Summer At Last…

Hello Gardeners,

I hope you are all enjoying the summer and your plants have all behaved as they should.

On returning from a four day break in Maastricht to see Andre Rieu in live concert and a tour of his Castle it was down to business checking how the garden had done in my absence. Just a bit of tidying and moving containers but thankfully no disasters.

This year my Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ has been beautiful and very upright, in other years it has wanted to lay on other plants but this year is the fourth year I have had it in the garden and I have been very pleased with it and the blooms are huge. The Sun Diascia Eternal Flame have flowered freely, although I have noticed that although there was supposed to be three colours, orange, pink and white it turns out that there was no white in my pack,, but nevertheless have proved to be very successful. I do wish I had actually planted them into the garden instead of a container as they would have looked great in a border.

Jean and her Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

Jean and her Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ plant

I bought a container, saucer and round trellis as a set from Thompson & Morgan and planted the ‘GeRainbow™ Mixed’ geraniums in it and have encouraged them to climb, so far so good, they have now reached the top of the first section. I also bought Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ which are in a container with a frame and the fuchsias are doing well, having reached about 3 feet. Another success this year that I have been thrilled with are the Apricot Shade Begonia corms that I have dried from last year. I put them in a large tray in the house (no central heating) and they started to shoot towards the end of January. I then planted them into compost to bring them on gradually. I ended up transplanting them into a large trough, probably too many in one trough but I wasn`t sure if they were all going to actually succeed. I believe they must have as they appear to be cramped but don`t seem to mind it. Thankfully they are in one of the containers that on the drip system so they get watered regularly. At first, I thought the front garden of containers was going to be a great disappointment as against other years. Everything was taking so long to get going, then we had high winds and rain which kept knocking everything down again, – then – what a miracle when we got a really warm spell in June almost overnight everything was transformed, the flowers lifted their heads and everything was alright with the world!

Apricot Shade Begonias and Geranium ‘GeRainbow™ Mixed’

Apricot Shade Begonias and Geranium ‘GeRainbow™ Mixed’

I have quite a lot of Petunia ‘Night Sky’ and used one Easy Fill Hanging Basket and underneath the basket I had a triple stand which I filled with the `Night Sky`. I did understand that they would trail as described in the first summer brochure but on emailing Michael discovered that they didn`t officially trail (this was corrected in the following brochure) but did grow over the sides and also made a good effort to trail. They have been quite a talking point to passersby especially as they always seems to be changing their white flecks on the purple.

On Thursday 4th August we visited the Thompson & Morgan open day at Jimmy`s Farm in Ipswich, Suffolk. My Husband Alan and my 16 year old Grandson Jack had already arrived in Ipswich to have a few days looking around. On arrival at Jimmy`s Farm, we were met by Michael Perry. Alan and Jack went for a tour of the farm while I made my way down to the marquee in the grounds to meet other people who do the trials and also members of Thompson & Morgan who we all knew by name but then put faces to the names.

Plants at the Thompson & Morgan Open Garden

Flower Plants at the Thompson & Morgan Open Garden at Jimmy’s Farm

After an introduction, we had a tour of the grounds where the trial plants were growing and also hanging baskets and containers. It was interesting to see that even there with the professionals they seem to get similar problems that we encounter in our gardens. We were able to take photos, ask questions and make notes. I took photos of some of the plants that I would like to try next year; I did particularly like the new idea of having three plants together that fill a basket. I like the idea of the three fuchsias together and hope they will be available for next summer. We went back to the marquee where we had a cream tea and cakes, and lots of chat to our newfound friends. Thank you Michael and staff for arranging the tea that I know we all enjoyed and were thankful.

After saying our `goodbyes until next time` we were given a bag full of goodies, vegetable and flower seeds – just makes me want to get started all over again – Incredicrop® fertiliser and three plants, Blechnum ‘Volcano’, Viburnum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ and Sambucus ‘Black Tower’. I am really looking forward to seeing these grow over the course of next year and the future. As we were staying in a hotel until the Saturday, I took the plants out of their box and used the top of my craft box to fill with water so I could water them and kept them in the cool of the bathroom. They all arrived home safe and sound and are now looking good in their new coloured pots.

Blechnum ‘Volcano’, Viburnum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ and Sambucus ‘Black Tower’

Blechnum ‘Volcano’, Viburnum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ and Sambucus ‘Black Tower’

As we are reaching the middle of August and already the evenings are drawing in, I hope we all get many more happy sunny gardening days to enjoy before we have to think about winter. Keep safe and well everyone, until the next time ………..

