Fuchsias – The Big Bloomers

At Thompson & Morgan, we have been selling plants for over 20 years now, including thousands, if not millions, of fuchsias! Our customers love a good fuchsia; from the small-flowered, table top style to the glorious trailing varieties. But, for now, we’re talking about the ‘big Daddies’ of the fuchsia world; the giant-flowered trailers!

fuchsias

They may look fancy, exotic and drenched in colour, but the giant-flowered fuchsias are actually English-bred, and guaranteed to perform in our ever-changeable English climate! As easy to grow as any other fuchsia, they’ll feel most at home in a dappled, shady corner, so are ideal for jazzing up a front door or garage that doesn’t get the sun!

fuchsias

Each bloom is filled out by an extra layer or two of petals, giving flamboyance and a bloom that swells to almost 6 inches in diameter! Some of my favourite varieties include the dark, mysterious ‘Voodoo’, the playful, brightly coloured ‘Cecile’ and marbled ‘Bicentennial’. The key to more fuchsia blooms is an early pinching of your plants. But, don’t get over-zealous with this, just 2 pinches will be enough.

The blooms can be twice the size of a standard fuchsia flower such as ‘Swingtime’, and you’re sure to love them! Bear in mind you might get a few less blooms than the usual trailing fuchsias, but this is only because each bloom is bigger and they take up more space! But, I urge you to try some for yourself, giant-flowered types aren’t ready available in the garden centres, so snap some up while you can!

Fifty shades of green

Couldn’t get tickets for the opening weekend of Fifty Shades of Grey? Get out in the garden instead; try our Fifty Shades of Green this season!

We now offer a range of over 300 mature shrubs and perennials for instant impact in your garden. No garden should be without hassle-free herbaceous perennials; they return each spring and require little help to put on a stunning show. Here is part 1 of our 50 shades of green series, giving you our top 25 varieties from our instant gardening range that are sure to set your pulse racing.

50 shades of green1. Our first shade of green is Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’! This RHS AGM variety is an attractive evergreen shrub that makes a useful addition to any garden. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is a must have plants for low maintenance gardens due to its tough and versatile habit, thriving in almost any position.

2. Lavender ‘Hidcote’ is one of the nations best known varieties of English Lavender. The fragrant stems of Lavandula ‘Hidcote’ are ideal for drying and cutting. The nectar-rich flowers will also attractive bees to your garden.

50 shades of green3. Brunnera Macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ boasts heart-shaped, silver leaves that will brighten up any garden.  ‘Jack Frost’ is a quick growing and resilient hardy perennial,that makes a fantastic ground cover plant in those tricky shady areas.

4. Mahonia aquifolium is a shade of green that offers all year round interest. Mahonia plants are the ideal choice for security planting due to their prickly habit.

5. Choisya ternanta, otherwise known as Mexican Orange Blossom, is a popular choice for the evergreen foliage. Their shiny green leaves and accompanied by white fragrant white flowers from late spring and then flowering again in late summer and autumn.

50 shades of green6. Veronica prostrata ‘Aztec Gold’ Ground cover so bright you’ll need sunglasses.

7. Laburnum Anagyroides looks spectacular even when it is not in flower. Long racemes and silvery pods makes this variety an ideal plant to grow over an archway.

8. New for 2015 is Weigela florida ‘Monet’. This compact shrub is perfect for smaller gardens. Soft pink flowers compliment the green foliage and makes a reliable and tough addition to your borders.

50 shades of green

9. Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ A compact shrub that looks superb in the middle of borders or in a pot on the patio.

10. Mint ‘Gingermint’  is a shade of green you don’t want to leave out of the herb garden. These plants are rich in nectar which will attract bees to your garden. You can grow mint in perennial borders, herb gardens and also summer containers.

11. Tradescantia ‘Bilberry Ice’ is a new selection, emphasising berry-coloured florets surrounded by green sword-like foliage.

50 shades of green12. Fragrant flowers should be grown in every garden. Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna emits a powerful fragrance throughout winter and thrive in deep and partial shade. Sarcococca can be grown into a low hedge similar to Box. In fact, it is sometimes known as Sweet Box or Christmas Box.

13. Spiraea ‘Arguta’, also known as Bridal Wreath, is smoothered in white flowers which will appear each spring. An easy to grow, deciduous shrub with a fast-growing habit.

14. Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’  adds a cool shade of green in the bleaker months. The ideal shrub to add winter colour in your garden.

50 shades of green15. Pleioblastus argenteostriatus f. pumilus Low-maintenance and evergreen, with deep green leaves and red-flushed canes.

16. Euonymus fortunei ‘Blondy’  boasts golden yellow and green foliage giving you a striking display. Euonymus plants will thrive in any position as this evergreen variety is durable and extremely tough.

17. Heptacodium miconioides is an unusual shade of green for the garden. But it’s exotic appearance and hardy nature makes it very appealing.

18. Cornus Canadensis A very pretty ground cover plant for using in problem areas of the garden.

50 shades of green19. Garrya elliptica is perfect for a sunny or shady position. It’s unique shade of green is hugely attractive and the tough foliage makes this plant an ideal addition in winter gardens.

20. Veronica prostrata ‘Aztec Gold’ is unique with golden green leaves contrasting blue flowers from the beginning of summer.

21. Festuca Glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ An easy to grow evergreen plant for patio pots, borders and rockeries.

22. Hosta undulata var. undulata. The bright green leaves have a curious, twisted growth habit which gives them a fascinating appearance.

50 shades of green23. Cornus Canadensis are herbaceous, and form a dense mat of oval leaves, produced in whorls on stems only 15cm (6″) in height. Plants will create a weed-beating blanket, and are good for planting beneath trees and shrubs.

24. Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Carpet’

25. Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ is a sun-loving ornamental grass with evergreen, slender leaves, etched in green and gold. Carex ‘Evergold’ can also be planted into shade, where it will brighten up a dark corner.

 

Home-grown fruit & veg is back on the menu

More and more people are keen to get their hands into trying home-grown fruit & veg in order to cut down the cost of their weekly shop. Combined with healthy eating campaigns such as Jamie Oliver in schools, the appetite to become more self-sufficient is higher than ever.

Growing your own fruit and veg is both satisfying and healthy. The best part is; it is a lot simpler than what you might think. You don’t even need an allotment or a big to garden to be able to grow your own. If you need a little more guidance on how to grow your own fruit and veg, we have a wide range guides to help you.

Gardening technology and innovation has also come on leaps and bounds, and this innovation has allowed us to become more savvy and smarter with our gardens. New concepts such as Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’™ mean that you can have delicious raspberries straight from your balcony or patio without the use of invasive canes. So whether you have a huge garden or lack space, everyone can enjoy the benefits of home grown fruit and veg.

fruit & veg

We want to know if our customers find one fruit & veg easier to grow than others and if our customers have a ‘favourite veg’. We took to our social media pages to find out. Topping the leader board for customer’s favourite vegetable is carrots!! Closely followed by; beans (runner and broad) potatoes and tomatoes.

Judith Allen on Twitter said ‘Carrots. Easy to grow and love them raw and cooked’.

Catherine Thomson on Facebook said ‘Carrots as they are so versatile and yummy’.

Are you crazy about carrots? Or do you have a different favourite veg? Then post your comment below.

How to grow fuchsias

There are few plant groups that are as diverse as the fuchsia. These exotic looking beauties are firm favourites for their pendant flowers in a wonderful range of colour combinations. Fuchsias may be deciduous or evergreen depending on their variety and growing conditions. They’re versatile too, growing happily in sun or semi shade. These hard working shrubs will flower virtually all summer long, filling borders, beds, window boxes, hanging baskets and patio containers – in fact, they will bring colour to almost any position that you can think of.

FuchsiaHow to grow Fuchsias

Pot up fuchsia plug plants using a good quality, well drained compost such as John Innes No.3, and grow them on in warm, frost-free conditions. Trailing fuchsia plug plants may be planted directly into baskets, window boxes and containers. These should also be grown on in warm, frost free conditions until they are well developed.

Pinch out the growing tips of each plant while they are still small to promote bushier growth and more flowers. When all risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimatise fuchsia plants to outdoor conditions over a 7 to 10 day period, before moving them (or planting them out) in their final positions. Watch our helpful video to learn how to pinch out Fuchsia stems.

Fuchsias are very versatile and can be grown in sun or semi shade in any fertile, moist well drained soil, although they will appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day. Choose a position that offers shelter from cold, drying winds.

When growing hardy fuchsias in the ground they are best planted so that the base of the stem is 5cm (2″) below the soil surface. This will help to protect the crown of the plant during cold winter weather.

