What a fabulous year I’ve had with T&M plants, as you might be aware we open for the National Garden Scheme and by appointment anytime between May and September, which keeps us on our toes, meeting likewise gardeners and having time for tea and cake.
A lot of the visitors have commented on the trial plants and where can they get them, so Thompson & Morgan gets mentioned a lot. Next year I am putting up a sign explaining what I am doing, and any T&M trial plant will have a special label on, it will save me explaining it to hundreds of visitors.
Bumper crops and fabulous flowers
Bumper crops of tomato Alicante and Gardener’s Delight, and Cucumber Zeina, so much so, I have given lots to family and friends when they come round – some who don’t normally eat cucumbers because of indigestion which they said they didn’t have with Zeina.
The mini greenhouse cloches have been invaluable all through the season, and are still in use now for cuttings. Even though another second-hand greenhouse was put up in March.
Fuchsia ‘Duke of Wellington’ with its purple and dark pink flowers hanging down have been flowering for months now.
Fuchsia ‘Duke of Wellington’
Clematis ‘Twinkle Bell’ has gorgeous bell shaped yellow flowers which hang down in rows and just keep on flowering.
Clematis repens or ‘Twinkle Bell’
Well, since I wrote my first blog back in March this year it’s been a very busy summer at Driftwood, both from a visitor and from a Thompson & Morgan trial perspective! We have opened the garden 17 times this summer, 10 garden openings and 7 for a local art festival, Artwave! During that time we have seen an amazing 2800 visitors see this tiny plot on the south coast!
Photo of Driftwood taken by Russell Sach
Not only did it feature in The Mail on Sunday back in June (photo above and one below of me taken by Mail photographer Russell Sach) but was also the featured garden in Sussex Life magazine in July. However the icing on the cake has been the £31000 raised for charity over the last 4 years and £12500 of that in 2013 alone!
Photo of me taken by Russell Sach
Thompson & Morgan have sent me a whole raft of plants this summer but some were not as successful as others in my crammed coastal plot. Back in August, T&M’s New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry and photographer Helen came to see how some of the trial plants were doing in my exposed garden.
With Michael Perry
These are some of my personal favourites that I would heartily recommend as they have really done well and received lots of comments from visitors! Some that looked amazing at the time of Michael’s visit were the Peruvian tree lily, alstroemeria ‘Everest Collection’ a hardy Perennial, new for 2013. The plugs arrived in April and as promised on the pack, created a floral sculpture on the patio as shown. Support was advised and I used 2 large semicircular rusted frames and ended up with this most impressive display.
Alstroemeria ‘Everest Collection’
Meanwhile, the half-hardy dahlia “Fire & Ice” that arrived in March provided these beautiful red and white striped blooms with a bright golden eye that really livened up the garden, recommended for borders but due to lack of space, mine went in to a pot and still looked amazing.
Dahlia ‘Fire and Ice’
A third plant that was still looking great for their visit was the wild carnation, dianthus picotee with its beautiful red edged petals! A beautiful flower that Michael missed was the outstanding tree lily® ‘Leopard Lion Heart’, received in May and flowering in mid July. Three very erect stems were produced that generated over 30 blooms! Amazing!
Tree Lily® ‘Leopard Lion Heart’
The gorgeous pelargonium, rosebud geranium, ‘Pink Sybil’, that arrived on the 25th April has looked divine throughout the summer, as has the delicate foxglove ‘Dalmatian Peach’, (digitalis purpurea, a hardy biennial) with exquisite peachy trumpets that arrived on the 15th March. The unusual colour makes this statuesque foxglove particularly eye-catching in cottage gardens and woodland borders, mine however is surplanted beneath a thinning escalonia.
Rosebud geranium ‘Pink Sybil’
Foxglove ‘Dalmatian Peach’
Just starting to flower and form fruit is the lovely physalis Golden Berry also known as the Cape gooseberry. It is an exciting addition to the kitchen garden with tall, bushy plants producing these golden berries enclosed in attractive papery cases, similar to Chinese lanterns. The berries, which are produced from early autumn, are similar to a ripe cherry tomato in texture and the flavour is sweet but tart, perfect in fruit salads, jams or as an eye-catching garnish! Physalis peruviana is half-hardy so is normally grown as an annual plant in the UK. Due to lack of space though, and not having a kitchen garden, I have had to put mine in the borders but they still look great!
