The T&M spring catalogues arrived this week and I am so excited! I have been choosing my plants for the summer customer trials. I shall concentrate my efforts on two areas – patio containers and hanging baskets and our allotment and greenhouse.
Petunia ‘Cremissimo’, ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ and Begonia ‘Garden Angels’
The theme on our patio is exotic, with year round interest provided by abutilons, ferns, fatsias, phormiums and heucheras so I have planned my selection to complement that: everything citrus coloured including NEW Petunia ‘Cremissimo’ – if its anything like last year’s ‘Peach Sundae’ then it’s going to be stunning! NEW Calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Terracotta’, NEW Petunia ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ and NEW Begonia ‘Garden Angels’, which look like heucheras-on-steroids! I am also going to try my hand at growing Ricinus Communis ‘Impala‘ from seed, Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ bulbs & NEW Curcuma ‘Twister’ tuber to go with the potted ginger lilies and cannas.
Calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Terracotta’, Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ and Curcuma ‘Twister’
In the greenhouse we have room for half a dozen cordon tomatoes and a couple of cucumbers, so this year we’re trying Tomato ‘Tutti Fruitti Collection’ for a change, but are sticking to Cucumber ‘Cucino’ as I haven’t found a mini cucumber to rival its productivity. I am fascinated at the thought of edible fuchsia berries so we are having a go at the NEW Fuchsia Berry. More modest trials for the allotment due to time constraints makes us focus on the more unusual, so after tastings at the T&M Trials Open Day last summer, we will try growing Cucamelon ‘Melothria’, Squash [Patty Pans] ‘Summer Mix’ and Courgette ‘De Nice A Fruit Rond’.
Tomato ‘Rainbow Blend’ Cumcumber ‘Cucino’ and Fuchsia Berry
Of course I couldn’t stop there without buying a couple of things that I have no room for, so NEW Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’ and Digitalis ‘Illumination Ruby Slippers’are on the list too!
David has been busy too, adding a small living wall to the front garden display; an area by our front door of about W:25cms x H:40cm with room for about 16 plants. It’s a north facing aspect so more ferns & grasses, and maybe a couple of hostas and herbs. Installing a drip irrigation system should be easy as the tap is situated conveniently right underneath.
The new planting scheme out front is settling in well, spring bulbs are coming up throughout and I have added a beautiful Hellebore ‘Spring Promise’ and a couple more ferns. David succeeded in finding two lovely tall containers to go either side of the front door for my Christmas present. Once installed securely I planted each one with chinodoxa bulbs for spring colour, three huge tree lilies for summer colour, infant contorted willows for year round interest (these quick growers will have to come out when we can no longer get through the front door) and hakonechloa aurea grass for good measure! Think I’ve been a bit too over-enthusiastic but hey, what the heck. David has created some unique lights too which are attracting lots of comments – using recycled bottles and jars.
Caroline’s house and front garden
Today it has snowed for the first time this winter, and a long time coming too! But never to be distracted from my plant addiction I’m off to the garden centre for my ferns and grasses! Watch this space……..
I am so pleased to announce that Thompson & Morgan have allowed me to come back and write a new series about my garden entitled Another Year in the Greenhouse. To be honest, I thought I made so many basic greenhouse mistakes that they would run screaming to the hills. However, it was quite the opposite; they said they liked to hear about the failures as well as the successes; after all I am not a trained gardener. I’m just an ordinary person with an office job, who likes to escape into the greenhouse whenever I can.
I really hope I don’t make such silly mistakes though. Last year I thought it would be so easy to erect a second greenhouse and apply the same principles that I had to the original smaller one. Unfortunately I didn’t think about how the light would fall, how the sun moved on a different course or how the slope of the garden would make it look like I was standing at an angle even though the base was perfectly level, giving me horrible vertigo especially after a severe dose of Labrynthitis.
The Labrynthitis, was my worst gardening problem as it lasted months, I would stand in the greenhouse with my eyes squeezed shut hoping that I wouldn’t go crashing into the plants or glass, all the while thinking I can’t give in, I have plants to grow and a blog to write!
