Hello everyone, my name is Amanda and this is the first of what I hope will be one of my many blogs for Thompson & Morgan. I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. It’s situated at the top of a hill and literally a five minute walk from the Cleddau Estuary. Being so close to the Irish Sea means that we get mild temperatures in the winter, however we also have to cope with the very strong salt-laden westerly winds that can blow up at any time of the year.
I started gardening later in life, for a few reasons, they are in no particular order but I would like to share them with you.
The first reason is for my physical and mental wellbeing. As I was born with a congenital heart disorder, and didn’t want to pick up any germs, I was a little scared of gardening. Especially as a youngster – but over the years I have realised gardening is actually very beneficial. It’s a great form of exercise, it is approved by my cardiologist to help maintain a healthy weight, keep muscle tone and improve lung capacity. It helps to reduces stress, it gets me outdoors, even in the winter, and I can enjoy super fresh fruit and veg, knowing exactly where it comes from and how it was grown. Which is to say, two minutes from my kitchen and mostly organic.
I’m not sure if using water from our four foot fish tank to drench the garden is classed as organic because of the colourings that go into fish food but the plants seem to like it. I do not water the plants that are eaten raw, just the potatoes, rhubarb and pretty flowers. Has anyone else used water from a fish tank to feed their plants? I have a feeling that I read something that said goldfish water is a good fertiliser, but I can’t remember where I read it.
The second reason I garden is because I wanted to learn a new skill. I didn’t think I would be very good at growing something from seed or cuttings, and I hate failing at things, but without trying I would always be wondering if it was something I could have done. Luckily Thompson & Morgan have handy growing hints and tips on their website and their products always come with detailed instructions. I started off with simple seeds like sunflowers, sweet peas and asters, then progressed onto mini plugs of more tender plants and tomatoes when I got one of those plastic pop up greenhouses. I now have a 6×6 horticultural glasshouse. After eight years or so I can now say I am okay at growing things, but I still consider myself to be a beginner. Does anyone else feel this way?
For example I can grow peppers, aubergines and tomatoes from seed every year without encountering problems. Yet, every year without fail I kill my cucumbers before they are more than a foot high.
Two years ago I tried to grow carrots, the slugs had them. Last year I beat the slugs by moving the pots around constantly, but the carrots were so small, (even though the leaves were huge) that not even a carrot fly could go to the trouble of nibbling on them. It was pretty pathetic. This is why I still feel like a beginner. I have a lot to learn.
The third reason I garden is because of tradition. My paternal grandparents ran a farm so growing crops is in our blood. Whilst my maternal grandparents worked on the land and recycled everything before it became trendy to do so – they were also fantastic cooks and grew a variety of fruit and vegetables in their garden at the back of the house and to me were able to create magical food from a surprisingly small number of ingredients. If we wanted a pudding after our meal we were told to go and eat the raspberries or suck the nectar from the nasturtiums.
Whilst the farming grandparents allowed us the freedom of playing in the barns, walking the sheep dogs, helping harvest potatoes or go running and sitting in the fields, the village dwellers who only had a small garden allowed us to collect ladybirds and caterpillars and grasshoppers and study the insect world for ourselves, so long as we didn’t break the dahlias or peony or roses in the front garden. We never played in the back; I guess we were too scared of damaging grandpa’s regimented rows of produce. Both sets of grandparents taught me lessons I would like to share in future blogs.
This tradition of growing is the real reason why I want to be part of the blogging community. Almost two years ago my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I wasn’t as close to him as my brothers were as my parents divorced when I was thirteen, but luckily through gardening we were able to mend our relationship. Before his illness became too aggressive I told him I was growing potatoes in a grow bag, being a farmer he thought this was the funniest thing anyone had ever told him. He said it wouldn’t work. I saw this as a challenge and gave him daily telephone updates of the potato progress along with taking photos on my phone to show him when we visited on the weekends. I didn’t realise how pleased he was until I overheard him telling his health visitor that I had fantastic food growing in the greenhouse as well as tasty spuds.
