The good the bad and the ugly – update from the greenhouse

Hello Everyone,

greenhouseWhen I started this blog in January, I promised you the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, this month is the bad and the ugly. Things had been running smoothly. The frame of the greenhouse was completed, the window vents installed, the soil was on order and the seeds were germinating on the kitchen windowsill and in the smaller greenhouse. Then I went and caught viral labyrhinitis. A middle ear infection that makes the world spin round, and not just a little bit either, three solid days of not been able to stop the movement. It’s impossible to do even the most simplest of tasks such as get out of bed without falling. I can’t walk to the bathroom without help and I can’t even read as a tiny bit of eye movement makes it 100% worse.

greenhouseA trip to the doctors for some anti sickness medication nearly kills me. I spend the next week staring at the walls with sunglasses on. The second week I start to feel better, because I am partially deaf it’s taking a really long time for my balance to readjust I have on and off dizziness and can’t go anywhere on my own, I must be feeling better though as I remember my lettuce seedlings, I have three pots of them in the kitchen. Mark transplants one lot to the old greenhouse borders and we give the rest away. I decide to get my gardening fix by reading some of the other Thompson & Morgan blogs. I am amazed by Michael Perry’s trek across the Sahara Desert for Dementia, the flowers he has photographed are amazing. I would love to have that kind of stamina, but right now getting across the room is a challenge.

The next blog I read is from customer service advisor Graham, he recycles interesting items to grow plants and herbs in. I left a post on his blog and he kindly responds with a suggestion of what unusual fruit I can grow in an old colander. I know I’m on the mend, when I order some mock strawberry seeds for said colander. It’s the weekend before I return to work after two weeks of being unwell; I call my brother and ask him about the soil delivery for the greenhouse, we haven’t put the glass in as we are still waiting for him. He says he hasn’t forgotten, he also tells me he is getting a lean to greenhouse himself to teach his daughters to grow tomatoes, I am really excited for him and promise him plenty of plants.

greenhouseI am all motivated and set myself the tasks of starting of my potatoes under cover and also the
Begonia Apricot Shades which arrived sometime during my illness. I find the potato kits are different to ones I have had before, whereas before I had a massive potato bag to plant 5 tubers, this kit has a 12-15inch bag for a single tuber. This is so much simpler as it’s easier to measure out the Chempak fertiliser for one potato, and also very easy to carry a smaller sack once they germinate and need to be moved outside. It can help to prevent overcrowding and the possible spreading of disease. I follow the instructions, and plant up the Charlottes, I am really excited to see how they compare to a bigger grow bag I have of 5 Rooster potatoes. Included in the potato kit are 5 packets of salad veg, including more lettuce, because the lettuce are so easy I am going to give them to my brother for my nieces to grow. The begonias take no more than five minutes to pot up, and once I place them on the staging I take ten minutes to look at how the rest of my seeds are doing. It’s not good, I realise that my aubergines and dahlias have damped off; a disgusting green slime covers the soil. I have no option but to start again with them. Thankfully my garden peas are okay, but I feel like I would like more than 6 plants so I plant a few more in extra pots.

My first week back in work and I am shattered. I still get dizzy so it’s still challenging to go up the steps to the greenhouse. I have to ask Mark to carry the full watering can as I can’t balance to do this. I stare at the new greenhouse and feel annoyed, I say to Mark, well my blog is going to be a bit dismal this month. He cheers me up by taking me to the DIY store to look at the cost of paving slabs for the path in the greenhouse; we also look at wooden edging that may be used to hold back the soil. He makes a start on setting a hardcore base for the path.

I am really hoping that April will be a better month, in terms of my greenhouse actually getting finished and having a more interesting blog for you. Yes there have been a few setbacks this month but luckily it’s still early in the season. The aubergines I planted last week have germinated, so have the peas, I have started off my sunflowers and my potatoes are showing tiny green leaves.

That’s the thing with gardening; it gives me hope, that even when things are going a bit wrong, with a bit of planning, they can be put right.

Until next month,
Happy Gardening,
Love Amanda

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Head-to-head with Firecracker

I think Polyanthus Firecracker is well-named–its’ flowers really create a crackling, fiery red and yellow contrast.  Each plant has flowers with slightly different markings and petal ‘frilliness’.  Firecrackers hail from China and were used to frighten away evil spirits.  Well this exciting and attractive plant must be effective as it has only encouraged positive comments from passers-by.


