Thompson & Morgan Gardening Blog

Our gardening blog covers a wide variety of topics, including fruit, vegetable and tree stories. Read some of the top gardening stories right here.

Propagation, planting out and cultivation posts from writers that know their subjects well.

Growing summer flowers for cutting

Article by Nic Wilson of dogwooddays

fresh cut flowers

Satisfaction twice – from growing, and from arranging.
Image: shutterstock

As spring arrives and temperatures start to rise, my thoughts turn to flowers. And not just flowers to be enjoyed in the garden. I’m talking about those grown specifically for cutting, to allow me to bring a little of that colour, scent and sunshine indoors too.

You don’t need as much space as you might imagine to grow your own cut flowers. Here’s what I’ll be planting throughout the spring to fill my vases – from showstopping arrangements to elegant bouquets and simple posies.

The centrepiece of your arrangement

red dahlias

Rich red dahlias work beautifully in cut flower arrangements.
Image source: shutterstock

Dahlias, gladioli, hardy and half-hardy annuals are the stalwarts of my cutting patch. In preparation for summer harvests I’m planting and sowing nearly every day at the moment, filling windowsills and greenhouse with rows of trays.

First, the dahlias have been potted up to provide a centrepiece for summer arrangements. They can be planted from mid April, either in the ground or in 2-3 litre pots in multi-purpose potting compost.

I love the rich purples and reds of ‘Bishop of Canterbury’, ‘Downham Royal’ and ‘Thomas A Edison’ alongside the softer tones of ‘Café au Lait’ and ‘Henriette’. I also grow single flowers like ‘Happy Single Date’, ‘Happy Single Wink’ and ‘Happy Single Romeo’ – with vibrant open flowers that contrast with the dark chocolate foliage.

Flowers to create contrast

gladioli providing colour

Gladioli make beautiful cut flowers
Image source: shutterstock

Gladioli perform well as cut flowers and the corms don’t need digging up over winter in my garden in Hertfordshire, although in colder areas of the country they will have to be lifted for the winter when the foliage dies back. If you plant corms in containers every couple of weeks from early May until the end of June, you’ll have flowers throughout the summer.

It’s important to ensure good drainage and to add stakes to support tall cultivars. The central focus of my arrangements last year was Gladiolus ‘Green Star’. Its statuesque flower spikes combine beautifully with other lime flowers such as Zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Lime’, tobacco plant (Nicotiana langsdorffi and Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’) and the foliage of Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis). It can also be used to create visual impact as a counterpoint to the deep purples of Honeywort (Cerinthe purpurascens), Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’ and a range of salvias.

Flowers for texture and volume

nigella, love in a mist

The delicate flowers and ferny foliage of ‘love in a mist’ add texture to a bouquet.
Image source: shutterstock

Behind these dramatic performers you can add softer, more delicate forms like bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’), feathertop grass (Pennisetum villosum ‘Cream Falls’) and the euphorbia-like green bracts of common hare’s ear (Bupleurum rotundifolium ‘Green Gold’) to give arrangements greater depth.

Other favourite annuals include the ferny foliage and white umbels of bishop’s weed (Ammi majus ‘Graceland’) and love-in-a-mist (Nigella ‘Blue Starry Skies’) spilling over the front of a vase in a delicate blue haze.

Striking flowers for stand alone bouquets

large bunch of rudebeckia

A large bunch of Rudbeckia makes an impact all on its own.
Image source: shutterstock

Some flowers are at their best in combinations, whereas others, like rudbeckia, create maximum impact in large bunches on their own. Coreopsis x hybrida ‘Incredible Dwarf Mixed’ also works well in loose bunches as the colour variation of each flower creates interest within the arrangement.

Sweet peas are another annual with the ability to blend with other flowers, but they do look beautiful on their own. The perfume from a small posy of ‘Fragrantissima’ can fill a room with the heady scent of summer, and there are always enough flowers on the wigwam to satisfy the pollinators too.

When to plant summer flowers for cutting

planting gladioli

Plant gladioli in groups at 14-day intervals to enjoy their fabulous blooms all summer long.
Image source: shutterstock

The next few weeks are an ideal time to sow many annuals. Sow directly in the ground (after the last frost for half-hardy annuals) or into trays ready to transplant outside once the seedlings are large enough to handle.

For the last few years, I’ve been growing flowers and foliage for the house in a small cutting patch alongside edible plants, and in containers. You don’t need acres of space. There’s a huge variety of flowers you can grow to fill your house with colour and scent throughout the summer, no matter what size your garden.