So this year my resolution is to do a better job than I did last year. At least I have a good amount of spring flowers and bulbs growing healthily already in them. With the extremely mild winter that we have so far had, the Californian Poppies have developed strong roots, and although they are currently a bit sleepy there does look like fresh green leaves on them.
I have no idea how the Yarrows will be potted on as they went from tiny seedlings to plug plants practically overnight. The roots are so tangled I could end up damaging them, I think the best thing I can do is to put them in bigger pots in one root ball as soon as possible and start hardening them off in February, then plant them in the old hollyhock patch in Spring.
After reading many different articles on the best time to sow sweet peas, I thought I would try a September sowing to see for myself if they would last through the dark months. Amazingly they have, although during late December I had to keep nipping the tops as they were getting too tall. They have now put out side shoots that should develop extra flowers in the summer. I only planted two seeds as I didn’t want to waste them if it went wrong, now I wish I had grown more. January is also a very good time to start off sweet peas so I am considering growing some more.
Bo t h my mum and Mark’s parents gave me garden related Christmas gifts, two sets of hanging shelves for the big greenhouse and some clever cane grips that mean I can create wigwams without having to fight with the string and scissor. So one of the first jobs Mark did this month was to wash all of the glass again because the salt laden winds have really taken its toll, and the second job was to put the shelves up. They only useful thing I did was make the tea stand in the greenhouse so he sees if I could reach them or not. My being five foot has its advantages, in that he didn’t have to stretch very far or use a step ladder to get the shelves at the height I wanted.
A quick inventory of the small greenhouse consists of the above mentioned plants plus, a red geranium that is still flowering since September, a tomato plant, two pots of Nigella, two tiny Broccoli seedlings, a spiky cactus that I forgot to bring indoors, five Aloe Vera’s, a Spider Plant that is too big for indoors, and a Thyme cutting. In the border of the small greenhouse was Spinach Beet that had got seriously big and bitter tasting so we pulled it up, as I have a new plan for this border. I will definitely grow Spinach Beet again though in the autumn as it’s so reliable and tasty. In the large greenhouse I have a Bell Pepper that is still trying to produce fruits. I don’t know if you can grow peppers for more than one year but this one hasn’t died off so, I keep picking off and composting the tiny fruit in the hope that I can move it to a sunnier spot in the greenhouse. Also overwintering is my large Aloe Vera and a Money Plant. I had hoped to utilise the space more in the winter but a late slug attack meant my cauliflowers and cabbage seedlings were destroyed.
My final jobs for January will be to start washing my slightly dusty pots, sieve the garden centre bought compost and plant some more seeds. This month is ideal for starting off Snap Dragons, Geraniums, Dianthifolia and Pennisetum and Salad leaves. I will be growing all of these from seed plus two others that I am hugely excited about. One is the half hardy shrub Banksia Hookeriana which will eventually replace a dying broom. The other is a Cycad. A truly magical greenhouse fern. I say this because when I was sent the seeds last year from Thompson & Morgan I had no idea what it was. I had to go on their website to find out and it amazed me. The cycad is a fossil, it was on Earth long before the dinosaurs, it has lived through millions of years of climate change, and evolution. It’s hard to believe I have a seed in my hands that is so ancient and yet so new. I was telling a friend about it and I said I was worried about accidentally destroying something so historically valuable. Don’t get me wrong the seeds are not hugely expensive and it’s not a rare endangered fern as the seeds wouldn’t be for sale, I just meant that I hope I can be trusted to grow something that has been around forever without getting it wrong. I think I will be doing some more research though before I open the packet though.
Finally, if I have whetted your appetite for seed sowing, then take advantage of the January sales, there are often offers for half price or even free packets or seeds. This month Thompson & Morgan are offering readers of a National Magazine twelve packets of free seeds for £3.20 P&P. They include vegetables, flowers for cutting and flowers for wildlife. I’m tempted are you?
Until next month.
