For the third year in a row, Morrice and Ann Innes of Newmachar, north of Aberdeen, have won a prestigious RHS Chelsea Gold Medal for their potato exhibit in the renowned Flower Show’s Great Pavilion. However there are no flowers on their stand which is sponsored by Thompson & Morgan; only potatoes.
Gold award winners Morrice and Anne Innes
Their award-winning potato display of 154 different varieties aims to highlight the diversity and versatility of the nation’s favourite vegetable, whilst tracing the origins of some of the potatoes in Morrice’s extensive collection of some 500 varieties.
The gold award winning Chelsea display of 154 varieties.
In 2015, Morrice and Ann won the first ever Chelsea Gold Medal for a potato-only display in the show’s 150 year history. They won again in 2016 and have again been awarded Gold today, scoring the maximum number of points possible in all three marking categories.
Displayed on the stand this year is a selection of Wild Solanum potato plants, grown by Morrice and Ann, and by Thompson & Morgan’s potato expert, Colin Randel. Also on show are tubers of Solanum Tuberosum, cultivated from wild species of the group Stenotomum, as well as a selection of mini tubers which are in the early stages of new variety production.
Thompson & Morgan’s commercial director, Paul Hansord, said: “Amid all the glamour and colour of the world’s most celebrated flower show, it’s great to see a homage to the humble potato win another Gold Medal. Morrice and Ann have put on a fantastic show again this year.”
Colin Randel commented: “With their display, Morrice and Ann tell the tale of the potato. There is an incredible array of colours, shapes and sizes, from very old heritage tubers, right up to our new variety, Vizelle, which will be available exclusively from Thompson & Morgan in September ready for the 2018 growing season.”
Thompson & Morgan is delighted to have been recognised in the prestigious Best New Plant 2017 category at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show for a newly developed and very different type of hibiscus, HibisQs ® Petit™ Orange.
Chosen from an impressive list of finalists, HibisQs® Petit™ Orange had previously been awarded the ‘IPM Innovation Award 2017’ in the Flowering Pot Plant category at IPM Essen in January.
“Everyone at Thompson & Morgan is delighted that HibisQs® Petit™ Orange has been placed in the top three of the Best New Plant category. It’s great to see a stunning exotic plant such as this being given the recognition it deserves. Its flowers really have to be seen to be believed!” said Paul Hansord, Thompson & Morgan’s commercial director.
From new breeding and selected from tens of thousands of seedlings, HibisQs® Petit™ Orange differs from other traditional hibiscus with its smaller, vibrant orange, bicoloured flowers, its naturally compact habit and its small and shiny leaves. The plant is aimed at consumers who want a more minimalist, but still exotic product that is suitable for display in the home or on the patio or balcony during the summer months. Flowers are plentiful and long-lasting, blooming from May until the first frosts, while the shiny, dark green foliage provides the perfect backdrop and is an added decorative bonus.
‘HibisQs® Petit™ Orange produces twice as many flowers as traditional Hibiscus and its blooms last for twice as long’
After several weeks without any significant rain last night we had 21mm enough to create puddles and fill all the water tanks. The potatoes have visibly grown during the day and everything looks green and healthy.
The spring onion White Lisbon and the Radish Bacchus only sown 6 days ago are up as are the Little Gem lettuce and the Lollo Rosso. We’re looking forward already to fresh salad from the garden.
I have sown the first Parsnip Tender and True; this seems to do very well here and overwinters nicely in the ground. I shall do another row in a couple of weeks. The cabbage Hispi and Red Jewel and beetroot Boltardy seeds sowed in cells will be ready to go out in about a week, then I shall do a second sowing of them as well. The runner beans are out as they were growing very quickly, the second sowing will go out a in a few weeks to stagger the crop a little.
The spring garden is all finished and everything is growing very fast now for the summer. Bearded iris, Peony, Alliums and Perennial wallflowers are all colouring up. Soon it will be planting out for the bedding and tubs. Have bought some colourful pots today and will fill them with Garden Ready plants as I do not have enough greenhouse space to grow on small plugs. The pots are destined for decorating a wedding venue in August so I have got to get that right!
