Expert tips for bigger and better sweet peas

3 simple tips for bigger sweet peas

Left to their own devices sweet pea plants will work their way up their supports, going on to produce masses of colour and scent. However, with a few simple training tricks you can turn an every-day display into a real show-stopper!

My tips here will encourage the fastest growth and the biggest blooms on the longest stems. You can see the difference my training tricks bring about in the photo below.

 

Training difference in sweet peas

Training difference in sweet peas.

 

Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ in the left hand pot has been left to its own devices, while Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ on the right has received some regular attention from me – and what a difference it makes. When I get home this evening I’ll have to add the next tier to the Tower Pot frame, it will be another couple of weeks before I have to do that for ‘Turquoise Lagoon’.

If you want the same results, simply carry out my three easy maintenance tips:

Remove side shoots: Check plants every few days for side shoot development. These divert energy away from the main stem, which delays flowering and reduces eventual flower size. Use snips or your thumb and forefinger to pinch out shoot growth as close to the main stem as possible.

 

Remove sideshoots

Remove sideshoots

Remove tendrils: Sweet pea plants put a lot of energy into producing tendrils and latching on to available supports. Divert that energy back into the main stem by snipping off tendrils before they latch on to a support.

 

Remove tendrils

Remove tendrils

 

Tie in: With no tendrils to hold up stems you’ll have to provide an alternative. I use sweet pea rings to keep my stems in place. They are quick and easy to put around both stems and supports, with plenty of room left between them. Therefore, avoiding any stem damage, and the rings can be used again and again. It is so much easier to work with than fiddly twine or raffia.

Sweet pea rings

Sweet pea rings

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Hydrangeas – Michael Perry picks his favourites!

Shrubs are the stalwarts of the border- they last for years and years, fill gaps and offer decorative foliage AND flowering! And, what better place to start than Hydrangeas– one of the most versatile shrubs you can find, and I’m going to show how comprehensive the range is too!

  1. Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’

This Hydrangea gives a colour explosion in the garden right from the word go! The foliage is long, elegant and the same colour as your favourite chocolate bar! This foliage changes with every few weeks that passes; from chocolate-brown to deep green, and then it surprises you by transforming to the most delectable amber and golden shades! ‘Hot Chocolate’ is a robust hydrangea which really fills the borders, and even performs in poor soils!

 

Hydrangea 'Hot Chocolate' and Hydrangea 'Endless Summer - Bloomstruck'

Hydrangea ‘Hot Chocolate’ and Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Bloomstruck’

  1. Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’

If you really want maximum flower power from your Hydrangea shrubs, then ‘Endless Summer’ is a real breakthrough! Usually, a Hydrangea macrophylla will only flower on old wood, which means they set their flower buds for flowering in the previous summer. ‘Endless Summer’ not only does this, but it ALSO flowers on new wood, so you get a double whammy! Remember this type of Hydrangea (macrophylla) also gives different coloured blooms on different soils; expect blue on acid and pink on alkaline!

  1. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’

This type of Hydrangea is a bit more woody than most, but with that comes extra hardiness, resilience and an easier pruning method! Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ is short, compact and makes a rounded, neat specimen for the border or pretty patio pots. The snowball flowerheads almost cover the plants throughout the summer, and gently turn to bubblegum pink as the season progresses!

 

Hydrangea 'Bobo' and Hydrangea 'Miss Saori'

Hydrangea ‘Bobo’ and Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’

  1. Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’

Undoubtedly the star of the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014, ‘Miss Saori’ was the winner of Plant of the Year, thanks to its crystallized-effect, two-tone flowers, which look like mini tiaras! A strong-growing plant, where the flower colour is less affected by different soil types too, you know you’ll be enjoying the colour you were expecting!

  1. Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’

This Hydrangea macrophylla has a distinctive appearance; with mophead blooms where each floret is curled like a piece of popcorn! An easy to grow shrub for sun or shade, great for small gardens or large patio containers! Enjoy pink blooms on alkaline, blue blooms on acid!

 

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer - Blushing Bride' and Hydrangea 'Ayesha'

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Blushing Bride’ and Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’

 

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Gardening workout

With the nation’s apparent obsession with gyms, healthy eating and trying to lose weight, have you considered just how much exercise that you can do carrying out the simplest of garden tasks. We all ache after a long session of hoeing, digging or weeding and that’s probably because we’ve used muscles that we don’t normally and, providing we’ve been sensible, and safe, then it has probably done us some good!

With just a few simple garden tools you can burn off the calories, tone up your body and at the same time, have a well tended, beautiful garden, be it flowers or vegetables. Here are a few ideas to get you started and all at a fraction of the price of a gym subscription!

 

Cutting and digging

 

Hand trowels and forks will tone up your triceps and biceps too when you are using these for planting and weeding your beds and borders.

Using Secateurs, Grass Shears and Pruning Saws is the best exercise you’ll get for strengthening your forearms, wear gloves though – no point pruning yourself too!