As his health began to fail he kept asking me if he could buy me another greenhouse for Christmas, I told him it was too expensive a present and that he needed to keep his money for heating, especially as the cancer had spread to his spine and shoulder bones. I tried to keep his spirits up by having a potato growing challenge – I would grow potatoes again in my grow bags if he grew two in a large plastic pot. After thinking about it he agreed saying he was wrong to say potatoes in sacks would never grow. Sadly dad died in June 2014 two weeks before our potatoes were ready. I inherited the plastic pot with them in it and at first I didn’t want to eat the spuds as that was the last thing he grew. In the end I knew he, like my grandparents, would be mad if I let good food go to waste, so ate them and they were delicious.
Dad also left us a little bit of money – I am not someone who has to have the latest tech, or have to spend it straight away. He didn’t leave us a fortune but it was enough for me to buy a new greenhouse with, it’s a 10×6 one. He also wanted me to be like his father and keep a diary of my gardening year. I have kept diary for most years but they have just been about random bits of daily life. I had no idea my granddad kept a diary of his life and farming methods, just before dad died I had the pleasure of reading the ones he had translated from Welsh from the years 1973, 1974 and 1975. So, forty years on I want to honour my past, be grateful for my present, and look forward to my future. I want to write about a year in my new greenhouse, covering everything from its construction to first fruits. I want to record everything from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs.
My actual diary is a physical paper journal where each day I will record things like when the greenhouse was delivered, how many blocks were laid for the base, the weather, things in bloom, and the cost of compost, anything greenhouse related. I sourced my diary on the Internet as the one I wanted includes sections for each week to record things like to do lists, weather patterns and interesting gardens to visit. Each month I will give you a concise update on my progress; I will include photos of significant events, and write some hopefully interesting things. In return all I ask is if you could share some of your gardening moments with me? Please leave me anything from comments, to hints and tips to improve my gardening, or pictures of your own plot. I promise I will try to respond to each one.
Until next month – Happy Gardening!
It’s like a fuchsia festival every summer in my garden! I have been collecting them since inheriting 2 standard specimens from family members, one from my Aunt, Margaret Grindrod, in 2004 (plant pictured in 2005 on left) and one from my father, Ron Stonebanks, in 2007, (plant pictured in 2007 on right). My own enjoyment of fuchsias has clearly stemmed from these very first two. Dad and Auntie Margaret can be seen, sat together in my courtyard garden in North London, back in 2003 before we moved to Bishopstone, the following year.
They had been very keen gardeners themselves, so after their deaths, I needed to make sure the plants did well and lived on in my new garden here on the south coast. Dad’s, I am led to believe is an Empress of Prussia and my Aunt’s a Geneii. My mother tells me that my Dad had bought the standard Empress for their ruby wedding anniversary back in 1990. Today, I still have both their original plants and have since propagated many specimens from them to either sell on when I open for the National Gardens Scheme every summer, or indeed to plant additional specimens in my own amazing garden, Driftwood.
In addition to their original plants, I probably now have over 20 different fuchsias and maybe over 50 different plants, a mixture of trailing, standard and bushes both in the ground, in pots or raised beds! Some hardy and some not! They are the perfect addition to my coastal garden and one in particular, Winston Churchill. This variety thrives really well in my front garden, which directly faces the sea and takes the brunt of the salt laden winds we have here! You can see it protected by the upturned railway sleepers acting as wind breaks.
The back garden has been described as an exuberant yet immaculate seaside garden, split into several garden rooms. It has an eclectic palette, creating a layered tapestry of coloured plantings, beautifully integrating wooden and rusted metal features with the landscape. The heavy, dense plantings (over 600 plants) with no lawn and no exposed soil create an illusion of a much bigger garden. Fuchsias delicate and intricate blooms have always drawn attention from the 10000 plus visitors to the garden in recent years. They love a story and to hear the provenance of the plants, so the one to tell of the Empress of Prussia and Geneii, go down very well. In the picture to the left, you can see one of the Geneii here on the left an Empress on the right with magellicana versicolour centre and Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground and Riccartonii in the background! To the right, a flower from Empress of Prussia.
