Look to winter shades to keep the blues away

Autumn is upon us and winter is fast approaching, long cold nights offer little to raise our spirits and many people now recognise S.A.D. as a definite problem at this time of year.

The loss of daylight hours and the cold temperatures can give us a lack of incentive to wander outside into our gardens, there are no longer any summer blooms, bees or butterflies to wonder at, and it is so much easier to stay indoors and wait for spring.

But if you do stay in, you are missing out on so many autumn and winter spectacles, sights and colours!
It is still possible to create a fantastic autumn and winter display to bring you outside – where you will at least get a little sunshine – not just flowers but grasses, shrubs and trees can brighten up even the dreariest of days.

Take pennisetums for example, a wide range of them are available; they are guaranteed to draw you in with their wonderful structure, colour and amazing seedheads. They are very easy to maintain and look fantastic planted in drifts of different shapes and sizes.

Pennisetum alopecuroides, Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks' & Pennisetum villosum 'Cream Falls'

Pennisetum alopecuroides, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’ & Pennisetum villosum ‘Cream Falls’

There are a huge variety of colours still to be seen at this time of year, the bright foliage of berberis makes a striking counterpoint to the bare trees or other evergreens around it, almost adding the warmth of a roaring fire. Pyracanthus will offer its red or yellow berries into the display too (making a tasty treat for the birds at the same time).

Holly, yew and privet, with many other evergreens can help maintain rich glossy layers of deep greens. Usually at the back of borders they help to provide a backdrop for other plants. Many have berries too, adding contrast and additional interest.

Berberis 'Admiration,' Pyracantha 'Soleil d'Or,' & Eucalyptus gunnii

Berberis ‘Admiration,’ Pyracantha ‘Soleil d’Or,’ & Eucalyptus gunnii

Moving upwards, there are many trees that create lots of interest during autumn and winter. Some, like eucalyptus are not only evergreen, but have unusual coloured leaves and interesting bark too. Whilst others once they have given us a spectacular display of autumn colours as their leaves fall, reveal a wonderful winter filigree of branches and twigs to capture the frosts or winter sunshine.

Of course, the easiest way to provide yourself with quick and easy colour is to plant out winter bedding in pots or borders where they can be easily seen from indoors. Even if you are not tempted to leave the warmth of your house, the cheery faces of pansies, the bright shades of primroses and the daisy heads of bellis are sure to bring a smile or two!

Pansy 'Matrix™ Mixed,' Polyanthus 'Firecracker' & Bellis 'Pomponette Mixed'

Pansy ‘Matrix™ Mixed,’ Polyanthus ‘Firecracker’ & Bellis ‘Pomponette Mixed’

There is really no excuse to not enjoy your garden this autumn and winter, there are plenty of joys to behold, colours to take in and various plants and schemes to try out. I’ve only touched on a few of my ideas and favourites. There are so many more I could have added, cornus, autumn crocuses, winter flowering clematis to name a few.

Check out Thompson & Morgan’s plant finder, I have always found it a really useful tool when thinking about trying new plants in different locations and at different times of the year too.

I have been gardening since I was knee high to my Grandad, he taught me as much about gardening when I was a nipper as I learnt at school about reading and writing! I have been working as a self employed gardener/landscaper for approximately ten years. I have a passion for gardening, growing things is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do. I would like to share with you some of my experiments and who knows, they might just work!


I’m so excited! (Sad middle-aged woman, doesn’t get out much.) I’ve bought a large heated propagator and David has fixed up my smaller ones so I now have 5 on the go! The perennials must be quaking in their boots as I have been prowling around, secateurs in hand, eyes narrowed, snipping off as many non-flowering shoots as I could find. I have even dug out (haha, no pun intended) some (stale) organic rooting powder and added vermiculite to my potting compost to give them the best start in life.

Still looking lush & ricinus still growing

Still looking lush & ricinus still growing

First though I had to clean the greenhouse and covert it from summer to autumn function: Everything out, chillies, tomatoes and cucamelons harvested, plants composted (that’s a lie, they will be composted, but by the council, am ashamed to admit I don’t have a compost heap – I AM NOT A REAL GARDENER). Plant food, seed tins, storage boxes and general detritus out, staging and flooring swept. Someone please tell me why it is only now that the curcuma bulbs have sent up new growth, stuffed as they are into a dark corner, as no amount of encouragement during the summer had any effect?
So there I was pottering about when out of the corner of my eye a creature, at first thought a frog, threw itself against the greenhouse door before beating a hasty retreat to safety. As I suspected, the mice are back! Small burrows are appearing in the soil of the raised tomato trough, surrounded by straw and bird seed. (You have to admire their tenacity; they have gnawed a serrated circle and a mouse hole through the lid of the plastic storage bin – he who dares wins, I say.) In honour of their return I have even bought a small resin statue of a mouse.

