Geoff shows off his new plants

The summer is racing on at a pace, but the plants still think it’s spring! The garden here at Driftwood, is roughly 3 to 4 weeks behind where I would expect it to be at this time of year. We’ve already had 2 open days, raising money for the Mayor’s charities in Seaford and the first of 4 openings for the National Gardens Scheme this summer. Hot topics, as usual, are some of the plants from Thompson & Morgan.

Unnamed bidens & Petunia 'Night Sky'

Without doubt the top 2 so far are the stunning Petunia ‘Night Sky’, which look wonderful by the pond combined with other similar coloured plants. Right by the entrance to the back garden is a raised container with a brand new, as yet unnamed, bidens which has caused quite a stir too! It has some beautiful blooms that change in colour as the flowers develop. I look forward to hearing it’s new name announced later in the year! The comments on the petunia have  been a little mixed, with visitors saying it’s one of those “marmite” moments, you either love it or hate it! I’m pleased to say, on balance they love it.

Pennisetum 'Blackjack' & Calendula 'Power Daisy'

In the beach garden I planted out the new Pennisetum Blackjack’, which are only just starting to get going, but I’m sure they will look stunning once they are established. I had some problems with the delivery of the Calendula ‘Power Daisy’ this year and some plants were damaged. I managed to rescue three of them and they have done really well. They are just starting to bloom along the central path and are quite dazzling once they open out. A second delivery is awaited, so they should be putting on a great show later in the summer.

Hibiscus 'Luna' & fuchsia with no name!

The bare root Hibiscus ‘Luna’ was delivered back in April and has also just started to show signs of growth with new leaves bursting out. I look forward to seeing it’s large flowers as the summer goes on. I’ve been very luck this summer to have received 2 brand new plants, as yet unnamed.
The other is a fuchsia, which is also just beginning to develop it’s flower buds. It won’t be long before we can see the gorgeous flowers.

Tomato 'Sweet Aperitif'

Finally, the Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’ that came back in April are doing really well in the greenhouse and are already about 1 metre tall. It shouldn’t be too long before the delicious fruit appear! Later this month the garden will be part of a photo shoot, by the magazine Coast. Driftwood will be featured in it next Summer! We’ve got another 12 open days to go so plenty of opportunity for visitors to come and see the garden. If you want to read more on the garden go to

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, recently featured on Gardeners’ World on TV he’s raised £76000 for various charities in 7 years, £40000 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY – Part One

About a month ago I was fortunate enough to meet Kris Collins and Micheal Perry to discuss an idea I have about children’s gardening. Shortly before this I had been speaking to Wendie (Marketing Assistant at T&M) who offered me a Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY plant by Thompson & Morgan on the premise that I blogged about how I got on. Kindly, Kris had brought not 1 but 3 small plants for me and a gorgeous, decorative pot.
I was so excited to get the home and start my recordings! This is how I’ve got on so far and how I potted them up.

Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY x 3 & Decorative Pot

Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY x 3 & Decorative Pot

In one of the gardens I work in has a very large pine tree which drops a lot of cones. I collect these and use them in the bottom of my plant pots for drainage instead of crocs as they are light weight and they compost! So I filled my pot about a quarter of the way with the cones.

Cones filling Pot & Filled Pot with Compost

Cones filling Pot & Filled Pot with Compost

It’s recommended that for fuchsias to use a well-drained compost mix like John Innes No.3. Unfortunately I didn’t have any to hand and it’s not very easily sourced in my area (unless you want to pay the jumped up prices of my local garden centre). So I was a little bit naughty and used B&Q multipurpose compost that I always use and because I was going away for the weekend over the first May bank holiday and didn’t want my little ‘berry’s’ to suffer! I filled the pot to within 2 inches of the rim and firmed gentle with my hands.

Teasing out Roots of Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY & Planted Up Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY

Teasing out Roots of Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY & Planted Up Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY

Here comes the best bit for me. Getting my hands in the compost and wiggling my fingers about to make the holes for the fuchsias. Just look at all those roots!

