Year of the sunflower 2015

Sunflowers are one of the most versatile plants you can grow. They can be grown as cut flowers or for wildlife and they are the perfect introduction to encourage children into gardening. That is why we are joining Fleuroselect in the celebration of this much loved garden favourite.

Growing sunflowers is so simple;

1.Sunflower seeds should be direct sown outdoors from April to May.
2.Position in full sun on well drained soil.
3.Sow seeds thinly, at a depth of 1cm in drills spaced 45cm (18″) apart and cover seed with its own depth of soil to exclude light.
4.Water the ground regularly, especially during dry periods. Germination usually takes up to 21 days. When sunflower seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 30cm (12″) apart.

There are so many varieties but here are our top five for inspiration!

Great for garden bouquets the Sunflower ‘Helios Flame’ is a lovely tall stemmed variety that will make an eye catching addition to your vases.

sunflower pictures
‘Inca Gold’ is a trailing plant that will make an unusual yet exciting addition to your summer hanging baskets. This variety will also look incredible as ground cover in your borders.

sunflower pictures
Sunflower ‘Mongolian Giant’ is the perfect competition variety. They are fun to grow and will produce magnificent yellow blooms ready for the show bench.

Top tip – plant with chive to deter aphids!

sunflower pictures

Think outside the box with this unusual variety and grow deliciously creamy blooms! Sunflower ‘Italian White’ is a step away from the typical yellow and perfect for flower arranging.

sunflower pictures

Sunflower ‘Solar Flash’ is a dwarf variety for patio containers or grown as a cut flower.

sunflower pictures

Don’t forget, whether you are trying to grow the tallest sunflower or growing for fun, make sure you send your sunflower pictures in for your chance to win! Find out more here.

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

NEWS: Thompson & Morgan trial grounds

Like Willy Wonka opening the gates to his chocolate factory, the chance to get a glimpse of the immaculate Thompson & Morgan trial grounds at our Suffolk HQ drew thousands of gardeners from far and wide each summer though the 90’s and 00’s. The annual open weekends were a highlight of the local horticultural calendar, with gardeners and gardening clubs attending from as far afield as France and Germany.

The annual event was drawn to a temporary close in 2011 when 5,000+ visitors attended over two days. Thompson & Morgan New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry, explained: “The success of our open days was part of their temporary demise; our site just couldn’t cope with the numbers coming to see our displays. Our catalogues and online listings show off the Thompson & Morgan range perfectly, but there’s nothing like the chance of seeing everything at its peak of summer growth before your eyes. We’ve been looking to bring the open days back in a format that works for us, our customers – and the local road network!”

thompson & morgan trials

Hanging basket trials 2014

Jimmy’s Farm, likewise based on the outskirts of Ipswich, is the perfect partner venue for reviving this popular event. Already established as a favourite Suffolk visitor attraction, it is able to cope with traffic, parking, coach parties and thousands of visitors. What’s more, it is open daily to the public, so what once had to be crammed into a single weekend on a working site can now be explored at leisure from 1st July right though to September.

A brand new Thompson & Morgan Garden has been built at the well-known attraction to showcase a snap shot of the company’s technical growing trials. Over 1,000 containers (including the company’s own Tower Pots™, Easy Fill Baskets and Flower Pouches™) will be put on display to showcase its seed and plant offering. Existing customer favourites will be set alongside soon-to-launch exclusives from its 2016 seed and plant range. Thompson & Morgan fruit and vegetables will be given special focus in a series of square metre growing beds. Expect to see particular emphasis given to fuchsias, sweet peas, cosmos and tomatoes. Visitors will also get an opportunity to see how the company’s new incredicompost® and incredirange® of fertilisers work in combination to bring the best ever results to all parts of the garden, especially patio containers and baskets.

thompson & morgan trials

Farm owner Jimmy Doherty said: “I’m so excited that Thompson & Morgan are bringing their show gardens to the farm.  Growing is a big part of what we do here and we hope it’ll inspire many gardeners to get green fingered.”

The garden joins a host of free attractions at the farm including rare breed animals, top class restaurant and butchery, as well as craft and gift stores. The gardens will be closed to the public during Jimmy’s Sausage & Beer Festival weekend (25-26 July).

For opening times and directions see www.jimmysfarm.com

Follow Thompson & Morgan on Facebook and Twitter (#TMopengarden) to stay informed on the latest happenings with the Thompson & Morgan Garden at Jimmy’s Farm.

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

Driftwood Garden and Thompson & Morgan 2015 Trials!

The year is moving on at a pace and there are only a few weeks to go until the garden gate is opened again for a summer season of fundraising for a number of charities. This year we will open for the National Gardens Scheme, the RNLI, PSPA and Macmillan Cancer Support, a total of 16 public days as well as the visits by appointment too!

