Holly and Ivy – what is there to know?

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

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

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

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

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.

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Exotic Fruit

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.

exotic fruit

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.

exotic fruit

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.

exotic fruit

 

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Rainbow vegetables – the latest trend on the veg patch!

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 carrot

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!

Rainbow vegetables

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!

rainbow vegetables

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!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Tulip bulbs – Never too late for Tulips!

Some garden centres will try and sell you tulip bulbs in August, because they soon want to make space for the (too early) sales of Christmas decorations. That’s way too early for tulips though! You should reserve your bulbs by mail order, to ensure later delivery, to coincide with the best time for planting tulip bulbs, October-November.

Planting later means you can avoid soil-borne diseases (‘nasties’ are killed by the cooler autumn soil temperatures) and ensure flowering at the optimum time- mid to late spring. The beauty of tulips is their late appearance- they bridge the gap perfectly between spring-flowering daffodils and the first of the summer-flowering perennials.

Do you want to know 3 of my very favourites?

Well, I always like to grow something a bit different, so rather than the usual red tulips in supermarkets and florists, why not grow your own fancy bouquets with ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’? This is the best selection of peony-flowered tulips, which are unashamedly flamboyant!

Tulip

‘Red Impression’ is that classic red tulip. A better perennial than most, this will come back year after year and not die out after a single season. Be bold and grow them nice and close for maximum impact!

Tulip

My last choice is a classic variety Tulip ‘Blueberry Ripple’, which pretty much looks like a heritage tulip, but with modern vigour and a tough attitude! Each petal almost painted by hand-in the most divine lilac-blue shade.. Let it take pride of place in a container on it’s own, pack the bulbs in, max out your display!

tulip blueberry ripple

However, one that is always on my radar is the hard to get hold of, Tulip ‘Brown Sugar’ ! It is gorgeous, and a variety that always makes me stop in my tracks. The bronze blooms look like brown sugar, but also SMELL of it, and from 6 foot away too! An incredibly choice bulb, which is worth trying to find!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Plants for winter colour

Let’s not be shy about this, ensuring winter colour in your garden will take a little bit of planning. In the harshest winter months, it’s only the odd turbo-charged pansy that has enough energy to push through a blanket of snow and ice. You need to guarantee yourself some winter colour every year with the help of a few perennials and bulbs, here’s 3 of my favourites:

Hellebores

hellebore

They like to be treated mean..! Any cold borders, north-facing areas, awkward shady spots will cause your hellebores to thrive! A nice rich soil and fresh mulch each year is all they demand! Hellebores will effortlessly ‘clump up’, creating a thicket of stems and leathery foliage through the year. Let the flowers take centre stage too, by removing the foliage each winter. Thompson & Morgan have been breeding hellebores for over 10 years now, and have created a rainbow of colours- including the rare and in demand slaty blues and primroses. One of their future aims is also to create up facing flowers, meaning those blooms won’t be so shy any more!

Snowdrops

snowdrops

It’s amazing how something so delicate can be so tough, isn’t’ it? This diminutive little bulb is a joy at the beginning of each year, often emerging through the snow with a little frosted hat. Try growing them in pots too, so you can have a sniff of the dinky blooms, yes- you will be able to smell honey!! The key piece of information you need to know about Snowdrops is that they’re best planted ‘in the green’, which means just after flowering, whilst the bulbs are in growth.

Clematis ‘Freckles’

clematis

This classic clematis must be a glutton for punishment- blooming through the darkest months of the year- from November to February! Growth is care-free and quick, plants are evergreen so always neat and tidy and the almost individually-designed blooms hang from the stems in clusters. If you can brave the cold, you can enjoy the gentle fragrance from each bell too!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Japanese garden adventure

We have all seen Japanese gardens in the UK, haven’t we? They were all the rage back in the early 90’s!

But, have you seen the other way around, an English garden in Japan? Well, Barakura was the brainchild of fashion designer, Kay Yamada, and after 20 years, represents the most beautiful and important English style garden in Japan.

garden-presentation

Earlier this year, I was super excited when I was invited to speak at the garden during their autumn events, where I’d be lecturing on new developments in kitchen gardens, talking about the history of UK kitchen gardens, and showing students how to make up some mixed autumn containers!

Head gardener, Andy, a former Northumberland chap, was my shepherd for the week. Gardening at Barakura is an exciting challenge, as you can’t grow just anything from the UK, it takes a few years of trial and error, as their summer’s can be so hot, oh and winter’s of -20C! Plant selection is super important, and the differing climate means some sun-lovers are thriving in shady spots, where they get some respite from the baking sun!

garden-presentation

Japan is such an interesting country to visit. The geographical isolation especially means that the culture is like no other, and I was already aware that I had to be super polite, and things might move at a slower speed to that of the UK! The food? Well, I love to try anything, so I was completely at home, and was eating fresh fish, carrots, even cauliflower for breakfast…!

I really enjoyed spending time with the students, and they were especially enthralled with my new developments in kitchen gardens lecture, especially the edible flower section, where I revealed begonias and tulips could in fact be added to their salads!

garden talk

I loved making up the mixed containers too, and being able to run around the garden centre choosing whichever plants I liked was fun. The containers were seen as quite short-term, so we were literally flower-arranging with plants, really shoehorning them in.

After Barakura, I had chosen to stay on and visit a few companies developing new flowers and vegetables, and have some interesting new things in the pipeline, so watch this space….!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

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