Fabulous Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ tipped for success in 2017: will this year’s cover outdo last year’s best seller?
T&M will give customers DOUBLE their money back if they don’t agree that this is the best fuchsia they’ve ever grown.
When Paul Hansord, horticultural director of Thompson & Morgan gifts the UK’s largest online plant retailer, saw Petunia ‘Night Sky’ last year, he immediately tipped it for success and featured it on the front cover of T&M’s spring catalogue. Sales of the spectacularly different petunia, which was a world first in flower patterning, exceeded all expectations with over 175,000 plants despatched last season. Retailers commented that they could have sold many, many more plants than stock levels allowed.
This year a fabulous new fuchsia is gracing the cover of Thompson & Morgan’s spring 2017 catalogue, and forecasts suggest that it will be the mail order specialist’s best seller for next season. Paul Hansord says: “I’m so convinced of the performance and flower power of Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ that I’ll give our customers double their money back if they don’t believe that this is the best fuchsia they’ve ever grown!”*
Fuchsia ‘icing Sugar’
Paul’s confidence in Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ is understandable. With its stunning frosted purple and cerise blooms and its compact habit, it is perfect for large patio pots and eye-catching border planting. Thousands of blooms are produced over the summer on a tidy cushion of dense foliage giving gardeners a great value, full season of colour. What also makes this fuchsia so special is that the rich, true fuchsia-pink sepals unfurl to reveal an unusual two-tone, twisting central corolla that has an intriguing frosted sheen to it.
Geoff Stonebanks, gardening writer, blogger and creator/owner of The Driftwood Garden near Lewes in Sussex, trialled ‘Icing Sugar’ for T&M last year and says: “The beautiful new fuchsia, ‘Icing Sugar’, certainly lives up to its name; a delicate and frosted gem.” Geoff added: “As an avid fuchsia lover, this delicate and frosted “Icing Sugar”, on show in my garden for the first time this summer, is utterly stunning.”
Petunia ‘Night Sky’
Petunia ‘Night Sky’ has not, as is often the case after a loud launch and high initial sales, dropped off the best seller list and T&M forecasts the continued success of this very special petunia. Unlike the markings of other varieties, which can be inconsistent, the speckled stars of ‘Night Sky’ are consistent across all the blooms with every flower offering a different astral constellation. When Petunia ‘Night Sky’ was first introduced, some gardeners speculated that the images of had been digitally ‘enhanced’ until they grew the plants and saw the stunning markings for themselves.
Petunias and fuchsias are top of the UK’s list of favourite bedding and container plants and consistently come first in consumer surveys. With Petunia ‘Night Sky’ winning a People’s Choice Competition at Thompson & Morgan’s show garden at Jimmy’s Farm, in Suffolk last summer, there is every hope that Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ will have similar success as T&M’s lead cover item this year. Paul Hansord’s confidence in offering a ‘double your money back’ guarantee would suggest that he is in no doubt that it will be a big hit in gardens this summer.
For information on how to grow fuchsias, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/growfuchsias
*see website for terms and conditions.
Matthew Oliver, of RHS Hyde Hall, rows hollowed-out UK record-breaking pumpkin in daring stunt
Had aliens landed in East Anglia this morning, they might have been forgiven for thinking that they’d stumbled upon some very strange goings on. Windy weather had caused traffic chaos on the A12 and A14 in the Ipswich area and grown men and women were rowing hollowed out pumpkins on a lake in Essex.
Matthew Oliver, horticulturist at RHS Hyde Hall, Chelmsford, not content with having successfully grown the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK, decided to turn his record-breaker into a boat and to attempt to row it across the lake at the RHS Essex site today.
Matt Oliver and his Giant Pumpkin Boat!
Not only did Matthew launch his 1,333.8lb (95 stone or 605kg) pumpkin, he also managed to persuade 3 others to get aboard other giant pumpkins which were huge, but hadn’t grown quite big enough to break any records. Taking part were Steve Usher of Motorboat & Yachting magazine, dressed as a pirate, and 2 intrepid ladies who work at RHS Hyde Hall and who had daringly volunteered to (wo)man two of the potentially un-lake-worthy ‘boats’.
Matt Oliver scooping the pumpkin out & Matt and Paul Hansord scooping the bottom!
