Michael Perry gives us his top 5 seed varieties for 2016!
For many years, the YELLOW Cosmos has been a myth, and indeed a variety did exist. However, it never flowered until almost September, which is no good for home gardens! Then, from nowhere, Dutch breeders came up with Xanthos, an acid yellow Cosmos which didn’t just flower from June to September, but also offered a shorter, branching habit, with more flowers than you’ve ever seen on a Cosmos! Top tip, grow it in patio pots for a show stopping display.
Zinnia Zinderella Peach
Zinnia have also changed a lot over the years; evolving from a Californian annual which thrived in hot summers to a versatile annual that can now put up with the English climate! The Zinderella Series is a work of art as well, as the crested blooms shimmer with peachy tones, punctuated with hints of lime green. Zinnia can be used as a cut flower too, lasting an impressive 2 weeks in a vase!
Eschscholzia XL Yellow
Californian Poppies will literally thrive on neglect; requiring hardly any water and putting up with baking sun all day long! We selected this beauty for its large, frilly, bright flowers. As a hardy annual, Eschscholzia are a simple ‘throw and sow’ specimen, so you can scatter the seed straight outdoors where they are to flower!
Nasturtium Cream Troika
The perfect hanging basket Nasturtium, with restrained growth and a gently tumbling habit! Easy to grow by sowing the seed directly into the basket, this has the potential to be the easiest hanging display you’ll have ever grown! Cream Troika is a beaut, with buttery yellow dotted blooms and icy variegated foliage.
Phlox ‘Cherry Caromel’
Who’d have thought something so beautiful would be so easy to grow? This startling little Phlox can be sown directly outside! You won’t be able to resist the fantastically rich caramel flowers with vibrant cherry centres! I don’t expect stock of this one to stick around for long though, so be quick!
Eat your greens, and reds, and yellows… If you’re tired of the usual summer salad trio; lettuce, cucumber and tomato, then the edible flower revolution will be right up your street! If you haven’t tried the crunch of a begonia petal or the sweet nectar of a primrose, then you’ve really been missing out!
Edible flowers aren’t just suitable for jazzing up salads; they can be used for decorating cakes too. Get your bake on, and top your cupcakes with pansy blooms, carnation petals or the minty florets of Agastache!
During our recent open days, I surprised visitors by introducing them to the wonderful world of edible blooms, as I picked fragrant begonia flowers straight from the plant. They’re crunchy, succulent and have a lovely citrus taste!
Our Pansy Tasty Mix is actually specifically bred to have thicker petals, to give more crunch. They’re frilly and decorative, and each bloom gives you a mini dose of vitamin A too!
Many herbs and vegetables have edible flowers too; harvest chive florets for a mild onion taste, or the little yellow blooms of rocket for a spicy kick, and let’s not forget nasturtiums where you can eat the flower, leaf AND ripe seed pod, which is akin to a caper!
To discover the world of edible flowers and how to use them, read our guide on edible flowers.
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!
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!
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!
Holly trees can be self-fertile, male or female; so some bushes may need a partner to ensure they can pollinate and produce berries. This is not usually a problem in home gardens though, as Holly trees are quite common in other gardens as well as in the wild, so there should always be a pollinator nearby!
Holly bushes are not only beautiful when in berry, but they can also make excellent security planting, you can surround your property with a hedge of Holly to create a ‘prickly barrier’, which could help stop trespassers reaching your property!
Holly ‘Garden King’
Of course, Holly bushes can also be purchased in ‘standard’ form, with a shape much like a lollipop. These will arrive from Thompson & Morgan ready-shaped, and only need to be trimmed lightly to be kept in shape. Holly standards make excellent container specimens, so why not consider placing one either side of the front door? We offer 3 different forms, each with very different coloured leaves, but all with shiny red berries; Green Alaska, Argentea Marginata and Golden King.
Holly ‘Argentea Marginata’
Before planting up your Holly, bear in mind that they can be slow-growing plants, and they resent disturbance, so make sure you plant them into their final position first time! On the plus side, they are easy to grow in most types of soil, just avoid water logging!
Holly ‘Green Alaska’
Then, there’s Ivy- with its carefree, speedy growth, and ability to grow in the darkest of corners. Choose a beaming variety with golden-edged leaves for the full lighting up effect in a shady corner. Do keep a watch on ivy’s quick growth, and don’t plant it anywhere that it could compromise building structures.
Don’t forget that you can use Ivy in hanging containers too, especially the smaller growth forms. They can be useful for jazzing up winter displays. Maybe even cut some stems and create a traditional Holly and Ivy display, just like the song!
Do you have any more questions? Then post them below, i will be happy to help.
Can I grow exotic fruit in my own garden? The answer’s yes! Do you find ‘exotic’ fruit expensive in the supermarket? If that’s the case, then why not have a look at these tropical-looking fruits that you can grow in your own garden? Here are 3 of the best!
First up, here’s one of my favourites! The Sharon Fruit (also known as Kaki or Persimmon), which has a sugary flavour. I like to eat my kaki thinly sliced, much like a fruit carpaccio! Originating from China and totally hardy in the UK, the trees are self-fertile, so no pollinator is required! Makes a handsome tree, as the fruits will continue to ripen on the branches after the leaves have fallen! The branches of Sharon Fruit ‘Fuyu’ produce glossy, dark green leaves that turn to colourful shades of orange, gold and purple in autumn. The summer flowers give way to edible fruits that continue to ripen on the tree well into December, long after the leaves have fallen. It will make an attractive addition to a sheltered border or trained against a sunny wall.
You can give yourself a healthy boost with the intriguing pomegranate fruit too! Hardy down to -15C (5F), they can be grown in large containers or the border. The flowers are super fancy, in hot orange tones, and fruits ripen through mild autumns, and are ready for harvest by October.
Figs– aren’t they a joy? Especially when they’re all squishy and sun ripened! This particular strain originates from London’s Chelsea embankment, and all stock has been propagated from that 1 single tree! Fruits develop in spring and ripen from August to September. A second crop often develops in late summer and if protected, these fruits will ripen during the following summer.
There has been a lot of chatter about purple carrots in recent years, as chefs and cooks have wanted to jazz up their dishes, I blame Master Chef! But, Thompson & Morgan have just released the BEST purple carrot- ‘Purple Sun’– which is purple right through to the core!
Purple carrots have extra antioxidant ‘superhero’ powers, due to their unique anthocyanins, and they also possess more beta carotenes. ‘Atomic Red’ is a carrot, which is almost a tomato in disguise, thanks to the high levels of lycopene, just like the humble tomato. The colour and flavour improve with cooking too!
Can you imagine a golden-coloured beetroot? The flavour is more delicate, it could perhaps even be described as sweeter. Your dinner party guests will be puzzled as to what this different vegetable is on their plates! And, if you thought that was mind-bending, then you need to check out ‘Chioggia Pink’, with striped red and white roots!
Beans and peas haven’t escaped the paintbrush either! Pea ‘Shiraz’ is the first commercially available purple mange tout pea; the shimmering purple pods are packed with antioxidants. Use them fresh or stir-fried to keep the unique colourings. Bear in mind this is a gorgeous vegetable for the flower border too! The best of both worlds. Bean ‘Golden Teepee’ is also worth seeking out; as those bright yellow pods mean you’ll never miss them, so you can pick them when they’re nice and tender.
Have you grown rainbow vegetables? Then we want to hear about it!