About the author:

Nic Wilson is a writer, garden designer and Garden Media Guilds Awards nominee (Best Blog, 2017). She enjoys growing flowers and unusual fruit, vegetables and herbs, and loves to encourage nature into the garden. She also blogs at www.dogwooddays.net

Grafted veg – The advantages of going that extra step

Grafted plants

Freshly grafted plants

Last year we at Thompson & Morgan started to sell grafted vegetable plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers; this year we have extended the range to include melons and watermelons too!

Too much trouble?

So why graft a plant that’s only going to be around for a season or two and then be composted? I can understand going to the trouble of grafting trees and shrubs as these will last a lifetime and are worth the trouble, but surely a tomato plant is a lot of work for little reward?

I was totally wrong of course!

Grafting is easier than I thought, especially with the soft shoots on these fruit and vegetable plants, these days there are even special snips that can cut the stems on rootstock and scion (top part) so that they match up exactly and form a perfect bond so that they graft together much faster.

Grafting a rootstock

Grafting onto a root stock

So why graft?

Imagine you have the best and fastest growing tomato plant that’s strong, disease resistant, grows outside with ease and also produces a huge crop of juicy tomatoes reliably every year. Now, if you could take all the qualities of that plant and then use it on another variety of tomato, that would be great! So that’s what we do. We take the rootstock of the super growing tomato plant and then graft on to it an different variety… so that all the power and vigour that comes from the roots will then go into the new variety and give it all the same traits as the original plant – a stronger growing, disease resistant plant with huge crops – up to 75% more in some cases!

One step further

So we have established that we could successfully graft tomato plants, it then made perfect sense to do the same with other favourites too, cucumbers were added to the range, and then a melon, and a watermelon too!

Quite a selection

There are now no less than eight different plants that we have available to buy as grafted veg

Grafted Tomato 'Philona' F1 Hybrid

Tomato ‘Philona’ F1 Hybrid

Tomatoes:

Fantasio

Philona

Solena Chocolate

‘Solena Red’

 

Grafted Tomato 'Philona' F1 Hybrid

Tomato ‘Philona’ F1 Hybrid

 Cucumbers:

Dominica

Mini Stars

 

 

Grafted Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

and

Watermelon ‘Mini Love’ F1 Hybrid

 

All of our grafted veg are sent out in June as well established plants so that all you have to do is plant them up and reap the rewards of this great idea!  Give them a try and see how much of a difference it makes to your harvest this year!

Graham Ward

I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

Thompson & Morgan and RHS Garden Hyde Hall team up for a ‘Floral Fantasia’ this summer

We’re teaming up with RHS Garden Hyde Hall to create a fabulous garden for an event this summer, aptly named Floral Fantasia. We’re transforming an area of the well-known RHS site near Chelmsford in Essex into a magnificent floral exhibition, showcasing many varieties of bedding plants.

Over four months from June to September, visitors will see thousands of summer bedding plants displayed in beds, pots and hanging baskets in and around the Floral Fantasia garden.

The theme of the event is ‘Inspiring Gardeners Old and New’ and aims to provide visitors with inspiration to create floral impact in their own gardens.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall Head of Site, Ian Le Gros, says:

I’m delighted to welcome Floral Fantasia to Hyde Hall for the first time and it’s been great to work with Thompson & Morgan on this project. It will provide a dazzling display during the summer months and will surely inspire novice and seasoned gardeners, both old and young, to have a go at growing themselves.

 Bedding plants are simple to grow and add instant impact to your garden be it in baskets and pots or as gap-fillers for your border, so by the time our visitors have seen the display, they will hopefully go home buzzing with ideas for their own gardens.”

 Our own Head of New Product Development, Peter Freeman adds:

We’re thrilled to be working with RHS Garden Hyde Hall to design and create the T&M Floral Fantasia garden. I think it will be one of the highlights of the summer in the East of England! We will be planting many traditional summer favourites, as well as a selection of our new introductions some of which are exclusive to Thompson & Morgan.

 We’re particularly excited about our new and exclusive sunflower, Sunbelievable™ which will be on display in borders and pots. There will certainly be tons of inspiration for visitors to take home with them!”

 Floral Fantasia at RHS Garden Hyde Hall runs from 1st June to 30th September 2018.

To view our extensive range of bedding plants, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/bedding-plants

For more information on Floral Fantasia at RHS Garden Hyde Hall this summer go to

www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall

About the RHS

Founded in 1804, the RHS is a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. It aims to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and is committed to making the UK a greener and more beautiful place. The charity’s core objective is to be the world’s leading gardening charity by inspiring passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture.

