It’s biennial time again.
As our Aquilegias, Digitalis, Erysimums and Myosotis finish flowering, it is time once again to sow next year’s new ones to ensure that we get as good, if not better, display as this year.
Aquilegia ‘Green Apples’, Aquilegia ‘Firecracker’ & Belle perennis ‘Pomponette Mixed’
This biennial cycle goes on in our gardens almost without us noticing it, as various plants self-seed in the quieter corners of our gardens. Plants such as forget-me-nots (Myosotis) can pop up almost anywhere if we leave the parent plants to seed in May and June. This happens in the wild as well, with plants such as hedge garlic/jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata) seeding themselves at this time of year in the bottoms of farm hedges – the seeds then germinate before winter, surviving the harsh winter weather as young plants that then flower in spring/early summer. The parent plants die as they drop their seed.
Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’, Foxglove ‘Silver Cub’ Myosotis ‘Symphony Blue’
So, what can you sow now that are grown as biennials? The starting point is to look for the letters HB at the beginning of the description of the plant. Sow Aquilegias cultivars now and watch out for a stunning display in May and early June – I like the look of ‘Green Apples’ and ‘Firecracker’ as interesting variations on the normal range of colours. Bellis ‘Pomponette Mixed’, although actually a perennial, is normally grown as a biennial and looks fabulous in the spring garden and in containers. It is loved by bees as well so we all win!
For something a little unusual, try Cabbage ‘Northern Lights Mixed’ with various foliage colours to delight you and your friends. If you leave them in until early summer they will flower and the yellow flowers are edible – yummy!! Dianthus barbatus, more commonly known as Sweet William, gives a stunning display in early to mid summer and there are a number of wonderful cultivars to choose from. Foxgloves (Digitalis) have come a long way in recent years from their biennial wild relatives and the range of colours and forms is worth studying, from ‘Excelsior Hybrids’ up to 1.5 metres to ‘Silver Cub’ at only 60cm high.
Dianthus barbatus ‘Excelsior Mixed’, Pansy ‘Majestic Giants Mixed’ & Viols ‘Sorbet Orange Jump Up’
Pansies and Violas are amongst of the most popular winter and spring flowering plants for containers in our gardens and, although they are classified as perennials, we do tend to grow them as biennials. The flowers are edible as well as colourful and one of my all-time favourites is ‘Majestic Giants’ with flowers up to 10cm across. Wallflowers (Erysimums) are one of the more traditional biennial plants used by local authorities and larger public gardens for spectacular spring displays. Try ‘Tom Thumb Mixed’ for an easy to manage cultivar with a wide range of flower colours from yellows to rusts and reds. It works well in a container because it only reaches 20cm high.
Cabbage ‘Northern Lights’, Calenduala officinalis nana ‘Fruit Twist’ & Nigella papillosa ‘Midnight’
Some plants can be nudged into a biennial life-cycle just by changing the sowing dates. Plants such as Calendula, Limnanthes and Nigella can be sown directly into the garden in late September, will germinate quickly in the warm soil and will then overwinter as young plants, flowering in April and May for instead of June, July and August. These plants are normally sold as hardy annuals for direct spring sowing. Give it a try and surprise yourself and your neighbours.
Whatever you grow now for your winter and spring garden, enjoy the surprises that these wonderful plants can give you.
Autumn is the perfect time to sow a hardy annual wildflower display. The soil is still warm for quick germination, and resulting seedlings will be watered by autumn rain. Come winter they’ll be tough enough to face the cold weather, quickly waking up in spring to put on a much stronger show than spring-sown seeds.
Establishing the right balance of wild species can be tricky. Fortunately we have taken the guesswork out of wild flowers by offering a range of ready-to-sow mixes and species – simply prepare ground, scatter the seed and rake in!
Our Top 10
Cornflower ‘Blue Diadem’
Powder puff Cornflowers of intense azure blue were once a common sight in summer, dotted throughout golden cornfields. This charming annual still makes an unforgettable impact in grassy meadows and summer borders. Sow: March, April, May, August, and September. Flowering: June, July, and August.
Stiff stems carry whorls of sulphur yellow, tubular, flowers with a delicate, sweet fragrance. Once established, Giant Cowslips will naturalise to form swathes of lush, mid green foliage that makes ideal ground cover for natural planting schemes. Flowering: June, July and August.
