Grow your own winter five a day.

Just because we have nearly reached the shortest day does not mean to say that we should only eat sprouts, cabbage and leeks between now and springtime.

With a few small pots of multi-purpose compost, a bright windowsill or cool glasshouse and as little TLC, we can all have a succession of yummy salad leaves to add to our five a day.

 

Cabbage Chinese 'Natsuki' & Leek 'Autumn Giant 2 - Porvite

Cabbage Chinese ‘Natsuki’ & Leek ‘Autumn Giant 2 – Porvite

Flicking through the 2017 Thompson & Morgan catalogue, you do not have to look very far before you find Spinach ‘Perpetual,’ eaten cooked or raw, and Salad Leaves ‘Speedy Mix’ to give you a quick start. If you fancy growing your own pea shoots (they will need a few days in the dark to get them to start germinating) or spring onion seedlings to lift a posh meal to another level, why not give them a try.
If you like that wonderful peppery flavour that rocket gives, try Wasabi Rocket to spice up a boring lettuce salad. Add some colour to the salad with a few Beetroot ‘Rainbow Beet’ leaves. With a little more heat, up to 15° C and light you might try one or two of the fabulous basil varieties that are listed amongst the herbs. Coriander leaves can also be grown with that little extra TLC.

 

Lettuce 'Yugoslavian Red' & Turnip 'Oasis'

Lettuce ‘Yugoslavian Red’ & Turnip ‘Oasis’

 

If you like something unusual, try growing Cabbage Chinese ‘Natsuki’  and throw the leaves into a stir fry.
Check out the pages on Salad leaves for a whole collection of other salad leaves to try. If you have a cool glasshouse (10°C) with a soil bed or similar and a little more patience, why not try growing some white salad Turnip ‘Oasis,’ sown in early January. Harvest from April onwards.

 

Salad Leaves 'Speedy Mix' & Spring Onion 'Feast' F1 Hybrid

Salad Leaves ‘Speedy Mix’ & Spring Onion ‘Feast’ F1 Hybrid

Remember that all most of these salads need is a bright windowsill, temperatures of between 10 and 12°C. Many are best being grown in shallow pots to avoid excessive use of compost – the plants will only be in the compost for 6 to 8 weeks and so do not need large volumes of compost.
Whichever ones you grow, enjoy your winter salads and look forward to growing more as winter turns to spring.
Graham Porter.

 

Graham Porter
I have worked in horticulture for the past 49 years and have become more involved with and concerned about the environmental impact that our profession has had on the world. I am married with 2 grown up children and 4 wonderful grandchildren. I am currently writing my first book that reflects my thoughts on gardening / horticulture in an environmentally friendly manner.

Garden Mirrors and Wall Art

Using a garden mirror in your garden or outside space is a good way to add the illusion of room, space and a whole new dimension of liberty.

The type of effect you want to achieve will determine the kind of mirror you use. If you want to have the effect of a small window, then choose a church style, for a gothic effect. Creating the effect of a portal to another dimension! By using a full length mirror you could create a gateway to another world!

Garden mirrors a window to another dimension!

Garden mirrors a window to another dimension!

Try different locations with your mirror, as you may not be happy with the first place you put it. They are perfect in shady spaces where not much grows, as they bring much needed light into this area of the garden.

Mirrors work wonderfully with plants and greenery around them, a bare one will look out of place so place climbing flowers, such as roses or clematis, around the mirror. If it is in a dark corner why not try adding ivy around it. This could give the appearance of an old fashioned secret garden.

During different seasons you will get a different appearance from your mirror, depending on which plants you have added to it. Enjoy either evergreens or full tones of colourful blooms from your climbing plants.

Mirrors bring light to dark corners and open up outdoor spaces

Mirrors bring light to dark corners and open up outdoor spaces

Another feature to consider when purchasing a garden mirror is what you will be putting in front of it. You can place different size trees or buxus to the front. Angling your mirror is a good idea, you can easily place a small piece of wood behind it to angle it slightly. This will give you an off centre reflection and you won’t be the first thing you see when looking into it. It is best not to place it in direct sun light; it can be hazardous and may cause a fire!

Try adding different plants or objects in front of your mirror

Try adding different plants or objects in front of your mirror

If mirrors are not something you want in your garden, why not try wall art? There are a wide range of pieces for sale and you can decorate your walls with animal shapes, flowers or other abstract pieces. Adding tall grasses or an obelisk in front and you can create a focal point to rival an art gallery.