In 2013 Thompson and Morgan sent me some Duke of Wellington plugs and 3 are doing really well in the garden now and are very easy to grow and seem to cope well with what the weather throws at them here. As is the stunning Quasar that were sent as a trial plant in 2014. Their enormous blooms making a real statement in any garden. I also inherited some lovely terracotta wall pots from my Aunt as well and each summer I plant them up with two of my favourite fuchsias, Pink Temptation (a bushy, trailing and floriferous fuchsia with bright, fresh looking flowers) and Lena ( a medium-sized deciduous shrub of open habit ) They seem to flower all summer long and look so dramatic tumbling out over the wall creating a stunning display of mini ballerinas!
That said, another pretty bloom that looks great in wall pots tumbling down is Ballet Girl which I have had in the garden for the last 3 years! It really is amazing the different colour palettes to be had with fuchsias. Another pretty one we’ve had for a few years is Miss California, another that does not seem to mind the weather conditions down here on the coast! A great coloured variety that looks great in any bed, mine are grown in a raised bed and large pot, are Lady in Black with stunning dark flower heads! No matter what the type, the bees seem to love fuchsias and flock to them in the garden each summer.
Last summer I decided to create a bed dominated by fuchsias as they just do not let you down with their beautiful, long lasting displays in the garden! The 2 images above are Ballet Girl and Duke of Wellington. Other beds last summer had mixes of Riccartonni, Lady Boothby, Empress of Prussia, and Lady in Black, which looked amazing all through the summer.
Last year I bought a new hardy fuchsia, Versicolour Magellicana and put one in the front garden and one in a raised bed in the back garden and both have done really well flowering prolifically until the first frosts! Here you can see it dominate the raised bed with a Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground.
I would have no hesitation in recommending fuchsias to any garden owner wanting long lasting and interesting colour in their garden in 2015. There are so many to choose from that there can be no question of not being able to match the colour palette you want to create.
So come gardeners across the UK go out and plant some stunning fuchsias for the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia Festival 2015!
Hi There! My name is Jack Shilley; I’m 19 years old and i have an incredible passion for horticulture and growing your own. This is my first blog for Thompson & Morgan so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you my horticultural story – so that you get to know me a bit better before I start sharing my Thompson & Morgan product experiences with you all.
My horticultural passion, expertise and background lies within the horticultural retail and business sectors which I adore. I also have a growing passion for journalism, media and broadcast horticulture which I hope one day will become my full time career. Oh and vegetables, fruit & tropical’s are my favourite plants to grow!
I started gardening around the age of 6 years old when my parents first bought me a small, pop up greenhouse in which I could start growing a few things. I was lucky enough to attend Ranelagh CofE School (Secondary school) where they had a thriving gardening club run by Peter Seabrook’s daughter (Alison Seabrook-Moore). As part of this gardening club, and under the guidance of Peter himself, we were lucky enough to exhibit a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2009. This was an incredible experience for a 14 year old and turned my gardening hobby in to my long term horticultural career.
After I completed my GCSE’s and one year of A-level study, I undertook a level 3 extended diploma in horticulture at Sparsholt College Hampshire – and I’ve never looked back! Sparsholt was a great place to study and I graduated in June 2014 with a distinction star grade – you can’t get any better than that! During my second year of study I was lucky enough to once again design, build and exhibit an RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden. Being more involved this time was stressful, fun and tiring all at once. When results day came it was the greatest feeling in the world to be so highly reward for all our classes’ hard work by achieving a Gold medal and best in category! Amazing!
