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!

I have been gardening since I was knee high to my Grandad, he taught me as much about gardening when I was a nipper as I learnt at school about reading and writing! I have been working as a self employed gardener/landscaper for approximately ten years. I have a passion for gardening, growing things is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do. I would like to share with you some of my experiments and who knows, they might just work!

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?

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Getting the best from your fuchsias – our growing secrets revealed

Fuchsias will put on a good show with minimal care throughout the season, but for the best displays it pays to learn a few simple tricks and tips.

For a fantastic fuchsia display this summer follow our secrets for success:

history of fuchsiasGrowing conditions:

  • Plant in fertile, moist but well-drained soil, with shelter from cold, drying winds. Work plenty of rotted compost or manure and slow release fertiliser into the area ahead of planting.
  • In patio containers and window boxes use a 50:50 mix of multipurpose compost and soil-based John Innes No.2 compost, mixing in some slow release fertiliser ahead of planting.
  • In hanging baskets, stick to multipurpose compost to keep the weight down, but add some Swell Gel to reduce watering needs in the height of summer.

Uses:

  • Use hardy fuchsia varieties for permanent planting – use as specimen shrubs or seasonal floral hedging.
  • Use trailing fuchsia varieties in baskets and containers at height or as seasonal ground cover.
  • Use upright fuchsia varieties in patio containers and window boxes or as gap fillers in the border.

fuchsiaGrowing on Thompson &Morgan fuchsia plug plants:

-Young fuchsias are frost-tender and need to be grown on in warm frost-free conditions before planting out at the end of May or Early June, once threat of frost has passed.

-Pot on plug plants soon after delivery into small pots or cell trays filled with multipurpose compost.

Early training:

-Pinch out the soft stem tips once plugs have put on three leaf sets – simply remove the tip and top pair of leaves with scissors snips or fingers. This will encourage bushier, compact plants and more flowers. Pinch out 2 or 3 more times once each resulting side shoot has developed three pairs of leaves – the first flowers will start to bloom 5-8 weeks after the last pinching.

Later training

  • The early training above will create a bush.
  • You could experiment and create a fan or espalier, similar to fruit tree training. This is best done with hardy varieties and done over several years to create a truly impressive flowering wall shrub.
  • It’s easy to train a standard fuchsia (long bare stem with a lollipop canopy), but it can take 18 months to achieve. We’ll be posting more in-depth instructions for this method – watch this space.

Early training:

  • Boost the flower power and habit of your fuchsia plants by pinching out the soft stem tips.

fuchsia growing tipsOn-going maintenance:

  • Feeding: Fresh compost should supply enough nutrients for 4-6 weeks of growth. Start to offer a balanced liquid feed after this time, once or twice a month through the season. Alternatively, for fuss-free feeding with impressive results, mix our long lasting Incredibloom® plant food with your compost at planting time for 7 months of controlled feeding.
  • Watering: Keep composts and soils moist at all times. In the height of summer, baskets and small containers may need watering twice daily – do this early morning and late evening to avoid scorching foliage.
  • Deadheading: Look for faded blooms every time you go past you plants – the more you remove the more your plants will bloom.

Fuchsias are edible too!
All fuchsias produce edible berries but some taste better than others! We’d love you to taste test the berries of every variety you grow this year. Let us know your favourites varieties and how you used them in the kitchen.

Try a little tenderness!

While there are some fantastic hardy fuchsias available it is usually the tender varieties that put on the most impressive floral displays. You can overwinter container plants in a frost-free location for re-using the following year – but you might not need to! We’re finding that tender varieties are getting tougher and tougher and you may find they will overwinter in your garden soil with little to no protection. Experiment this year with your favourite plants – leave them in place at the end of the season, cutting them back by a third and mulching around the base. With luck you’ll be rewarded with re-growth the following spring. If not, you can always reorder fresh plug plants in spring for guaranteed success next summer.

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.