Our meadowland mixture includes over 30 wild flowers, suitable for newcomers to wild flower growing. Contents include: Lady’s Bedstraw, Meadow Buttercup, Corn Chamomile, Wild Clary, Cowslip, Crane’s-Bill, Ox-eye Daisy and many others.
An attractive wild flower with bright pink flowers with raggedy petals. Hence it is often known as Ragged Robin, because, just like the bird, it stands out brightly at the start of summer. Plant in damp areas of the garden.
Often seen sprinkling cornfields with its bright scarlet flowers. Ideal for creating a bright splash of colour in a sunny corner where little else will grow, or in the wild garden where it self seeds with ease. Flowers early summer. Sowing Months: March, April, May, June, September, October.
A mixture of the cornfield weeds of yesterday plus other attractive wild flowers to provide a splash of colour in a difficult area or create a mini cornfield in your wildlife garden. In the vegetable garden they can provide colour and nectar to attract pollinating insects and predators.
Tall, striking, thistle-like plants with serrated leaves and large spiny flower heads. A valuable source of nectar for bees and butterflies, as well as attracting many seed-eating birds to your garden or wild flower meadow. Makes attractive, dried, cut flowers.
The captivating bell shaped flowers of this charming fritillary are instantly recognizable by their distinctive snakes-skin markings. A sprinkling of snakes head fritillaries are a sight to behold when naturalised in damp woodlands or informal areas of grass. These charming wildflowers are protected in the wild and rarely seen in their native meadow habitats.
An exciting blend, specially selected to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden. Excellent for making attractive drifts of colour and your garden a haven for wildlife. Easy to grow.
Wild flower Collection
A unique collection to help you create for yourself the natural beauty of the countryside with your own wild flower garden. Not so long ago wild flowers were one of the most beautiful features of the countryside. Including wonderful wild flowers such as cowslip and corn cockle.
Our autumn plants range boasts spectacular spring bedding plants, shrubs and perennial plants and with such a huge variety available you will be spoilt for choice. We asked our gardening guru Michael Perry for his top 10 plants from our autumn range, so that we can bring you our autumn plants ‘behind the scenes’.
Primrose ‘Planets’ Mixed
This is a primrose mixture like no other! I first saw the red-eyed variety at a trade show about 5 years, and just knew we had to offer it to our customers! Since that first sighting, more colours have been added to the range, each with that distinctive eye. It’s modern, contemporary, and isn’t something you’ll be able to find in the shops! The contrasting inner ring has never been seen before in primroses and makes ‘Planets’ the perfect variety for lighting up your spring borders and pots.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’, well this is the sister variety ‘Love’. First seen in hydrangea trials, this variety stood out thanks to the 2-tiered blooms in punchy, candy pink. So, if you thought all Hydrangea plants were boring, then you need to think again!
Begonia ‘Garden Angels’
Now, a hardy begonia is not a new concept, species forms have been around for years. But they aren’t often very showy, but ‘Garden Angels’ is from the amazing breeder and selector Dan Heims, who has created a begonia for your perennial borders, with metallic, patterned foliage as well as sprays of begonia blooms!
Clematis ‘Blue River’
I love cut flowers, and I love trying out new and different cut flowers. ‘Blue River’ is, would you believe it, a cut flower clematis! I remember seeing a glorious vase of them on the breeder’s trade stand in Germany a few years ago. It’s one of those informal Clematis too, which will weave through borders, helping your other plants to look good!!
Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’
Now, don’t say I never bring you new roses! This is wildly different. All the way from a plant selection company in Australia, this rose plant has been tested for many years, in almost every climate around the world! It isn’t ashamed to be colourful either, with paint-splashed blooms in psychedelic colours, that’s why they call it the ‘decorator rose’! I think this rose will change the way we use roses in the UK!
Clematis ‘Top to Bottom’
Despite the cheeky name, this clematis makes a lot of sense! Usually, your large-flowered clematis plant would only produce flowers from about the 2 foot mark, and have … ahem.. a bare bottom! However, these new French varieties have been selected for having blooms from the top to the bottom! A huge advance in clematis, and will hopefully be the benchmark for new clematis varieties in the future!