After graduation I was accepted for a position with the National Tropical Botanical gardens on the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. This was an amazing experience and I learned loads about one of my favourite plant categories – tropical’s! Working with these exotic plants in Kauai’s unique climate and landscape was just inspiring and the other interns who I lived and worked with were also awesome!
I am currently working in horticultural retail at a garden centre in Bagshot and I am hoping to head back to Sparsholt to attain my horticulture degree in September 2015 for 3 years. I also started YoungHort in December 2013 – which you can find out more about here.
And that’s all about Jack! (Me in a nutshell!!)
More to come ….
Since my last blog for Thompson & Morgan, back at the beginning of July, so much has happened in the garden! Not only have we seen over 2,200 visitors over the summer, but have raised over £16,000 for charity, this year alone! The icing on the cake came when ITV’s Good Morning Britain filmed live from the garden on the 14th July. All weather girl, Laura Tobin’s, 9 reports that day came live from the garden, here in Sussex. Overall the garden had 10 minutes coverage on the show. I was also very fortunate to be interviewed twice by Laura on live ITV TV too! All the details of the film shoot along with the gossip can be seen on my web site .
Then, in early October, the new local TV station in the Brighton area, Latest TV, agreed to a weekly gardening segment of about 10 minutes on their Latest Homes Live show each week. So far they have filmed a dozen segments in the garden and aired about half of them! Once again they can be viewed via my web site!
Dahlia ‘Fire & Ice’
All this excitement along with seeing the wonderful trial plants from Thompson & Morgan flourishing in the garden too. All these images shown were taken in mid to late October 2014 and the flowers have looked quite amazing this year! Some from 2013, like the Dahlia Fire & Ice, Rose Garden Party, Peruvian tree lilly and Fuchsia Duke of Wellington have looked utterly stunning for a second year! The Osteospermum Tresco Purple, delivered last Autumn really took off in the spring and are still looking amazing in November in several clumps around the garden.
Rose Garden Party
New for 2014 were the Penstemon Wedding bells which flowered very late in the season. The Antirrhinum Candy cane have been amazing as well in white, red and yellow. The stunning red ones are looking incredible with the Begonia Crispa Marginata in front of it in a pot in the garden. Other amazing flowers have been the enormous blooms on the fuchsia Quasar, which have had many comments from garden visitors. There is a clump of osteospermum bronze as visitors entered the garden and they had many positive comments, looking amazing throughout the later summer months.
Begonia Crispa Marginata
Winter is fast approaching and the strong winds and rain here on the south coast has meant a real change in the garden in the last few days but there has been time to get out and start to tidy it up. First on the list was the trimming of the 3 large New Zealand Flax in the garden, which you can see me working on here.
There have been some new plants delivered this autumn to trial, like the Hydrangea Love, Camelia Cupido, Clematis ‘New Love‘ and Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’ , all now planted out in the garden ready to amaze visitors in 2015. So here’s to a great year in 2015 both for the Thompson & Morgan plants and the garden generally.
Thrive is the leading charity in the UK that uses gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people who are living with disabilities or ill health, or are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.
This process is known as social and therapeutic horticulture (STH). It uses plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health, as well as strengthen communication skills. Using gardening as a safe and secure place to develop someone’s ability to mix socially and make friends and to learn practical skills is now a proven therapy.
Thrive horticultural therapists use gardening tasks to build a set of activities for each gardener to address their particular health needs, and to work on goals they want to achieve. Last year Thrive worked with over 1,440 client gardeners
What’s so special about gardening?
Gardens are peaceful and restorative. They provide a special place for rehabilitation and recovery. And, being given the opportunity to develop an interest in gardening will give a person benefits that can last a lifetime.
The benefits of an active interest in gardening are:
– better physical health from exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to increase mobility
– improved mental health from gaining a sense of purpose and achievement
– the opportunity to connect with other people – reducing feelings of being alone or left out
– feeling better for being outdoors, in touch with nature and seeing plants grow, all things that are known to be important to us as human beings
– the opportunity to learn new things.