Having a south-facing ‘hot’ border, these sounded like a brilliant plant for the front edge, so in 2014 I dutifully nurtured small plugs of this gem in 7cm pots until they were large enough to inter-plant amongst my Valeriana phu Aurea–in theory to give some colour after the leaves have reverted from bright yellow to green.  However, I didn’t count on the chickens!  Yes, they do tend to cause havoc in the borders, but the golden-leaved valerian has stood the test of time – but not this last year.  To cut a long story short, half of, if not more, the Polyanthus Firecracker never made it to flower, as the chickens scratched them to death whilst shredding the valerian.


So it was a bit of a surprise to see some of them coming back up for air this spring 2015, first flowering in February despite Jack Frost … and going all-out head-to-head with the March-flowering Narcissus Tête-a-tête.  Had the Firecracker retreated … or perhaps they were relocated by you know who!  The chickens, well this year they just weeded in between the plants, the novelty clearly having worn off!  The vagaries of our weather patterns are always a wild card, but in my garden … what a beautiful survivor! Polyanthus Firecracker is certainly an explosive harbinger of spring!


By Purple Leaf Blackthorn

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.

Hardy Fuchsias – By Caroline Broome

I think hardy fuchsias are the unsung heroes of the shady garden. I have had the same fuchsia Magellanica Alba shrub for nearly twenty years. It came with us when we moved to our present house 17 years ago and when it got too big for its space 2 years ago we moved it to a larger site. Still it thrives and gives us a profusion of delicate pinky cream tear-drop flowers on its 4ft high frame every summer.

hardy fuchsia

Mind you, moving it was no mean feat! We waited until end March (the worst frosts are pretty much over by then in London) and with fingers firmly crossed, cut all its stems, which were up to ½” thick, back to 6” stumps. The root ball was 18” wide and it took both of us to shift it 10ft to its new home. David had to use a pick axe to dig it up in the first place and then again to dig its new hole, our soil being solid clay by 8” down. But within 1 month, small green shoots were appearing around the base and off it went!

I can’t think of many plants that provide so much interest for up to 6 months of the year, in such inhospitable often dry shady conditions, that require so little attention in return. All I do is cut it back to about 20cm from ground level in late March and apply some specialised T&M granular fuchsia fertiliser and manure mulch for luck, then water it thoroughly about once a week or ten days throughout the growing season. If it gets out of hand I just trim it back to fit its space; it flowers most of the way down its stems so this does not affect its overall performance. I have partnered it up with abelia grandiflora Edward Goucher, which mirrors it in size and hue.

hardy fuchsiaThis autumn I added fuchsia Microphylla, by contrast a miniature semi-hardy bush. About 18” high and 24” wide it’s still flowering on today’s date December 18th, in complete shade, its tiny magenta flowers twinkling away under the cool white and green foliage of pittosporum Irene Patterson. I’m hoping that the shelter of surrounding evergreens and trellis in well drained & mulched soil will be enough to keep it insulated, but that depends on what this winter brings. Watch this space!

Some of the large flowered fuchsias, primarily designed for patio baskets and tubs, proved to be hardy here on our London patio over last year’s mild winter, so I am leaving others in situe again as an experiment.

By Caroline Broome

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.

Your all time favourite T&M plant

Today we celebrate our 160th birthday! We began in a small garden behind a bakers shop in Ipswich, tended by William Thompson, the baker’s son. From the back garden we moved to a nursery at the edge of Ipswich and then to an even larger one!

We have now grown into one of the UK’s largest mail order seed & plant companies, providing gardeners with the very best quality products, tips and advice. You can read more about our humble beginnings here.

We wanted to know if there was an all time favourite Thompson & Morgan plant, so we took to facebook to find out! We had begonias, sweat peas, poppies and so many more! Who can blame them; we have so many varieties for you to choose from. But we would just like to share some of them with you.