2016 – Thompson & Morgan Petunia Parade is here to celebrate a national favourite
Thompson & Morgan is kick starting a 2016 Petunia Parade with the launch of several hot new petunias in its spring catalogue. We are aiming to inspire UK gardeners and change some out-dated attitudes to an unsung garden hero.
Announcing the initiative, Thompson & Morgan Communications Officer, Kris Collins said: “There’s a certain amount of snobbery in some circles when it comes to Petunias. Some gardeners turn their noses up, but these showy summer performers remain popular for a reason. No other plant offers such diversity in terms of garden use, colour scheme, growth habit and ease of growing. There’s something for everyone in our 2016 Petunia selection – colour, shape, style and even scent. If you grow our latest introduction, people will be turning their noses up for a very different reason!”
The seed and young plant mail order specialist is bringing high scent to the genus with new Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’. Double flowers mean MORE petals and MORE fragrance. Just one pot of this climbing beauty will fill the garden with scent all summer. All introductions for 2016 have been selected for their performance under UK growing conditions, blooming right up to the first frosts of autumn – expect to see giant flower forms that will bounce back after summer showers.
The Petunia Parade is not just about showing off the fantastic range of Thompson & Morgan Petunias – including its star performer ‘Night Sky’, a truly unique variety and a world first in flower patterning. The Parade will be fully backed via www.thompson-morgan.com/petunia-parade
Customers will be able to log on for top growing advice, planting and training ideas, petunia growing blogs and stunning images and easy how-to videos – all supplied by Thompson & Morgan’s team of experts.
Customers will be encouraged to join in the parade, sharing their passion for Petunias and posting their progress through the season. The seed and young plant specialist is also looking for the best British petunia display – be it a small container display or a mass bedding scheme. Gardeners can send in their photos through the season for a chance to win £100 of Thompson & Morgan vouchers. Ten runners up will each receive a £10 voucher. Competition closes 30th September. Visit Thompson & Morgan Competitions for details.
Thompson & Morgan Petunia Highlights 2016
Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’
An exclusive double flowering Petunia from the Thompson & Morgan breeding programme.
Rapid growth and early flowering produces the ultimate column of colour when trained on a frame. Just three plants set into a Thompson & Morgan Tower Pot™ will create a winning summer patio or balcony display. Bred in the UK to cope with British weather, long stems quickly reach up to 1.8m (6ft) in height come rain or shine.
View Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’ Here
Petunia ‘Night Sky’
This new Fleuroselect Gold winner brings unique flower markings to the petunia market. Compact semi-trailing plants are covered in starry blooms. There’s no need for a telescope to star gaze, you’ll find a constellation in every flower!
View Petunia ‘Night Sky’ Here
Petunia ‘Easy Wave™ Ultimate Mixed’
This customer favourite just keeps on getting better! Rapid growth, a unique prostrate habit and prolific blooms make Petunia ‘Easy Wave™’ adaptable to almost any garden situation – it even makes an excellent ground cover plant! New for 2016, the mix now has 18 vibrant colours, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy from this best seller.
View Petunia ‘Easy Wave™ Ultimate Mixed’ Here
For more new petunia varieties visit: www.thompson-morgan.com/petunia-parade
Firstly can I please say a big “Thank you” to everyone who has read my blog and given feedback. I must say I was really worried that no one apart from my mum would read my blog so it’s really nice to hear from everyone.
In this month’s blog, I am enclosing some photos of the construction phase of the greenhouse. We have been really lucky in that so far the weather has been much the same as last year, generally between one and six degrees, with rain (sometimes heavy), South Westerly winds and hardly any frost. On the thirteenth of January we had all four seasons in the same day. Lovely spring like drizzle in the morning, warm but not quite summer sun just before lunch, followed by a sudden temperature drop and wintry sleet in the afternoon, and then a beautiful autumn sunset. Have you experienced anything like this in your area?