If you want to improve your chest muscles (pectorals and lats) then trim hedges and shrubs with a pair of shears and clip your lawn edges with edging shears too, although don’t take on too much at once as you will soon lose interest and won’t want to finish the job!

 

Raking and enjoying the garden

 

You can’t beat using Loppers in the garden for those tougher pruning jobs and it’s a great way of working out your biceps, although don’t be tempted to use them to cut thicker branches than they can handle, you won’t get a clean cut and you might well break them – use a pruning saw instead.

If you want to improve your legs then simply dig! Using a garden fork or spade to dig over larger areas, be it a vegetable plot or a large flower bed, will give you lots of exercise and will burn off loads of calories too. If you haven’t got a huge plot to dig over then try an edging blade to keep your lawn in shape.

Lastly, and by no means least, your back, the bit that holds everything in place, be careful with it, you can’t get a new one (yet!). We all know to lift heavy things with a straight back and bent knees etc but it is so easy to quickly bend over, grab something – and then hurt yourself! For more gentle working, use a rake on beds, or a lawn rake to pull out moss from your lawn or just a leaf rake to clear up mess in your garden.

 

Wheelbarrowing and pruning

 

Of course you can combine things when you use some tools, hoeing will use your back and arms, wheeling a barrow will work out your back and legs, trying to stretch whilst you are working will also help with flexibility and importantly, start slowly each time, allow your muscles to warm up before you tackle the bigger jobs. You wouldn’t leap into a heavy gym session without first warming up and you shouldn’t rush out into the garden for a hard day’s graft without warming up to it either. Maybe walk around the garden first and work out your plan of action – preferably with a cup of tea, shrug your shoulders a few times in a circular motion to loosen yourself up a bit – put the tea down first, and then start with the easier jobs first. Don’t try to do everything at once either, working a bit more the next day will help to loosen up those aching muscles rather than overdoing it. After all, “Loam wasn’t built in a day”!

Lazy days

Just to give you a rough idea of what working in the garden will help you achieve, below is a list of approximate calories per hour burned whilst performing some simple garden jobs, these are only rough figures that I’ve gleaned from the internet and will vary from to person:

Average calories burned per hour – based on a 10 stone person

Carrying heavy loads 490

Chopping logs quickly 1070

Collecting grass or leaves 250

Digging 320

Mowing lawn with a push-along mower 280

Mowing lawn with a ride-on mower 150

Planting seedlings/shrubs 250

Raking lawn 250

Shovelling 570

Pruning shrubs 280

Weeding 280

Above all else, remember that your garden is also to be enjoyed, it’s all very well spending loads of time on a gardening/exercising regime, but you’ve grown all your beautiful flowers for a reason – so take time to relax and enjoy it too!

 

I have been gardening since I was knee high to my Grandad, he taught me as much about gardening when I was a nipper as I learnt at school about reading and writing! I have been working as a self employed gardener/landscaper for approximately ten years. I have a passion for gardening, growing things is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do. I would like to share with you some of my experiments and who knows, they might just work!

Don’t put up with inflated onion pricing. Grow your own and save £££s

With news that the wholesale price of onions is set to rise by 60% in the coming weeks (Daily Mail 14 March), Thompson & Morgan is advising gardeners that there has never been a better time to grow your own onions from spring-planting sets.

The Thompson & Morgan onion range not only offers an economical solution to rising prices; better flavours, better bulb size and better storage life can be had too.

 

Onions

 

The wholesale price hike has been blamed on a poor 2015 harvest, brought about by a hot summer in Europe’s main production areas, which led to bulbs ‘bolting’ (running to seed) in the field before a late harvest due to a wet autumn. Onions that do make it to supermarket shelves will be smaller in size, with larger bulbs fetching a premium price.

Thompson & Morgan’s spring planting onion sets have been specially heat treated for 20 weeks to help prevent summer bolting and extend their growth period, leading to bigger yields and bigger bulbs at the end of the season.

Crops harvested in late summer can be prepared for storage and used right through winter, or until stocks last. Thompson & Morgan has 13 product options for spring planting onion sets, including brown, white and red options as well as mixed collections for a varied harvest.

 

Onion 'Hercules' & Onion 'Golden Ball'

 

Thompson & Morgan onion set prices remain unchanged, starting at £3.99 for 75 sets – already a vast saving on supermarket prices. ASDA currently sells 3 Grower’s Selection Organic Brown Onions for 97p. 75 onions would cost £14.55 in store – and that’s before any knock-on retail price hikes come into effect.

If small, expensive supermarket onions won’t cut it for you this season, make sure to try a large variety such as Setton, Hercules or Golden Ball, all selected for their large uniform bulb shape, full flavour and long storage qualities.

 

For the full range visit www.thompson-morgan.com

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Grow The Best – Double Your Money Back Guarantee

At Thompson & Morgan we know our customers demand high quality with exceptional value, which is why we have worked hard to produce a range of products which exceeds the high standards our customers have come to expect from us.

