Shrubs are the stalwarts of the border- they last for years and years, fill gaps and offer decorative foliage AND flowering! And, what better place to start than Hydrangeas– one of the most versatile shrubs you can find, and I’m going to show how comprehensive the range is too!
- Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’
This Hydrangea gives a colour explosion in the garden right from the word go! The foliage is long, elegant and the same colour as your favourite chocolate bar! This foliage changes with every few weeks that passes; from chocolate-brown to deep green, and then it surprises you by transforming to the most delectable amber and golden shades! ‘Hot Chocolate’ is a robust hydrangea which really fills the borders, and even performs in poor soils!
Hydrangea ‘Hot Chocolate’ and Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Bloomstruck’
- Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’
If you really want maximum flower power from your Hydrangea shrubs, then ‘Endless Summer’ is a real breakthrough! Usually, a Hydrangea macrophylla will only flower on old wood, which means they set their flower buds for flowering in the previous summer. ‘Endless Summer’ not only does this, but it ALSO flowers on new wood, so you get a double whammy! Remember this type of Hydrangea (macrophylla) also gives different coloured blooms on different soils; expect blue on acid and pink on alkaline!
- Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’
This type of Hydrangea is a bit more woody than most, but with that comes extra hardiness, resilience and an easier pruning method! Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ is short, compact and makes a rounded, neat specimen for the border or pretty patio pots. The snowball flowerheads almost cover the plants throughout the summer, and gently turn to bubblegum pink as the season progresses!
Hydrangea ‘Bobo’ and Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’
- Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’
Undoubtedly the star of the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014, ‘Miss Saori’ was the winner of Plant of the Year, thanks to its crystallized-effect, two-tone flowers, which look like mini tiaras! A strong-growing plant, where the flower colour is less affected by different soil types too, you know you’ll be enjoying the colour you were expecting!
- Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’
This Hydrangea macrophylla has a distinctive appearance; with mophead blooms where each floret is curled like a piece of popcorn! An easy to grow shrub for sun or shade, great for small gardens or large patio containers! Enjoy pink blooms on alkaline, blue blooms on acid!
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Blushing Bride’ and Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’
Hobby gardener’s favourite becomes important commercial crop in race for earliest stems.
Couldn’t wait for your home-grown forced rhubarb this winter? Chances are if you relied on the first supermarket produce of the season, you’ve been eating Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’.
This extra early forcing variety was on sale in the wholesale markets from 30th December, beating forced rhubarb from the ‘Golden Triangle’ in West Yorkshire to stores by a full three weeks. Traditionally Golden Triangle rhubarb is the first to market every year.
The area is renowned for early rhubarb production and at its peak in the 1930s produced 90 per cent of the world’s forced winter rhubarb. It seems the region now has some tough competition from Essex growers producing commercial crops of Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’. And home growers could be beating the professionals at their own game too.
Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’
Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, said: “We’ve sold this top variety to home gardeners for many years, with the promise of the earliest natural harvest. Thick flavoursome stalks are produced in March –a full month ahead of all other varieties. But it now seems you could be enjoying your own fresh stalks with your Christmas leftovers!”
Industry experts agree. Fruit specialist Will Sibley said: “I cannot imagine that there is an earlier variety in commercial production. To bring the season on by a full three weeks, just goes to show the qualities of this top-tasting variety.”
If you are not already growing Thompsons Terrifically Tasty, a favourite with T&M customers, orders are now being taken for spring planting crowns, two for £9.99 or four for £17.99. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com or call 0844 573 1818
Forcing rhubarb for a late December or early January crop is simple. In late November cover crowns with straw and place a forcing pot, large tub or dustbin on top to block out the light. This will initiate out of season stem growth leading to the earliest possible harvest.
“We’ve really pushed out the boat with our new Petunia introductions this year, and it now means there’s a Petunia for almost any part of the garden! So, let’s take a bit of a tour…
Right outside your backdoor, there’s room for a few terracotta pots filled with some of the newest and most colourful petunias! Mix and match with varieties such as ‘Green with Envy’, new ‘Cloud Nine’ and super scented ‘Anna’! Or, for something really indulgent and show-off, try ‘Black Night’, with jet-black, velveteen blooms! Also, for little pots, try Calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’, with its sprawling habit, with blooms a lot smaller than a standard petunia, but boy there’s a lot more of them!