So all the above are trial plants received from Thompson & Morgan but I have also bought some myself to add to the garden! I purchased a new twist on a much-loved garden favourite, ‘Buzz’™, which is the world’s first patio buddleja! These attractive, compact plants are loved by bees and butterflies, (of which there have been many in the garden this summer) but won’t take over the garden. Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ is easy to grow and problem-free, believe me, with a super long-flowering period. Perfectly proportioned for patio pots and smaller gardens. Mine have looked stunning this summer, two in containers and one in the ground.
Another purchase this year has been the foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ digitalis, a half-hardy perennial. You can see how beautiful it has been in the garden this summer and unlike most foxgloves which are generally biennial, this half-hardy semi-evergreen is a true perennial so I will be able to enjoy its flowers for years to come.
Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’
Finally another plant I have been really pleased with is this althaea which came from Thompson & Morgan. There were 3 plants and they all look amazing in the garden, the beautiful delicate flowers have been much commented on!
Althaea or hollyhock
It has been an extremely interesting year in the garden with the openings, art festival and trialling the many plants from Thompson & Morgan, something I hope to be doing again next year! Full details on all the plants I have trialled in 2013 can be found on my web site page www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk/T&M.html
Petunias and a bit of plant snobbery
We all have opinions about plants, some we like, some we do not. We may regard some plants as rather garish, maybe too flouncy and blousy, maybe just too yellow for our taste. We make judgements on plants much the same as we make judgements on anything else. We categorise and decide what we think and it takes quite something for this to be changed.
I am the same as anyone else on this. There are plants I like and ones I definitely do not. Except I do know from experience that it is rare I can dislike a whole species of plant. So I will tell you that I do not like hostas, but there are one or two that are acceptable to me. I have never willingly bought a hosta, but a couple have crept into my garden from elsewhere and I have allowed them to stay. I also know that my taste is constantly evolving, at one time I did not understand why people like ferns, now the structural unfurlingness of them makes me just want more and more. Taste is not a static thing.
Some plants I do not like because I just do not like them, you will not catch me growing Brussel sprouts or celery as I think they are disgusting, it would be a waste of space. However I do love yellow and orange flowers, but to balance that I am not keen on green flowers. There is no rhyme or reason to these distinctions, some things just are.
I have been a member of the Thompson & Morgan trial panel now for nearly two years. I was very pleased to be accepted to do it and I have found the experience rather enjoyable. It is also rather challenging as I do not get a choice of what is being sent yet I feel a responsibility to grow what they send me come what may. From day one I have embraced the fact that this would challenge me to face some of my demon plants and that I might have to accept some of them being allowed into my garden.
Enter the petunias. I am not a petunia fan. I did find them often a bit garish and I think I considered them old fashioned in some way. This is slightly odd of me as I do not think I worry generally in terms of plant fashion, but I have thought about this quite a lot whilst sitting down to write this and it appears to be the deep-seated root of my issue with them. I have never bought any petunias but I have sometimes seen ones that I think look quite good, I remember seeing some once in a container at a rather famous garden and they looked wonderful, but I had not seen that particular variety for sale anywhere and the moment passed.
Petunia ‘Purple Velvet’
So as you will have guessed by now I was sent some petunias this year to trial. They are Petunia Purple Velvet, which came with a pyramid to grow them up. Now I confess I failed at the pyramid construction, that did not fit in with my type of gardening, but I wanted to use the petunias and give them a fair trial. So, I planted them with the sweet peas in the front garden to grow up the obelisks.
They look fantastic, the recent rain has helped them hugely and I keep them deadheaded. I am really happy with them and I would definitely grow them again, they have partnered the sweet peas perfectly. They are fantastically garish and I love the incredible depth of colour. Yes, what I thought I disliked is actually what I love about them. Yet another element of plant snobbery has been cured for me, petunias are now officially on the plant list.
Hello all you happy gardeners!
Well we’ve all had some fab weather and doesn’t it show in the gardens? The flowers and veg like to feel the warmth on them.
I just had to tell you all about the pea Alexandra I have grown as part of the Thompson & Morgan trials.