Feeding and watering fuchsias

Water fuchsias regularly to maintain moist, but not waterlogged conditions. Fuchsias that are grown in containers will need frequent watering depending on the size of the container and weather conditions. Hanging baskets should be watered at least once a day during hot summer weather. Fuchsias that are planted directly into borders will become more self sufficient once established.

Although many fuchsia plants are naturally floriferous, it is well worth feeding them every few weeks throughout the summer, especially those grown in hanging baskets and containers. Use a soluble fertiliser such as Chempak Fuchsia Feed. Regular feeding will encourage an endless supply of flowers and frequent deadheading will also prolong the flowering period.

How to get an Allotment – with Michelle Stacey

michelle stacey Hi, my name is Michelle and I was a contestant on BBC2 big allotment challenge 2014, and also BBC1 allotment wars. I have my own allotment and have done for 5 years now, the lovelies at Thompson & Morgan have asked if I would like to write an allotment blog, so I thought we would start right back at the beginning.

When applying for an allotment you need to contact your local council offices parks and gardens department. They will inform you of your nearest allotment site and availability. You can choose whether to apply online or they will send you a form in the post. Waiting times vary from site to site, I was really lucky I only waited for 4 weeks for my allotment but unfortunately for some sites people can wait for years. Sizes of plots vary massively. The traditional method of measuring an allotment is in rods, perches and poles an old measurements dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. Ten poles is the accepted size of an allotment that’s the equivalent of 250 square meters. A rod was used to control a team of oxen when working the land and measures 5.5 yards.

michelle staceyThis translated into more modern terms as 10×5 x 5×5 as an area required to produce enough vegetables to feed a family of 4 for a year, obviously a rough guide as every site is different.  I measure my allotment in ft. it works out at 120ft long and 30ft wide all this measuring fuddles my brain! Whatever space you end up with finally you always learn to maximise. When you’re weeding and digging your allotment, it always feel like you have too much space. But when you’re planting, it feels like you don’t have enough. I still remember the over excitement of receiving my letter to say plot 4b had been allocated to me, I was to meet the site rep and he will show me round. Of course I arrived on site trying to keep excitement in check. To start with I only had half a plot which is 50ft x 30ft covered in bramble 6ft high in some spots, and couch grass (a gardeners nightmare), none of that mattered to me and I couldn’t wait to get started. After much preparation I was fully equipped with a spade, fork, rake, sheers, gloves and wellies. I was ready to go to war with my plot.

This is a very small part of my allotment now, in my next post I will tell you how I went from bramble and mess to a fully productive plot.

A year in the greenhouse – Amanda

Hello everyone, my name is Amanda and this is the first of what I hope will be one of my many blogs for Thompson & Morgan. I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. It’s situated at the top of a hill and literally a five minute walk from the Cleddau Estuary. Being so close to the Irish Sea means that we get mild temperatures in the winter, however we also have to cope with the very strong salt-laden westerly winds that can blow up at any time of the year.

I started gardening later in life, for a few reasons, they are in no particular order but I would like to share them with you.

The first reason is for my physical and mental wellbeing. As I was born with a congenital heart disorder, and didn’t want to pick up any germs, I was a little scared of gardening. Especially as a youngster – but over the years I have realised gardening is actually very beneficial. It’s a great form of exercise, it is approved by my cardiologist to help maintain a healthy weight, keep muscle tone and improve lung capacity. It helps to reduces stress, it gets me outdoors, even in the winter, and I can enjoy super fresh fruit and veg, knowing exactly where it comes from and how it was grown. Which is to say, two minutes from my kitchen and mostly organic.

I’m not sure if using water from our four foot fish tank to drench the garden is classed as organic because of the colourings that go into fish food but the plants seem to like it. I do not water the plants that are eaten raw, just the potatoes, rhubarb and pretty flowers. Has anyone else used water from a fish tank to feed their plants? I have a feeling that I read something that said goldfish water is a good fertiliser, but I can’t remember where I read it.

a year in the greenhouseThe second reason I garden is because I wanted to learn a new skill.  I didn’t think I would be very good at growing something from seed or cuttings, and I hate failing at things, but without trying I would always be wondering if it was something I could have done. Luckily Thompson & Morgan have handy growing hints and tips on their website and their products always come with detailed instructions. I started off with simple seeds like sunflowers, sweet peas and asters, then progressed onto mini plugs of more tender plants and tomatoes when I got one of those plastic pop up greenhouses. I now have a 6×6 horticultural glasshouse. After eight years or so I can now say I am okay at growing things, but I still consider myself to be a beginner. Does anyone else feel this way?

