Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ – Flower of the Year 2016


Thompson & Morgan focus on a favourite to back Year of the Cosmos

Cosmos are always a favourite option with Thompson & Morgan customers. Easy to grow, free flowering in beds and containers, a wide colour range and an excellent cut flower. Cosmos are an obvious choice for beginners and established gardeners alike.

The mail order seed and plant specialist sold more than 117,000 packets of Cosmos, across some 40 varieties, during the 2014-2015 season. It is looking to take that further next season by showing support for the industry-wide Fleuroselect Year of the Cosmos marketing campaign. The firm’s 2016 Seed Catalogue, mailing in early September, contains a dedicated inspirational spread to this popular genus, and will champion new Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ as the Thompson & Morgan Flower of the Year 2016.

Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, said: “New cosmos are always popular with our customers – we struggled to meet demand for Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’ this season, and we’re expecting big things from ‘Xanthos’ in 2016. Yellow is a much sought after colour in the genus. With all eyes on these easy to grow summer performers thanks to the Fleuroselct campaign, we hope to see even more gardeners adding Cosmos to their schemes in 2016.”

Find out more about Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ by clicking here

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.

Thompson & Morgan garden

If you ever visited one of our Open Weekend’s you’ll know you’ll be in for a treat at the new Thompson & Morgan garden. Sadly due to the large number of visitors the event attracted, it could no longer be held at the our site. However, we are so excited to have teamed up with Jimmy’s Farm to be able to once again open its trial gardens to their customers and gardening public.

Thompson & Morgan open garden

Over a thousand containers (Tower Pots™, Flower Pouches™, Patio Pots and Easy Fill Hanging Baskets ) and several large trial beds will show off customer favourites, key introductions for 2016 and experimental varieties being trialled for garden performance. You will be asked to highlight your favourite varieties and will have the chance to win prizes for sending in selfie shots with the plant that catches your eye the most.

Thompson & Morgan open garden

The garden adds an injection of vibrant colour to a host of other free attractions at the farm including rare breed animals, top class restaurant and butchery, as well as craft and gift stores. Take a look at the farm map.

Thompson & Morgan open garden

Farm owner Jimmy Doherty said: “The Thompson & Morgan garden just cannot be missed… literally! Our latest attraction has added a generous dose of colour to the farm, and allows us to offer gardener’s a sneak preview of some incredible new plants for gardens. Marvel at the wall of colour too, clothed in Thompson & Morgan’s innovative Flower Pouches™, showing that fences don’t have to stay dull and brown! Visit as soon as you can for a day of inspiration and, of course, the opportunity to take some great selfies!”

You can keep up to date on the latest information about the Thompson & Morgan Garden at Jimmy’s Farm by following us on Facebook and Twitter with #TMopengarden.

Entry to the garden is free. Visit Jimmy’s Farm for more information on admission fees and directions.

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.

National Allotment Week – A plot for all ages

Yes, it is that time again and we cannot believe how quickly it has come back around. Not that we are complaining we love National Allotment Week (August 10th – 16th )! This year the focus is on a plot for all ages. No matter your age or gender, allotments bring a wealth of benefits and by highlighting them we can value our plots and preserve them for future generations.

national allotment week

The first allotments were used to grow food during the World Wars and they provided a means of labour for those in rural and poorer areas. Since then, allotments have flourished and not only do they provide a space for growing food supplies but community allotments are social spaces where gardeners can interact each other;

‘Allotments are a great way to meet new people, not only have I gained an allotment but have gained friends and a good source of companionship. We talk about general day things, children and jobs etc but they are also a good source of information. I learn from them, grow with them and together we have become savvy allotmenteers’ – Jon Parker

national allotment weekThe community spirit behind allotments is more important than ever as an increasing number of allotments are being sold to developers to create amenities such as homes and schools. Whilst we all can appreciate more houses are needed, allotments play a vital part to our well being.

I remember when we visited our local Belstead allotments to meet Mrs Christine Simpson who had managed to get funding for a composting toilet for the site. Christine says;

“We’ve got 179 plots and now, compared to a few years ago, we’re full, with a long waiting list as the demand for space to grow your own has increased. We’ve got a real mix of people, It’s a real family affair for a lot of plot holders. We’ve brought in an old shipping container to act as a secure lock-up for gardening supplies; we’ve converted an old shed into a meeting place with heaters and stoves for a warm cup of tea and provided some picnic benches for social get-togethers at weekends, but there were no toilets.”

Whether you are young or old, allotments can be enjoyed by everyone. And with caring people such as Christine, allotments can become a real community space where you can spend hours on end enjoying your crops and talking to fellow gardeners.

Do you have an allotment? Then we have the perfect competition for you! We would love to see and hear about your allotments, so send in your pictures and tell us a bit about your allotment for your chance to win a wonderful prize. You could take a photo of everyone in your allotments or a picture of your veg it really is up to you. And then tell us why your allotment is special to you.

If you would like to know more about how to get an allotment please read how with our guest blogger Michelle Stacey from BBC Big Allotment Challenge.

