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.

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.

Chillies on the go

chilliesThe trick to success with chilli sowing is to keep it simple. I’ve tried all sorts of sowing methods, from expanding coir pellets and thermostatic controlled propagators to expensive home hydroponic systems – but what method has given me quick high-yielding results this season?

Answer: Good quality compost and a no-frills plug-in heated propagator. Actually, make that two propagators – I am growing more varieties this year than ever before!

When it comes to seed compost for chillies I prefer a multipurpose mix compost and to make it suitable for seed sowing I spend a lot of time breaking up the lumps and bumps before running it through a garden sieve to create fine textured sowing compost.

Where suitable I now carry out all my seed sowing in Haxnicks root trainers. They allow for optimal root development and no disturbance when potting on – the hinged strips simply open like a book for easy transplanting. When filling sowing containers, I loosely fill to the brim with compost, and then drop the container several times on the work surface to firm down and level. A heavy watering further settles the compost and prepares it for sowing. This is the only water I provide until germination.

chilliesI set two seeds per cell as an insurance policy, though the second is rarely needed, and cover the seeds with a little more compost – no more than 0.5cm deep. The compost below pulls the covering compost down as moisture is transferred, helping to bed the seeds in.

Set in a bright spot in a heated propagator, germination usually occurs within 7-14 days, though several varieties popped up on day 6 for me this year.

I’m now faced with two trays of healthy seedlings – 14 chilli varieties and two sweet peppers. The immediate job is to thin out the weakest of the two seedlings in each cell – these could be potted on but I’ve not got the space for them all. The trays will stay on a south facing windowsill until roots poke through the pots, then it’s time to pot them on.

One slow starter
I was surprised at how quickly the majority of my seedlings emerged, but three weeks after sowing I’m still waiting on one variety. Naga Jolokia, the hottest on my list with a 1,000 000+ Scoville heat rating, is still to germinate. I’m not too concerned – this was the last variety to sprout for me last year too. And if I’m honest I won’t be too sad if it doesn’t germinate at all this season – I added a Naga Jolokia chilli to a mild curry last year and ended up crying into my dinner as the chilli hiccups kicked in – it’s the first time a chilli has defeated me!

chillies

Surprised by seeds
It’s not so noticeable when you only a sow a few types each year, but there is a surprising amount of variation in seed shape and size depending on variety. Sowing 16 varieties has really brought this home from me. From the tiny fleck-like seeds of ‘Demon ‘Red’ to the large flat discs of the sweet peppers I’ve sown I’ve found it interesting to note the differences. Some are flat, some are crinkled, some are near white, others are cream, yellow, tan and even black. Tapping the seeds of one variety into my hand, my young daughter commented how they looked like dried pixie ears. Oddly I couldn’t think of a better description!

Are you trying chillies this year?

Pinching out Fuchsias

Let’s start at the beginning – your fuchsia plugs will be with you in the next few weeks and you will want to grow the best plants that you can whether they are for your patio or to enter in a local show! In my blogs I will be concentrating on how to grow fuchsias to get the maximum amount of flowers for the summer!

Let’s look initially at pinching out or stopping as it is often called.

What we are aiming for when we grow fuchsias, is lots of flowers, so I guess that we could just leave the plant to grow as it wants to and so generally we would get a straggly plant. However if we take control, by pinching out our fuchsias we will get the best results!

So what is pinching out? If you want to grow a fuchsia that has a bushy growth, then you are going to need to pinch or remove the growing tip at a fairly early stage. (If you want to grow a standard – don’t panic we will cover that another time!) I let the rooted cutting or plug grow to 3 pairs of leaves about 2” tall before removing the very tip of the plant. I remove the very smallest bit at the top; however if you want to use the bit that you take off as a cutting then you may want to let the plant grow slightly taller so that you can safely take off a larger tip. Remove the tip growth with a sharp pair of scissors with fine tips. Make certain that the cut is just above the next set of leaves, as a piece of stem left behind will rot away and can cause problems.

Removing the tip stimulates the side shoots into growth, so that instead of having one main stem, the side shoots will take precedence. You have started to grow a bushy plant! Then let those side shoots grow until they have two or three pairs of leaves, and then remove their growing tips! And so on etc. etc! Having pinched out several times you will have a nice bushy plant with lots of growth. Remember that each time you remove a growing tip that you are going to at least double the numbers of main shoots. Each plant will be different in its growth –with a slow growing plant or a very short jointed one you may want to leave longer between pinches. A fast growing and rampant plant may need to be pinched out more often.

Pinching out does several things – firstly it creates a bushy plant, secondly it gives you control of the plants growth and finally, and perhaps most importantly it gives you a degree of control of when the plant will flower!   As a general rule – single flowered fuchsias (those with 4 petals) will flower after about 60 days, doubles (the larger fluffy flowers) about 80 days and triphyllas (generally with the long thin orange flowers) about 100 days. The word “about” is vital, as we can never guarantee when the plant will flower but it does give us a rough guideline!

