I can’t wait for spring!

The T&M spring catalogues arrived this week and I am so excited! I have been choosing my plants for the summer customer trials. I shall concentrate my efforts on two areas – patio containers and hanging baskets and our allotment and greenhouse.

 

Petunia 'Cremissimo', 'Peach Sundae' and Begonia 'Garden Angels'

Petunia ‘Cremissimo’, ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ and Begonia ‘Garden Angels’

 

The theme on our patio is exotic, with year round interest provided by abutilons, ferns, fatsias, phormiums and heucheras so I have planned my selection to complement that: everything citrus coloured including NEW Petunia ‘Cremissimo’ – if its anything like last year’s ‘Peach Sundae’ then it’s going to be stunning! NEW Calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Terracotta’, NEW Petunia ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ and NEW Begonia ‘Garden Angels’, which look like heucheras-on-steroids! I am also going to try my hand at growing Ricinus Communis ‘Impala‘ from seed, Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ bulbs & NEW Curcuma ‘Twister’ tuber to go with the potted ginger lilies and cannas.

 

Calibrachoa 'Kabloom Terracotta', Ricinus communis 'Impala' and Curcuma 'Twister'

Calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Terracotta’, Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ and Curcuma ‘Twister’

 

In the greenhouse we have room for half a dozen cordon tomatoes and a couple of cucumbers, so this year we’re trying Tomato ‘Tutti Fruitti Collection’ for a change, but are sticking to Cucumber ‘Cucino’ as I haven’t found a mini cucumber to rival its productivity. I am fascinated at the thought of edible fuchsia berries so we are having a go at the NEW Fuchsia Berry. More modest trials for the allotment due to time constraints makes us focus on the more unusual, so after tastings at the T&M Trials Open Day last summer, we will try growing Cucamelon ‘Melothria’, Squash [Patty Pans] ‘Summer Mix’ and Courgette ‘De Nice A Fruit Rond’.

 

Tomato 'Rainbow Blend' Cumcumber 'Cucino' and Fuchsia Berry

Tomato ‘Rainbow Blend’ Cumcumber ‘Cucino’ and Fuchsia Berry

 

Of course I couldn’t stop there without buying a couple of things that I have no room for, so NEW Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’ and Digitalis ‘Illumination Ruby Slippers’are on the list too!

David has been busy too, adding a small living wall to the front garden display; an area by our front door of about W:25cms x H:40cm with room for about 16 plants. It’s a north facing aspect so more ferns & grasses, and maybe a couple of hostas and herbs. Installing a drip irrigation system should be easy as the tap is situated conveniently right underneath.

The new planting scheme out front is settling in well, spring bulbs are coming up throughout and I have added a beautiful Hellebore ‘Spring Promise’ and a couple more ferns. David succeeded in finding two lovely tall containers to go either side of the front door for my Christmas present. Once installed securely I planted each one with chinodoxa bulbs for spring colour, three huge tree lilies for summer colour, infant contorted willows for year round interest (these quick growers will have to come out when we can no longer get through the front door) and hakonechloa aurea grass for good measure! Think I’ve been a bit too over-enthusiastic but hey, what the heck. David has created some unique lights too which are attracting lots of comments – using recycled bottles and jars.

 

Caroline's house and front garden

Caroline’s house and front garden

 

Today it has snowed for the first time this winter, and a long time coming too! But never to be distracted from my plant addiction I’m off to the garden centre for my ferns and grasses! Watch this space……..

A blog from Driftwood with a difference!

Most of my blogs are usually about the plants that Driftwood trials for Thompson & Morgan, as one of their Customer Trial Panel gardens, but for a change I thought I’d pen a little bit about the garden’s location and some of the challenges of gardening by the sea!

Driftwood by sea blog

Room with a view

For those not familiar with Driftwood, it’s located between Seaford and Newhaven on the south coast, not that far from Brighton. It’s in the bay you can see, looking out to sea and there is the view from our bedroom window across the fields to the coast. 2015 has seen strong winds, which makes gardening a real challenge through the summer months, keeping the garden pristine for its many garden visitors. Now, as we approach the winter months, there is much to do to put the garden to bed and get it ready for its 15 scheduled openings in 2016, along with its many private visitors and coach parties.

 

It is also quite possible it may appear on a prime time gardening show on national TV too next summer! Watch this space! I like the garden to look a little different each year, as many visitors come back year after year.

Driftwood by sea blog

The central area is still looking quite smart for November, even if it lacks a bit of bright colour. This view across the garden shows a range of lovely shades of green for this time of year!

Driftwood by sea blog

The garden has many different rooms which I have been working on in recent weeks and you can see the 2 rooms on the left of the garden, the cottage garden area in the foreground and the upper patio at the back, tidied up ready for replanting next spring.