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Gardening in springtime

I am slightly behind with my blog this time, as after tests my husband Alan has been diagnosed with a rare cancer and the only hospital that deals with this in the South of England is St. Georges in London.  He is waiting for a date for an operation and will spend five days there.  Hopefully when all this is over we will be able to enjoy the summer, but I shall miss my right hand man in the garden for a while. He is already building my two tier and three tier stands, baskets and containers ready for me to fill, and checking the watering system we have in the front and back gardens.

Jean Willis' back garden

Jean’s back garden

The last storm of the winter ‘Katie’ managed to throw my containers and empty baskets about the garden yet again, including a large container full of daffodils which was very heavy because of the rain – I really can’t see the wind turning that over I thought although some of the daffodils were damaged which was a shame as they were really standing tall. My Andre Rieu tulips have already been out for a month and are really lovely, very straight. The petals opened gradually over the month and proved to be a long lasting tulip even through a snowstorm we had at the end of April. These have now finished flowering and the bulbs are drying off ready for planting later in the year.

Acer & tulips in the snow

Acer in the sun & tulips in the snow

The two greenhouses are full of plug plants which now that the warmer weather is here are really moving along nicely. I have kept them undercover at night because we have had some frosts – even in Bournemouth. There are  lots of garden ready plants to come by the end of May it will be really satisfying to see them all planted in baskets in the garden. The decision to buy some new containers was made as the new ones look a lot nicer and not so battered and faded.

Trough & decking in the snow

Trough & decking in the snow

I am trying something different this year and going to grow five Fuchsia Berry plants it looks quite interesting, and I am looking forward to seeing what the berries taste like when the time comes. I remember when I first grew a passionflower (the one that has an orange egg like fruit). I told Alan that if anything happened to me to tell everyone I had eaten it!  I didn’t know then that you could eat them at that time!
My Clematis ‘Josephine’ on the arch at the top of the garden has started  flowering with big flowers which appear to be green on some and green/pink on others.  I have been feeding them so hopefully they will soon be showing their normal colour pink.  Not sure why this happened though, very strange!
This year I decided to try and grow tomatoes from seed, ‘Akrom’ F1 never tried it before. I picked the three strongest plants and now they are growing nicely on the window sill. Thankfully the weather has turned warmer so will plant them in a grow bag outside. During the last week of April 27th to be exact we were treated to all sorts of weather including ‘Thundersnow’,  the heavier the snow the louder the thunder, very weird. It doesn’t appear to have damaged anything as it only lasted just over an hour. There are a couple of photos of the snow with the Andre Rieu tulips looking pretty and all covered in snow.

Four troughs in the back garden

Four troughs in the back garden

I have been asked to trial some unnamed fuchsias and bidens and also trailing antirrhinums.  At the time of writing they are doing very well; especially as we have had a week of really lovely weather. This weekend is forecast to be cold again, poor plants not sure whether to grow or not! I have already planted up my geraniums into a container with a trellis from Thompson & Morgan, I will train them on the trellis instead of trailing them.  I also planted out the Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’ and within a couple of days Wow! they flowered, and are very pretty too.  Also included in the photos is one of my acers with the morning sun on it looking really lovely this morning. This year I am using Thompson & Morgan incredicompost® I am very pleased with how easy it is to use with no bits and pieces in it like some compost. It usually takes me quite a few minutes taking the pieces of wood and bark out before I can use it but this time I didn’t have to do any of that. We will see how it goes, and I will keep you informed.

Thanks for reading see you next month all being well.  Jean.

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Storm Imogen causing more trouble for our bloggers

As Amanda and Geoff have already mentioned the troubles of Storm Imogen and what it left behind. It took out our fence in the front garden.   On getting up early the next morning discovered that the posts had snapped clean off and one of the panels was swinging out across the public footpath so at 8am just as it was getting light I was trying to hang on to the panel while Alan unscrewed it to make it safe until the gale had died down. What a mess! It ended up with us replacing the complete fence as damage was discovered on two more posts and also the panels.


New fence, finials and water feature


Alan has been busy repainting the new fence and also this time putting in gravel boards which have been painted with a rubber solution paint and also the posts at the bottom in the hope it will stop them from rotting over the next few years. We have now bought some finials to finish the top of the posts. Two of our older grandsons spent the day putting the new fence up for us… A job well done.