FIVE SWEETPEAS AND A CUCUMBER
Like a fine wine I don’t travel well so I have only ventured abroad twice in 20 years (that’s if you don’t count Jersey). However a promise is a promise: We have just returned from a visit to Cyprus, home of my oldest friend Naomi, to celebrate her 60th birthday. (I bet she’ll thank me for that announcement!). I had forgotten how exotic the Mediterranean was. Oh the flowers! So the British have their privet and box hedges, but the Cypriots have oleander, lantana and hibiscus hedges! Cannas growing like weeds at the road side, ipomoea scrambling through wire mesh fences, callistemon in flower now. Little gems (well not literally lettuces but nothing would surprise me) like gentians and eryngium, nestling in shingle on beaches and rock faces. Banana plantations! Cactus flowers 20ft tall! Whether it’s the British ex-pat community over there or just brute adaptability, the roses were magnificent: I have to say though that the species roses growing wild amongst other indigenous shrubs looked more comfortable than the cultivated ones, somehow incongruous, in domestic gardens. And green lawns, hmmm, a sure sign of British ownership methinks.
As well as being in flora heaven, the fauna was highly entertaining too. Opportunist sparrows, more like our robins, silently prospecting our alfresco dining – unnerving if you are not a fan of Hitchcock’s The Birds – quick as a flash, dive bombing for French Fries in formation, the final flourish provided by a hooded crow who swooped down and carried off half of an 8” seeded baguette complete with cream cheese topping. (I wonder if foreign tourists find seagulls quite so entertaining in Southend when they steal your chips; come to think of it, do foreign tourists go to Southend?) As in so many other Mediterranean resorts, the feral cat population is alive and well thank you. By and large they are in good condition due to trapping and neutering programs established by the numerous cat sanctuaries on Cyprus. At Naomi’s apartment complex, her Russian neighbour regularly feeds the resident feral community and it was highly entertaining to see them gathering around at dawn and dusk, staring intently up at her balcony willing her to hurry up with the grub. (Evidently there are Mad Cat Women the world over.) Like a scene out of West Side Story they roamed around in their gangs, lazing arrogantly around the pool in the sunshine, occasionally brushing up against rival factions. Clearly not starving, they barely lifted their heads to register the swifts that were dive bombing the surface of the water for insects.
However, here we are again in East Finchley. One week since our return and I find myself reflecting upon the joys of travel. Although I appear to be well on the way to conquering yet another phobia, this time flying, I don’t think that I shall be making a habit of it. Holidays are all very well but I won’t be leaving the garden to its own devises again any time soon! Oh the stress of it! Should I leave the irrigation system running or switch it off? Will I return to scorched earth or sodden borders? Two days prior to departure I decided it was prudent to relocate the dozen or so trays of seedlings and annuals from the greenhouse to our spare room. With temperatures so unpredictable and access so hazardous (plants-for-sale, hastily moved into the shade, were blocking the path to the back of the garden) at least this way friend Anne could keep an eye on them when she fed the cats.
After only five days away (trip dates had to work around our local Plant Heritage sale, never mind Naomi’s birthday) the garden had gone berserk! How do other gardeners manage to go away for a fortnight? Having loaded up the washing machine for the ninetieth time in 12 hours (slight exaggeration, but still, yet another reason not to go on holiday) I could at last concentrate on the garden. Once the nursery trays had been returned to the greenhouse (thanks Anne, what’s your secret, they have doubled in size!) and the plants-for-sale had been revived, it was time to plant up the T&M tomatoes, Garnet, Mountain Magic & Indigo Cherry Drops, into their final positions, then turn my attention to the patio.
With the assorted T&M jonquils finally over, I turfed them out of their pots, foliage and all, ready for replanting on the allotment. Not known for my patience or adherence to the six week rule, out came the rest of the spent bulb leaves from the permanent planting schemes. I’ll take my chances! You may remember my concerns regarding my two towering abutilons, well readers, they are well deadski, as my friend Laurie from the Bronx used to say! Quel dommage! ………..And five minutes later I muse that golden hop might look striking combined with blue ipomoea and black eyed Susan. There’s no sentiment in war, or gardening it seems.
So anyway, with Spring Phase One out of the way, next weekend is Hanging Basket and Container Display time. Yippee! Having successfully overwintered several cannas on the patio for the first time, I planted out some additional divisions in April. Hostas and heucheras, suspended in hanging baskets out of harm’s way, are slug (and Fred the cat) free. The piece de resistance will be T&M Begonia Non-Stop Mocca Bright Orange, Begonia Glowing Embers, Petunia Mini Rosebud Peachy combined with coleus Campfire & black and lime green ipomoeas. I love creating the patio displays, and whilst I was reminded by fellow blogger Julie Quinn that gardening is about the process not the finished result (more of that later), summer bedding schemes are like stage sets with a definite beginning and end.