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.

A Small Gardening Space

After living without any outdoor space of my own for 5 years, last year we moved and I gained an empty balcony. A blank canvas. When you live without any outdoor gardening space you realise just how much you previously took it for granted. I had never been a gardener, despite my mother avidly encouraging me through my youth. However, spurred on by the gift of some blueberry bushes and the notion of ‘feeding off my (rented) land’ I decided to give growing a go.

After hearing tales of how difficult growing veg could be, and knowing little about the ‘correct’ growing methods I started out with low expectations, perhaps I’d have a tomato or two by the end of summer.

I started from seed, nurturing them on the windowsill. A few days on, a rippling on the soil surface and the breakthrough of greenery caused a grin to adorn my face. The pure pleasure of watching something grow from next to nothing is one of life’s simple satisfactions.

A few factors influenced my plant choices; what couldn’t I buy from supermarkets (purple carrots), what was expensive to buy (mangetout), what tasted significantly better fresh (runner beans), and what could I fit on a balcony! Many venture into growing-your-own with tomatoes so I threw in some seeds.  Far, far too many seeds as it turned out when I had around 50 tomato seedlings to try and re-home! A learning curve…

gardening space

A learning ‘curve’

Of course I made many errors, none were detrimental. I remember exclaims from my boyfriend’s mother, “You didn’t harden off your tomatoes?!”. ‘Harden off’ meant nothing to me (for novices and others not ‘in-the-know’ this refers to the process of acclimatising your plants to the outer world). As a result my tomatoes grew slowly, but they still fruited. Nothing lost, some more knowledge gained.

By the end of summer, we had enjoyed plentiful runner beans, mangetout and tomatoes. They tasted incredible, perhaps enhanced by the knowledge of where they’d grown and what they’d been exposed to. There’s something incredibly rewarding about stepping outside and harvesting your crop to eat then and there. No more than a few paces between plant and pan.

gardening space

Mangetout, purple-podded peas, runner beans

If you think you don’t have enough space, think outside the box. Even a windowsill can flourish with chilies, herbs, lettuce leaves to name a few. If you think you can’t grow anything, try it anyway, maybe it’ll work. Get inspired by what others do, I watched a TED talk on growing salad in a New York apartment with no space using vertical, hydroponic platforms. Incredible!

So, one summer on I’ve learnt what did and didn’t work for me. Carrots can’t just be plonked in soil and expected to grow as a single straight root, they need more care and soil preparation which at the moment I don’t have time for. Shelling peas didn’t give me a good yield, I got approximately 30 peas from a whole summer – it wasn’t worth it, especially compared to the mangetout yield which kept us going for weeks. So this year I’m eager to try more – sweetcorn, peppers, courgettes, broad beans. Maybe they’ll work, maybe they won’t.


Sarah Belsey
Novel gardener trying to make the most out of limited space!

How to grow Wisteria

Wisteria is the quintessential climber for the English cottage garden. A well-grown wisteria is an absolute joy in May and June when the beautiful, scented pendants of flowers drape from the branches in a breathtaking display. But often gardeners find these climbing plants a little daunting. The idea of all that pruning and training just feels far too complicated. It’s a shame because it’s not as tricky as you might think – in fact wisteria is actually very easy to grow. With correct care these long-lived twining climbers will reward you with many years of pleasure in your garden.

how to grow wisteriaWhere to plant Wisteria

Location is an important factor to consider when growing Wisterias. They are long lived and will form woody stems over time which require significant support. This makes them very difficult to move if you change your mind in a few years time. Also bear in mind that they require regular pruning to keep them under control and to encourage flowering, so it’s well worth taking your time to choose the best possible location for your plant.

Grow wisteria plants in a sunny or semi shaded site in any moist, well drained soil. Wisteria flower buds can be damaged by hard spring frosts so choose a sheltered position if possible.

How to plant Wisteria

You will need to provide the twining stems with an appropriate and very sturdy support. The ideal way to grow Wisterias against a wall is to train them as an espalier, with horizontal support wires (3mm galvanised steel) set 45cm (18″) apart. Alternatively, you can train them onto a sturdy pergola, or even into a tree. Supports are best put in place before planting as it will be much harder to install them once the wisteria is in the ground.

how to grow wisteriaPrior to planting add plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost to the soil to improve soil fertility and drainage. Remember that your wisteria will be planted here for many years so it’s worth taking the time to create ideal soil conditions from the start. Plant wisteria at the same level that they were supplied in their pots. If you are planting a bare root wisteria then look for a soil mark towards the base of the stem which indicates what depth it was planted in the ground at the nursery. This is usually found a little below the graft point – a bulge in the stem where the main plant is grafted to the rootstock. Water your wisteria well after planting to settle the soil.

Why isn’t my wisteria flowering

This is one of the most frequently asked gardening questions and the elusive answer usually lies in one of the following explanations.