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

10 Brilliant Bird Watching Blogs

Fall back in love with our feathered friends, and get inspired by these birdy blogs.
Image: M.Zonderling/Unsplash


Whether you’re a committed twitcher, a seasoned birder or an occasional birdwatcher, following a selection of birding blogs is an excellent way to keep up with bird news and events and meet like-minded people.
We’ve scoured the Internet to bring you ten brilliant birding blogs. These people know their birds, tell a great yarn and share some excellent birding photos. Enjoy!

 

Birding Dad

‘Frank’ the Fieldfare, defending his patch in Jono’s Yorkshire back garden.
Image: Birding Dad

Ever suffered from gull blindness? Jono Leadley – AKA Birding Dad – did whilst visiting a snowbound Yorkshire nature reserve. Eventually he and mate Duncan both spotted an adult Med gull, only to discover they were watching two different birds!

Jono is a “Yorkshire nature geek” who loves nothing more than spending a few hours birding in his native county. When he’s not looking after the two kids or campaigning for wildlife, he’ll be found watching female Smews cavorting with goldeneyes or spotting an unexpected Caspian gull.

 

Black Audi Birding

Black-headed Gull photobombing two Med Gulls on Hayling Island.
Image: Black Audi Birding

“To visit a gull colony… is to be ceaselessly entertained by the constant activity of the birds, accompanied by a cacophony of cries”, writes Ewan Urquhart of Black Audi Birding following a visit to Hayling Island, on the South Coast of England. Friday birding has become a ritual for Ewan and partner Moth – the two regularly set off in the eponymous black Audi, looking for something of interest.

Ewan’s blog is full of poetic birding commentary and stunning photography, not just of English birds, but of those spotted on trips to exotic countries including the Seychelles and Colombia. Ewan will go to any length for a tick – check out his mammoth journey to spot an Amur Falcon in Cornwall last year.

 

Brian’s birding blog

Brian’s beautiful shot of a Red-backed Shrike.
Image: Brian’s birding blog

“If you get out there you might just see something,” is Brian Anderson’s motto. This Essex birder loves driving around the country with Dad and brother Jim, chasing birds and accumulating year ticks.

Brian’s blog is packed with beautiful photography, not just of common and rare birds, but also of butterflies and other wildlife spotted in our isles. And with an Arctic Warbler, a glossy Ibis and a Hoopoe among his photographs of rare birds spotted in Britain, there’s plenty to inspire everyone to do as he says and get out there.

 

Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher

Nesting grebe in the Cheshire sunshine.
Image: Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher

“I started this blog so I could share my wildlife encounters and stories with other nature lovers around the world,” says Mike Mottram of Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher blog. More than just a birding site, keen kayaker Mike shares photographs and film of everything from birds to badgers and fish to funghi.

An expert in wildlife photography, Mike’s blog is a great resource for those wanting to perfect their own techniques. Read all about his adventures with a homemade wristcam, and the drone that he modified into a remote WIFI camera.

 

Cornwall Birding

Close encounter with a Firecrest in Nanjizal, Cornwall.
Image: Cornwall Birding

“Stithians Reservoir is undoubtedly the best area of open water for birdwatching in the county,” writes Paul Freestone of Cornwall Birding. If you live in or around Cornwall, or would love to explore the birding prospects of that county, this is the blog for you. Paul has been a bird-watching tour guide and bird ringer for over 30 years and his blog provides daily sighting information and birding site guides.

But there’s more. With an extensive common and rare birds photo gallery, a complete county list since 1950, and tidal and weather information, this is your go-to site for birding in Cornwall.

 

Dan Rouse

Red Kite spotted in Rhayader, Wales.
Image: Dan Rouse

“It’s always worth checking through wintering flocks of wildfowl for some abnormal or unusual birds,” comments Dan Rouse on her eponymous blog. The hybridisation of wildfowl fascinates this young birder: “how certain species will consider breeding with another species”. Dan’s spot turned out to be a Eurasian Wigeon crossed with a Northern Shoveler.

Her love of birds started early when, at age five, her family built a bird table for their Swansea back garden. Now she writes and speaks on her favourite subject in print and on local radio, with a special interest in encouraging the next generation of birders.

 

Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog

Great White Egret at Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire.
Image: Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog

“The sky was full of the song of Skylark and Meadow Pipits which were performing their parachuting display,” writes birder Bill on the Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog. Bill started the site in 2012 as “a virtual replacement for the trusty old birdlog that was situated on the marsh”.