Talking of Julie Quinn, isn’t it a small world. There she is, gardening away no more than 2 miles down the road from me, attending all the same local plant sales, with friends and acquaintances in common, loves cats and has medical connections. Julie made me very welcome for afternoon tea at her house where we shared horticultural experiences, knowledge and opinions in her beautiful paved garden. Thank you Julie, it was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Last Saturday we held our Hort. Soc. plant sale in the Hampstead Garden Suburb. My spy tells me that, whilst queuing to get in, visitors were enthusing about this annual event as one of the highlights of the neighbourhood social whirl, not to be missed. I love selling – once a retailer always a retailer; shoppers still stop me in department stores and ask me where the loo is – so I was in my element amongst the trailing lobelia and petunias, “All plants on sale for £1.40 each.” I have however lost the art of adding up in my head and so hastily produced a crib sheet of £1.40 times table. There was a huge selection of veg and salad plugs and of course I couldn’t resist some extras for the greenhouse and allotment. Having guarded my purchases throughout the morning (funny how seemingly civilized locals can turn into marauding rabble when there’s a bargain to be had) I took my eye off the ball, for one minute I tell you, and they were gone! Panic set in; the Great Clear Up had begun, car boots were searched to no avail, fellow committee members were eyeing me with caution as I interrupted conversations to enquire, “Has anyone seem my five sweet peas and a cucumber?” Indeed, ever efficient chairperson Doc Page and the team had tidied them away ready to be returned to the local nursery, so I guiltily retrieved them and beat a hasty retreat! I am happy to report that they are all now happily in situ and growing on well.
So much to do, and without our usual mid-June NGS Open Day deadline it feels strange to be just ambling along with tasks at a leisurely pace. But my new mantra, “Gardening is about the process not the finished result” ringing in my ears, I can finally allow myself to potter gently on. Yeah right, until the next disaster…..
No garden? No allotment? No problem. You can grow plenty of vegetable varieties in containers. Follow our 4 steps to successful vegetable gardening in containers.
As our so-called spring gets under way, we’re noticing that one of this season’s hot trends is growing vegetables in containers. Like many other aspects of our lives, this is all about maximising time, space and effort. Well aware of the health benefits, many of us are keen to grow our own vegetables, but are time poor, so we’re looking at ways to make things easier. Lots of people don’t have a huge garden or allotment, so growing in containers, whether flowers or vegetables, seems to be the way forward.
Here’s some advice on how to get the most out of your container vegetable patch so that you can enjoy that ‘fresh-from-the-garden’ taste even if you only have a small patio, balcony or roof terrace. Use these tips as your next step to fresh and delicious – and convenient – vegetables
1. Soil – Starting your seeds and plants in good soil is really important. If you’re using containers and pots that you used last year, remember that it’s fine to reuse the soil as long as you give it a bit of a boost of nutrients with compost and fertiliser. You should try to avoid growing plants from the same family in the same soil as last year – it’s the same theory as the crop rotation principles that farmers work to. If you’re just starting your container veg growing experience this season, then you can’t go wrong with our incredicompost® which has been independently trialled and verified as the best overall compost for raising seeds and young plants. Using this, along with our incredicrop® fertiliser, will go a long way to giving your vegetable plants the growing environment they need to produce really good crops of tasty and nutritional vegetables.
2. Sun – It’s important to consider how much sun your patio/balcony/roof terrace gets when choosing which vegetables to grow in containers. Plants that you will pick fruit from, such as tomatoes, need a good dose of sunshine – 6 to 8 hours a day – whilst vegetables that you pull out of the ground need approx. 4-6 hours. Leafy greens can manage on just 3 to 4 hours. Don’t panic if your outdoor space isn’t graced with non-stop sunshine – plenty of edible crops will thrive in partial sun and you’ll still get a good crop. Just be mindful of keeping your plants watered and fed, especially if they ARE in full sun.
3. Size – It’s worth considering the size of your container when you come to sowing your vegetable seeds and planting your vegetable plants. Think about it – for some plants, you’ll need deeper pots, planters or tubs – it’s not rocket science. As a guide, for shallow-rooted vegetables, such as radishes, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, and herbs, you’ll need about 20-30cm (9-12in) of depth in your container. For medium-rooted plants, you’ll need 30-35cm (12-14in) depth and for larger plants, such as tomatoes and potatoes, you’ll need 40-45cm (16-18in) depth. Of course, there are many options when it comes to buying containers for growing vegetables – there’s a huge choice of patio planting bags which have the benefit of being easy to move and position, as well as being reusable, and they’re easy to fold down and store when you don’t need them. Have a look at our brilliant VegTrugs™ which are just perfect for growing vegetables in!
