I am so pleased to announce that Thompson & Morgan have allowed me to come back and write a new series about my garden entitled Another Year in the Greenhouse. To be honest, I thought I made so many basic greenhouse mistakes that they would run screaming to the hills. However, it was quite the opposite; they said they liked to hear about the failures as well as the successes; after all I am not a trained gardener. I’m just an ordinary person with an office job, who likes to escape into the greenhouse whenever I can.
I really hope I don’t make such silly mistakes though. Last year I thought it would be so easy to erect a second greenhouse and apply the same principles that I had to the original smaller one. Unfortunately I didn’t think about how the light would fall, how the sun moved on a different course or how the slope of the garden would make it look like I was standing at an angle even though the base was perfectly level, giving me horrible vertigo especially after a severe dose of Labrynthitis.
The Labrynthitis, was my worst gardening problem as it lasted months, I would stand in the greenhouse with my eyes squeezed shut hoping that I wouldn’t go crashing into the plants or glass, all the while thinking I can’t give in, I have plants to grow and a blog to write!
So this year my resolution is to do a better job than I did last year. At least I have a good amount of spring flowers and bulbs growing healthily already in them. With the extremely mild winter that we have so far had, the Californian Poppies have developed strong roots, and although they are currently a bit sleepy there does look like fresh green leaves on them.
I have no idea how the Yarrows will be potted on as they went from tiny seedlings to plug plants practically overnight. The roots are so tangled I could end up damaging them, I think the best thing I can do is to put them in bigger pots in one root ball as soon as possible and start hardening them off in February, then plant them in the old hollyhock patch in Spring.
After reading many different articles on the best time to sow sweet peas, I thought I would try a September sowing to see for myself if they would last through the dark months. Amazingly they have, although during late December I had to keep nipping the tops as they were getting too tall. They have now put out side shoots that should develop extra flowers in the summer. I only planted two seeds as I didn’t want to waste them if it went wrong, now I wish I had grown more. January is also a very good time to start off sweet peas so I am considering growing some more.
Bo t h my mum and Mark’s parents gave me garden related Christmas gifts, two sets of hanging shelves for the big greenhouse and some clever cane grips that mean I can create wigwams without having to fight with the string and scissor. So one of the first jobs Mark did this month was to wash all of the glass again because the salt laden winds have really taken its toll, and the second job was to put the shelves up. They only useful thing I did was make the tea stand in the greenhouse so he sees if I could reach them or not. My being five foot has its advantages, in that he didn’t have to stretch very far or use a step ladder to get the shelves at the height I wanted.
A quick inventory of the small greenhouse consists of the above mentioned plants plus, a red geranium that is still flowering since September, a tomato plant, two pots of Nigella, two tiny Broccoli seedlings, a spiky cactus that I forgot to bring indoors, five Aloe Vera’s, a Spider Plant that is too big for indoors, and a Thyme cutting. In the border of the small greenhouse was Spinach Beet that had got seriously big and bitter tasting so we pulled it up, as I have a new plan for this border. I will definitely grow Spinach Beet again though in the autumn as it’s so reliable and tasty. In the large greenhouse I have a Bell Pepper that is still trying to produce fruits. I don’t know if you can grow peppers for more than one year but this one hasn’t died off so, I keep picking off and composting the tiny fruit in the hope that I can move it to a sunnier spot in the greenhouse. Also overwintering is my large Aloe Vera and a Money Plant. I had hoped to utilise the space more in the winter but a late slug attack meant my cauliflowers and cabbage seedlings were destroyed.
My final jobs for January will be to start washing my slightly dusty pots, sieve the garden centre bought compost and plant some more seeds. This month is ideal for starting off Snap Dragons, Geraniums, Dianthifolia and Pennisetum and Salad leaves. I will be growing all of these from seed plus two others that I am hugely excited about. One is the half hardy shrub Banksia Hookeriana which will eventually replace a dying broom. The other is a Cycad. A truly magical greenhouse fern. I say this because when I was sent the seeds last year from Thompson & Morgan I had no idea what it was. I had to go on their website to find out and it amazed me. The cycad is a fossil, it was on Earth long before the dinosaurs, it has lived through millions of years of climate change, and evolution. It’s hard to believe I have a seed in my hands that is so ancient and yet so new. I was telling a friend about it and I said I was worried about accidentally destroying something so historically valuable. Don’t get me wrong the seeds are not hugely expensive and it’s not a rare endangered fern as the seeds wouldn’t be for sale, I just meant that I hope I can be trusted to grow something that has been around forever without getting it wrong. I think I will be doing some more research though before I open the packet though.