Tulip ‘Cupcakes’ Mixed
This mixture came about in a rather serendipitous manner, as our reception just picked some tulips from our trials and placed them in a vase. She seemed to choose the blousy, peony-flowered types, and the colours worked really well together, so when I walked past, I knew we had a new Tulip blend on our hands!
Heteropappus ‘Blue Knoll’
Now, this is one we have been offering for a few years now. The first seed was sourced from a botanical university, and we found that- not only are the flowers like a pure blue chrysanthemum- but the plant also blooms quite late, September to October. This is just brilliant, as it injects colour into the border way after most bedding and perennial plants have faded.
Daffodil ‘Rose of May’
I remember this being on the front cover of the very first plant catalogue I worked on, and that was back in 1998! A favourite with customers for many years, as each flower has a really unusual, and somewhat surprising, gardenia fragrance!! For a dramatic spring spectacle, grow Daffodil ‘Rose of May’ in bold drifts naturalised in grass. Narcissus flowers are also excellent for cutting for a lovely springtime arrangement indoors.
Ranunculus ‘XXL Collection’
These definitely have the wow factor! The difference with this selection is they’re super big blooms, and the claws (type of bulb) are supplied with shoots on already, so growing them on could not be easier! Grow your own uber gorgeous cut flowers, and show off a bit!
To see our full autumn range you can request or beautiful autumn catalogue here.
Autumn planting is the big topic in this week’s gardening news!
Autumn is the best time to plant many bulbs including tulips
Plan it, plant it this autumn
The ‘Plan it, plant it this autumn’ campaign run by the Horticultural Trade Association is now in its second year. The campaign aims to highlight that autumn is a very busy time in the garden and the best time to plant fruit trees, berries and spring-flowering bulbs. According to the HTA, a large percentage gardeners think that fruit trees and spring bulbs should be planted in spring. Why not take a look at our autumn planting bulb and fruit tree ranges and get a head start? #planitplant
Short-haired bumblebee – evidence of nesting and reproducing found in Kent
Short-haired bumblebee shows signs of a comeback
The short-haired bumblebee, declared extinct in the UK in 2000 and reintroduced from Sweden in 2012, . Queen bees were brought over from Sweden last year and, after a 2-week quarantine, released on to the RSPB’s Dungeness reserve in Kent. They struggled to survive, because of the cold, wet summer, so in spring this year more queens were released and have now produced offspring worker bees, which have been spotted carrying pollen. This means that at least one of the queens has started a colony, but the species isn’t out of the woods yet. There is still a long way to go to ensure the safety and viability of the population – according to the RSPB’s website, they are working with “farmers, conservation groups, small holders and other land owners to create flower-rich habitat within the release area of Dungeness and Romney Marsh.”
As we all know, many bee species are in decline for various reasons, including pests, diseases, pesticides and habitat loss. Leaving an area of your garden to grow wild means that you’re doing your bit to help bee and other wildlife populations.
Good news for butterflies – the hot summer has helped increase populations
Big Butterfly Count 2013 – the results are in
This year’s Big Butterfly Count attracted record-breaking numbers of participants – over 46,000 people took part, which is 72% more than in 2012! The results show that the hot summer helped butterfly numbers bounce back after such a dismal summer in 2012. A large number of species showed a year-on-year increase in numbers – amazingly, Peacocks were up by over 3,500% and Small Tortoiseshells by 388%! On the other hand, some butterflies that fared well in 2012, such as Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Ringlet and Six-spot Burnet saw their numbers dip this year, possibly caused by reduced survival rates of larvae in winter and spring.
Did you take part this year? Have you noticed more butterflies in your garden? Within the space of 5 minutes on one particularly scorching day in July, my daughter and I spotted three Peacocks, 3 Large Whites and a Comma! Even as late as last Sunday I spotted a Red Admiral and a Comma on my buddleja. We’d love to hear which of your plants butterflies visited most.
You can read the full results on the Big Butterfly Count website.