Driftwood by sea blog

 

You can see me working on the raised beds in the centre off the garden too, moving plants around to change the overall look. There are 3 Thompson & Morgan blooms looking quite amazing at the moment, they are Rose Garden Party, Alstromeira Peruvian tree Lily and Hydrangea Vanilla Fraise as you can see.

Driftwood by sea blog

 

I’ve got several ball chrysanthemums in the back garden too, but the largest of them was badly hit by the recent winds as you can see. It’s always difficult with the wind so I try and keep the planting as low as possible and create the height with some rusted metal sculptures. If you want to see more on the garden go to Driftwood by Sea.

 

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

Where has this year gone?

Where has this year gone? I used to hate November as it heralded the onset of winter, but since taking up gardening I now feel anticipation as well as a gentle winding down. After a quiet October, November is back to business once again, as I am on the side of Autumn Tidy Up. I like to cut back early flowering perennials to show off the late bloomers. The greenhouse needs a jolly good sweep and rinse now that the tomatoes and cucumbers have all been stripped out, but with the chilli peppers still cropping prolifically, and a family of mice having taken up residence I am loath the disrupt the happy home. I have been able to sort out my seed packets though, allocating easy-to-grow annuals for our 2016 National Gardens’ Scheme Children’s Treasure Hunt prizes, salads for the greenhouse, veggies for the allotment and flowers for the baskets. At this year’s T&M Triallists’ Open Day in August we were given a wide variety of seed packets, some of which I have never heard of so I am looking forward to experimenting next spring.

winter cobwebs

I am wondering what to do with Fuchsia ‘Eruption’ (summer 2015 trial) – shall I take my chances and leave them in their pot in the shelter of the semi-enclosed patio, or shall I defoliate and prune them and overwinter them in the greenhouse? I have never been very good at getting half hardy fuchsias through the winter so we will see……. Begonia Apricot Shades Improved (summer 2015 trials) have mostly been lifted, their tubers drying off for storage, but there is still a glorious burst of colour from one last hanging basket.

Ironically, just as they say it will be the coldest winter for years (who are They incidentally?) I chose this summer to go salvia mad, from large leaved salvia involucrata, Black and Blue and Amistad, to the small shrubby varieties, having always avoided them as semi-hardy. Oh well, I have taken cuttings and will dig up the larger leaved specimens to overwinter in the greenhouse. I don’t have a propagator and the greenhouse is unheated so I have brought the cuttings into my husband’s heated studio workshop. To protect the cuttings from overnight chill I provide bottom heat by placing a hot water bottle between two seed trays, and sit the 9cm pots in the top tray!

late colour

Having cut back the geranium phaeum from around the apple tree I was able to tackle the ivy which had grown into the shrubs beneath. In the process I liberated two cornus Winter Flame (winter 2012/3 trials), their buttery yellow leaves and fiery stems bringing colour to a dark corner. Digitalis Leopardskin and Digitalis Illumination have only just stopped flowering amongst the pulmonarias, cyclamen, alchemilla and Brunnera ‘Starry Eyes’ (spring 2014 trials). I love gardening for shade, it’s so challenging and when you get it right so rewarding, all those contrasting foliage shapes, colours and textures.

contrasting foliage

Since we planted the Dahlias Fox Mixed and Trebbiano (summer 2012 trials) on the allotment this spring they have thrived as never before, as they are in full sun on well-drained soil unlike our semi-shaded clay garden soil at home, and the number of flowers we have cut has run into hundreds!

dahlias

 

Next year we will be adding some new dahlia tubers to the mix. The white cosmos and Californian poppies I grew from T&M seed in our sunroom this March are still flowering alongside, so I feel well encouraged to try annuals from seed next spring.

shady garden

So the gardening year has become protracted to ten active months, December & January being my hibernation period, with infrequent trips to the greenhouse to check on dormant plants and gaze longingly at the awaiting seed packets and trays in anticipation of early February sowing of sweet pea and the first bulbs emerging……. See you then!

An Amazing Year at Driftwood

What an amazing year one of our trial garden owners has had in 2015. Geoff Stonebanks had a triple whammy of a year. Not only did he celebrate the 100th opening of his award winning garden, Driftwood, this month but he also had TV gardener Christine Walkden visit in July, as well as getting his garden featured in The Sunday Telegraph in August. “Not bad” says Geoff “for a small garden (100ft by 40ft) on the south coast.” Geoff’s incredible success does not stop there! He has now seen 12,500 visitors to his patch since 2009 and raised an astonishing £61,500 for charity.