With almost daily posts from birders, this blog will delight and inspire those who want to investigate the Cheshire hotspot. And counting Green-winged Teal and European Honey Buzzards among top spots, you might want to head to Frodsham yourself.

 

Penny’s Hot Birding and Life!

Spotted! A rare Citril Finch at Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk.
Image: Penny’s Hot Birding and Life!

“I have seen several MEGAS in Norfolk inc: Ivory Gull, Fan-tailed Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Pine Bunting, Stilt Sandpiper… Black-headed Bunting, Alder Flycatcher, Collared Flycatcher, Great Snipe, Citril Finch to name but a few!” writes blogger Penny Clarke.

Daughter of Peter Clarke, founder of the Norfolk Ornithologists’ Association, Penny’s birding pedigree is second-to-none. Follow her blog for daily Norfolk bird news, national mega news, her own birding experiences and anecdotes from day-to-day life.

 

The Deskbound Birder

Pine Bunting spotted in Mongolia.
Image: The Deskbound Birder

“My twitching ‘career’ was relatively short… I realised that crowds were not for me and quickly shunned twitching for the far more honourable pastime of looking for my own rares,” writes Simon Colenutt, AKA The Deskbound Birder.

Since the birth of his son and development of his business, Simon is not so deskbound these days. Birding in the UK is generally split between Hampshire and Cornwall, but he’s also an enthusiastic foreign birder. Follow his blog for accounts of birding trips to places as far flung as Mongolia and the Andaman Islands. You’ll be more than a little bit envious.

 

Too Lazy to Weed

A grumpy Redwing in Nicky’s garden.
Image: Too Lazy to Weed

“I’ve nothing against gulls, but I don’t think I can afford the seed bill if they start regularly hoovering up the bird food!” writes Nicky, the blogger behind Too Lazy to Weed. She’s talking about a large gull which availed itself of her bird table during the recent cold snap.

Organic gardening and lazy weeding has resulted in Nicky and husband Chris inadvertently creating a little nature reserve in their Worcestershire back garden. They capture some great stills and video via various remote cameras including pretty Goldcrests, greedy gulls and the grumpy Redwing pictured above.

 

And that’s the end of our roundup of brilliant birding blogs. We hope you’ve found some new sites to add to your list of favourites. If you’ve got any birdy photos you want to share, we’d love to see them over on our Facebook page. 

April –  Rain or Shine? Either way, I love April Showers!

April is here, British Summer Time has kicked in, lighter mornings, longer days to spend in the garden and greenhouse after work. Hooray! More time with my gardening gloves on!

So at my “Office” job at T&M, (when I’m not doing my dirty job!) I speak to customers and help with any Horticultural queries. I love talking and sharing knowledge, every day there is something new! I also take orders for our lovely products.

Tomatoes!

A few weeks ago, a gentleman called and we were talking about different Tomatoes we have both grown, the classics, like Shirley and Gardeners Delight were of course mentioned. I’d tried, successfully, with Mountain Magic and Terenzo last year, which he hadn’t and he suggested I tried the heart shaped Tomatoberry. I ordered a packet and as you can see from the photos, when I planted them and today, they are towering out of their pot, begging to be transplanted into 9cm pots to grow on a little more, creating a better root structure.

I’m also trying another cucumber this year called Bella, i’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out as I try not to buy shop bought cucumbers during the summer months.

My greenhouse at home is filling up nicely, along with the one at work.

Perennials

I ordered the Perennial ‘Best Value’ Collection a little while ago and 72 little healthy plug plants arrived on my door mat. I love receiving plug plugs, potting them on, watching them develop and then planting them in their final place. I am also waiting for the Summer Bedding Collection which is another pack of 72, think I have 2 packs coming actually! Yippee!

I have built another mini greenhouse frame to go inside the greenhouse as more shelving for the tender plugs and seedlings.

The fruit trees are also starting to show their wonderful blooms, Apricot, Plum and Peach. These are fan trained against the red brick walls on the Estate where I work.

Hope the warm weather continues and the insects pollinate those fruit trees for delicious treats later in the year!

Finally, the wellies were planted last weekend, some thyme plants found a new home in my split wellies!

 

Anyway, enjoy April and all it has to offer!

