Drivers, walkers and river users around Ipswich are set for a brighter journey this spring. Marking 160 years at the forefront of mail order supply to home gardeners, we have dressed the iconic Orwell Bridge with a 2.4km long display of spring hanging baskets. Counting off the years we have been trading in Ipswich, 160 hanging baskets have been set along each side of the bridge, creating two 1,237m swathes of dazzling spring colour above the River Orwell.
Our Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, said: “We’re world renowned for our seasonal bedding and basket plants, so what better way to celebrate a landmark birthday and a long history in Ipswich than with a display of what we do best? We could have teamed up with an internationally recognised gardening venue like Kew or Chelsea, but we wanted to show our roots as well as our flowers by staging the celebrations here in Ipswich.”
Mr Hansord plans to contact Guinness to see if the project has unwittingly set a world record. He added: “It may not be the world’s biggest in terms of the number of baskets, but we may have a British record on our hands – if not for the biggest display, then certainly the longest!”
Perhaps more impressive than the stunning display of over 5,700 spring flowering violas, always a firm favourite among Thompson & Morgan customers, is the efficient and covert way in which the project was under taken.
Horticultural staff planted the baskets back in February, tending them in the warmth of the company’s heated glasshouses. To keep the project under wraps until the big April reveal, staff were sworn to secrecy – even friends and family had to be kept in the dark.
Highway contractors were drafted in to set the 320 heavy-duty hanging brackets in place before the baskets could be hung, working over night in liaison with local authorities to cause minimal disruption to traffic. As work was carried out between 12-4am over the last three nights of March to meet a 1st April deadline, the project went largely unnoticed. But for sharp-eyed locals living in the shadow of the towering concrete crossing, the stunt was hard to miss.
Alf Spirolo, 63, of Wherstead, walks his two Chihuahuas along the river every morning. He said: “The past few mornings I’ve noticed more and more baskets on both sides of the bridge. The fact this has gone up over just a few nights without any disruptions to the A14 is an amazing feat. What a sight to see them covering the full length, this really is going to brighten up my walk to get the morning papers.”
The baskets will stay in place until 1st June. Depending on public support they will be replaced with summer flowering versions to keep the display in peak condition.
Growing fuchsia standards is not as difficult as it might appear. Fuchsia standards have a clear main stem topped with a dense head of foliage created through pinch pruning and make superb specimen plants. However patience is required as they may take up to 18 months of careful training to achieve.
Here are my top tips for growing fuchsia standards;
• Allow a young fuchsia stem to grow upright, whilst removing all of the side shoots as they develop. Do not remove the leaves from the mail stem however, as these will feed the plant.
• Tie the main stem in to a cane to provide support as it grows.
• Once the fuchsia plant reaches 20cm (8″) taller than the desired height, pinch out the stem tip.
• New side shoots will be produced at the top of the plant and these will form the head of the standard. Pinch out the tips of each side shoot when it reaches 2 to 4 sets of leaves. Continue pinch pruning until a rounded head has formed.
• The leaves on the main stem will be shed naturally in time, or can be carefully removed.
To overwinter standard fuchsias, they will need to be moved to a frost free position during the winter months to protect their vulnerable stem from frost damage, regardless of how hardy the variety is.
The words ‘national gardening week’ spark so much excitement and ideas in my mind. National days have somewhat become a novelty, It is always national something. National flower day, national spinach day, and something totally un-gardening related national puppy day! Therefore as a gardener I welcome this national event with open arms. A celebration of everything that I love and adore, gardening!
National Gardening Week is taking place 13th- 19th April 2015 and is one of the country’s biggest celebrations of gardening. Along with thousands of people, charities and retailers, I will be getting involved this year by getting out into the garden and finally making a start on my dream garden. This time last year I was a beginner a gardener, to be totally honest with you I still am! However, one of the joys of working at Thompson & Morgan is that I have learnt so much in a short period of time. I pick up tips on our social media pages, and other blogs we receive from customers and gardening experts. So hopefully, it will come into use this year.
Are you getting involved this year? There are so many events for you to go along to and not only will you have fun, but you will be sure to pick up some useful information too. Why not join the team at RHS Wisely? They will be holding numerous events, talks and demonstrations to celebrate national gardening week.
You don’t always need to go the distance to take part and it doesn’t always need to involve breaking the bank. Why not hold a garden tea party for your friends and family and let them come to you and enjoy your beautiful garden displays. Or make it your mission to get your children outside and into the garden by planting their very first sunflower? The choice is endless!
Join the celebration and start something beautiful. Don’t forget to share your support and celebrations on Facebook and Twitter, I cannot wait to see what you get up to.
When 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.
A 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.
I 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,
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
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.
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.
This 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