Lilies, Tree lilies and Jean with lilies


On checking the border in the front of the fence found that my Tree Lily bulbs thankfully hadn`t been disturbed when putting the new fence in, hopefully they will stay there for a little longer until the better weather gets here. I have attached a few photos of the beautiful tree lilies from last year. I originally had three Clematis on the front fence but I am going to transplant them to a more convenient spot in the back garden, it will also give me more room to make it a proper `border` as it is only 15” wide and before was covered by the Clematis leaves. Does anyone else have a problem with using pencil on the plant labels (you know the ones I mean, flat white ones) it seems that during the winter the weather has wiped the names off!! I also tried using a fibre tip pen but that didn`t work either. It certainly gets frustrating as you can well imagine!


Incredicompost, tulips and Fuchsia berry


I have now received my delivery of incredicompost® which is under cover for the time being, so looking forward to be able to plant my seeds and ready for when the first plug plants arrive.

A few days ago the weather warmed up a little so spent the afternoon cutting back a lot of the plants, clearing spaces ready for the new season and getting rid of weeds… It never ceases to amaze me how fast the weeds grow and appear from nowhere in all sorts of weather with no help from fertiliser. I noticed the Clematis on the arch at the top of the back garden is now in bud and many new shoots on the climbing rose that grows with it. I was very surprised to see some of my tulips already in flower by Valentine`s Day. This year I have planted two packets of 10 tulip bulbs called Andre Rieu which is a slightly darker pink and already showing signs of buds although they will need to get a little taller first.


Peppermint Stick and Fuchsia berry


Just as we thought that the really bad weather had passed, found this morning that there had been very heavy torrential rain with very strong winds overnight. As it got light discovered that several of my empty containers, which had been stacked away for the winter, had been blown across the garden and path.   The weather was still lousy so just left them there until the weather got a little better and we were able to go out and restack them. Thankfully the new fence was still in one piece.

I had noticed that myStrawberry ‘Irrestistible’ which I first had as customer trials a few years ago, getting some leaves so put the window box outside Alan`s workshop where they always do well. Today has been a sunny day and the cold wind has dropped so have cleaned out the dead leaves etc. from the strawberry plants, fed them and a top coat of compost. This year I have bought a raspberry cane ‘Glen Prosen’ so hopefully will get some fruit this year. It will be grown in a container with a frame to support it.

According to the weather forecast it looks like a reasonable weekend so will be able to sort out all the baskets – mainly the easy fill kind – and containers and make sure they are all cleaned. Also I will sow some seeds in pots for the greenhouse. As mentioned previously I only have the plastic kind with no heat so will put the pots on the kitchen windowsill to start them off.

It is now time to put the replacement Garda Falls fountain back in place. The coating on the original one had started to peel back showing the white underneath. The garden centre where I purchased it said they needed to send it back to find out why it had happened.


Central Park, Petunia Frills & Spills and Garda Falls

**Further to my November Blog re Gardening in California and the drought they were experiencing, I am pleased to say they have had at last some measureable rain which is now making a lot of difference to their lawns as they turn green again and the plants showing how they appreciate it. There are a couple of photos, one of Peppermint Stick geranium and one of the lake in Central Park which has been dry for many months, now full of water and the wildlife love it.**

Over the past few days I have started to receive some of my postiplug plants: Fuchsia Berry, the ones where you can eat the fruit once the flower has finished, and Frills and Spills Petunias which always put on such a wonderful show, and have been busy potting them up, so now it begins…………….

Hope all the gardeners enjoy the weekend and are able to make headway in their gardens, most of all enjoy and have fun. `Til the next time………..

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Preparing for the new gardening season

Today Alan (my Husband) has put my 4 foot portable greenhouse up after being stored away for the past 8 months since it was last used. I also have a 2 foot one which just fits nicely together alongside the 4 foot one, close by the kitchen door and will be erected as the first one fills up.   You will see from the photograph that Alan has made a bracket which is fitted to the front of both greenhouses and screwed into the wall, following an unfortunate experience last year when on a very rough day it lifted the greenhouse up together with all the plants! This seems to work very well now against strong winds. Updated 8th February: We have had storm Imogen whistle through today with winds of 60-70 mph here on the South Coast of Bournemouth and thankfully my greenhouse is still standing.

I also have a hexagonal greenhouse which will be near Alan`s workshop. The last two years have been unable to use it as the zip had broken and I was unable to get another cover. Towards the end of last year I managed to find a new one, so now it will used this year for extra room until the plants are big enough to be put in their baskets and containers.