Sue Russell

One of my earliest memories; helping my Mum and Dad weed the veggie plot and collecting chicken eggs from the chooks at the end of the garden. I grew up on a farm as a child and always had my own piece of land to grow and learn with, so I suppose its in the blood!
In my mid twenties, I re trained in Horticulture (Professional Gardening ANCH) and set up my own Gardening business working for clients in the Suffolk/Essex area. For the last thirteen years Ive had the pleasure of working on a private twenty five acre estate tending to the grounds.
Most recently, eighteen months ago, I joined the team at Thompson and Morgan in the Customer Care department.
Also season ticket holder at Ipswich Town Football Club!!

From Rake To Bake – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Welcome to my Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

April is perfect for making Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage. It’s one of those leafy green vegetables that are often overlooked Cabbage doesn’t have to be just a side dish for the Sunday roast, or as a main ingredient in coleslaw. Have a go at making it the star of the show, with this tasty dish. Although are many different varieties to sow, grow, and eat, this recipe makes use of the large savoy leaves, that are nutrient rich.

Cabbage contains lots of goodness including Iron, vitamins B and K, as well as dietary fibre.

Prep Time 20 minutes. Cooking Time 1 hour 20 Minutes. Oven 180°c Fan 160°c Gas Mark 4

Skills Level Seasoned Kitchen Gardener***

Utensils.

  • Chopping Board.
  • Vegetable Knife.
  • Sieve
  • Colander.
  • Measuring Spoon.
  • Spatula.
  • Frying Pan with Lid.
  • Saucepan with lid.
  • Saucepan without lid.
  • Small saucepan.
  • Measuring Jug
  • Scales,
  • Fork.
  • Blunt knife.
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Pyrex Dish.
  • Tin foil
  • Serving Dish.
  • Tin Opener.
  • Food Processor.
  • Kitchen Paper.
  • Plate.

Ingredients.

  • 8 Savoy Cabbage Leaves.
  • 1/4 Aubergine.
  • 6 Button Mushrooms.
  • 1 Onion.
  • 4 Mini sweet peppers.
  • 200g chopped tin tomatoes.
  • 100g rice.
  • 75g Cheddar Cheese.
  • 75g of Bread made into Breadcrumbs.
  • 1 Egg.
  • Vegetable Oil.
  • 2-3 Teaspoons of Turmeric.
  • 2-3 Teaspoons of Black Pepper.
  • Basil.
  • Oregano.

Method.

  • There are a few elements to the finished dish, it’s best to start with preparing everything first, rather than as you go along. This way things can be cooking at the same time.
  • Wash and de-seed the pepper and cut into thin strips.
  • Wash dice a quarter of the aubergine Clean the mushrooms and chop roughly.
  • Wash the cabbage leaves thoroughly.. Remove the the central stem splitting the leaf in two lengthways.
  • Cut the onion in half, dice each half of the onion and keep separate.
  • Grate the cheese.
  • Use a food processor to make breadcrumbs.
  • Rinse the uncooked rice in a sieve under cold water.
  • Fill a saucepan with required amount of cold water, for every 75g of rice use 175ml of cold water.
  • Put the washed rice into the water and add the turmeric stir and bring to a rapid boil. Once boiling simmer until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. If the rice is still hard, you may need to add extra boiled water from a kettle.
  • Meanwhile in a large frying pan heat the vegetable oil gently with the black pepper. Add one half of the diced onions and fry till translucent. Add the aubergines and red peppers and fry for another five minutes. Finally add the chopped tin tomatoes, oregano and basil and reduce heat. Cover with a lid and simmer for as long as the rice cooks.
  • Crack the egg into a jug and beat with a fork.
  • In a small saucepan use a few drops of vegetable oil to gently fry the other half of the onion for a few minutes before adding the mushrooms. When done leave to cool in a large mixing bowl.
  • As these are frying boil a kettle to fill a second saucepan with boiling water
  • Put the oven on to preheat.
  • Once the rice is cooked drain and rinse in a colander under cold water. Leave to drain, whilst
  • transferring the water from the kettle to the large clean un-lidded saucepan. Ensure that the vegetables in the frying pan are not sticking and taste for further seasoning if needed.
  • Using a low heat, keep the water boiling and drop in two cabbage leaves, blanch for two minutes, use a fork to lift them onto a plate covered in kitchen roll. Repeat with all cabbage leaves. Then pat them dry when cool enough to handle.
  • Turn off the heat under the frying pan, but leave the vegetables in the pan.
  • Put the cooked rice into the bowl with the mushroom and onions, using a blunt knife stir in the breadcrumbs, then the cheese. Slowly add the egg, teaspoon by teaspoon, until the mixture sticks together like sausage meat, and holds its shape if you roll some into a ball.
  • Spoon some of the fried vegetables into a Pyrex dish. Next using a clean chopping board lay the  cabbage leaves flat and where the stem used to join the crown, fill the leaves with the rice mixture.
  • Roll it into a cigar shape, and tuck the sides in afterwards. Place it in the Pyrex dish with the rolled edge downwards.
  • Spread the rest of the mixed vegetables over the leaves, cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Note: You may want to add salt to your pot of rice as its boiling, as I don’t cook with salt, but you might.