Wall art adds a designer touch to your garden

Wall art adds a designer touch to your garden

Whichever you choose, garden mirror or a piece of wall art, it is clear there are lots of accessories that you can add to your garden. Bringing your garden into the modern and fashionable world of exterior decorating.

Wendie Alexander
I have worked for Thompson & Morgan for nearly four years. In that time I have learnt lots about gardening, but consider myself very much a novice. I have started growing veg on a colleague’s allotment and also growing windowsill seeds such as Salad Leaves and Rocket. I love gaining more knowledge about horticulture and am lucky enough to work here.

Geoff shows off his new plants

The summer is racing on at a pace, but the plants still think it’s spring! The garden here at Driftwood, is roughly 3 to 4 weeks behind where I would expect it to be at this time of year. We’ve already had 2 open days, raising money for the Mayor’s charities in Seaford and the first of 4 openings for the National Gardens Scheme this summer. Hot topics, as usual, are some of the plants from Thompson & Morgan.

Unnamed bidens & Petunia 'Night Sky'

Without doubt the top 2 so far are the stunning Petunia ‘Night Sky’, which look wonderful by the pond combined with other similar coloured plants. Right by the entrance to the back garden is a raised container with a brand new, as yet unnamed, bidens which has caused quite a stir too! It has some beautiful blooms that change in colour as the flowers develop. I look forward to hearing it’s new name announced later in the year! The comments on the petunia have  been a little mixed, with visitors saying it’s one of those “marmite” moments, you either love it or hate it! I’m pleased to say, on balance they love it.

Pennisetum 'Blackjack' & Calendula 'Power Daisy'

In the beach garden I planted out the new Pennisetum Blackjack’, which are only just starting to get going, but I’m sure they will look stunning once they are established. I had some problems with the delivery of the Calendula ‘Power Daisy’ this year and some plants were damaged. I managed to rescue three of them and they have done really well. They are just starting to bloom along the central path and are quite dazzling once they open out. A second delivery is awaited, so they should be putting on a great show later in the summer.

Hibiscus 'Luna' & fuchsia with no name!

The bare root Hibiscus ‘Luna’ was delivered back in April and has also just started to show signs of growth with new leaves bursting out. I look forward to seeing it’s large flowers as the summer goes on. I’ve been very luck this summer to have received 2 brand new plants, as yet unnamed.
The other is a fuchsia, which is also just beginning to develop it’s flower buds. It won’t be long before we can see the gorgeous flowers.

Tomato 'Sweet Aperitif'

Finally, the Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’ that came back in April are doing really well in the greenhouse and are already about 1 metre tall. It shouldn’t be too long before the delicious fruit appear! Later this month the garden will be part of a photo shoot, by the magazine Coast. Driftwood will be featured in it next Summer! We’ve got another 12 open days to go so plenty of opportunity for visitors to come and see the garden. If you want to read more on the garden go to www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk.

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, recently featured on Gardeners’ World on TV and finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016, he’s raised £76000 for various charities in 7 years, £40000 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

Storm Imogen causing more trouble for our bloggers

As Amanda and Geoff have already mentioned the troubles of Storm Imogen and what it left behind. It took out our fence in the front garden.   On getting up early the next morning discovered that the posts had snapped clean off and one of the panels was swinging out across the public footpath so at 8am just as it was getting light I was trying to hang on to the panel while Alan unscrewed it to make it safe until the gale had died down. What a mess! It ended up with us replacing the complete fence as damage was discovered on two more posts and also the panels.

 

New fence, finials and water feature

 

Alan has been busy repainting the new fence and also this time putting in gravel boards which have been painted with a rubber solution paint and also the posts at the bottom in the hope it will stop them from rotting over the next few years. We have now bought some finials to finish the top of the posts. Two of our older grandsons spent the day putting the new fence up for us… A job well done.

 

Lilies, Tree lilies and Jean with lilies

 

On checking the border in the front of the fence found that my Tree Lily bulbs thankfully hadn`t been disturbed when putting the new fence in, hopefully they will stay there for a little longer until the better weather gets here. I have attached a few photos of the beautiful tree lilies from last year. I originally had three Clematis on the front fence but I am going to transplant them to a more convenient spot in the back garden, it will also give me more room to make it a proper `border` as it is only 15” wide and before was covered by the Clematis leaves. Does anyone else have a problem with using pencil on the plant labels (you know the ones I mean, flat white ones) it seems that during the winter the weather has wiped the names off!! I also tried using a fibre tip pen but that didn`t work either. It certainly gets frustrating as you can well imagine!