Finally, if I have whetted your appetite for seed sowing, then take advantage of the January sales, there are often offers for half price or even free packets or seeds. This month Thompson & Morgan are offering readers of a National Magazine twelve packets of free seeds for £3.20 P&P. They include vegetables, flowers for cutting and flowers for wildlife. I’m tempted are you?
Until next month.
Petunia Hanging Basket
I love petunias, they are so bright and colourful and make beautiful displays in hanging baskets and containers. I use mainly baskets and containers in my garden which are displayed on my decking at the front of my house during the summer.
This year I wanted to do something different with the petunias. Our local football team AFC Bournemouth had been promoted to the Premier League so I decided to do something in their honour. I have a stand with three baskets, small, medium and large which stands by my front door. The Bournemouth colours are black and red so I bought some red double petunias and was able to find some single black petunias which looked just like velvet. I planted them and stood back to await the results. Bournemouth Football club sent me a digital photo of their emblem which I enlarged and put in the window at the side of the petunias. It caused interest amongst neighbours especially those who were supporters including two of my grandchildren. As you see on the photo I had a hanging basket with the same petunias in just to the right of the stand and they ended up in growing together.
I also grew some very different petunias, a cerise colour with very light leaves which really showed up the colour of the flower and lasted for most of the summer. Another idea I had was to grow red, white and blue petunias for the fence baskets which worked out very well, and also a red, white and blue triple hanging basket. Red in the top, white in the middle and blue in the bottom basket.
I have also had success with growing petunias in hanging bags but have learnt from previous disappointments that when I have planted up the bag is to leave it lying flat until they are settled. This seemed to work much better for me this year. I really like the new kind of petunia which graduates from white in the centre to a deeper colour middle to top of the flower. A couple of years ago I tried some climbing petunias – Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’ – which were very successful.
Petunia in hanging bag
Of course it hasn`t all been success, I got up one morning only to find that the dripper from the watering system had fallen out of one of the baskets and the strong winds we had dried it out completely. Although I tried very hard to save it I wasn`t able to, and another basket this happened to, I had to cut them right back, soaked it in a bucket of water and in about a month they were all flowering again, so at 77 I still have to ‘live and learn`!
This year I bought some petunias called Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’ they were beautiful shades of yellow, orange and peach. They lasted throughout the whole summer no matter what the weather did, including some torrential rain and hailstones but after a few days they all just bounced back again.
Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’
I am now wondering which petunias I shall plant for this coming year? Roll on summer I say.
2016 – Thompson & Morgan Petunia Parade is here to celebrate a national favourite
Thompson & Morgan is kick starting a 2016 Petunia Parade with the launch of several hot new petunias in its spring catalogue. We are aiming to inspire UK gardeners and change some out-dated attitudes to an unsung garden hero.
Announcing the initiative, Thompson & Morgan Communications Officer, Kris Collins said: “There’s a certain amount of snobbery in some circles when it comes to Petunias. Some gardeners turn their noses up, but these showy summer performers remain popular for a reason. No other plant offers such diversity in terms of garden use, colour scheme, growth habit and ease of growing. There’s something for everyone in our 2016 Petunia selection – colour, shape, style and even scent. If you grow our latest introduction, people will be turning their noses up for a very different reason!”
The seed and young plant mail order specialist is bringing high scent to the genus with new Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’. Double flowers mean MORE petals and MORE fragrance. Just one pot of this climbing beauty will fill the garden with scent all summer. All introductions for 2016 have been selected for their performance under UK growing conditions, blooming right up to the first frosts of autumn – expect to see giant flower forms that will bounce back after summer showers.
The Petunia Parade is not just about showing off the fantastic range of Thompson & Morgan Petunias – including its star performer ‘Night Sky’, a truly unique variety and a world first in flower patterning. The Parade will be fully backed via www.thompson-morgan.com/petunia-parade
Customers will be able to log on for top growing advice, planting and training ideas, petunia growing blogs and stunning images and easy how-to videos – all supplied by Thompson & Morgan’s team of experts.
