Andrew Tokely and Colin Randel, two of Thompson & Morgan’s experts give their top 5 flower and vegetable seeds for the new season…
Andrew Tokely is Thompson & Morgan’s Head of Horticulture and his 30-odd years of gardening experience make him a real ‘gardening guru’.
Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’
When this was first seen in the T&M breeding trials we were all excited as this was the first time a red rudbeckia had ever been bred from seed. Not only is the colour stunning, but so is the plant – it’s bushy and robust with many burgundy red blooms adding height to annual displays and blooming all summer into autumn, whatever the weather.
Marigold ‘Durango Tangerine’
When we first trialled this variety ‘Durango Tangerine’ stood out against all others – its habit, colour and flower power were, and still are, truly outstanding. This is the only French Marigold I grow in my own garden because the colour is so vibrant, the plants are bushy and free-flowering all summer, making the perfect edging plant to my borders.
Busy Lizzie ‘Divine’
A breeding breakthrough and the answer to many gardeners’ prayers. A Busy Lizzie that does not get mildew unlike traditional varieties. ‘Divine’ is versatile – it grows well in borders, containers, flower pouches™ or window boxes. Flowers all summer until the first frost of autumn.
Cosmos ‘Sweet Sixteen’
Every garden should find a place for a few cosmos, and ‘Sweet Sixteen’ is one of the best. Easy to grow, tall plants with attractive bicoloured blooms add height to bedding displays or look attractive when interplanted amongst shrubs and perennials in the border.
Sweet Pea ‘Erewhon’
A breeding breakthrough from Keith Hammert, the world’s leading sweet pea breeder. An attractive and unusual reverse bicolour that’s full of fragrance and adds beauty to the garden or the home when used as a cut flower. ‘Erewhon’ was introduced to our range in 2013 and has become a customer favourite.
Colin Randel is Thompson & Morgan’s vegetable new product manager and what he doesn’t know about vegetables simply isn’t worth knowing!
Dwarf bean Laguna
I assessed Laguna in commercial breeder trials in 2010 and 11 and it stood out for its performance through a wide range of weather conditions and having a strong root system for vigour in a range of soil types. The pod quality, yield and taste remained consistent throughout the harvesting seasons. My notes included ‘ideal variety for all gardeners’ and it is.
Beetroot Rainbow Beet
Modern beet breeding and selections provide gardeners with virtually ‘eat all’ varieties, just cut off the taproot. Just wash young roots, stems and leaves and eat raw in salads. Leaves and stems can also be steamed, roots boiled and don’t waste the water as beet juice is good for you. Adding some peeled apple when boiling will reduce the ‘earthy’ taste of the juice if preferred. Our 5 variety mix is visually stunning. Successional sowings throughout spring to midsummer will give bountiful crops, and some roots can be left to full maturity and lifted and stored in your shed or garage overwinter. Twist tops off the roots instead of cutting to prevent ‘bleeding’ with the red beet and Bull’s Blood beet. The golden Boldor, Albina vereduna and Chioggia do not ‘bleed’. Our picture was taken from roots lifted at the end of October.
Courgette Goldmine F1
I assess a huge number of courgette varieties every year in the breeders trials, and British breeding in recent years has provided us with outstanding introductions for compact and ‘open’ plant habit, vastly reduced spines on stems and leaf petioles which allow easier picking, and good yields over a long harvesting season. You need to pick 3 times a week during peak season. Breeding for parthenocarpic habit (setting fruit without pollination from insects) has now resulted in our exclusive launch of Goldmine. The stunning gold skinned with narrow white stripes certainly catch the eye.
This variety which proved outstanding, with its red leaved counterpart Mazurosso, in our 2010 and ’11 trials. Both varieties were weatherproof, not bothered by incessant rain or periods of heatwave, and each plant made a voluminous heart of crunchy leaves which remained crunchy and bitter-free when washed under the tap and added to the salad bowl. Leaves do not go ‘limp’ like some picking varieties. The hearts just remained in perfect condition for 3 months and then rotted away without bolting (running to seed). A heart could be cut and washed and excess water shaken off and will store in the fridge for over a fortnight.
The eye appeal will win you over. The ‘cherry sized’, 15g fruits have a rich rose-pink colour with smoky overtones especially around the crowns of the fruit. The flesh is also a deep red, and the taste gives an instant hit of balanced acid/sweetness which lingers in the mouth and the thin skin melts away. Absolute joy. Best grown in the greenhouse as an indeterminate (needs support and sideshooting) but can be grown in a sunny, sheltered spot outdoors as a cordon (supported and ‘stopped’ after 4 or 5 trusses). British breeding at its best.