 

Incredicompost, tulips and Fuchsia berry

 

I have now received my delivery of incredicompost® which is under cover for the time being, so looking forward to be able to plant my seeds and ready for when the first plug plants arrive.

A few days ago the weather warmed up a little so spent the afternoon cutting back a lot of the plants, clearing spaces ready for the new season and getting rid of weeds… It never ceases to amaze me how fast the weeds grow and appear from nowhere in all sorts of weather with no help from fertiliser. I noticed the Clematis on the arch at the top of the back garden is now in bud and many new shoots on the climbing rose that grows with it. I was very surprised to see some of my tulips already in flower by Valentine`s Day. This year I have planted two packets of 10 tulip bulbs called Andre Rieu which is a slightly darker pink and already showing signs of buds although they will need to get a little taller first.

 

Peppermint Stick and Fuchsia berry

 

Just as we thought that the really bad weather had passed, found this morning that there had been very heavy torrential rain with very strong winds overnight. As it got light discovered that several of my empty containers, which had been stacked away for the winter, had been blown across the garden and path.   The weather was still lousy so just left them there until the weather got a little better and we were able to go out and restack them. Thankfully the new fence was still in one piece.

I had noticed that myStrawberry ‘Irrestistible’ which I first had as customer trials a few years ago, getting some leaves so put the window box outside Alan`s workshop where they always do well. Today has been a sunny day and the cold wind has dropped so have cleaned out the dead leaves etc. from the strawberry plants, fed them and a top coat of compost. This year I have bought a raspberry cane ‘Glen Prosen’ so hopefully will get some fruit this year. It will be grown in a container with a frame to support it.

According to the weather forecast it looks like a reasonable weekend so will be able to sort out all the baskets – mainly the easy fill kind – and containers and make sure they are all cleaned. Also I will sow some seeds in pots for the greenhouse. As mentioned previously I only have the plastic kind with no heat so will put the pots on the kitchen windowsill to start them off.

It is now time to put the replacement Garda Falls fountain back in place. The coating on the original one had started to peel back showing the white underneath. The garden centre where I purchased it said they needed to send it back to find out why it had happened.

 

Central Park, Petunia Frills & Spills and Garda Falls

**Further to my November Blog re Gardening in California and the drought they were experiencing, I am pleased to say they have had at last some measureable rain which is now making a lot of difference to their lawns as they turn green again and the plants showing how they appreciate it. There are a couple of photos, one of Peppermint Stick geranium and one of the lake in Central Park which has been dry for many months, now full of water and the wildlife love it.**

Over the past few days I have started to receive some of my postiplug plants: Fuchsia Berry, the ones where you can eat the fruit once the flower has finished, and Frills and Spills Petunias which always put on such a wonderful show, and have been busy potting them up, so now it begins…………….

Hope all the gardeners enjoy the weekend and are able to make headway in their gardens, most of all enjoy and have fun. `Til the next time………..

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Having fun with glass jars, beads and succulents

It’s been a long while since I managed to write things down – moving house kind of got in the way and last summer was spent trying to unpack boxes and tame a rather wild garden. Now that things are slowly getting straight I have had a chance to divert my attention to playing with indoor planting.

Being a lover of gadgets and fun things, I stumbled upon a website from China and after a bit of surfing and buying some very silly things, I came across these:

 

Glass Jars

 

Obviously these stirred my curiosity and creative bones, and I decided to take the plunge and buy them. Three of the connecting ones and one each of the others (the whole lot came to less than £15!). I had a bit of trepidation about ordering fragile glass items from the other side of the world but my philosophy tends to be “if it works, great, if it doesn’t it’s a lesson learned!”

3 weeks later and I had purchased my plants, succulents http://www.thompson-morgan.com/flowers/all-other-seeds-and-plants/cacti mainly, a colleague had also suggested I try planting in aqua beads rather than soil as it would look nicer and perhaps a bit more modern. The packages arrived, all in one piece and looks amazing! I really felt quite excited about putting everything together for my soilless indoor experiment.