I gently teased a few out on each plant to aid it’s rooting once in the pot. And this is the final product of combining three sweet, little fuchsias and one gorgeous pot!

Fully Potted Up Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY & Fully Grown Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY

Fully Potted Up Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY & Fully Grown Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY

If you really want some amazing results then the best thing to feed your Fuchsias with is incredibloom®, on the shopping list of things for the garden for me. For the mean time though, I am using tea from my wormery, which is working wonders all over the garden.
I will keep you updated on how things are going and will post sneak peeks on Twitter too so follow @ThompsonMorgan and me @Lesley_Jane29 to see how they’re coming along.

Lesley Palmer
I’m a 22 year old female horticulturalist. I studied at Easton College for two years until June 2014 and became self employed providing garden care and design in north Norfolk. I currently care for 21 gardens and have now achieved a few designs and a small landscaping project.

I am passionate about getting young people, especially primary schools, involved in gardening again. I began because of spending so much time in the garden with my granddad as a child. I was also a member of my primary school’s environment club.

I am a fan of Michael Perry and James Wong.

So Much To Do – So Little Time

I hate gardening! Our 18 year old acer Bloodgood has died; it resided in a huge terracotta planter on the patio so replacing it will be disruptive and expensive. Melianthus major, focal point of the hot border, followed in its footsteps (rootsteps?) shortly after. Digging that up was no joke (so why are you all laughing?) The root ball was solid with finger thick roots that had anchored themselves under all neighbouring perennials, so the whole lot had to come out and be replanted afterwards. Then a branch of our ancient lilac came down in the recent windy spell, straight across the barbecue (could have been worse, we might even have wanted to use it this summer). Finally I discovered that the potting tray containing my own mix of compost, water retaining gel and T&M incredibloom® had become a giant litter tray! Oh joy.

Brunnera 'Alexander's Great' & Fred having an identity crisis!

Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’ & Fred having an identity crisis!

Still, the hanging baskets have all been planted up, with four extras in dappled shade: two on the patio combining ipomoeas with T&M begonias, and two in the fernery with hostas (how do those snails manage to get up there?), heucheras and some lovely as-yet-unnamed T&M trial bidens. Very impressive bidens they are too; within four weeks their 9cm pots were full of roots. These compact plants are already in flower, their delicate white petals blushed with pale pink, belying their robust form.

Petunia 'Mandevilla' & Cucamelons on the go!

Petunia ‘Mandevilla’ & Cucamelons on the go!

So now that all the baskets are planted up – Crazytunia Mandevilla and Bidens Bee Dance Painted Red already in flower – I can concentrate on the greenhouse crops. Tutti Frutti cordon tomatoes are in the raised bed. Shame I didn’t realise that they came in three different varieties; I’ll just have to wait and see which is which! Chillies have gone in with them to maximise space. The canes supporting the three cucamelon vines are not going to be sufficient so David is going to rig up some mesh for them and whilst he’s at it he can put up some wires for the cucumbers I have yet to plant (David are you reading this?) It’s only an 8ft x 4ft structure, not Kew Gardens, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

Digitalis 'Ruby Slippers'

Digitalis ‘Ruby Slippers’

Ricinus are in! One in the kadai on the roof terrace, surrounded by Canna Durban and blood grasses, one in prairie border and one in the front garden, amongst other architectural plants melianthus major (son of deceased), filipendula and contorted hazel. Very directional I must say!
Courgettes de Nice a Fruit Rond, courgette Soleil and Patti Pans Summer Mix have been planted on the allotment. I’ve taken no chances after last year’s initial fiasco of the disappearing crops (the dreaded mollusc again) so they each have a T&M tomato auto waterer collaring them as well as slug pellets, and I’ve kept back a couple of spare plants just in case.