My shed (not really!) & St. Michael on the Mount

My shed (not really!) & St. Michael on the Mount

It’s all change on the patio too. I got bored waiting for the begonias to die down so I pulled them up to dry their corms for overwintering. Turfed out the spent soil as mulch onto the back of the dry border where the cornus go to die. Crammed T & M Jonquilla daffs into every pot: Martinette, Pipit, Pueblo and Green Eyed Lady. Don’t think I have bought enough! Must have more, more, more! Breath…………..Without the colourful annuals the patio has transformed from exotic terrace to shady glen; the ferns really come into their own at this time of year, and I’ve added T & M  Blechnum brasiliense Volcano to the mix, which has been growing on in the greenhouse since The Triallist’s Open Day, waiting for its new home. Sadly most of the heucheras have come away in my hands, their roots eaten by the dreaded vine weevil (Note to self, try nematodes next year, the chemical drench lied.) I’ve put all five FUCHSIA fuchsiaberries together in one huge pot in the hope that they will establish and make more of an impact next summer, as they never really got going this year. More sun I think.

Talking of sun (good link, huh!) David and I did actually manage to have a holiday last month after all. We went to stay with our old friends-&-neighbours who have moved to Manaccan, a village – in the middle of nowhere, sorry B & P – on the Lizard peninsula in south Cornwall. (And just as fellow blogger Amanda found with her bedfellows in hospital, one of the first people we were introduced to was a keen gardener who buys from T & M and reads the blogs!) First thing I noticed was how echium are growing en masse in Bob’n’Patti’s garden, so much so that their gardener pulls’em up like weeds! They have a patch of ginger 6ft tall and 5ft round and perennial aeoniums the size of dinner plates. All of which they inherited from the previous owners.

Trebah - September 2016

Trebah – September 2016

We visited Helston Museum, one of the largest folk museums in the South West, with a vast social history collection dating from the 18th to the 20th century. My attention was naturally drawn to the gardening exhibits, some of which looked eerily like the contents of my shed, the implication being that I too am a relic!
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens could have been on Madeira, if it wasn’t for the tell-tale view of St Michael’s Mount in the bay. Trebah Gardens was a revelation! A grand colonial style whitewashed mansion sits on the brow of the hill, overlooking the panoramic sweep of Hydrangea Valley, full of blue hydrangeas, towering palms, gunnera, tree ferns (also growing like weeds)  and towering bamboo, as it slopes down to the sea. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in some sub-tropical paradise. It reminded me of a tea plantation (not that I’ve ever been to one you understand but I have watched Indian Summers).

New T&M bidens still flowering its head off! & LGS Best Small Back Garden 2016

New T&M bidens still flowering its head off! & LGS Best Small Back Garden 2016

Having visited RHS Hyde Hall in Essex shortly after our return (needed another horticultural fix before the winter) I was bowled over by the swathes of grasses and prairie planting. All three gardens are breath-taking in their scale, but completely contrasting in environmental conditions and planting styles. England certainly punches above its weight when it comes to its wealth of different terrains!  (My uncle used to say I had swallowed a dictionary when he read my A level essays.)
So back at Chez Broome autumn has taken hold, but nobody has told the hanging baskets! The new T&M bidens is having a late flush (know how it feels) although for some strange reason the flowers are all white this time, instead of pink tinged. Petunia ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ and Minitunia calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’ just keep on going so I just keep on feeding. The lime green, black and caramel coloured foliage of ipomaea are going for it in the shade so I’ll just leave them all to it!
Oh, and reader, we won: London Gardens Society Best Small Back Garden 2016. How about that!

Bare roots plants and how to receive them!

A bare root is a plant that has been dug up whilst in a dormant state. Most fruit trees, roses and some perennials will be sent to the customer as a bare root. This keeps them in the best possible condition. Bare roots can look like ‘dead sticks!’ but they are very much alive.

Bare roots are sold with roots exposed, and not planted in a pot. Unfortunately not all plants can be sold this way, as they do not go into dormancy (e.g. evergreens). If a plant is in a pot the transportation costs will be more expensive. So it makes sense to try and keep costs down where possible.

It is important to keep bare roots moist during their dormancy, especially as they are exposed. This is why they will be shipped in a plastic bag and with some larger roots they can even be wrapped in damp hessian.

bare roots


Advantages of a bare root

A bare root will have less transplant shock when planted in the garden; as it is dormant. This helps faster establishment in the garden than if a full blooming plant had been transplanted and there is less likelihood of failure.

bare roots

When you receive your bare root

Soak them overnight in a bucket of water. You can add a plant starter solution, if you choose, as these contain fertiliser and vitamins. If you have any small bits of damage, make a clean cut as this will help the plant to recover quickly and fight off any possible fungal infection. The next step is to plant your bare root. It is important to prepare your soil for the planting of your bare root.

If it is not possible to plant out in the final position for an extended period of time, it is better to “heel in” the bare root into the soil in any part of the garden. This will preserve the root in its natural environment until you are ready. For a great selection of bare root trees and plants why not check out our bare root page?

For advice on this watch our YouTube video for step by step assistance.

