, and around 700 sedums for example. Clearly, many are excluded. In fact there's no entry for the first sedum I look up, the very widely grown ‘Iceberg’.

This prompts the question: are these books intended to highlight the author’s recommend plants, or for gardeners to find information about plants in which they’re interested? It’s definitely the former and of course an expert’s guidance is always valuable but these are books of inspiration not books of reference.

Plant Lover's Guide To Salvias by John Whittlesey. ISBN: 9781604694192A big issue that these four books fail to address adequately is hardiness. In two of the books, Snowdrops and Dahlias, the USDA hardiness ratings of the plants are not given at all; a significant omission. None of the four provide plant-by-plant hardiness information for British gardeners; the Royal Horticultural Society’s system of hardiness ratings is not included. The publisher tells me it would be “too confusing” to include both the British and the North American hardiness zones. Gardens Illustrated magazine, which sells well on both sides of the Atlantic, don't agree: they include both. The battle to persuade the RHS to adopt the American system (I fought hard!) was lost. The RHS now has its own system for Britain; the RHS zones should be there.

Another thing that puzzles me is awards. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Award Of Garden Merit (AGM) is well known and widely used in Britain and, perhaps unexpectedly, often quoted in North America as well. In the Snowdrops and Dahlia books plants with the AGM are noted, in the Salvia book not only are award-winners not marked but only half the salvias awarded the AGM are included. Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ is not noted as the US Perennial Plant Of The Year for 1997. In the Sedums book, some AGM plants are marked and others are not.

Plant Lover's Guide To Sedums by Brent Horvath. ISBN: 9781604693928It’s great to see this new series of plant books. OK, there are problems. It’s not easy to ensure that plant books work well on both sides of the Atlantic. And, of course, the individual requirements of these different plants should not be forced screaming into a rigid structure. What’s more, the economics of publishing are not at all what they once were and it’s tough for publishers to make a fair return on specialist plant books (tough for authors, too) and these books are issued at a fair price: $24.95/£17.99 before discounts, less for the Kindle editions although the Kindle versions are not available in Britain. Books on tulips, asters, epimediums and ferns on the way.

But it’s unfortunate that the value of so much good information, elegantly and attractively presented and brought to us by wise and experienced plantspeople, has not been matched by a consistent appreciation of the needs of gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic. Still, for gardeners not looking for exhaustive references, these books serve as a wide view into narrow subjects in an engaging and atractive way.

The Plant Lover’s Guides to Dahlias, Snowdrops, Salvias and Sedums are published by Timber Press.

Plant Lover's Guide To Dahlias by Andy Vernon. 9781604694161Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias by Andy Vernon in North America from in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias by Andy Vernon in Britain and Ireland from

Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops by Naomi Slade. 9781604694352Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops by Naomi Slade in North America from in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops by Naomi Slade in Britain and Ireland from

Plant Lover's Guide To Salvias by John Whittlesey. 9781604694192Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias by John Whittlesey in North America from in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias by John Whittlesey in Britain and Ireland from

Plant Lover's Guide To Sedums by Brent Horvath. 9781604693928Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums by Brent Horvath in North America from in both print and Kindle editions

Order The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums by Brent Horvath in Britain and Ireland from