1. Pruning – Wisterias need pruning twice a year in July/ August and again in February. Check the diagrams above to make sure that you are using the right technique.
2. Seed raised plants – Wisteria grown from seed can take up to 20 years to flower. However it’s unusual to buy a seed raised plant nowadays as most are supplied as grafted plants. Nonetheless, it’s worth checking the base of your plant for signs of a graft in order to eliminate this as a possible cause of flower failure.
3. Watering -Wisteria often thrive on neglect, but they will appreciate some extra water between July and September. This is when the buds are formed for next year’s flowers. If they run short of water during these months this can reduce your display in the following summer.
4. Frost – Spring frosts can sometimes cause the developing buds to drop before they get a chance to open. The best way to avoid this is to plant your wisteria in a sheltered spot.

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.

Pretty pots and bountiful baskets

It is amazing what a difference you can make to any outdoor space with pots and baskets, regardless of whether you have a garden or not. I personally fill my patio full of different planters and baskets as the summer arrives and I have spent the last few months nurturing seedlings ready to plant out.

I am a firm believer that if you don’t have enough space to grow things in the ground then pots and baskets are a great way to bring any type of plant into your garden. I want to talk about how you can make your pots and baskets interesting, pretty and productive.

There are lots of different planter sizes, shapes and colours to choose from on the market, so you can pretty much buy the pots to suit your outdoor area. Don’t forget there are variations for windows if you don’t have a yard or patio area or if you live in a flat, and of course you can go for hanging baskets by your front or back doors. If money is tight why not make your own pots and planters out of old pallets which look great painted up and most companies are happy to give away pallets for free. I also like to use builders rubble buckets which come in some really funky colours, and they are a fraction of the price of bespoke planters (don’t forget to add drainage hole).

pots and basketsI like to plant my baskets and tubs with a striking mixture of flowers and veg plants (there is no reason why a tub should look glum). In my summer pots this year I will be growing lots of different veg including baby sweetcorn, dwarf beans, beetroots, salads and courgettes. The varieties I choose are all small so will grow quite well together in a large pot or container, and the leaf structures and varying growing habits really complement each other. In order to add plenty of colours to my pots I love to interplant flowers such as dwarf sweet peas, aubrietia, violas, nasturtiums and much more.

There is nothing better than picking fresh tomatoes so I will be growing some tumbling toms in my baskets, alongside, rocket, nasturtiums, violas and basil. The nasturtiums will trail, the violas provide colour and the basil, rocket and tomatoes will be handy to pick for the salad plate (chives and spring onions also make a nice alternative or strawberry plants and mint for a sweet treat).  Where possible I like to use flowers that are edible. My baskets are always colourful and useful, and different plants can be used to brighten up any wall.

When planting up either tubs or baskets you have to be mindful that they need watering and feeding regularly.  In my pots I use a good quality multipurpose compost with some slow release fertiliser and water retaining crystals to help hold in moisture. I have never gone for any of those fancy composts unless I am planting something on a more permanent basis such as a shrub or fruit bush. If you can get down to your local farm for some well rotted horse manure this will always enrich any tub.

There are a number of innovative pots and baskets that now have water canals built into them so this takes the strain off watering, but ordinarily I would water baskets daily regardless of weather and tubs every few days unless the weather is hot and then it would be every day. I find the best thing to keep food in pots is a tomato feed which contains all the right nutrients for flowers and fruits, however in recent years I have also made comfrey tea which has had great results and is free so double bonus.

So now I am at the point where my baskets and tubs are planned out and I have started to plant them up.  It is still a little early for them to be put outside in Manchester as the threat of frost is not gone until the end of May. Until they are ready to be safely put outside keep them in a cool shed or greenhouse over night.

As your plants grow and develop keep an eye out for pests and diseases such as aphids as they do like to feast on the succulent young plants. I find the best thing to use to get rid of most pests is a garlic spray or a weak solution of water and washing up liquid so no need to spend lots of money on expensive chemicals and these won’t hurt the bees and lady birds.

pots and baskets

I will bring you updates on my baskets throughout the summer and let you see the yields they have produced at the end of July and August.

Just remember you can grow anything in pots and most dwarf varieties in baskets, but be mindful that you need to water religiously and keep the food levels up as they get exhausted quickly. Keep an eye on them, keep them deadheaded and you will have lovely colour and tasty treats all summer long.

Happy gardening!


My name is Shaun Gagie and I am a keen gardener, living in a 1960s semi in Denton, Manchester with my partner John, dog Boo and 10 chickens. I was a contestant on the Big Allotment Challenge in 2014 and I am one of the gardening experts on BBC Radio Manchester on a Saturday morning. I like to blog about what is happening in my own garden at
Shaun Gagie
My name is Shaun Gagie and I am a keen gardener, living in a 1960s semi in Denton, Manchester with my partner John, dog Boo and 10 chickens. I was a contestant on the Big Allotment Challenge in 2014 and I am one of the gardening experts on BBC Radio Manchester on a Saturday morning. I like to blog about what is happening in my own garden at

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