Serving Suggestions.

Serve hot with breaded chicken or fish. Alternatively serve with good quality sausages.

Serve cold with strong cheese, crusty bread and salami or ham or warm bacon.

Grow Your Own.

Cabbages can be grown from February to April/May for summer harvests, and April to July for winter harvest. Then from July to October for a spring harvest. Whether direct sow in a warm bed, or in singular cell seed trays in a greenhouse before transplanting outside. Cabbages will grow best in firmed soil in an open space. They are not suited to grow bags, but some success is possible in a deep container. Sow at 1.25cms deep, and thin seedlings to 30-45cms apart.

They are hungry plants so prepare their final growing position with well rotted manure, and use a liquid feed. It’s best to ensure that the soil is moist before planting out as dry roots can cause club root causing the plants to wilt and die.

The RHS has a wealth of information on growing cabbages, as well as information on pests and diseases such as club rot. They recommend netting your plants to deter cabbage white butterflies as well as pigeons.

 

*Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

**Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

***Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, 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 and share with me your gardening stories.

T&M’s new relationship with the National Trust

We are delighted to announce an exciting new relationship with one of the largest conservation charities in Europe: the National Trust.  With more than 200 gardens in the National Trust’s care, there is a natural synergy between the Trust’s nature ambitions and our products designed to encourage wildlife in our gardens.

This autumn a new range of plant seeds will be launched, offering customers the chance to bring the spirit of the National Trust into their gardens.

Joseph Cordy, Head of B2B Sales at Thompson & Morgan said:

‘We are delighted to be able to work with the National Trust to offer this new range. The National Trust and Thompson & Morgan share a lot of the same values, history and heritage and we know our customers are going to love the exciting new products we will be creating together’.

Clare Brown, Head of Brand Licensing for the National Trust adds:

‘We’re delighted to offer even more ways for our supporters to help nurture wildlife in their own gardens. These products will complement our existing garden and outdoor offering’.

More announcements about this exciting new range will follow soon.

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Mr Men Little Miss budding into seeds with Thompson & Morgan

We’re delighted to announce a new partnership with Mr Men Little Miss for autumn this year. This exciting new range of seeds and other gardening products for children (and we suspect a few big children too!)  will allow you to bring out your inner Mr. Happy, or Little Miss Sunshine.

Joseph Cordy, our Head of B2B Sales said:

‘We are hugely excited about this partnership with one of the best known and loved children’s brands in the world and have no doubt that the iconic Mr Men and Little Miss characters will inspire a new generation of budding young gardeners to get growing from seed’.

‘It is great to be working with one of the UK’s largest seed and plant companies on this colourful and fun range of Mr Men Little Miss seeds. We are delighted that the range officially launches at Hampton Court Flower Show this year with a limited-edition selection being sold at the Mr Men themed garden which is a huge part of Children with Cancer UK’s 30th anniversary celebration,’

added Sabrina Segalov, Licensing Manager, Mr Men Little Miss.

The Mr Men Little Miss range will be available from September 2018.

About Mr. Men Little Miss:

With over 90 characters, the Mr Men and Little Misses have brought fun and laughter to generations of families for over 45 years. Currently one Mr. Men and Little Miss book is sold every 2.5 seconds worldwide, and lifetime sales total 250 million books.

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

NVS Judging Blog

It was June and I was preparing for my first major show as Show Secretary of my local horticultural society. Our judge for our Summer Show was Peter Cranfield. Over lunch I told Peter that I was in training to be a judge with the Essex Guild of Horticultural Judges. He suggested that I should enter the National Vegetable Society judging exam in October. I am always keen to further my knowledge and so agreed to do it.

I could not believe how quickly the exam came round. The first part of the exam is a written paper. This contains some multiple choice, some two mark questions and then some longer six mark questions. This was the last exam based on the old style judging guide. From 2018 the new edition of the judging guide will be used to form the base of the exam. There were 100 marks up for grabs and the pass mark was 75. It felt like a long time since I had last sat in an exam hall!