Customers will be encouraged to join in the parade, sharing their passion for Petunias and posting their progress through the season. The seed and young plant specialist is also looking for the best British petunia display – be it a small container display or a mass bedding scheme. Gardeners can send in their photos through the season for a chance to win £100 of Thompson & Morgan vouchers. Ten runners up will each receive a £10 voucher. Competition closes 30th September. Visit Thompson & Morgan Competitions for details.
Thompson & Morgan Petunia Highlights 2016
Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’
An exclusive double flowering Petunia from the Thompson & Morgan breeding programme.
Rapid growth and early flowering produces the ultimate column of colour when trained on a frame. Just three plants set into a Thompson & Morgan Tower Pot™ will create a winning summer patio or balcony display. Bred in the UK to cope with British weather, long stems quickly reach up to 1.8m (6ft) in height come rain or shine.
View Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’ Here
Petunia ‘Night Sky’
This new Fleuroselect Gold winner brings unique flower markings to the petunia market. Compact semi-trailing plants are covered in starry blooms. There’s no need for a telescope to star gaze, you’ll find a constellation in every flower!
View Petunia ‘Night Sky’ Here
Petunia ‘Easy Wave™ Ultimate Mixed’
This customer favourite just keeps on getting better! Rapid growth, a unique prostrate habit and prolific blooms make Petunia ‘Easy Wave™’ adaptable to almost any garden situation – it even makes an excellent ground cover plant! New for 2016, the mix now has 18 vibrant colours, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy from this best seller.
View Petunia ‘Easy Wave™ Ultimate Mixed’ Here
For more new petunia varieties visit: www.thompson-morgan.com/petunia-parade
Independent trials carried out by consumer group Which? Gardening have named incredicompost® as the best compost on the market. It was given an overall test score of 95 per cent, setting it well ahead of the next best performer, Verve multipurpose compost (B&Q) at 80 per cent. It came miles ahead of the worst performer – GroSure Peat-Free All-Purpose Compost with 4 Month Feed, labelled a ‘Don’t Buy’ product by Which? Gardening, having scored just 33 per cent in the trials.
We knew we were on to a winner with our first move into the compost market. Our aim with incredicompost® has been to develop a premium-quality product that brings consistency and reliability back to the compost market – something that has been missing since the increased use of green waste materials in many well-known brands, in a bid to reduce their peat content. Gardeners are keen to reduce their peat use but many have reported poor results with existing green-waste products.
incredicompost® addresses these consumer concerns. To reduce the peat in our blend we have instead included wood fibre, sourced from Irish saw mills, actually making use of a surplus by-product. This wood fibre is graded by chip size, so each time we make a new batch we can guarantee consistency from our ingredients, leading to consistent performance from the compost.
incredicompost® comes packed with trace elements and minerals and like many other products includes wetting agent for easy watering, plus a little pre-mixed fertiliser to ensure good early growth. What sets it out from the crowd is a pre-packed sachet of incredibloom® in every bag for mixing in at planting time, ensuring strong healthy growth for 7+ months – a little goes a long way! Separating the feed into a sachet prevents degradation (leading to a lack of nutrients for plants), a common problem with other pre-mixed, long lasting composts.
You can read the full Which? compost trial report in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue.
From the creators of the ground breaking Tomtato® comes Egg & Chips®
– another world first in 2-in-1 cropping solutions for the home gardener
- Aubergines AND potatoes from the same plant!
- Lovingly hand grafted to bring you bumper crops
- Great novelty factor for kids and kids at heart
- Perfect for patio and balcony pots
Following the phenomenal success of the hand-grafted Tomtato® (More than 1million sold worldwide since launch in 2013), Thompson & Morgan plant breeders have carried out extensive grafting trials to create the next step in space-saving, dual-cropping vegetable plants with Egg & Chips®. For the first time ever you can now produce aubergines (better known as egg plants in the US and Europe) and potatoes on the same plant.
Aside from the dual-cropping benefits of Egg & Chips®, the grafting process makes it easier than ever before to grow quality aubergines in the UK climate. The hardy, vigorous potato plant supports the more delicate aubergine far better than its own root system can in British soil, enabling optimum fruit production. You won’t even need a greenhouse to grow Egg & Chips® – a sunny, sheltered spot in the garden will produce great results.