Here are the ingredients…

 

Ingredients needed

 

And so to work:

First thing was to gently wash away the soil from all of the plants’ roots, this was done by soaking them first and a careful rinse which removed most of it followed by a more meticulous picking away of any leftover lumps of compost which left me with this:

 

Plants are washed and ready

 

I decided to start with the large jar, on the basis that it would be the easiest and less fiddly to do, so I dropped a couple of handfuls of the hydrated aqua beads in, they are extremely slippery when at their full size and behave like toy rubber balls so if you drop one it could go anywhere, several of mine did! Once they’d been levelled off I started to place my plants, taller ones at the back and smaller at the front, hopefully I’ll get the desired effect once they start to grow. It was a case of position the plants, hold them and gently slide the roots into the mass of jelly like beads. Once they were all planted however it looked slightly anaemic and needed a bit of depth. The best solution I came up with was to sprinkle some aquarium gravel around the plants (I have fish tanks so not a problem) and this looked loads better and I was pleased with the result.

 

The end results are stunning

 

The hanging glass balls were, as I suspected, slightly more tricky to assemble, but worth it, I used a dessert spoon to put enough water beads in and did the same with the plants too as my fat fingers wouldn’t fit in.

 

Glass Jars nearly finished

 

Finished Jars And so I had planted them all up, and considering how cheap the glassware was, I am really happy with them all!

I’ll feed them once a month with a liquid feed direct into the beads which will probably dye them a blue colour, hopefully this will make them look interesting too. I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop and really hoping that some of the plants will start to trail out of the openings for the full effect to be complete.  The next project is going to be a miniature garden in an outdoor pot. Time to start collecting bits and pieces for that!

Graham.

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.

Preparing for the new gardening season

Today Alan (my Husband) has put my 4 foot portable greenhouse up after being stored away for the past 8 months since it was last used. I also have a 2 foot one which just fits nicely together alongside the 4 foot one, close by the kitchen door and will be erected as the first one fills up.   You will see from the photograph that Alan has made a bracket which is fitted to the front of both greenhouses and screwed into the wall, following an unfortunate experience last year when on a very rough day it lifted the greenhouse up together with all the plants! This seems to work very well now against strong winds. Updated 8th February: We have had storm Imogen whistle through today with winds of 60-70 mph here on the South Coast of Bournemouth and thankfully my greenhouse is still standing.

I also have a hexagonal greenhouse which will be near Alan`s workshop. The last two years have been unable to use it as the zip had broken and I was unable to get another cover. Towards the end of last year I managed to find a new one, so now it will used this year for extra room until the plants are big enough to be put in their baskets and containers.

Jean's Greenhouse, chains and shoehanger

Jean’s Greenhouse, chains and shoehanger

A lot of the flowers from last summer seem to have continued flowering through the last three months. Some of the Diascia in the hanging basket just keep going on and on. Erysimum, the everlasting wallflower has been in flower and is still has more flowers to come.

The bulbs that were planted last October in containers have several daffodils which have been flowering since just after Christmas and at the time of writing (the beginning of February) I have tulips in bud, although to be honest it could be a few days before they will flower and then only if the weather warms up and the sun comes out. Until 10 days ago my Lantana was still flowering, we had a very hard frost one night and it was `goodbye` to them. The Eucomis (pineapple lily plant) is shooting well, so have covered it with some new compost in case we get another hard frost.

Jean's Bumblebee Hyacinth, Magnolia 'Susan' and Hyacinth

Jean’s Bumblebee Hyacinth, Magnolia ‘Susan’ and Hyacinth

I have also been sorting out my hanging baskets – do I really have that many? A friend who has moved into a flat gave me some of the original terracotta easy fill plastic baskets, large and also smaller ones which hold six plants round the outside and three or four plants in the top. I have also cleared space for my Incredicompost® which is on order from Thompson and Morgan and is due within the next week, and the first plants should be arriving towards the end of March.   This year I have also purchased two new computer timers for our watering system, the old ones finally gave up and weren`t reliable.

Spring looked as if it had come a little early a couple of days ago. My hyacinths from Thompson & Morgan were in full flower and had been left in the porch with the door open as it was a sunny day. I found three huge bumble bees fighting over the hyacinths one of which had nestled itself right into the flowers. The Magnolia Stellata has one flower out so far, a little early, but still very welcome.

Jean's Erysium, Daffodils and Geraniums

Jean’s Erysium, Daffodils and Geraniums

At the end of each day when I have finished with my gardening tools, I like to clean them with a rag and spray them with a well-known lubricant oil which keeps the tools from getting rusty and always ready for use. In my small shed I have an old shoe hanger where all the small tools, trowel, hand fork etc. are kept. All the chains for the hanging baskets hang on the inside the door and are sprayed with the same lubricant as the tools at the end of the season for protection during the winter. Now if only I could keep my kitchen that tidy…I guess something has to give when you love your garden! Until the next time…Happy Gardening!

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

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