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
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’
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’
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’
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
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.
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.
In 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.
The 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!
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.
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.
Last 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!
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 .
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since writing my last blog for Thompson & Morgan about the plants on trial at driftwood earlier in the year, the garden has moved on at a pace and a half! We have already had 2 public open days, one for the National Gardens Scheme and one for a local trail which I organise for the local Mayor. The garden has already seen over 400 visitors in 2014, with 14 open days to go! Amazingly, this year, driftwood has appeared as a 4-page feature in both an English national gardening magazine and one in France too! Sussex Life Magazine listed it as one of the top 25 gardens to see in Sussex for 2014 too which was a real accolade! Full details of events and open days can be found on my website.
So, what’s happening in the garden right now, with regard to the Thompson & Morgan products I have either purchased or trialling?
Here is a view over the pond in June with the clump of dazzling Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ in the foreground, a stunning plant I bought last year, which has just gone berserk this summer as you can see!
Foxglove “Illumination Pink”
We have several plants that came as part of the trial in 2013, which are doing really well again this season. The Alstroemeria Peruvian Tree Lilly is amazing in the pot I planted them in last spring! I was recently on Ideal World Shopping with Michael Perry via a phone link promoting the product! The colours are quite amazing and a real eye catcher in the garden for visitors, many of whom have been impressed and said they would be purchasing them.
Alstroemeria Peruvian Tree Lilly
Another plant doing well is the Rose ‘Garden Party’ that I planted, which has already produced many pretty small flowers as you can see! The Osteospermum ‘Tresco Purple’ from last autumn has also come in to its own in the courtyard garden under the apple tree with dozens of pretty flowers appearing in recent weeks!
Rose ‘Garden Party’ and Osteospermum ‘Tresco Purple’
Some of the real stunner’s this year however, have been the petunias we have been trialling and you can see how amazing they look! Some of the most talked about are the ‘Crazytunia Green with Envy’, ‘Preppy Cerise’ and ‘Preppy Blue’.
The stunning Gazenia ‘Sunbather Tikal’ is another of this year’s trial plants and the flowers that are starting to come out are real eye catchers too!
Gazenia ‘Sunbather Tikal’
The Peruvian Tree lilies which started off as 3 bulbs and now, in the same pot, are producing 7 stems of beautiful blooms.
It is lovely to be able to grow some of these new plants in the garden and be amongst the first to see how they develop and especially to hear the comments from visitors.
More to come later in the year!
In this, my latest blog for Thompson & Morgan, I am going to bring you up to date with the trial products here at Driftwood that were delivered between September and April to my exposed coastal plot here on the south coast!
If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know that it is not an ideal site for many plants and shrubs, due to the salt laden winds, of which there have been many over this period! Driftwood will open to the public on 16 days this summer and by appointment as well between June and September. Over 200 people have already booked to visit by appointment, which is quite incredible. Full details on my garden and all its openings for charity, can be found at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk Amazingly, Sussex Life Magazine is listing it as one of the top 25 gardens to see in Sussex in their May issue and it will have a 4 page feature in a national gardening magazine, Garden Answers, in their May issue.
Some of the plants delivered that have been a great success, that this year’s visitors will be able to see, are the Osteospermums, Snow Pizie, Tresco Purple and jucundum var. compactum. They were all planted out in containers and a few in the ground last autumn and have survived what the weather has thrown at them. All are growing well but obviously have yet to flower.
All the Golden Lysimachia were potted up in the heated greenhouse upon arrival and kept there all winter. They have not grown much so far, all about 1 inch tall at present, but still looking healthy and will hopefully grow more before being planted out in the garden before long!
Two lots of tulips were delivered last autumn as well, Silver Parrot and Ice Cream. Whilst the latter have yet to fully open, the former are absolutely stunning in the garden at the moment.
The Geranium hardy doubles are all, just starting to develop and leaves starting to form, so hopefully they will look wonderful by the time we open in June!
Tulip ‘Ice Cream’
Regular readers will know that I was one of the trial gardens in 2013 too and some of last years plants have had to deal with the horrific winter we have had here, with the winds and salt. Among the amazing survivors are are alstromeira, Peruvian Tree Lily. They have survived well in the large pot in the garden and are already starting to flower as you can see!
The tree lily, leopard lionheart are already over 18 inches tall with many more than the 3 heads we had last summer, they will surely look stunning again in a few weeks once they flower.
Tree Lily ‘Leopard Lionheart’
When the 2 fruit trees, Plum Claude Reine and Cox’s orange Pippin arrived last spring I was very concerned for their well-being. I already had two well established pear and apple trees in the garden, but I did not have any sheltered area to plant these new additions and I did not think would do well. The apple tree produced 2 fruit last year and amazingly, they have survived really well and are already starting to shoot as you can see.
Plum ‘Claude Reine’
Apple ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’
The fuchsia Duke of Wellington has also done well through the winter and is already showing good signs of growth. Several of the Viola Unique collection have also come through the winter in pots and have started to flower again.
Fuchsia ‘Duke of Wellington’
Two plants I purchased myself from T&M last year are also doing really well, the Foxglove Illumination Pink is already well established again and the Buddleja Jazz are also looking great with lots of new growth.
Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’
Overall the garden is looking the best it has ever looked at this time of the year which I’m sure is due to the amount of rain we had in January through March. So, if you live in, or are visiting Sussex this Summer, be sure to come and take a look!
Nearly all the trial plants I am to receive for 2014 have arrived and I will be updating you on their progress later in the year!
You can read more about Geoff and his blog ‘Driftwood by sea’ at http://www.geoffstonebanks.co.uk/blog.html
On a resent visit to Foxton Locks near Market Harborough, I saw a dome made up of willow with a seat. I was so impressed with it, I thought it would be nice to make a willow dome for the green belt park area where we live. I am involved in the RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood and Loughborough in Bloom and look after the green belt area.
The willow dome
I decided to make one myself and, after getting the willow together, I set about making the dome by planting the willow, so that it would grow into a living shelter. Once the seat had been put in, the job was done!
The finished dome
We have also recently started a wildlife area by a stream which has a lot of trees and bushes in, putting up nest boxes and also bug boxes for bees and insects.
Ready to put up the bird boxes (I’m in the high-vis jacket!)
At the moment I’m getting an area ready with bee and butterfly flowers, using Thompson & Morgan’s Butterfly Mix.