For example I can grow peppers, aubergines and tomatoes from seed every year without encountering problems. Yet, every year without fail I kill my cucumbers before they are more than a foot high.

Two years ago I tried to grow carrots, the slugs had them. Last year I beat the slugs by moving the pots around constantly, but the carrots were so small, (even though the leaves were huge) that not even a carrot fly could go to the trouble of nibbling on them. It was pretty pathetic. This is why I still feel like a beginner. I have a lot to learn.

The third reason I garden is because of tradition. My paternal grandparents ran a farm so growing crops is in our blood. Whilst my maternal grandparents worked on the land and recycled everything before it became trendy to do so – they were also fantastic cooks and grew a variety of fruit and vegetables in their garden at the back of the house and to me were able to create magical food from a surprisingly small number of ingredients. If we wanted a pudding after our meal we were told to go and eat the raspberries or suck the nectar from the nasturtiums.

Whilst the farming grandparents allowed us the freedom of playing in the barns, walking the sheep dogs, helping harvest potatoes or go running and sitting in the fields, the village dwellers who only had a small garden allowed us to collect ladybirds and caterpillars and grasshoppers and study the insect world for ourselves, so long as we didn’t break the dahlias or peony or roses in the front garden. We never played in the back; I guess we were too scared of damaging grandpa’s regimented rows of produce. Both sets of grandparents taught me lessons I would like to share in future blogs.

a year in the greenhouseThis tradition of growing is the real reason why I want to be part of the blogging community.  Almost two years ago my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I wasn’t as close to him as my brothers were as my parents divorced when I was thirteen, but luckily through gardening we were able to mend our relationship. Before his illness became too aggressive I told him I was growing potatoes in a grow bag, being a farmer he thought this was the funniest thing anyone had ever told him. He said it wouldn’t work. I saw this as a challenge and gave him daily telephone updates of the potato progress along with taking photos on my phone to show him when we visited on the weekends. I didn’t realise how pleased he was until I overheard him telling his health visitor that I had fantastic food growing in the greenhouse as well as tasty spuds.

As his health began to fail he kept asking me if he could buy me another greenhouse for Christmas, I told him it was too expensive a present and that he needed to keep his money for heating, especially as the cancer had spread to his spine and shoulder bones. I tried to keep his spirits up by having a potato growing challenge – I would grow potatoes again in my grow bags if he grew two in a large plastic pot. After thinking about it he agreed saying he was wrong to say potatoes in sacks would never grow. Sadly dad died in June 2014 two weeks before our potatoes were ready. I inherited the plastic pot with them in it and at first I didn’t want to eat the spuds as that was the last thing he grew. In the end I knew he, like my grandparents, would be mad if I let good food go to waste, so ate them and they were delicious.

Dad also left us a little bit of money – I am not someone who has to have the latest tech, or have to spend it straight away. He didn’t leave us a fortune but it was enough for me to buy a new greenhouse with, it’s a 10×6 one. He also wanted me to be like his father and keep a diary of my gardening year. I have kept diary for most years but they have just been about random bits of daily life. I had no idea my granddad kept a diary of his life and farming methods, just before dad died I had the pleasure of reading the ones he had translated from Welsh from the years 1973, 1974 and 1975. So, forty years on I want to honour my past, be grateful for my present, and look forward to my future. I want to write about a year in my new greenhouse, covering everything from its construction to first fruits. I want to record everything from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs.

My actual diary is a physical paper journal where each day I will record things like when the greenhouse was delivered, how many blocks were laid for the base, the weather, things in bloom, and the cost of compost, anything greenhouse related. I sourced my diary on the Internet as the one I wanted includes sections for each week to record things like to do lists, weather patterns and interesting gardens to visit. Each month I will give you a concise update on my progress; I will include photos of significant events, and write some hopefully interesting things. In return all I ask is if you could share some of your gardening moments with me? Please leave me anything from comments, to hints and tips to improve my gardening, or pictures of your own plot. I promise I will try to respond to each one.

Until next month – Happy Gardening!

From Amanda.

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