 

A great way to grow herbs – the windowsill gardener

windowsill gardeningNow I’m not a drinking person. But the people I live with do like the occasional bottle of wine, so when I went outside the other day and found the glass recycling box was rather full, I decided to do some recycling of my own.

I wanted something that would look neat and tidy but at the same time have a bit of uniqueness to it and wine bottles seemed to fit the bill nicely, after all, they were only going to be smashed up! So if it all went horribly wrong I could pretend it hadn’t happened and take a quiet trip to the bottle bank.

I’m rather lucky in one sense that over the years I’ve managed to build up a collection of various DIY tools and so it didn’t take long for me to dig out my electric tile saw, pop it onto my work bench and make a start. My first attempt at cutting one of the bottles in half was a disaster, I didn’t keep the bottle steady and level and so I managed to end up with a 1cm difference in just one circuit of the bottle, it didn’t look good – one for the bottle bank.

My next attempt was much better; I decided on a line and kept my hand steady, producing a nicely level cut bottle, one down, and five to go!

Once they were all done, I filed and sanded down all the sharp edges, after all, there’s no point in getting cut yourself when reaching for some herbs – which I’d decided to use the bottles for by the way. I lined up my creations on the windowsill and stood back to admire my handy work. They were going to be a nuisance to clean around etc if left loose like that so back to the garage for some plywood off cuts ( a man never throws away any wood “just in case” ). Twenty minutes later a nice little box had been made and everything looked neat and tidy, I was a happy chap.

windowsill gardening

Now for the fun part, the seeds… after much deliberation I decided on Oregano, Mint, Basil, Chives, Plain Leaved Parsley and Coriander. Mint being a bit unusual to grow on a windowsill, but it beats going to get some from the garden in the pouring rain!

I filled about a quarter of each bottle with horticultural grit and charcoal as there were no drainage holes in the bottles so I wanted to be able to see if there was water sitting in the bottom and the charcoal would help absorb any smell of sitting water, which would be unpleasant. Then topped them to within a couple of cm from the top with good quality compost. Once I’d sown all the seeds, I covered with cling film to make a propagator and waited for the shoots to appear.

windowsill gardeningOverall I’m very pleased with the look. I’ve recycled, in my own way, half a dozen wine bottles and a friend will be benefiting from a windowsill herb planter in the very near future (as long as I get to taste them in a nice meal of course).

Last months project was a success all the bulbs have grown well, the crocuses and daffodils have all flowered and the tulips are still to come. On reflection I will probably plant the same bulb variety in each planter next year as now the crocuses have finished it’s looking a little bit untidy and there are gaps.

I’ve managed to acquire some onions and even some shallots which have been planted in another two bottles (the shallots had fewer in the bottle and larger holes to allow room for them to split (hopefully)).

Next month there might be teapots!

The quickest way to plant up a new garden

Are you planting up a new garden and don’t know where to start? I would recommend garden shrubs as a starting point. By selecting more compact varieties, and those which are easier to prune and tame, you can make life easier for yourself! A garden which only includes bedding plants is a blaze of colour, yet is so much more difficult to maintain, and needs re-planting every year, whereas shrubs will last for 20 years or more.

It’s so easy to build a new garden, or fill gaps in an existing garden, when you buy small shrubs online! Thompson & Morgan are also offering an ‘instant garden’ range this year which offers large, chunky plants (and same size as garden centres) which will begin to fill borders from the moment they’re planted.

There are some fantastic evergreen shrubs for small gardens in this range, and those which offer something a little bit different in colour, form and fragrance!

The quickest way to plant up a new garden

I’d like to show off to you, Buddleja ‘Buzz’; the very first garden-friendly Buddleja! Buddleja are well-known as being easy to grow shrubs which attracts birds, bees and butterflies to the garden and now they will stay restrained; growing no more than 1.2m and without self-seeding everywhere they shouldn’t!

The quickest way to plant up a new garden

Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is similar in that it’s a well-known shrub in miniature! Powerfully perfumed blooms, on rounded plants, which sit well at the front of the border or in decorative pots. An extremely long-lasting shrub too, plants will last well over 20 years! Cut some sprigs fort indoor winter vases too!

The quickest way to plant up a new garden

But, let’s not forget the fuchsia family, especially the hardy varieties which are little mini shrubs all of their own! Super hardy, branching and dripping with jewelled blooms throughout the summer. There’s almost a hardy fuchsia for every position too; from creeping ground cover to mid-sized bush or even robust hedging!

Why not try a new shrub in your garden this year and let us know how you get on?

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