Up until the back end of January we only had one day when the temperature was zero degrees after nine in the morning – this was great for me as I have been able to get out on the weekends to do some gardening. I work full time in the week, and the nights aren’t quite light enough to go out when I get home. Unfortunately I have only been able to plant my Thompson & Morgan Speedy Mix Salad Leaves, in pots on the kitchen windowsill, when they germinate, they will be pricked out and moved to my old greenhouse. I have selected the tomato seeds to sow next month Gardeners Delight and Sweet Aperitif, and have I been planning what else to grow from seed. For definite I will be growing Aubergine Enorma, and some Sweet Bullhorn peppers.
I haven’t decided what flowers I will grow yet, but every year I grow dahlias and a single variety of sunflowers sharing them with my brothers for their children to grow. It’s brilliant that 2015 is year of the Sunflower. I may just have a sunflower festival in our garden and grow Italian Whites, Russian and/or Mongolian Giants and some Teddy Bears. I also like the look of the Maximilas sunflower. Has anyone had any success with this perennial?
That’s the best thing about winter gardening for me; the planning. Choosing the things I want to grow and ordering them via the catalogue or using the website or having T&M vouchers to spend in their January sales. As well as looking back on last year’s successes and failures, and watching for signs that a new season is on its way.
I ordered my new greenhouse in late November, from a reputable company online, they gave me a delivery date of the Seventh of January, as this was when they were would be delivering in our area. I was happy with this as with Christmas and everything, it was something to look forward to in the New Year. Next we visited a local building supplier to order blocks to mount the base, and a ton of 6mm dust to be delivered on the same day. Both companies kept their agreement and delivered on the day. (We won’t need the whole ton of dust for the greenhouse, but that’s the quantity it comes in so we are going to re-lay the patio area so nothing is wasted.)
Using string and broken canes, Mark then pegged out, the trench he would be digging. We decided to do this after delivery In case anything went wrong with the purchase. A few days later and he had dug the trench, and that’s when I realised the enormity of our project. I could have paid extra to have a greenhouse installation team do the hard work for us, but as Mark had erected the smaller greenhouse he was happy to do this one too. I have every faith in him as the original greenhouse stood up to ninety mile an hour winds in March last year. It twisted and bucked, but I only lost two panes of glass due to a solar light being plucked from the rose border and hurled into the air. The light hit the lower pane and the top pane slid out after it.
The block laying turned into a nightmare, due to heavy rain our clay soil was unworkable as it stuck to everything it shouldn’t. Hands, feet, spade and clothes. Also we knew our garden was on slope and totally uneven and stony but one edge (the tenth foot part of the trench) had to be dug nine inches lower than its opposite side to compensate for the gradient. Each block had to be laid, and then spirit levelled, adjusted, and then measured again. There was no point in trying to lay the blocks in a line and then measure and adjust after, as it would have got even messier. But finally on the 21st of January the block laying was complete and the base secured in position. We then let the ground settle before the next phase.
Phase two, is think ahead. Where to get topsoil for the borders of the greenhouse? I have got homemade compost and will probably buy in some extra, but if we can put in some topsoil it should improve the soil structure. A phone call to my brother and the issue is resolved. Also as mentioned in my previous blog, I hate failing, and it suddenly occurred to me, that it would be just my luck for the first time for something to go wrong with my tomato plants. I had a nightmare vision of doing a blog of the new greenhouse with nothing growing in it! Again T&M came to my rescue, as in conjunction with a well known magazine they were offering six free tomato plants for just £3.20 postage and packing, as well as cucumber plants at a reduced price. I quickly ordered them along with a different offer of a free potato kit, again just paying P&P.
Phase three, the constructing of the aluminium frame, and what happens? The weather turns. The mild drizzly days are replaced by beautiful blue skies but dropping temperatures some really hard frosts and icy winds. Mark has worked outdoors all of his life, but there was no way I wanted him to freeze for me so I just said “So long as it’s constructed by the end of March I am happy to wait. After all I have the other greenhouse and I can keep the plants in there, in pots until then. Besides, it’s too cold for seed germination just yet.”