Jean's Greenhouse, chains and shoehanger

Jean’s Greenhouse, chains and shoehanger

A lot of the flowers from last summer seem to have continued flowering through the last three months. Some of the Diascia in the hanging basket just keep going on and on. Erysimum, the everlasting wallflower has been in flower and is still has more flowers to come.

The bulbs that were planted last October in containers have several daffodils which have been flowering since just after Christmas and at the time of writing (the beginning of February) I have tulips in bud, although to be honest it could be a few days before they will flower and then only if the weather warms up and the sun comes out. Until 10 days ago my Lantana was still flowering, we had a very hard frost one night and it was `goodbye` to them. The Eucomis (pineapple lily plant) is shooting well, so have covered it with some new compost in case we get another hard frost.

Jean's Bumblebee Hyacinth, Magnolia 'Susan' and Hyacinth

Jean’s Bumblebee Hyacinth, Magnolia ‘Susan’ and Hyacinth

I have also been sorting out my hanging baskets – do I really have that many? A friend who has moved into a flat gave me some of the original terracotta easy fill plastic baskets, large and also smaller ones which hold six plants round the outside and three or four plants in the top. I have also cleared space for my Incredicompost® which is on order from Thompson and Morgan and is due within the next week, and the first plants should be arriving towards the end of March.   This year I have also purchased two new computer timers for our watering system, the old ones finally gave up and weren`t reliable.

Spring looked as if it had come a little early a couple of days ago. My hyacinths from Thompson & Morgan were in full flower and had been left in the porch with the door open as it was a sunny day. I found three huge bumble bees fighting over the hyacinths one of which had nestled itself right into the flowers. The Magnolia Stellata has one flower out so far, a little early, but still very welcome.

Jean's Erysium, Daffodils and Geraniums

Jean’s Erysium, Daffodils and Geraniums

At the end of each day when I have finished with my gardening tools, I like to clean them with a rag and spray them with a well-known lubricant oil which keeps the tools from getting rusty and always ready for use. In my small shed I have an old shoe hanger where all the small tools, trowel, hand fork etc. are kept. All the chains for the hanging baskets hang on the inside the door and are sprayed with the same lubricant as the tools at the end of the season for protection during the winter. Now if only I could keep my kitchen that tidy…I guess something has to give when you love your garden! Until the next time…Happy Gardening!

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

My love of petunias

Petunia Hanging Basket

Petunia Hanging Basket

I love petunias, they are so bright and colourful and make beautiful displays in hanging baskets and containers.  I use mainly baskets and containers in my garden which are displayed on my decking at the front of my house during the summer.

This year I wanted to do something different with the petunias.  Our local football team AFC Bournemouth had been promoted to the Premier League so I decided to do something in their honour.  I have a stand with three baskets, small, medium and large which stands by my front door.  The Bournemouth colours are black and red so I bought some red double petunias and was able to find some single black petunias which looked just like velvet.  I planted them and stood back to await the results.  Bournemouth Football club sent me a digital photo of their emblem which I enlarged and put in the window at the side of the petunias.  It caused interest amongst neighbours especially those who were supporters including two of my grandchildren.  As you see on the photo I had a hanging basket with the same petunias in just to the right of the stand and they ended up in growing together.



I also grew some very different petunias, a cerise colour with very light leaves which really showed up the colour of the flower and lasted for most of the summer.  Another idea I had was to grow red, white and blue petunias for the fence baskets which worked out very well, and also a red, white and blue triple hanging basket.  Red in the top, white in the middle and blue in the bottom basket.

I have also had success with growing petunias in hanging bags but have learnt from previous disappointments that when I have planted up the bag is to leave it lying flat until they are settled. This seemed to work much better for me this year.   I really like the new kind of petunia which graduates from white in the centre to a deeper colour middle to top of the flower.   A couple of years ago I tried some climbing petunias – Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’ – which were very successful.

Petunia in hanging bag

Petunia in hanging bag

Of course it hasn`t all been success, I got up one morning only to find that the dripper from the watering system had fallen out of one of the baskets and the strong winds we had dried it out completely.   Although I tried very hard to save it I wasn`t able to, and another basket this happened to, I had to cut them right back, soaked it in a bucket of water and in about a month they were all flowering again, so at 77 I still have to ‘live and learn`!

This year I bought some petunias called Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’ they were beautiful shades of yellow, orange and peach.  They lasted throughout the whole summer no matter what the weather did, including some torrential rain and hailstones but after a few days they all just bounced back again.

Petunia 'Peach Sundae'

Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’

I am now wondering which petunias I shall plant for this coming year?  Roll on summer I say.

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

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