I only have a small garden and I couldn’t plant the whole packet (300 seeds), so only planted 30, all at once. I did start them off in pots first, as the weather was too cold and the soil was still frozen.
On April 12th I planted them in garden. In fact, where they are planted used to be my small lawn! I had to dig it well and added the compost from my compost bin and even forked in some of the overwintered pot compost. I had to cover the plants with a cloche to keep the rain off…yes buckets of it!
By May 24th they were growing tall and very healthy looking, so I put a support of wire mesh over them, 2′ high as they grow to 18″. On June 18th I arrived back from holiday and the plants were all lying down and clinging together, looking a mess, so after separating them (that was a job!) I put up 4′ canes and made a frame for support. By this time all the plants had lots of flowers.
Me with the tall pea plants!
Pea Alexandra – a close-up shot
Just 6 days later I had to put in 6′ canes! The pea plants were now ranging from 3’10 to 5′ with pods appearing.
Hundreds of pods!
By June 30th pods now were 4″ plus, growing all up the stem, not just on the tops.
Long pea pods
July 6th… my first boiling, yum! Many of the pods had 8 to 10 peas in. From just 28 pods I reaped 200 peas. And yes, I had the patience to count them! Wow, they were so sweet.
Juicy sweet peas
These Alexandra peas are just amazing. I had no mould or little critters eating away at them, they just looked so amazingly healthy. The total weight of all pea pods was 3.5kg. I didn’t feed them (apart from the compost I added after I’d dug up the lawn), just made sure they were well watered, even twice a day when it was really hot. They just grew and grew and were the talking point of all who visited. I’ll certainly grow them again.
A note from Colin Randel, Thompson & Morgan’s vegetable product manager: “Peas, French and broad beans generally make considerably taller plants in wet seasons and cloudy, cold conditions. Adding compost or manure underneath would even increase the height by a good 12″. But I wouldn’t have expected them to grow to 5′ or more!”
Another of our trial panel members also reported a massive crop of peas and said “My peas have done very well too. Mine are not quite as tall as Shirley’s, but they are smothered in peas and I have to say that they are the sweetest peas I have grown.”
Plants smothered in the sweetest peas
I love petunias but with last year’s awful weather I was reluctant to grow them this year – I did not want to have another year of soggy flowers.
As usual when the T&M plants catalogue came in spring there were so many new and unusual petunias I just could not resist giving them another chance this year. And with all the sunny weather we have had recently I am so glad I did. They have gone from being bushy green leaved plants to being completely covered in flowers.
My favorites so far are the Crazytunias – ‘Wedgwood’, ‘Strawberry Cheesecake’, ‘Banoffee Pie’ and ‘Sophistica Bicolour’. It’s just amazing how Mother Nature can come up with such amazing colour combinations!
Petunia ‘Banoffee Pie’
Petunia ‘Sophistica Bicolour’
Petunia ‘Black Cherry’ is such an amazing colour, almost black! I am already thinking of plants I can combine with it for next year. And am also hoping it is still around at Halloween this year as it will make a spooky addition to the decorations!
Petunia ‘Black Cherry’
The other reason I love petunias is their scent. They have such an spicy exotic fragrance I don’t know why more fuss isn’t made over them. I wish someone could capture this scent in a candle as I would certainly buy it.
I find the best varieties for scent are Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’ and also the ‘Tumbelina’ range which have lovely double flowers as well as strong perfume. This year I have managed to find 16 different varieties of ‘Tumbelina’ and as a result had to invest in a new hanging basket stand to hang them all from. It’s still early but the stand is already looking good!
Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’
Tumbelina basket stand
Mesembryanthemums love the sun and the flowers are so jewel like. The leaves of these plants are so unusual too. They look like they have ice crystals all over them.
I am a huge fan of exotic plants and this year I have grown schizanthus ‘Dwarf Bouquet Mixed’ from seed. The flowers are really unusual and look like mini orchids.
Also earlier this year I came across some caladium bulbs at a flower show. I have seen these plants in America but never in the UK. They were potted into pots and kept in the conservatory. The leaves are like stained glass windows and are so paper thin you can almost see through them. They are so fast growing which is really surprising, considering how little chlorophyll is actually in the leaf. I am searching everywhere for more varieties. If anyone out there knows where I can get some from please let me know!
Well that’s all for now. Need to get back outside and continue watering!