Having warmed up it was now time for the main event. The room had eight classes laid out with five entries in each class. The vegetables included potatoes, carrots and onions. At the top of the hall there were two five vegetable collections. At the other end of the hall there were three vegetables all with faults that had to be identified. At first I was quite intimidated by the classes. Most of the exhibits were of a very high standard. Some had been entered in the Westminster show the week before.

 

It was fantastically well organised and run event. I went away feeling that I had given it my best but that I would not have passed the practical as it was tough and I had never judged to such  standards before. Having said this, I was determined to use the experience to stand me in good stead to have another go at some point.

In the weeks that passed I had almost forgotten all about the exam and the results. One day I received a large envelope and inside was a certificate, letter and badge informing me that I had passed both parts of the exam and I was now an NVS qualified judge.. At the age of 22 I believe that I must be one of the youngest ever to take the NVS judging exam let alone pass it. I honestly could not believe it as it was completely unexpected but wonderful surprise

The main goal of my blog is to give readers a first hand account of the day and what you can expect. What I really want it to do is to encourage others to give it a go. To keep the shows going up and down the country we need more people to become judges. If you have ever thought of judging then have a go at the exam in October this year. It will be a fantastic experience and I guarantee that you will be a better grower, shower or judge for the experience. The exam is always the first Saturday of October so get in touch with your local DA and find out more. I promise that you will not regret it!

Thomas Carpenter

My name is Thomas Carpenter and I live in Essex. At my home I have a vegetable patch and greenhouse where I grow a range of flowers and vegetables for both the show bench and for eating. I am the Show Secretary for my local horticultural society and have been a member there for the last eight years. Currently I am in training with the Essex Guild of Horticultural Judges and the National Vegetable Society. I have a real passion for growing and showing vegetables as well as encouraging children and young people to get involved with horticulture.

A Pembrokshire March

Dear Gardeners,

Well if I thought February was dramatic, March can only be described as chaotic! I wanted to celebrate St David’s day, in my childhood home of St Davids, but The Beast from the East, arrived, along with his friend storm Emma, and between them they spoiled my plans. It snowed. A lot. We hadn’t had snow like that since 2010.

Pembrokeshire had some freezing nights and on the morning of the first predicted snowstorm I had to go to a heart rehabilitation session; the temperature outside at 9:00am showed -5°c. As a result we lost many garden plants, yet, the Chindoxia, more aptly named Glory of the Snow, benefited from the cold snap; they along with crocus, daffodils, grape hyacinth,bergnia and primroses bounced back and have flowered ever since.

The snow only stuck for two days, allowing me to meet up with one of my friends who I hadn’t seen in twenty years, she managed travel from Newcastle to attend her sister’s wedding. Spurred on by photos of the bride’s simple winter wildflower bouquet, I decided that I would abandon my plans for an all blue flower show this year, and try to grow as many plants as I can, to create little posies for the elderly ladies (and gents) at heart rehab class, as well as for the nurses and staff.

So I increasing my seed sowing. In the first week I planted, Sunflower Shock-o-lat, Velvet Queen and Marigold Strawberry Blonde. Food-wise I planted Red Onion –Red Baron, Classic Mint and Beetroot RaInbow Mix. These were all put in single cell propagators in “The Office.”

A week later, I moved my trial tomatoes (from the kitchen window) into the greenhouse along with the Yellow Stuffer ones. The latter being in the Heated Propagator after my Gardeners’ Delight failed. They failed as I used an ancient packet of seeds from Woolworths…Mark helped me sort out the greenhouses as the Cornflowers Black Ball, and Larkspurs needed transferring to the cold-frame for hardening off. He also dug poppies out of the borders of Ty Mawr and transplant them into a large pot on the patio.

T&M’s Coleus Canina (Scaredy Cat) plugs arrived a few days later, and I inadvertently picked the warmest day to pot them on. I wish I hadn’t! They had been confined for posting and with the heat through glass, the oils were particularly potent. I managed to transplant three quarters of them, but my eyes were stinging as was my nose. Never mind cats, the plants had already scared me. I got the others done the following day.

And then it snowed again. Luckily it was a dusting that only lasted twenty-four hours. In the third week I soaked sweetpea Turquoise Lagoon seeds overnight, then planted them the following day. By the Friday the Beetroot seedlings had grown in their makeshift propagator they needed thinning out and repotting.

As the photos show, a lot of my seeds are in recycled fruit boxes. I am choosing to grow them in these to

  • a) reduce my plastic waste,
  • b) save money as I still can’t return to work, which means that I cannot afford to spend as much as I used to on my hobby,
  • c) I have run out of single cell seed propagators and
  • d) because I want to show others that you don’t always need fancy equipment to grow things in.