4. Selection – Most edible vegetable plants can be grown in containers, but these days there are many varieties which have been especially developed to grow in pots and containers. These varieties will be more compact – meaning that they won’t get too big – and easier to harvest. See below for some of our container variety suggestions.
Start your shopping list here:
TomTato® – amazing variety from Thompson & Morgan’s own breeding – tomatoes and potatoes on the same plant!
Egg & Chips® – aubergines and potatoes on the same plant! More brilliant breeding from T&M!
Courgette ‘Black Forest’ – this unique climbing courgette is a great space-saving container variety
Tomato ‘Bajaja’ (tomato seeds) – great tomato variety for growing in containers and it doesn’t require side-shooting. Try Tomato ‘Balconi Yellow’ if you prefer your tomatoes yellow – this variety makes a lovely colourful feature on the patio or balcony – and the tomatoes are very sweet and tasty too.
For another decorative and productive vegetable plant, go for the superb dwarf Runner Bean ‘Hestia’ or another dwarf bean, French Bean ‘Mascotte’.
Other varieties for container cultivation are radish, carrots, beetroot and salad leaves. And of course, many potato varieties can be very successfully grown in containers or potato growing bags
What a completely manic month April has been! The clocks have gone forward, Easter has been and gone and I’m back to my normal self – My cancer is in remission and I can walk around the garden, go up the steps and lift little watering cans or pots of seedlings now. I’m still not allowed to lift heavy stuff or dig with a spade, or use a mower, but luckily for me, Mark doesn’t mind doing these jobs.
Where to start? We’ve done so much that I hardly know where to begin. I guess as this is a greenhouse blog, I shouldn’t prattle on about other areas of the garden, but as we are developing a new ornamental grassy knoll area I’d just like to mention that I have added a Bronze Carex and a pink Corederia and Euphorbia Martinii to it. My brother gave me a Criodendron (Lantern Tree) and this has been placed in our second wildlife border just behind the pampas grass. This is a triangular border that has dappled shade so it’s perfect for the shrub as it’s protected on two sides by our boundary walls.
My little greenhouse was getting too much shade from an overgrown Hebe so Mark has cut that right back; the sparrows weren’t too impressed as they like to hide in its branches. However it’s a fast growing shrub so it won’t be long before it greens up again. It’s really surprising how much extra light I have in there now and the plants love it; so much so that I had to take the transplanted radishes off the shelf and put them in the cold frame for fear of bolting. They are doing much better in there, along with two sacks of potatoes (the third is outside already), a hanging basket filled with French Marigolds that germinated rapidly, several pots of marigolds, a trough of mint and mum’s helenium that was in my box of shrubs from the garden centre. I need the potatoes out of there by next week as I have sixteen trees that germinated from seed from the Woodland Trust and they need to harden up. I was told there would be five seeds and four varieties -I had many seeds and three varieties including beautiful Dog Rose and Mountain Ash, I think the other seedlings are Alder Buckthorn. I am keeping one of each variety and my auntie in Scotland said she would take some for her garden when they visit in the summer so the rest may end up in my charity plant sale. Along with whatever else I have too much of.
I tried to have a theme this year of growing just orange coloured flowers but I’ve also added a few yellow varieties of Sunflowers and white Aster, black Cornflowers, and green Bells of Ireland. I made a list of everything I’m trying to grow from seed and was shocked at the number. Thirty-three at the last count. Most are hopefully to share with my friends who have supported me over the previous twelve months, and to use in my plant sale. Although it’s debatable if all my things will grow as it’s gone from warm spring days to cold northerly Arctic winds and rain; and even though the days are getting longer there’s not a great quality to the light. The following paragraph is everything on the shelves in the little greenhouse. So this is the progress so far – Pumpkins just sown, Spinach Beet just sown but seedlings showing within forty-eight hours. Carnations, just sown, Cornflowers sown and germinating within forty-eight hours. Carrots sown two days ago. Radish successional sowings so various degrees of growth from seedlings to plug size. French Marigolds, mostly in cold frame after being sown at beginning of April, a few stragglers on the
staging in the greenhouse. Cosmos sown at start of month, still thinking about it. Rudbeckia, a few brave souls have popped up in the last week from mid month sowing. Aster not even thinking of germinating even though they sown same time as Rudbeckia. Sunflowers, no sign of them from a March sowing. Mid April showings of Bells of Ireland, Venidum, Helianthas Maximilianii, Banksia Hookerenia, Star of Veldt, (rela
tion to Osteospermum) and Californian Poppies have yet to show. I didn’t have any T&M aubergine seeds left so got some from the garden centre who only stock a different company’s seeds so I am growing them, but also trailing them with a German Supermarket’s own brand aubergine seeds. I have had amazing results with T&M’s aubergines so I can also compare it to last year’s crop, in terms of how well they grow etc. The pots of Hollyhock have been only half successful from a late April sowing. There are no signs of the dahlias I sowed, and this happened last year too. I wait in vain for them as they may just turn up. I had eight packets of Free T&M Seeds from a magazine and they included Hyssop, I sowed about a quarter of the packet three weeks ago and there are baby seedlings already. The Chilli Peppers and Alderman Peas Mark started off in January was an epic fail even though I can start them off in the winter, with success. However, this year was milder than most winters so damping off may have been the issue. I’ve re-sown them in the hope they will grow, but so far no chillies and only two peas. Incidentally, the Sweet Peppers Mark did in
January germinated brilliantly and there is one left on the staging for mum after I gave a few to my brother.