Having hollowed out the giant pumpkins, the valiant sailors set off, using oars to propel the cumbersome craft across the designated course. Prior to the event, Matthew had voiced some concerns about the ‘floatability’ of the giant pumpkins and how he might extract the waterlogged pumpkin hulls from the lake should they sink.
Matt and Paul Hansord from Thomspon & Morgan scooping out the bottom
However, his fears were unfounded and, whilst one pumpkin foundered at the start of the course, the other 3 made it safely over the finishing line.
Sailing on the lake in a pumpkin boat!
The seeds from Matthew’s record-breaking pumpkin will be available for purchase from Thompson & Morgan ready for next year’s growing season.
Anyone who would like to try their hand at growing a record-breaking giant pumpkin, can find Thompson & Morgan’s top tips at www.thompson-morgan.com/giantpumpkins
Matt Oliver wins again!
Pumpkin Facts & Figures
The pumpkin seed was bought for £1,250 at auction by Paul Hansord from Ipswich-based plant and seed merchant, Thompson & Morgan. The seed came from the then heaviest pumpkin in the world, which weighed 2,323 lb (166 stone) grown by Beni Meier from Switzerland in 2014.
The seed was entrusted to RHS horticulturist, Matthew Oliver back in April. Matthew then spent seven months nurturing the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed in the hope of breaking a new world record.
At the official weigh-in at Southampton on 8 October, the Pumpkin Commonwealth confirmed that Matthew’s pumpkin was the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK at 1,333.8 lbs
After the official weigh-in the pumpkin returned to Hyde Hall and took centre stage in a Halloween-themed pumpkin display.
The seeds will be harvested from the UK giant pumpkin with the intention that they will be available to purchase from Thompson & Morgan in time for next year’s growing season.
Say Happy Christmas with Hyacinths; the nation’s favourite festive floral display
Read about the bloody origins of the UK’s favourite Christmas plant
For the 10th year in a row, Thompson & Morgan, the UK’s largest online plant retailer, is announcing that the scented hyacinth will be the Christmas Number One.
Early sales analysis of T&M’s seasonal gift catalogue shows that whilst sales of traditional Christmas plants such as amaryllis and poinsettia continue to rise steadily, the runaway favourites are the hyacinths. This is despite a number of brand-new additions to the Thompson & Morgan top 10 Christmas sellers for 2016, such as a stunning white Princettia® ‘Pure White’ and a spectacular new variegated Poinsettia.
Hyacinth ‘Pink Pearl’ & Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’ Christmas Gifts
Not everyone is aware of the bloody origins of the nation’s favourite bulbs. An ancient legend describes how two of the Greek gods, Apollo and Zephyr, admired a handsome young Greek man called Hyakinthos. When Zephyr, the god of the west wind, saw that Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos how to throw a discus, he became so jealous that he blew the discus back at the young man. It hit him in the head and killed him. The legend says that a flower grew from his blood and that Apollo, the god of the sun, named it after him.
Whilst many will remember with nostalgia keeping their hyacinth bulbs in the dark warmth of the airing cupboard to encourage them to flower earlier than nature intended, these days storage methods are more modern. Bulbs are stored in warm conditions, usually from July to August, then potted up and put back into a growing room under very specific conditions of humidity and temperature until they are ready to be dispatched. This means that the bulbs are fully ‘forced’ and ready to burst into flower just in time for the Christmas period, giving the gift of spring during the cold and gloomy winter months when it’s most needed.
Amaryllis ‘Amadeus’ & Long-lasting Hibiscus ‘Festive Flair’
Scented Hyacinth ‘Pink Pearl’ has been on T&M’s Christmas gift best seller list ever since the mail order specialist, best known as the UK’s premier mail order supplier of seeds and plants, launched its Christmas gift lines back in 1999. Thompson & Morgan Gifts Manager, Alice Speedie says: “While we’re seeing increased interest in new exotics like hibiscus and Dendrobium orchids for Christmas display, it seems you can’t beat a bit of yuletide tradition. We supply our hyacinths in bespoke containers, and give them the VIP treatment in order to guarantee quick colour and scent soon after delivery.”
Christmas gift plants such as hyacinths are great value; after enjoying them for several weeks in the house over the festive period, the bulbs can be planted out in the garden and enjoyed in springtime for years to come. They truly are gifts that keep on giving!