Flaming Kadai & unnamed bidens

Flaming Kadai & unnamed bidens

Oh, and then there’s the small matter of our NGS Open Day on 12th June. Never mind the borders! All hands are on deck baking cakes, putting up signage, distributing leaflets and London Guides. Volunteers, raffle and children’s treasure hunt to be organised, plants for sale labelled and colour coded by price point. The living wall, nicknamed the dying wall due to an unfortunate misjudgement regarding the watering system, has to be replanted, so I’ll fill it with nasturtiums for a quick fix.  T & M nasturtium Phoenix seeds are popping up all over the roof terrace but no time to grow more from seed; it’ll have to be a case of Instant Gardening at this late stage.
Oh well back to the grindstone. How I love gardening!

Gardening in springtime

I am slightly behind with my blog this time, as after tests my husband Alan has been diagnosed with a rare cancer and the only hospital that deals with this in the South of England is St. Georges in London.  He is waiting for a date for an operation and will spend five days there.  Hopefully when all this is over we will be able to enjoy the summer, but I shall miss my right hand man in the garden for a while. He is already building my two tier and three tier stands, baskets and containers ready for me to fill, and checking the watering system we have in the front and back gardens.

Jean Willis' back garden

Jean’s back garden

The last storm of the winter ‘Katie’ managed to throw my containers and empty baskets about the garden yet again, including a large container full of daffodils which was very heavy because of the rain – I really can’t see the wind turning that over I thought although some of the daffodils were damaged which was a shame as they were really standing tall. My Andre Rieu tulips have already been out for a month and are really lovely, very straight. The petals opened gradually over the month and proved to be a long lasting tulip even through a snowstorm we had at the end of April. These have now finished flowering and the bulbs are drying off ready for planting later in the year.

Acer & tulips in the snow

Acer in the sun & tulips in the snow

The two greenhouses are full of plug plants which now that the warmer weather is here are really moving along nicely. I have kept them undercover at night because we have had some frosts – even in Bournemouth. There are  lots of garden ready plants to come by the end of May it will be really satisfying to see them all planted in baskets in the garden. The decision to buy some new containers was made as the new ones look a lot nicer and not so battered and faded.

Trough & decking in the snow

Trough & decking in the snow

I am trying something different this year and going to grow five Fuchsia Berry plants it looks quite interesting, and I am looking forward to seeing what the berries taste like when the time comes. I remember when I first grew a passionflower (the one that has an orange egg like fruit). I told Alan that if anything happened to me to tell everyone I had eaten it!  I didn’t know then that you could eat them at that time!
My Clematis ‘Josephine’ on the arch at the top of the garden has started  flowering with big flowers which appear to be green on some and green/pink on others.  I have been feeding them so hopefully they will soon be showing their normal colour pink.  Not sure why this happened though, very strange!
This year I decided to try and grow tomatoes from seed, ‘Akrom’ F1 never tried it before. I picked the three strongest plants and now they are growing nicely on the window sill. Thankfully the weather has turned warmer so will plant them in a grow bag outside. During the last week of April 27th to be exact we were treated to all sorts of weather including ‘Thundersnow’,  the heavier the snow the louder the thunder, very weird. It doesn’t appear to have damaged anything as it only lasted just over an hour. There are a couple of photos of the snow with the Andre Rieu tulips looking pretty and all covered in snow.

Four troughs in the back garden

Four troughs in the back garden

I have been asked to trial some unnamed fuchsias and bidens and also trailing antirrhinums.  At the time of writing they are doing very well; especially as we have had a week of really lovely weather. This weekend is forecast to be cold again, poor plants not sure whether to grow or not! I have already planted up my geraniums into a container with a trellis from Thompson & Morgan, I will train them on the trellis instead of trailing them.  I also planted out the Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’ and within a couple of days Wow! they flowered, and are very pretty too.  Also included in the photos is one of my acers with the morning sun on it looking really lovely this morning. This year I am using Thompson & Morgan incredicompost® I am very pleased with how easy it is to use with no bits and pieces in it like some compost. It usually takes me quite a few minutes taking the pieces of wood and bark out before I can use it but this time I didn’t have to do any of that. We will see how it goes, and I will keep you informed.