My grass Oryza Satvia has germinated, I sowed six seeds and all have come, I’m waiting for grasses Panicum Virgatum, Stipia Pony Tails and Grass Tail Feathers as well as Anemanthele Lessonia. I sowed Liatris the same time as these. Finally there are a few tomato plants of both varieties left over after the family picked what they needed. The worst thing about growing all of the above was having to label the pots. Usually I use the Dymo machine, but it’s getting on now and I have to really press down hard on the plastic clicker bit to get the letters on the tape. I got really frustrated after half the labels came out with missing or Ill-formed letters. One came out as Rude Becki instead of Rudbeckia and as for Bells of Ireland…….
Outside the large greenhouse I have two deep flowerpots with wigwam supports filled with Runner Beans that I swapped with my Uncle Raff for an Aubergine plant and Peas given to me by a friend from work. Inside the greenhouse I have a lovely crop of curly leaved Parsley that needs to be potted up as I don’t want it spreading there. On the hanging shelves, getting used to the heat and light of what will be their permanent home in the borders when they get bigger, are my tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines, along with an Orchid, a Spider Plant a Poinsettia that’s still dying back, a Rosemary cutting and Christmas Cacti cuttings. There are also hyacinth bulbs that still want water so I can’t dry them and store them yet. Lastly on the shelf there is a potted Begonia Apricot Shades. It’s the last bulb I have left, I have no idea what happened to the others last year – I fear they were not dug up and stored. The begonia is starting to sprout – it loves the heat. In the greenhouse borders Mark has set me some grafted plants – each year I like to try something new so this year I’m trying a Watermelon and a Cantaloupe Melon, these are not from Thompson and Morgan, neither is the hot Chilli that came as part of the offer, The only reason why I went to a different place was because unfortunately T&M don’t do grafted Watermelon, and I really want to see if I can grow Watermelons in Pembrokeshire.
However, I have put in an order with T&M, well two orders actually. The first was an offer of 36 free plants with them through Gardeners’ World magazine, and the second order was for 224 Lucky Dip Annual plants for a couple of pounds that I will split with my mum. These won’t be in my charity sale – sorry people! Oh and I ordered Dahlia Fire and Ice as it looks stunning, as well as some Bronze English Marigolds and Petunia Easy-wave. The both orders for what will be 288 plants in all worked out to something ridiculous like eight pence a plant – you wouldn’t get that at a DIY or chain garden centre.
I love the way you can track and order to see if it’s been dispatched. Or look back on previous orders if there’s something I want to order again but can’t remember the variety name. So while I wait for my own seeds to grow and the postman to deliver my goods, I think I will amuse myself by reading a new gardening book. I’ve just finished reading The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden written in 1906; the countryside she grew up in has changed so much. Last month I discovered from Margery Fish (Cottage Garden Plants) what a Tussie Mussie is, so I think I shall gather one for myself. There’s always something new to learn.
Oh and I’ve decided to join the “Solar Light Brigade” that seems to be dominating back gardens in our street, instead of putting pole lights or fairy lights in paths or trellis or trees, I’ve strung up tiny LED string lights in the greenhouses. Blue in the large greenhouse, red in the small. I also bought glow in the dark stakes with a butterfly, a dragonfly and a wasp on top to use as plant markers too. I promise it doesn’t look garish -I’ll take a photo for next time to let you decide.
Until next time,
Love Amanda X