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.

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?

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.

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!

 

My family first got the fuchsia bug in 1963 when my late father stopped to admire the plants growing in a neighbour’s garden – they were fuchsias and he was hooked! Gradually the garden was overtaken by fuchsias – and in 1979 we moved as a family to a little village near Guildford, where to this day I grow lots of fuchsias (about 500 different types!)

I am Assistant Secretary of The British Fuchsia Society and involved in anything and everything to do with fuchsias!

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