More than good health
Improving good health and well-being are at the heart of therapeutic horticulture and there are also other benefits for people who take up gardening.
These benefits are: developing new skills, learning about food growing and what is good to eat, becoming fitter, boosting confidence with new-found knowledge and using this knowledge, and possibly a qualification in horticulture, to get a job.
About Thrive’s work
We work with a wide range of people… people who have injuries from accidents; people with learning impairment; people with mental illness; people with physical impairment such as sight or hearing loss; people with age-related conditions such as dementia, heart problems, diabetes or stroke; young people who have social, emotional or behavioural difficulties; and people who have ill health after leaving the armed forces.
We work in variety of ways. We run therapeutic programmes at our garden sites in London, Reading, Birmingham and Gateshead. We also go out to care homes, village halls, and community projects to encourage gardening activities. And we have a special website that gives lots of information about how anyone can continue gardening at home.
Thrive carries out research
We have brought together a lot of evidence and experience to show exactly how gardening brings about great changes.To spread this knowledge, we run training courses for anyone interested in using horticulture for health and well-being.
In our next blog we will introduce you to some of the people we help.
How you can help and support Thrive
DONATE today. Text Thri02 and the amount you want to give
to 70070; phone us on 0118 988 5688 or donate online at www.thrive.org.uk
VOLUNTEER with us in London, Reading, Birmingham or Gateshead
FOLLOW US on Twitter (@thrivecharity) or LIKE our Facebook page
SIGN UP for our newsletters and mailings
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org telephone 0118 988 5688.
Hello. I’m Urvashi and I have an allotment in Enfield. I waited a while for it and had almost given up hope when the phone rang and the ever so lovely membership chap said I had three plots to choose from.
I went for the one with the tree and the caravan. I knew my girls would love both.
It’s a pretty big plot. Here’s the other end when we first got it. There were some raspberry canes left growing but pretty much everything else was covered in grass and weeds.
That first day, we sat and took it all in. Granddad came over with his soil kit and helped us test the soil and clay. Well it didn’t really need the soil kit to tell us that as the allotments are called Clay Hill Allotments! But he gave us a little advice on what to plant to break up the soil and how to sort the raspberry canes out.
Of course we just wanted to clear and dig and after pretty much the whole day doing just, that this is where we left it.
A little tidier for sure. We sat back and set ourselves a couple of principles to work by:
– We would try to do it all by hand – no machines – where would they plug in anyway?
– We would not use any chemicals or pesticides or artificial growing aids – all natural on our plot.
And then the decisions of what to plant! That’s when we discovered the Thompson & Morgan site among other blogs and reference sources to try and be as informed as possible. We settled on beetroot, potatoes, broad beans, dahlias, strawberries from Granddad and courgettes (for the flowers). We added to this list of the “ordinary” some unusual , some would say quirky items – tomatillos, quinoa (!) and gojiberries.
We left that day so inspired and elated but worried about the birds, deer and all manner of little creatures that would invade our plot while we were away. It was agreed that some guardians would need to be put in place and Mr and Mrs S Crow came to the rescue.
Since that first day, we’ve been visiting as regularly as we’ve been able to. In the summer months I got rather obsessed with watering every evening and then got sucked in to the peace and clam of the allotment doing a little bit of pottering until the sun went down.
I’ve photographed the journey and been blogging about my planting, the produce and the things I’ve cooked with our wonderful allotment bounty.
I look forward to sharing them here too.
About Urvashi Roe
Urvashi and her family are on a journey of discovery with their allotment in Clay Hill in Enfield. Urvashi put her name down on the waiting list hoping to give the keys as an unusual present for her husband’s 40th birthday. He got his present a few years later and the family are now obsessed with growing the traditional and the unusual. Urvashi blogs at www.thebotanicalbaker.wordpress.com and tweets at @BotanicalBaker