Thanks for reading see you next month all being well.  Jean.

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

The initial garden set up!

The Good Life in Practice and Thompson & Morgan – the initial garden set up!

So I have been lucky enough to get a goodie bag from Thompson and Morgan to try this growing season! Now I have used Thompson and Morgan for the last 5 years and have always had productive crops so it is good to be working with the same company – particularly as they are my local gardening company to Suffolk. This is my first update for this growing season with hopefully some ideas to get you into the garden or allotment.

A selection of the seeds which have been planted in the garden and allotment

A selection of the seeds which have been planted in the garden and allotment

I have started to plant up seeds ready in both the ground and in the greenhouse space. I have potted up Calendula Candyman orange and yellow (marigold) and Nasturiums ‘Firebird’, ‘Princess of India’ and ‘St Clements’ ready for adding to salads and baking. I love using edible flower to add a niche element to meals and to additionally add colour. I quite often bake breads adding nasturtium flowers to bring a spicy element to cheesy bread and to herb bread varieties. What’s more, the Calendula gives a great colour pop to other recipes. This includes the obvious salads and soups. However, I love using the brightly coloured petals to decorate cupcakes and want to have a go at making a natural balm with it this year-watch this space. Again, I have planted some Cornflowers ‘Blue Diadem’ as they not only look beautiful outside or as a cut flower but also add attitude to a dull salad.

Calendula 'Candyman' Orange & Yellow & Sunflower 'Helios Flame'

Calendula ‘Candyman’ Orange & Yellow & Sunflower ‘Helios Flame’

Next I have been potting up all the salad varieties to hopefully make me more self-sufficient this year; rather than having to supplement my garden with brought salad. Think this will save a lot of money and shopping trips! These are the varieties I am trying this year:
Lettuce ‘Ultimate Mixed’
Salad leaves Sorrel ‘Blood Veined’
Salad leaves ‘Bright and Spicy’
Herb Rocket
Wasabi Rocket
So far the Wasabi Rocket is growing on the windowsill – it is growing gradually; although I couldn’t resist trying a bit of a seedling – hot stuff! Can’t wait to use it as something a bit different in Thai salads and to serve with main meals. It will make an exciting addition to a vegetarian lunchbox.

Nasturtium 'Firebird', Princess of India & St. Clements

Nasturtium ‘Firebird’, Princess of India & St. Clements

As well as the edible plants, I also love cut flowers in the house. One that is rustic, sturdy or simple. Therefore I have planted some Sunflower ‘Helios Flame’ to grow gradually so I can harvest the stems later in the growing year to add colour to the house and dinner table.
Lastly, in this session I have planted up a set of Spring Onions ‘White Lisbon’ seed tape. This was so much easier than separate seeds to plant! Also it will hopefully reduce weeds that will grow around the plant and make it easier to flourish. Spring onions add a punch to summer salads – yum!
Next time I will give you an update on my allotment, how things are growing and some tasty, alternative recipes to try at home.

Lettuce 'Ultimate Mixed', Salad Leaves 'Bright & Spicy' & Spring Onion 'White Lisbon'

Lettuce ‘Ultimate Mixed’, Salad Leaves ‘Bright & Spicy’ & Spring Onion ‘White Lisbon’

Katy Runacres, The Good Life In Practice, Facebook: The Good Life In Practice, Twitter: @thegoodlifein

Katy Runacres
Katy is a smallholder, cook and writer. She keeps Chickens, Bantams, Meat Rabbits and has a resident cat called Podge. She takes an interest in all aspects of homesteading and has written pieces for a number of magazines including Backwoods Home, Bushcraft, Country Smallholding, Home Farmer and Smallholder. Katy is a member of the Essex and Suffolk Poultry Club and has a Diploma in Countryside Management.

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