For the 3rd year running we will have many Thompson & Morgan plants on show in the garden! The 2 trees we trialled in the first year, the Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Plum Claude Reine have grown a great deal and are full of blossom at the moment. Under the plum tree is one of my new features for 2015, a vintage children’s horse, mounted on a frame to look as though it is vaulting the hedge!

Thompson and Morgan trials

Other plants from the first year’s trial are the Viola Unique Collection which are starting to flower again! Some stunning tulips from 2014 were Silver Parrot which has come back up again this month too. They look quite amazing around the pond area. Late last year I received a lovely Camellia Cupido and it has now flowered with it’s delicate pink flowers. The Clematis New Love also delivered last autumn has found a new home with a lovely wire frame to grow up though and is now positioned beside the pond. I am waiting for the rose sweet calypso to flower, the plant is looking quite healthy.

Thompson and Morgan trials

The new plants for 2015 that have been arriving in recent weeks are sure to get the visitors talking this summer, Last year we saw over 2200 visitors and raised over £16000 for charity and hope to see the same again in 2015. The new arrivals they will be able to see are Osteospermum Blue Eyed Beauty, which although not yet planted out, has started to flower in the greenhouse! The 2 garden ready Lavender Hidcote I received last month are already looking very healthy with new growth too.

Thompson and Morgan trials

The more recent arrivals have yet to show their true colours but are already well established and waiting to be planted out in the coming weeks! Verbena Lollipop, Fuchsia Pink Fizz and Alstromeria Indian Summer. The piece de resistance in the garden this summer, after the vintage horse that is, will be the begonia burning embers which will have pride of place in a new feature at the top of the garden of an old fireplace with mirror above and a rusted grate in which the plants will be put to resemble the glowing fire!

Thompson and Morgan trials

So all in all a great year in prospect! If you want to read more about the garden go to www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

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 £47000 for various charities in 4 years, £23300 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. Every 4 weeks he writes an article about his garden for Garden News Magazine.

Plants for hanging baskets

There are so many beautiful plants for hanging baskets out there, from trailing plants to your annuals and evergreens. But how do you pick the right ones?

For me, it depends on what kind of ‘look’ I am going for. In spring I tend to go for a big, bright and bold display so I fill my baskets with Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’. And in winter, I still put my baskets to good use and select a more hardy variety such as viola most scented mix to cheer up my garden in the duller months (I don’t want to wish away summer but for more information on planting winter hanging baskets click here) Some people even consider colour scheme and companion planting, but essentially choosing the right hanging basket plants really is personal preference.

plants for hanging baskets

Winner of staff Begonia Competition

Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ are my favourite hanging basket plants. They have a trailing habit which makes them ideal for hanging baskets, as well as window boxes and flower pouches. Their large cascading blooms are undoubtedly the most eye catching plants in my garden from July to October.

plants for hanging baskets

Bacopa ‘Snowtopia’

For a more subtle look, Bacopa ‘Snowtopia’ is the perfect filler! Another tumbling variety that bears snow white flowers throughout summer, but will also have your baskets looking full of colour for longer.

plants for hanging baskets

Sunflower ‘Inca Gold’

Why not have some fun with your hanging baskets and fill them with a more unusual choice, Sunflower ‘Inca Gold’. This cheery little helianthus has lax, trailing stems and a multi-branching habit that billow from hanging baskets in a mass of small sunflower blooms. An excellent choice for Year of the Sunflower 2015!

Choosing the right hanging basket plants is the easy part! I find some hanging basket containers are really difficult to use. Some require a mesh lining to hold in both compost and the plants, and I always manage to get compost all over the place.  This year I found the perfect one, the easy fill hanging basket. Which are exactly that, easy! No liner is required and with removable gates planting has never been so easy!

plants for hanging baskets

I would love to see your hanging basket displays if you have any :)

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

Potting on chillies

My chilli seedlings have been ticking along nicely in the conservatory, and until the weekend I’d paid them little attention other than keeping them watered. Daytime temperatures in my south-facing sun trap have suited them well, even if cooler night temperatures have kept them in check. Increased sunshine and warmer temperatures in the past week or so have evened out the fluctuations, meaning growth rates have really stepped up.