Gardening without the graft

Gardening is, without question, one of the most active and rewarding hobbies. To get the most out of your garden it is best to plan all year round and create your own gardening calendar to keep you on track. You have to think about which flowers and vegetables you are going to grow, when is the right time to plant them and how to care for them. When everything falls into place and you get it right, you get such a sense of satisfaction and achievement from raising your seeds to maturity.

However, sometimes reality can creep up on us and we run out of time, leaving our gardens taking a back seat. Occasionally something more immediate is called for when we lack time or even space to grow plants from seed. With modern innovation, creating a beautiful garden does not need to take up much time. That is why we introduced our instant gardening range.

Our range of larger shrubs and plants have a proven track record for hardiness, ease of care and garden performance and includes instant-impact shrubs and herbaceous perennials. The best part is, they are established on the nursery grounds and delivered straight to your door, ready to be planted in your garden.

gardening without the graft

Take a look at Lavender ‘Hidcote’. This hardy English lavender is perfect for pots and borders. Mid-height ‘Hidcote’ is ideal for an informal low hedge along paths, where its evergreen foliage can be appreciated. Flowers July – Sep. Supplied as 1 x 3.5 litre potted plant.

For the full selection of our larger plants click here.

You can also now buy garden ready plants online. Unlike shop bought plants that have been grown to look good in store, our garden ready plants are sent out in prime time for planting out in your garden or containers. Our garden ready plants are sent to you ‘green’ ahead of flowering which means the plants will establish quickly and as their energy goes into producing roots, they will be producing more flowers throughout the season.

Our garden ready Busy Lizzie ‘Divine Mixed’ has received a 5 star customer rating for their spectacular colour spectrum and ease of planting. No potting on is required and they can be planted straight into your garden.

gardening without the graft

‘These plants arrived in fantastic condition and truly were ‘garden ready’. No potting on required, they’ve been planted in their final position and in only a few days look well established’ – Natalie, online customer.

To see our full range of garden ready plants click here.

Why not try our instant gardening and garden ready ranges this year, we promise it will be worth it! We would love to see how you get on so please post or tweet us your pictures.

 

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.

Top 10 Fuchsia Plants

Fuchsias are extremely versatile with a variety on the market suitable for most situations. Few other plants perform so well in the garden with so little upkeep, even the tender types can make it through winter with minimal protection. Fuchsia plants are easy to grow, long-lasting and make the perfect addition for hanging baskets and tower pots. Here are our top 10 fuchsia plants.

hardy fuchsia 1. Climbing Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ – Our new ‘Pink Fizz’ challenges common climbers like honeysuckle and clematis as unlike these varieties, it produces blooms all the way along each stem. This variety offers blocks of vibrant vertical colour, perfect for walls and trellis. Flowers June through to September.

2. Fuchsia ‘Giants Collection’ – With blooms up to 10cm across, these turbo charged trailers guarantee a stunningly colourful display all summer. Perfect basket plant or add to window boxes, flower pouches and containers.

fuchsia plants3. Fuchsia ‘Bella Collection’ – These new style flowers are real show-offs, designed for window boxes and patio containers. Unlike your traditional fuchsia varieties, bella’s blooms are outward AND upward facing, meaning no more hidden blooms.

For more information on how to grow fuchsias click here.

4. Fuchsia ‘trailing’ mixed – Fill your hanging baskets and window boxes with these colourful trailing fuchsias. These fuchsia plants boast stunning double blooms that cascade all summer long.

fuchsia plants5. Fuchsia ‘Beauty Queen’ – This hardy fuchsia variety has the largest blooms of any hardy fuchsia. ‘Beauty Queen’ really turned heads when it was launched in 2014, so if you are after a show piece in your garden, this is the variety for you. They’ll become a staple feature in your borders due to their reliable habit.

6. Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’ – This beautifully elegant fuchsia boasts dark green leafy stems, hung with dainty white flowers with trace of green at the petal tips. This hardy fuchsia plant will flower non-stop from early summer to autumn.

fuchsia plants7. Hardy Fuchsia Arborescens – This Mexican blueberry is a variety of upright, shrubby fuchsia, sometimes referred to as ‘tree fuchsia’. The juicy, soft and edible fruits appear in abundance after the unusual sprays of lilac-like pink blooms.