Petunias ‘Green With Envy’, ‘Cloud nine’ and ‘Anna’
Then, look up, where Petunia ‘Surfinia’ is trying to escape the hanging baskets like Rapunzel letting down her hair! ‘Surfinia’ offer some of the longest trailing stems in the business, and is actually one of the best known petunias IN THE WORLD! For something a bit more ‘designer’, try out ‘Peach Sundae’. The flowers change colour from yellow to peach, with a myriad of shades in-between!
Petunias ‘Black Night’, Calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’ and Petunia ‘Surfinia’
So, imagine you’re starting to walk down your garden, and you’ve got some borders by the path to fill. Why not plant a ground-covering variety that would make a low, billowing hedge! Step forward ‘Tidal Wave’! Although we often promote this as a climbing variety, the vigorous habit means it can also be used for carpeting. Don’t underestimate the sugary fragrance of each bloom either!
Petunias ‘Peach Sundae’, ‘Tidal Wave’ and ‘Art Deco’
Then, if you really want to show off petunias in your borders, why not plant up some of the very new and very shiny, ‘Art Deco’! Each bloom is a work of art, and the plants are well-behaved in the border too, rounded and compact, with so many blooms you can’t see the foliage…!”
With so many new plants to choose from in our 2016 range, we think you might need a bit of help! So, I’ve decided to pick out 10 hidden gems for you- whatever the size or style of your garden.
Power Daisy – It’s not often that an entirely new type of plant comes along, but let me introduce the ‘Power Daisy’. Arching, hanging plants, bejewelled with golden button blooms from May to October. You’ll finally understand the meaning of the phrase ‘flower power’. This is a unique new species of Calendula, and the shape of basket plants of the future.
Lily ‘Exotic Sun’ – I just love how the exotic buds of this lily open. The best part is that they take their time doing it, unfolding over a few days, meaning you get to enjoy a really theatrical show. They’re such a lovely refreshing lemon yellow too, and this ain’t no shy border lily either, as plants sit at just under a metre tall.
Geranium ‘Bug Off’ – Avoid outdoor mosquito attacks by planting these lemony-scented pelargonium. They’re so neat that they’ll suit table-top pots, and can be on guard for the pesky gnats, and it might well repel wasps too. The summer blooms are like little angels, and really compliment the dinky foliage. I think this plant deserves to be called ‘CUTE’!
Bidens ‘BeeDance Painted Red’ – Pow! There’s no mistaking this bright spark. Over the years, I’ve found that gardeners always love a bicoloured flower. Bred to absolute perfection in Japan, the ‘BeeDance’ Bidens series can easily cope with short periods of drought, or a position in bright, all day sun. You’ll be surprised by the honey scent from each small bloom too.
Curcuma- Siam Tulip – Gardening is often about showing, we know that, let’s all admit it! These Curcuma offer you the perfect opportunity to evoke comment with your friends. Often referred to as the Siam Tulip, these Thai beauties are imported especially. The waxy blooms are very tropical, and last a long time too!
Ptilotus ‘Joey’ – How can something that looks so delicate be so easy to grow? One of the most unique discoveries in recent years ptilotus comes from the Australian outback, so has an inbuilt resilience to… well, everything! The fluffy presence of ‘Joey’ will revolutionise your pots.
Cosmos ‘Eclipse’ – An extra special selection of cosmos atrosanguineus, chosen for its rich, chocolatey fragrance. Yes, you heard that right… chocolate! Aside from the indulgent fragrance, the flowers are near black, and the plants branching, yet compact. In fact, there isn’t anything not to like about this plant.
Tomato Tutti Frutti Collection – Now these tomatoes will form part of a fun summer game, as you ask your visitors to guess the flavour. Breeders have selected these fruits, not just for their sweetness, but for their resemblance to a range of unique flavours. You’ll have fun matching up the mandarin and melon flavours. As easy to grow as any tomato, and with thin skins, ensuring a melt in the mouth flavour.
Kalmia ‘Rubra’ – To plug a gap in the border not just this year, but for many years to come, shrubs are very useful. Kalmia is something a little bit different, it needs an acidic soil, but could easily be grown in a big tub of ericaceous compost. The flowers have to be seen to be believed, when I first saw one in real life I was literally stopped in my tracks.
Begonia ‘Daffadowndilly’ – It’s a case of confused identity with this new Begonia tongue-twister! Each elegant bloom faces upright and has the shape of a daffodil, albeit in a deep salmon-pink. With a befitting fancy name of ‘Daffadowndilly’, you know this classy new plant will be flying off the shelves, so reserve your tubers now.
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.