Geoff meeting Christine Walkden

Geoff meeting Christine Walkden

 

While achieving all this, he has been trialling a number of Thompson & Morgan plants over the last 3 years too. Here Geoff tells us of some of his successes in 2015 with some new stock and some old stock. He says “Looking at the new stock of plants, we have had many wonderful comments about the Clematis ‘New Love’ placed in a pot with wire frame. It has flowered profusely throughout the summer and drawn many comments for the visitors.” Rose ‘Sweet Spot® Calypso’ has been greatly admired too with its gorgeous blooms hanging from a pot in the centre of the garden. Another new addition has been the gorgeous Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’, which has looked resplendent in pot under a pear tree, its blooms still glowing in late September. Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ also made a dramatic appearance in Geoff’s garden this summer too with its effervescent blooms brightening up the borders.

Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer'

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’

 

Geoff came up with a fun idea this summer when a friend offered him an old fireplace surround! He placed it against a new fence, planted up and old dining room chair next to it, placed pots of tumbling petunias on the mantle, and bought an old rusty grate and filled it with Thompson & Morgan Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’. The result has been stunning, not to mention a talking point this summer. Geoff tells us the plant that has been asked about the most by visitors to his garden has been the delicate Fuchsia Arboresens or Mexican blueberry! Geoff had 3 plugs, which he placed in individual terracotta pots and they have come on well and the flowers have started to turn to berries and ultimately edible blueberries! Another crowd stopper has been the lovely petunia green edge pink.

Geoff's garden fireplace and Begonia 'Glowing Embers'

Geoff’s garden fireplace and Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’

 

However, when pushed for the most talked about plant this summer Geoff said, “Without doubt the single most commented on plant is the beautiful Buddleja ‘Buzz™ Magenta’. It has hit people in the face the minute they walk into the garden!”

Many of the plants from previous years are still doing well in the garden like the incredible Gazania ‘Sunbathers Tikal’ which Geoff overwintered in a covered side alley last year and its blooms have been drawing many dragonflies next to the pond this season. Another reliable eye catcher is the Alstromeria Peruvian Tree Lily now in its 3rd year and looking amazing all through the year, now on its second flowering this season. Lewisia ‘Elise Mixed’ which was delivered in 2014 has done extremely well this year in both pink and yellow becoming quite large plants now!

Lewisia 'Elise Mixed'

Lewisia ‘Elise Mixed’

 

Geoff’s garden seems to thrive despite its exposed location and the journalist from the Telegraph, Francine Raymond, wrote in her article, “I was overwhelmed and charmed, and wondered how so many plants have fitted into such a perfectly formed space? Geoff’s enthusiasm is catching and he and his amazing garden deserve every visitor that makes their way up his enchanting garden path.”

So if you are in Sussex in 2016 try and get along to see Geoff’s garden and some of T&M’s as well! You can read some great reviews of it on TripAdvisor too. You might even see Geoff’s helper too! Albert the Battersea rescue terrier.

 

Geoff's dog Albert

Geoff’s dog Albert

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

Fuchsia Festival at Driftwood

It’s like a fuchsia festival every summer in my garden! I have been collecting them since inheriting 2 standard specimens from family members, one from my Aunt, Margaret Grindrod, in 2004 (plant pictured in 2005 on left) and one from my father, Ron Stonebanks, in 2007, (plant pictured in  2007 on right).  My own enjoyment of fuchsias has clearly stemmed from these very first two. Dad and Auntie Margaret can be seen, sat together in my courtyard garden in North London, back in 2003 before we moved to Bishopstone, the following year.

fuchsias at driftwood

They had been very keen gardeners themselves, so after their deaths, I needed to make sure the plants did well and lived on in my new garden here on the south coast. Dad’s, I am led to believe is an Empress of Prussia and my Aunt’s a Geneii. My mother tells me that my Dad had bought the standard Empress for their ruby wedding anniversary back in 1990. Today, I still have both their original plants and have since propagated many specimens from them to either sell on when I open for the National Gardens Scheme every summer, or indeed to plant additional specimens in my own amazing garden, Driftwood.

fuchsia winston churchillIn addition to their original plants, I probably now have over 20  different fuchsias and maybe over 50 different plants, a mixture of trailing, standard and bushes both in the ground, in pots or raised beds! Some hardy and some not! They are the perfect addition to my coastal garden and one in particular, Winston Churchill. This variety thrives really well in my front garden, which directly faces the sea and takes the brunt of the salt laden winds we have here! You can see it protected by the upturned railway sleepers acting as wind breaks.

fuchsia festivalThe back garden has been described as an exuberant yet immaculate seaside garden, split into several garden rooms. It has an eclectic palette, creating a layered tapestry of coloured plantings, beautifully integrating wooden and rusted metal features with the landscape. The heavy, dense plantings (over 600 plants) with no lawn and no exposed soil create an illusion of a much bigger garden. Fuchsias delicate and intricate blooms have always drawn attention from the 10000 plus visitors to the garden in recent years. They love a story and to hear the provenance of the plants, so the one to tell of the Empress of Prussia and Geneii, go down very well. In the picture to the left, you can see one of the Geneii here on the left an Empress on the right with magellicana versicolour centre and Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground and Riccartonii in the background! To the right, a flower from Empress of Prussia.