Wendie Alexander
Having just finished my English Degree at university I am excited to continue working for Thompson & Morgan where I have worked for more than 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

Giant pumpkin on the move

Thompson & Morgan, after giving a call out to pumpkin growers in the UK finally entrusted the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed, to experts at the Royal Horticultural Society. The pumpkin seed was bought for a whopping £1,250, and has built-in genetics to increase the chance of breaking the world record for the largest pumpkin grown. The RHS then delegated this awesome task to Matthew Oliver, their horticulturalist, at RHS Hyde Hall. He has grown the pumpkin through the summer, with a view to breaking the world record for Thompson & Morgan and the RHS.


There is lots of excitement surrounding this venture, both at Thompson & Morgan and the RHS, and today is the day Thompson & Morgan’s enormous pumpkin will be travelling to Southampton on the back of a lorry. The lorry has been designed to hold this type of unusual load, so the pumpkin will be secure, with no likelihood of it rolling overboard on the journey.


This journey will take all day and the pumpkin, and its carers, will arrive in Southampton tonight, where the pumpkin will have its own security guard who will be keeping a close eye on it. The Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival is on the 8th October 2016, where the weigh in is performed. At the festival there is competition from all over the UK for this fantastic accolade. Everyone at Thompson & Morgan is on tender hooks hoping that Matthew will bring home the UK crown. No-one more so than the Managing Director Paul Hansord, who was the original purchaser of the expensive pumpkin seed way back in February 2016. Good luck Matthew Oliver and Paul Hansord.

Wendie Alexander
Having just finished my English Degree at university I am excited to continue working for Thompson & Morgan where I have worked for more than 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

Garden tools for autumn and winter

Autumn is the time of year to think about cleaning and maintenance. To help with this, we have listed a number of tasks and tools to use. This is not an exhaustative list but includes some hints and tips to get you started.

Greenhouse, gardening & all-purpose cleaner

Greenhouse, gardening & all-purpose cleaner

Greenhouse: The greenhouse is an important part of your autumn/winter plans. If you don’t already have one, now is the time to invest. If you are lucky enough, then it is time to have a cleanup. When most of your plants have died back, it is the perfect time to give the greenhouse a sweep. This removes any unwanted old compost, and decayed plant matter, making sure you keep those garden pests, such as wood lice, at bay. Get a good broom, and strong handle, lift all the old pots and containers off the floor, and sweep around. Give the floor and windows a good clean with a strong cleaning agent or disinfectant. This will rid your greenhouse of anything unwanted from the previous season. If you have completely cleared out the greenhouse, you could even use a pressure washer. When the greenhouse is empty, put in some insulation to keep everything warm over the autumn and winter seasons. If you have pots lying around, give them a wash and any old and broken pots can be used for drainage in new pots. For a treat, why not add a potting bench or bench tidy to the greenhouse for when you start sowing seeds.

Potting bench & bench tidy

Potting bench & bench tidy

Tidy Borders: Prune any late-flowering shrubs, or climbing roses, unless they are repeat flowerers, then prune when finished. Either sharpen secateurs and pruning shears, or invest in new, they perform better the sharper they are. After tidying borders, add well rotted manure to add nutrients to the ground, spent mushroom compost to insulate plant roots. Add a mulch with bark chips to suppress weeds during winter and the coming season. Clear overhanging plants from pathways to maintain access routes. Make time to trim evergreen hedges before winter sets in completely. This will keep them neat and tidy through the season. You could even install solar lighting to see your garden in the dark evenings.

Lawn mower & garden fork

Lawn mower & garden fork

Lawn Maintenance: Initially invest in a suitable lawn mower for your garden. Mow any long grass, ensuring you raise the height of the mower blades as grass growth is slowing down at this time of year. Try aerating your lawn with a garden fork, as this helps to improve drainage and aeration. Remove any thatch from the surface with a garden rake, and repair dead patches with grass seed. Use a lawn scarifier if you have a large area to cover. In January, try adding lawn edging to create a neat and tidy appearance, making maintenance easier during the coming months.

Secateurs & solar lighting

Secateurs & solar lighting

Compost bin: In preparation for all the fallen leaves and dead plant material to come over the coming months, buy a compost bin. Autumn leaves are a good addition to compost bins and ideal for leaf mould. However don’t compost rose leaves in case they have diseases such as black spot. If you are adding woody pruning to compost bins, shred or chop it first as they are slow to decompose.

Pond wizard & netting for brassicas

Pond wizard & netting for brassicas

Fish and Bird Care: It is a good idea to add netting to your ponds to prevent leaves from falling in. Clean pond weed, and lay it out next to the pond for a couple of days to allow the wildlife to get back into the water. Add a bird bath, keeping it topped up with fresh water all through autumn and winter. Consider adding a bird feeder in the garden, keeping it topped up with bird seed and fat balls. Birds are real friends to the gardener keeping pest numbers down.

We hope these hints and tips help you to get your autumn and winter gardening underway. For more ideas, visit our What To Do In The Garden This Month, or our Top 10 Winter Tips.

Wendie Alexander
Having just finished my English Degree at university I am excited to continue working for Thompson & Morgan where I have worked for more than 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

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