I’ll be honest though I wasn’t sure if it would work, but evidently it does.

Last Monday I transplanted Cape Gooseberries, and Meconopsis Grande seedlings from the Heated Propagator into individual pots. In their place I have started a completely unscientific aubergine seed trial using Patio Mix seeds and Celine seeds, from three different companies

including T&M. I planted up the bright red fire bucket of chillies that my youngest brother gave me for Christmas. This is in addition to the chillies I set off last month. I had to abandon the Venidiums, Welsh Poppies and Echinacea as the compost went green and grew mossy. The contents were sprinkled in the hollyhock border, so perhaps they will grow there. That border hardly ever gets weeded as its a second wildflower border intercepted by dozens of hollyhocks, a Gogi and Tay Berry – both of which have never fruited. Plus there’s a Chinese Lantern shrub my other brother gave me. Also present are flowering daffodils and tulips.

Then add the daisies, buttercups and dandelions which are NOT weeds, but food for early pollinators. That afternoon I sowed some Radish, as well as more Hyssop as sadly ours died off. I am not sure if it was down to last year’s wet summer, the neighbours cats using our garden as a toilet or just that they were not big enough to go in the ground, even though they had outgrown the pots. Next I accidentally sowed a whole packet Buddleja, Reason being I still have chemo fingers and I can’t feel things properly, I was trying to open the seed packet with my fingers, As my hands were tired I didn’t feel the packet rip until it flew out of them and scattered 75 (on average, the label says,) seeds onto a waiting tub of compost. There was absolutely no point in me even trying to pick them out, my fingers were refusing to even pick up the packet. I was impressed that the seeds had gone in the tub though. I was going to plant some Lupins but didn’t remember I was supposed to soak them overnight so they will be done after Easter.Tuesday afternoon I sowed some Corriander, some French Marigolds, and Borage. I loved the marigolds last year and am thinking I really need to get some African Marigolds to add to my English and French display. Maybe I can have some instead of an Easter Egg. Hint, hint!

Finally the last thing I did in The Office was to transplant some sweet pepper seedlings from a pot in the kitchen that had the supermarket experimental seeds in. However, they didn’t grow,(the mini sweet peppers I got them from may be F1 hybrids) so I sowed some Orange Sweet pepper seeds that I had from a magazine last year. Only I think that the original seeds have now germinated as there are more peppers than there should be in the pot. So another totally unscientific experiment is taking place – lets see if I can spot the difference between two different types of peppers before they go in Ty Mawr or produce fruit.

I hope to continue sowing more seeds in April, my brother (youngest) gave me a funky veg kit, and I’m intrigued by its contents. There are six types of seeds including purple carrots. So The Office has many seeds, and baby plants It, as well as the things that have been overwintering. Foxgloves, primula, cornflowers, pot marigold, larkspur, Christmas Cacti, and lavender to name a few. Snow Princess marigolds are now in a wall planter outside. The Beast from the East destroyed the border in The Office, the subzero temperatures killed my money tree. There is a tiny bit left that I am hoping will regrow. It also killed one of the flowering house plants that was there too. I may put the Hibiscus that T&M gave me for Christmas in the border, as the pot sits atop it, but for now Mark added violas and a cornflower. The hibiscus got sunburnt on the top staging so it’s top leaves are pale and slightly crispy. I spotted the problem a bit late and now wondering where I can put it as its too big for the bungalow and won’t survive the westerly salty winds outside.

In Ty Mawr, I have marigolds starting to flower, cornflowers, shooting up, turnips that are growing by the day, and six grow bags of potatoes, that Mark had to constantly either has to earth up or water. The Vizella were slow to start off and I thought the weather had killed them, but as they are lates, I should have been more patient in expecting growth. The Maris Piper (second early) on the other hand have been strong from the start. I usually grow Charlotte’s but wanted a change this year.

The dahlias that are still wrapped in newspaper survived, being on the hanging shelves, but the baby money trees did not, neither did the cycleman or heather. My dad’s spider plant suffered badly, apart from two leaves, the rest was brown. I’ve cut the dead bits off and it needs repotting, but I am reluctant to do this in case I kill it altogether, I’ve already nearly lost his money tree.

Thankfully I still have his Christmas Cacti.

The whole borders need to be prepared for summer fruits, a job Mark will do next month, as well as build the tomato framework.

Until then.

Happy Gardening.

Love Amanda.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, 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 and share with me your gardening stories.

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