The plants have been in their root trainers for around 6-7 weeks now, meaning there will be little goodness left in the compost to support continued growth. With roots showing through the drainage holes, and the compost drying out quickly in the increased heat of the conservatory, Saturday morning was spent getting my sturdy seedlings potted on for the next stage of growth.

potting on chillies

 

Root trainers make for really easy potting on – the plastic strips open like a book to reveal perfectly formed root balls that are easily handled will little risk of damage. I transferred each plant to its own 15cm pot, loosely filled with multi-purpose compost. It’s a simple process but there are some tips to follow to get the best results:

potting on chilliesTop tips for potting on chillies:

  • Water seedlings before potting on. I actually go one further and add a little liquid feed, as it will be a while before new roots stretch out to make use of the new pot compost.
  • Spend time breaking up the lumps and bumps in the compost to encourage unhindered root development and good drainage.
  • Use new or clean pots – re-using unwashed pots can allow pests and diseases to carry over.
  • Fill all your pots before working with your seedlings makes for an efficient process.
  • Write all your labels before you start – if you do this after potting on, the chances are you’ll get your varieties mixed up.
  • Set chilli plants deep in their pots, burying the stems up to the first leaves. Like tomato plants they will generate new roots on the buried stem, bring better stability and nutrient uptake. Just make sure the lowest leaves are not sitting on the compost surface.
  • Despite watering your seedlings before potting on, give them a complete drenching in their new pots too, to help settle them in.
  • Plants may droop slightly after potting, but they should be back to full health within 24 hours.

 

potting on chilliesNow my plants have space to breath, and a good amount of fresh compost around them, I swear they have noticeably come on in the few days since I potted them on. By the time I come to set them into their final containers in late May I should have some cracking plants to show off to you. Already I’m impressed with their shapes and habit – early winners for me include the habeneros and scotch bonnets in the Tropical Heat mix and the purple tinged foliage of Pot Black – I can’t wait to see the black fruits on this one!

I have to admit a slight hiccup with my chilli growing this year! On sowing day I was short on plant labels. Rather than label each Root Trainer, I thought it easier to list them on pieces of paper – one list for each tray. Yes you’ve guessed it – one of the lists has gone missing! While I can confidently label all the plants from tray 1, the same can’t be said of tray 2. I know the eight varieties in the mix, I just don’t know which is which. I was really annoyed at myself for this silly mistake, but I’m actually looking forward to growing the plants ‘blind’ and identifying them once they start to produce identifiable fruits later in the season.

Between now and the final potting up I’m going to research all the T&M varieties to place them on the Schoville heat rating scale. I’ll let you know my findings as soon as I have them.

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.

Flower gardens of Keukenhof

When I think of tulips, I think of Amsterdam. I think most people do. It’s almost certainly to do with the song which I have hummed in my head a thousand times over since childhood… windmills, tulips… mice wearing clogs… but I’d never actually been to Amsterdam. In fact; I’d never actually been to Holland, and considering the number of bulbs I plant every year, it seemed a shame not to know where a lot of them had originated. When you are a writer – sometimes you are lucky enough to be taken to wonderful places on press trips – and this week, I finally got to see Amsterdam! Although I was there for a blissful three days – seeing plenty of other sights around the area and in Haarlem – it would have been possible to do Keukenhof in one day from the UK (a long day, but definitely worth it if it’s the only way you can afford to do it).

Keukenhof

Arriving at Keukenhof was just as you would imagine – once you have cleared the gates, it was like arriving at a theme park for gardeners! The sun was shining on us as we walked around the park, and although it is difficult to suggest an exact time of year to go (with tulips being like all plants – and doing exactly what they want in their own sweet time), the park was looking incredible this week. There were some parts of the planting which weren’t yet at their peak – for example a huge picture of Van Gogh planted in blue plants, which were only just coming out, but on the whole, the flowers were looking just perfect!

Keukenhof

The thing I loved most about the tulips there was that there were so many different varieties to look at. Tulips are so varied, and really have something for everyone to fall in love with – no matter what your style. I have always loved the parrot tulips – with their stunning colours, but this week I have fallen in love with the smaller more round budded varieties. The colours all around the park are like an assault on the senses – in the best possible way of course! It would be impossible to look upon the bright glossy reds, and the cheerful yellows, without a smile on your face.

Keukenhof

Of course, if tulips aren’t your favourite thing, there are plenty of other flowers there too – hyacinths, and narcissi, and all of the other beautiful spring flowers that combined with the tulips, make Keukenhof a very special place indeed. The park is only open for 8 weeks in the springtime, but if you have ever wanted to see this wonderful display – it’s definitely worth the visit!!!

For some people, the structured gardens are not appealing, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be of interest to visit the area. Following our visit in Keukenhof, we rode through the bulbs fields on bicycle. It is possible to hire cycles from right outside the park, and the experience of riding through the bulbs fields – with a bright tapestry of colours from the tulips, and hyacinths, is something that I will never forget. Now when I plant my spring bulbs, or when I buy a bunch of tulips, I won’t just be picturing Amsterdam – I will be thinking of bulb fields, and the scent of the flowers on the air, and a wonderful country with an amazing history which has been so interlinked with horticulture.

For more information: www.holland.com and for flights www.klm.com

Deborah Catchpole
I’m a 30 year old, writer, photographer, gardener, and sweetpea obsessive! I did a degree in English Literature at The University of Liverpool, and when I am not writing I’m often found in my garden.

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