We have awarded our ‘Grow the Best’ rosette to some of our highest performing plants.
Our horticulturalists and customer trial panel carried out extensive field tests and put the plants through their paces in a variety of environments. Once the testing is completed we are given a considerable amount of feedback from our customer trial panel which without, we could not guarantee our ‘Grow the Best’ varieties with such confidence.

 

Potato 'Jazzy' & Begonia 'Inferno'™

Potato ‘Jazzy’ & Begonia ‘Inferno’™

 

With this confidence we are able to offer a DOUBLE your money back guarantee if you are unhappy with any of our ‘Grow the Best’ products.

In this range of ‘Grow the Best’ we have both flowers and vegetables, with our Potato ‘Jazzy’ providing enormous yields both in the ground and in potato bags. These really exceptional second early potatoes are full of flavour and have been awarded the RHS AGM for their fantastic garden performance.

Customer favourite Petunia ‘Frills and Spills’™ Mixed’, is grown in the British climate for the British climate which means these delightful fragrant double bloomed petunias are completely weather tolerant and resilient to whatever the British weather can throw at them. The blooms are larger than normal petunia blooms, so when they cascade over the side of window boxes or hanging baskets they will provide a stunning summer display.

 

Fuchsia Giant Collection & Fuchsia 'Bella Collection'

Fuchsia Giant Collection & Fuchsia ‘Bella Collection’

 

We have three varieties of fuchsias in our ‘Grow the Best’ range, the Fuchsia ‘Giant Collection’ which is our best value fuchsia. With giant frilled blooms which can flower up to 10cm (4”) across these eye-catching fuchsias will fill baskets and containers and last right through summer. Fuchsia ‘Bella Collection’ includes a range of five different varieties with some upright and bushy and others ideal for cascading; making these beautiful fuchsias perfect for almost any type of container. Our final fuchsia in this exceptional range is Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ which produces in excess of 2,000 blooms from the beginning of summer right through until November. Outlasting almost everything else in the summer garden, this hardy shrub can tolerate temperatures down to -10C (14F), which means it can be planted to cover unsightly walls or frames and will perform better and better year after year.

 

Fuchsia 'Pink Fizz'

Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’

Out of all the begonias we produce, Begonia ‘Inferno’™ is one of our customer favourites. Bred to perform whatever the weather it offers colour, vigour and unstoppable flower power! Perfect for low maintenance gardens and fast growing, this is one for those who don’t have much time but still want to enjoy an awesome display.

Why not peruse the ‘Grow the Best’ range as we are sure you will find plenty of the varieties are already your favourites.

Wendie Alexander
Currently at university I have nearly finished my English Degree. I have been at Thompson & Morgan for nearly 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

Growing petunias from seed

We supply petunias in several plug plant sizes, but there’s a real sense of satisfaction in growing a show stopping summer display of petunias from seed.

Somewhere along the line, petunias have gained a wrongful reputation of being difficult to grow from seed. This has more than likely come about by poor sowing techniques or bad compost rather than poor seed performance. Every seed ‘wants’ to grow, some just need a few more specific requirements. It’s wrong to assume that all seeds can be sown the same way.

If you want the earliest summer colour and nice sized, bushy petunia plants to place in the garden after the last frosts in May/June, it’s a good idea to sow petunia seeds 12 weeks ahead of your expected last frost. The first week of June is a safe bet for planting in most of the UK, therefore petunia seeds are best sown in March.

 

Petunia seed packets and seeds

 

Peat-based composts are still the best option for sowing petunia seeds. Our new incredicompost®

has recently been verified as the best compost for sowing seeds and raising young plants.
The temperature for germination should be between 18-24C (64-75F)  at seed level and this can usually be provided in a heated propagator, if this is not available, seal sowing trays in a clear polythene bag in a warm room of the house. A room which becomes cool at night should not be chosen.

It is important to sow thinly and not to cover the seed, even a thin covering of compost can severely reduce germination. The lack of a compost covering necessitates very careful monitoring of the moisture in the compost, for if the surface of the compost dries out the young seedlings will quickly die. This is best achieved by covering the seed pots with polythene or glass and a sheet of newspaper to reflect strong light, so the surface of the compost does not heat up too much, but some light still penetrates.

 

Petunia 'Salmon Velvet' & 'T&M's Global Grandiflora'

 

Transplant seedlings once they have produced two true leaves. After potting on the temperature is important. Temperatures below 10C (50F) discourage growth of the main central shoot and encourage the development of side shoots from low down on the plant. Unfortunately this also delays the appearance of the first flowers. At temperatures above 15C (59F) basal branching is restricted, the main stem grows more quickly and flowering is hastened. By sowing in early spring and keeping the temperature cool after pricking out, well branched plants should be produced which will flower more effectively when planted out in the garden.

When the rosettes of foliage cover the compost the trays can be moved from the greenhouse to frames and grown cool. As long as the plants are frost free they are happy. Although they are not as hardy as their relatives the nicotianas, they are tougher than many people think. They can be planted out as soon as the last frost has passed.

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

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