 

In 2013 Thompson and Morgan sent me some Duke of Wellington plugs and 3 are doing really well in the garden now and are very easy to grow and seem to cope well with what the weather throws at them here. As is the stunning Quasar that were sent as a trial plant in 2014. Their enormous blooms making a real statement in any garden.  I also inherited some lovely terracotta wall pots from my Aunt as well and each summer I plant them up with two of my favourite fuchsias, Pink Temptation (a bushy, trailing and floriferous fuchsia with bright, fresh looking flowers) and  Lena ( a medium-sized deciduous shrub of open habit ) They seem to flower all summer long and look so dramatic tumbling out over the wall creating a stunning display of mini ballerinas!

fuchsia duke of wellington

That said, another pretty bloom that looks great in wall pots tumbling down is Ballet Girl which I have had in the garden for the last 3 years! It really is amazing the different colour palettes to be had with fuchsias. Another pretty one we’ve had for a few years is Miss California, another that does not seem to mind the weather conditions down here on the coast! A great coloured variety that looks great in any bed, mine are grown in a raised bed and large pot, are Lady in Black with stunning dark flower heads! No matter what the type, the bees seem to love fuchsias and flock to them in the garden each summer.

fuchsia variety

Last summer I decided to create a bed dominated by fuchsias as they just do not let you down with their beautiful, long lasting displays in the garden! The 2 images above are  Ballet Girl and Duke of Wellington. Other beds last summer had  mixes of Riccartonni,  Lady Boothby, Empress of Prussia, and Lady in Black, which looked amazing all through the summer.

fuchsia varietyLast year I bought a new hardy fuchsia, Versicolour Magellicana and put one in the front garden and one in a raised bed in the back garden and both have done really well flowering prolifically until the first frosts! Here you can see it dominate the raised bed with a Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground.

I would have no hesitation in recommending fuchsias to any garden owner wanting long lasting and interesting colour in their garden in 2015. There are so many to choose from that there can be no question of not being able to match the colour palette you want to create.

 

So come gardeners across the UK go out and plant some stunning fuchsias for the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia Festival 2015!

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

ITV and new trial plants – update from Driftwood

Since my last blog for Thompson & Morgan, back at the beginning of July, so much has happened in the garden! Not only have we seen over 2,200 visitors over the summer, but have raised over £16,000 for charity, this year alone! The icing on the cake came when ITV’s Good Morning Britain filmed live from the garden on the 14th July. All weather girl, Laura Tobin’s, 9 reports that day came live from the garden, here in Sussex. Overall the garden had 10 minutes coverage on the show. I was also very fortunate to be interviewed twice by Laura on live ITV TV too! All the details of the film shoot along with the gossip can be seen on my web site .

ITV

Then, in early October, the new local TV station in the Brighton area, Latest TV, agreed to a weekly gardening segment of about 10 minutes on their Latest Homes Live show each week. So far they have filmed a dozen segments in the garden and aired about half of them! Once again they can be viewed via my web site!

ITV

Dahlia ‘Fire & Ice’

All this excitement along with seeing the wonderful trial plants from Thompson & Morgan flourishing in the garden too.  All these images shown were taken in mid to late October 2014 and the flowers have looked quite amazing this year! Some from 2013, like the Dahlia Fire & Ice, Rose Garden Party, Peruvian tree lilly and Fuchsia Duke of Wellington have looked utterly stunning for a second year!  The Osteospermum Tresco Purple, delivered last Autumn really took off in the spring and are still looking amazing in November in several clumps around the garden.

ITV

Rose Garden Party

New for 2014 were the Penstemon Wedding bells which flowered very late in the season. The Antirrhinum Candy cane have been amazing as well in white, red and yellow.  The stunning red ones are looking incredible with the Begonia Crispa Marginata in front of it in a pot in the garden.  Other amazing flowers have been the enormous blooms on the fuchsia Quasar, which have had many comments from garden visitors. There is a clump of osteospermum bronze as visitors entered the garden and they had many positive comments, looking amazing throughout the later summer months.

ITV

Begonia Crispa Marginata

Winter is fast approaching and the strong winds and rain here on the south coast has meant a real change in the garden in the last few days but there has been time to get out and start to tidy it up. First on the list was the trimming of the 3 large New Zealand Flax in the garden, which you can see me working on here.

ITV

There have been some new plants delivered this autumn to trial, like the Hydrangea Love, Camelia Cupido, Clematis ‘New Love‘ and Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’ , all now planted out in the garden ready to amaze visitors in 2015. So here’s to a great year in 2015 both for the Thompson & Morgan plants and the garden generally.

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

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