The development of Egg & Chips® was kept tightly under wraps – the seed and plant specialist even moved its annual summer press days off site in 2015 to keep final crop trials a secret.
Thompson & Morgan New Product Development Manager Michael Perry said: “It’s been hard keeping quiet about this amazing plant. I’ve had to bite my tongue for the past year! Egg & Chips® is a real innovation. For seasoned veg growers this is a really novel development. For those without the luxury of an allotment or large vegetable patch it makes the most of available space in the garden. Even the smallest patio or balcony can accommodate a pot-grown Egg & Chips® plant – pair it with a Tomtato® plant and you’ll have three easy to grow crops from just two pots”.
The productive plants offer guaranteed results, making them great fun for kids just getting into growing. For kids at heart the innovation will make a great “show off” plant on the patio this summer. The sturdy potato plant gives the aubergine the vigour and strength to grow strongly and harvest heavily under UK growing conditions. Above ground you will harvest an average of 3 to 4 large tasty aubergines. Below ground, harvest heavy yields of up to 2kg of delicious white potatoes which are incredibly versatile. You can boil them, mash them, roast them or make chips. There’s no genetic modification – it’s an all-natural, and safe process.
Egg & Chips® also dispels the myth that you need to salt, wash and dry aubergines to draw out bitter juices before cooking – a laborious chore that has put many people off growing these Mediterranean plants in the UK. The aubergine variety chosen for the grafting process is a modern strain that has had the bitterness bred out of it – simply pick, chop and cook.
Orders are now being taken for mail order despatch from April onwards. With limited first year stock Thompson & Morgan recommends early ordering.
Buy your Egg & Chips® potted plants here
Whichever way you look at it, our new vegetable plant creations make sense! Space-saving, double-cropping, fun for kids, easy for beginners, and not to mention tasty and flavoursome…
Let’s look at the story of the dual cropping vegetables!
First we launched the TomTato®. Known for many years as a phenomenon within the horticultural world, this novelty has now gone mainstream! In days gone by, allotmenteers actually spent time sellotaping tomato plants onto potato stems in order to create the fabled ‘TomTato®’.
It wasn’t until a few years back that we finally found a way to produce plants on a commercial basis. But, we didn’t do this with just any tomato and potato. On the top, we grafted a super sweet variety, with a Brix content so high it makes it taste as sweet as a strawberry. The fruits are also deliciously thin-skinned, so much so that you’d never find them in supermarkets (as they would not transport as successfully!) The variety is also a bumper cropper! Plants can produce in excess of 300 fruits per plant.
However, don’t forget that below the ground your plants will be creating that surprise harvest; 2-3kg of delicious white potatoes!! A further year’s development has also meant we’ve been able to select an even heavier cropping potato for the base, now giving 50% more ‘tatties’ than the first incarnation of the TomTato®!
When we released the TomTato® to the public, it took the world by storm – more than 1million plants have sold worldwide since 2013. The plant resonated with such a wide range of people too, and not all of them were necessarily gardeners or plant-lovers! Even teenagers were tweeting about this exciting plant, which some nicknamed ‘frankenfood’. Of course, this was inaccurate, as it’s just 2 plants fixed, pegged, grafted together, so everything is 100% natural!
With our grafting projects, the next obvious step seemed to be to choose another compatible duo, and we’ve been playing with a few ideas over the last few years. And we are now ready to reveal Egg & Chips® to the world…! If this sounds utterly crazy, don’t worry we’re not talking chicken eggs! Our latest dual cropping plant pairs an aubergine (better known in the US and Europe as the Egg Plant) and potatoes. The potato base grafting actually gives the Aubergine an extra vigour boost, meaning Egg & CHIPS will produce better aubergines in the UK than a traditional aubergine plant can.
So, as well as ketchup and chips or Patatas Bravas from our Tomtato plants, you now have the components to make a really tasty aubergine and potato gratin all from one plant!
Grow your TomTato® and Egg & Chips® in patio containers, growbags (turned up on end!), on the allotment or on the veg patch. Be part of the dual cropping revolution, order your plants today, we expect them to sell out quickly!