8. Fuchsia ‘White King’ – This purest white fuchsia plant makes the ideal basket addition for brightening shady spots where they seemingly glow in the dark. Flowers May through to October.

fuchsia plants9. Hardy Fuchsia ‘Garden News’ –“Quick to flower and consistently covered with large and frilly flowers” said Which? Gardening. It’s strong garden performance led to a Best Buy award.

10. Fuchsia ‘Eruption’ – The most prolific fuchsia variety! Eruption by name, eruption by nature! This stunning fuchsia looks incredible tumbling from a basket. At peak season you’ll struggle to see foliage through a globe of pendulous finger-like blooms. No other fuchsia plant can match ‘Eruption’ for its show stopping flower power. This is a must have fuchsia for all hanging basket gardeners – the cheerful pink flowers will just keep coming right through to autumn.

 

 

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.

How to Grow Tomatoes

You can’t deny the flavour of fresh home-grown tomato straight from the vine. Their taste is far superior to the bland tomatoes offered in the supermarkets making them perfect for tomato soup and they’re really easy to grow.

growing tomatoes from seedGrowing tomatoes from seed

Growing tomato plants from seed is a great way to discover new varieties and test your gardening skills. Tomato seeds are normally sown 6-8 weeks before the last frost date (March/April) but if you are lucky to have a greenhouse they can be sown earlier. Sprinkle your tomato seed thinly on the surface of good quality seed compost. Cover the seed with about 1.5mm (1/16in) of compost and water lightly with a fine-rose watering can. Tomato seeds generally take 7 to 14 days to germinate at a temperature of around 21C (70F).

Top tip: Keep your compost moist, whilst making sure you do not over water as this can encourage disease such as mould.

growing tomatoes in greenhouseGrowing tomatoes in a greenhouse

Growing tomato plants in a greenhouse can mean an earlier crop. For greenhouse tomatoes grow recommended varieties such as ‘Sungold’, ‘Money Maker’ or ‘Country Taste’. These tomatoes are generally sown from February onwards and in 7.5cm (3in) pots.

Plant young tomato plants when they are about 15-20cm (6-8in) tall and the flowers of the first truss are just beginning to open. If you are growing tomatoes in pots or a grow bag remember they will require a lot more watering and care. Plant approximately 45cm (18in) between the plants and 75cm (30in) between the rows. In a grow bag, generally plant no more than two plants per bag. Make sure you ventilate the greenhouse regularly to reduce the risk of pests and diseases. Tomatoes prefer a temperature of 21 – 24C (70 – 75F) and will perform poorly at temperatures above 27C (81F) or below 16C (61F).

Growing tomatoes outside

When growing tomatoes outside, choose recommended varieties such as ‘Gardeners Delight’, ‘Money Maker’ or ‘Sweet Olive’. You can grow varieties such as ‘Cherry Cascade’ or ‘Tasty Tumbler’ in a flower pouch or as hanging basket tomatoes.

Top tip: Wait until approximately 6-8 weeks before the last frost is forecast and sow as directed on the individual seed packet in 7.5cm (3in) pots.

When all risk of frost has passed, plant the young plants when they are about 15-20cm (6-8in) tall and the flowers of the first truss are just beginning to open. If you are planting into your border make sure you have dug in plenty of garden compost or manure during the winter. Just before planting, rake in a general purpose fertiliser – tomatoes are hungry plants!

Plant approximately 45cm (18 in) between the plants and 75cm (30in) between the rows. If you are growing tomatoes in grow bags or pots remember they will require a lot more watering and care. In a grow bag, generally plant no more than two plants per bag. There has been a recent trend for growing tomatoes upside down to save space in the garden. This is a great space saving solution similar to growing tomatoes in hanging baskets. Simply plant a young tomato plant through a hole in the bottom of a bucket or similar hanging container, and fill the container with multi-purpose compost. Suspend the bucket from a bracket and allow the plant to hang down beneath it.

You can also watch our youtube video How to grow tomatoes 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.

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