  1. French beans last year, had nearly 3 carries bags of 8 plants, and amazing flavour. I can’t wait to get these on again and some nice flowers to attract the bees would be amazing’ – Sam
  2. Fuchsias all the colours there sooooo pretty xxx’ – Lisa
  3. ‘Difficult choice and it keeps changing but I think it has to be Alstromeira ‘Indian Summer’. And a very Happy 160th Birthday!’ – Annie
  4. Sweet pea high scent’ – Karen
  5. ‘Favourite flower would be Antirrhinum ‘Madame Butterfly’ a prolific flowerer and so ‘bubbly’, my favourite vegetable would be Mange tout ‘Shiraz’ because it has a long season, pretty flowers and pods and lovely flavour’- Sue
  6. ‘I’ve only just started gardening and the plants u have of you are only just growing but I’m liking the hellebores at the mo’ – Paul
  7. ‘Any poppy variety. They just make me smile year after year’ – Ruth

indian summer

Don’t forget to comment your favourite T&M plant below.

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.

Plants for fragrance

Summer is traditionally seen as the season for fragrance in our gardens. However with careful planning, you can enjoy wonderful scented flowers in your garden from spring, through summer and autumn and on into winter with our selection of plants for fragrance.

In spring, many bulbs produce beautifully fragrant flowers, the scents which herald the new season and a new year in your garden. By summer, borders, beds and containers will be bursting with colour as plants flourish and bloom. If you plant fragrant varieties, this is when you’ll enjoy scent in your garden the most. Come autumn and winter shrubs become the scented stars of the garden, adding much needed sensory element to the space when there is less colour and texture to catch the eye.

fragrant shrubs

‘Perfume Princess’

Many plants will release their perfume when touched, so it’s always a good idea to plant these by pathways or steps. Alternatively, try creating a archway by planting scented climbers so that they clamber up a framework of canes. The possibilities are endless, but let us inspire you with some of our ideas.

Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ is the world’s most fragrant shrub. Traditionally used as a winter pick-me-up, bringing scent and colour when little else is in growth Daphne is a must have.

Pot up Daphne plants and grow them on in frost free conditions. When plants are well grown and all risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for a period of 7 to 10 days prior to planting in their final positions. Transplant Daphne plants into borders and containers outdoors in moist, fertile, well drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Choose a position in sun or semi shade.

We are proud to offer you our six months of fragrance collection. We have specially selected seven perfectly perfumed planting partners to bring you an extra long season of scent and colour. Our collection includes;

fragrant plants

Clematis ‘New Love’

Clematis Montana ‘Mayleen’ (Flowers April-June)
‘Carolina Allspice’ (Flowers June –August)
Yellow Summer Jasmine (Flowers May – August)
Creeping Plox Collection (Flowers June-September)
Clematis ‘New Love’ (Flowers June-September)
Pinks ‘Dwarf Doris’ (Flowers July-September)
Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’(Flowers July – October)

Rose Lily ‘China Girl’ will provide your garden with a much more subtle fragrance. Their blooms are also pollen-free, so there is less risk of allergy and wont stain your clothes.

So why not try growing our plants for fragrance this year and fill your garden with wonderful scents.

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.

Giant Fuchsias

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: why my focus is on giant flowered fuchsias for 2015.

Fuchsias are the star players of summer. You don’t need to be a skilled gardener to be able to recognise these iconic garden plants. I add all manner of unusual flowering plants to my seasonal displays, hoping to impress guests and visitors, but it is always the colourful blousy fuchsia blooms that get pointed out – even by friends who have little to no interest in gardening and can’t normally tell a sweet pea from a broad bean!

With so many fuchsia varieties to grow (more than 3,600!) it wasn’t until two years ago that I got around to trying my first ever giant flowering variety and wow was I impressed – sumptuous blooms 3 to 4 times the size I was used to.  The plant even made it through its first winter outside with no protection from frost, snow or winter rain.

I was left disappointed in the second year however, the plant just failed to put on the large flowers I hoped to see return. Despite regular feeding, only the first flush of flowers impressed – subsequent blooms were little bigger than you’d see on normal varieties.  Lesson learnt – treat giant flowered fuchsias as annuals despite their tolerance to winter conditions – order new plants every year!

giant fuchsias

So this year I’ll be starting fresh with the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia ‘Giants Collection’ – a turbo-charged mix, guaranteed to put on a stunning display of frilly bi-colour flowers.  Outside the collection I’ll also aim to grow Fuchsia ‘White King’ for a bit of pure elegance amongst all that colour.

All offer a compact trailing habit making them perfect for hanging baskets and window boxes, so I’ll be setting at least one plant per hanging basket as the star attractions of my summer container display.

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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