Space farming – growing veg in orbit
Growing vegetables in space
Growing veg in space could soon become a reality, as Nasa prepares to start growing food for astronauts in the next few months as part of the Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) project. Extensive and long-running tests have been undertaken on Earth, with Nasa claiming that the zero-gravity conditions have no adverse effects on the plants. To start with, romaine lettuce will be grown under LED lamps on the International Space Station. Once they’ve been harvested they’ll be sent back to Earth to test for bacteria. Nasa hopes that this will eventually allow them to grow a number of crops on the ISS, the moon and even Mars, cutting down on the phenomenally high food transport costs and increasing the health and well-being of astronauts. And not forgetting the prediction that, at some point, we will exhaust the Earth’s resources and need to rely on space farming for the survival of our species.
Thompson & Morgan’s new autumn plant range is now online!
Now that summer is well and truly on its way and plants are putting on some decent growth at last, it’s a good time to start thinking about next season.
Our autumn plant, bulb and shrub range is now online and is the perfect planning tool; it’s full of plant ideas to help keep your garden looking lovely well past the summer months, into autumn and on into winter.
Ordering plants now means that you won’t miss out on these exciting new varieties and they’ll be delivered just at the right time for planting.
There’s so much choice – whether your’e a fan of unusual shrubs or a lover of colourful spring bulbs, you’ll find plenty to tempt you. Look out for new and interesting varieties that can’t always be found in garden centres and nurseries and don’t forget that whatever you buy is backed up by our 100% satisfaction guarantee.
All our products are trialled and tested, both by us and our team of customer triallists, to ensure great performance. We currently have 65 members in the trial panel who grow a selection of our plants in their own gardens up and down the country. They report back to us on what they’ve achieved and we take their feedback into consideration when deciding which plants to offer to our customers.
Here are some of the highlights of the new autumn range:
Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’
Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’
Perfect for small gardens, this compact tree will rival any flowering cherry for spring colour. In spring it’s smothered in delightful purple blossom and goes on flowering for a long period. The ruby red glow of the summer leaves ages to a vibrant orange by autumn. Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ can grow to 3m (10ft) in height and needs no pruning, except to remove damaged or poorly placed branches in the winter. However, in smaller gardens it can be grown as a shrub and, once established, pruned back to 60-90cm from the ground in late winter or early spring.
Photinia ‘Pink Marble’
Photinia ‘Pink Marble’
A variation on the popular garden centre photinia ‘Red Robin’, the new ‘Pink Marble’ has the same eye-catching red foliage, but has speckled pink leaves too. Photinia ‘Pink Marble’ is very easy to grow and will thrive in most soils and positions. This low-maintenance plant grows to 2.5m (8ft) and is impressive as a stand-alone plant, but also makes a great hard-wearing, low-growing hedge. To maintain it as a hedge, we recommed trimming the plants up to 3 times a year, from late spring through to mid-August.
The low-growing abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’ plants burst into a riot of colour almost from the minute you plant them up! Excellent ground cover, they’ll quickly knit together to stop weeds in their tracks. The attractive 3-coloured foliage changes from lime-green to fiery orange and red and is complemented by white fragrant blooms from July to October. The compact, dense habit make it perfect for borders and patio containers. Plant abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’ in any well-drained, ferile soil in full sun for best results. Deadheading prolongs the flowering season and, if you live in area where winters are severe, adding a deep bark mulch around the base of the plants in autumn will protect the roots.
Tulip ‘Moulin Rouge’
Tulip bulbs are really easy to grow and make a real statement, whether you plant them in borders or in patio containers. We’ve introduced some new tulips to our autumn range, including ‘Moulin Rouge’, the most fragrant tulip we’ve ever found! Snap these beauties up while you can – there aren’t many scented tulips in the flower world and you won’t want to miss out on the sweet, brown sugar fragrance of ‘Moulin Rouge’. There’s also the fabulous ‘Starline’ with its red and white bicolour blooms and not forgetting ‘Pop up Yellow’, which initially grows like any other tulip, then the middle part ‘pops up’, making it look like an exotic bird!
Yes, it really is a honeysuckle! ‘Firecracker’, unlike many other hardy honeysuckles, is not prone to mildew. The unusual collared flower heads and amazing fragrance are a real talking point and make honeysuckle ‘Firecracker’ a must-have for your borders. It flowers from September to October, grows to 2m (6.5ft) and thrives in a sunny spot.