For tips on how to prolong the life of your indoor Christmas plants, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/bloomforlonger
Luxury Handmade Chocolate Box & Classic minlight Candles
Thompson & Morgan’s Christmas gifts catalogue offers a huge array of indoor and outdoor plants, festive cut flowers, ‘gifts for him’ and ‘gifts for her’ which include scented candles and chocolates. All items are delivered direct to friends and family if preferred, and are all presented in gift wrapping or decorative pots with a personalised gift message, providing stress-free Christmas shopping from the comfort of home with no need to hit the high street. If you are a last minute shopper, you can place orders right up until 9am on Tuesday 20th December for guaranteed delivery in time for Christmas.
For a catalogue call 0844 573 1818 or view the range online at www.thompson-morgan.com/christmas-gifts
Is the cauliflower, the most under-appreciated member of the brassica family, making a comeback?
After a number of sightings in the national press recently, we thought we’d cast a spotlight on this often overlooked – and overcooked – traditional British vegetable.
In The Times yesterday, the chef, Yottam Ottolenghi, described the cauliflower as ‘one of the most exciting vegetables in the world’! This might be going slightly over the top, but the article also mentions that Marks & Spencer has reported that sales of cauliflowers are up 68% on last year. So there are clearly some people that are finding uses for this much-maligned brassica.
Cauliflower White Step – perfect for smaller gardens
So what can you do with cauliflower other than smother it with cheese sauce? A quick search on the internet gives a number of tasty-sounding recipes. Yottam Ottolenghi backs up his cauliflower campaign with a number of surprisingly ‘exciting’ recipes. Fried cauliflower with pine nuts, capers and chili sounds delicious, as does a recipe of his featured recently in The Telegraph for a smoky cauliflower frittata. A friend of mine often roasts roasted cauliflower florets with curry spices as an out-of-the-ordinary accompaniment to her Sunday roast. All very mouth-watering. However, I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the random recipe ideas of cottage pie with leek and cauliflower mash or cauliflower crust pizza!
To enjoy a really tasty cauliflower, you need to grow your own. The great thing about growing cauliflowers is that they can be grown year round. The main sowing period is March to May, although you can sow them in January or February under glass for earlier crops. Cauliflowers do best in very fertile soil so digging in well-rotted manure before planting will help the plants’ growth. Vital to healthy and productive cauliflower plants is firm soil around the roots, so be sure to tread the earth down before and after planting/transplanting. Of course, it’s important to water plants well in dry weather – and don’t forget to give them some high nitrogen fertiliser to boost the formation of those nice bright white cauliflower curds.
Thompson & Morgan offers a wide range of cauliflower seeds. They come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. It’s also important to mention that they have the reputation of being high in fibre and a good source of vitamin C. They are also thought to contain cancer-fighting bioflavonoids.
Try Aalsmeer, a winter-hardy cauliflower that will be ready to eat in April and White Step, a compact cauli for smaller gardens – each head is just the right size to serve 2 people.
Hey, look what I grew! Ok, so it doesn’t look like much, but these are the first few blueberries from my blueberry plant. I had them on my cereal and although they weren’t huge, they were really sweet and all the more delicious because I grew them myself! And frankly, if I can grow blueberries, then anyone can.
Let me be clear; I’m not really a gardener. I don’t have the time to nurture my plants; I tend to just stick them in a pot or in a spare place in one of my rather weedy beds, and hope for the best.
However, on the advice of my mum (she’s a proper gardener), I wrapped my blueberry plant in some voile netting that I had left over from making a fancy dress outfit for my daughter in an attempt to keep the birds off any blueberries that might appear. They were probably put off as much by the ghoulish appearance of the bush as the inaccessiblity of the growing berries!
That’s a fine mesh you’ve got us into…
I simply draped the material around the bush and secured it with some clothes pegs – nothing fancy or remotely expensive or scientific. But it seemed to do the trick!
Voile netting and clothes pegs – the perfect bird deterrent
I started to notice that there were some blueberries on the plant towards the end of the summer and because of the hot weather, I did actually make sure that I watered the plant fairly regularly. I’d read on the Thompson & Morgan website that it was important to water blueberry plants near cropping time as it helps to ‘plump the berries’.
I’ve only got one plant so I haven’t had an enormous crop, but I can’t tell you what a pleasure it’s been to wander up the garden in the morning to pick a handful of delicious blueberries to have on my morning cereal. And the fact that they’re home-grown really does make them taste sweeter!
Plump, juicy blueberries