On the Seventh of February the weather broke, ironically this would have been Dad’s 70th Birthday, to take my mind off it we decided to keep active. So after grocery shopping and lunch it was time to construct the greenhouse.
The plans looked simple enough, there were a suitable amount of images and a short note stating that anyone can be reasonably expected to build the greenhouse, so long as the instructions were followed and common sense applied. I freely admit my building skills are more destroy-it-yourself than do-it-yourself, so I volunteered to be teas maid, leaving Mark to it. I just pottered around the garden and did some chores. Mark started by moving the car from the drive and laying out each section of the greenhouse in turn. Using the guide and carefully noting the number of screws, nuts and bolts needed, he started with the back panel and moved onto the sides. Each section took about twenty to thirty minutes. He constructed the door, and then said “I’m just going to put the rubber seal around the door, and I’ll do the roof tomorrow.” The seal was fiddly so Mark used a drop of Silicone spay to help ease it on to the aluminium. It was getting too chilly for me, so I went indoors. After an hour I was beginning to wonder if there was a problem as it was now late afternoon and beginning to get dark, Mark was still outdoors, I thought that sealing the door would be simple, so I sneaked to the bedroom window and was totally shocked to see all of the greenhouse frame attached to the base and the roof completed.
Mark decided, he might as well finish the job. I am at a loss as how he could manage to put it all together on his own including the ten foot roof brace. He says he just bolted the brace to one of the short edges, leant it on an attached side panel, and then bolted the other end on. He says he also had to stand on a breeze block to reach the holes as at five foot ten he wasn’t quite tall enough. If it was me I would have needed a ladder. So we have almost finished the building, we have decided, it will be easier to mark out the borders and put in the topsoil and path inside the greenhouse before the glazing goes in, firstly because of the amount of soil we need to put in there, as it will be frustrating going in through the narrow door with the barrow, and secondly I am clumsy, and will probably end up putting the spade through the window by accident when unloading the stuff.
I am starting to get really excited as I can visualise a warm July day, collecting trugs of produce and sharing them with my family and friends. In the next few weeks I will be starting off my tomato and potato plants. I have done some early sowings of aubergines and garden peas, they are currently sitting in their pots silently splitting their shells and slowly emerging through the compost. My speedy salad mix in the kitchen germinated in four days, they are growing strongly and will soon need to be pricked out. Hopefully by this time next month the glazing will be done, the soil prepared and if I am lucky be tasting my first Mizunna lettuce.
Until then, Happy Gardening.
In ‘Ho ho sow’, Jane Scorer shares some great ideas for Christmas gifts.
Are you in the midst of your Christmas shopping? If you are, then I bet you can feel an oppressive weight on your shoulders, that burden of what to buy for people this year. What do you buy for the ones who have everything they need? You’ve done pants and novelty socks to death, you’ve racked your brains for inspiration and you still haven’t got a clue.
Take my advice… buy them all seeds!
Buying seeds as Christmas gifts takes the stress out of Christmas shopping
Wisdom has it that you should choose presents which you, yourself would enjoy. Well, I can’t think of anything I would rather have than seeds – they are pure hope in a packet. The promise of colour, scent and… the return of the sun. All that optimism in a tiny, wrinkled seed!
Many of us have children to buy for, and even if they only have a tiny growing space, like a windowsill, it’s still worth choosing seeds as part of their gift. They won’t want to wait for months to see a result, and you hope to get them hooked on growing, so choose something with a quick return. You might just give them a gift which will last a lifetime – a passion for gardening and growing things. The obvious choices are mustard and cress as the results can be eaten very quickly, and they will grow happily in a tiny space. If they enjoy trying new vegetable tastes and textures, you could buy them alfalfa or mung beans so that they can be eating the germinating sprouts in days.
If the children you buy for have access to a patch of garden, then there are so many more seed options to explore. Sunflowers are an obvious choice, and there are lovely varieties to try like Thompson & Morgan’s dark reds, ‘Claret F1 Hybrid’ and ‘Velvet Queen’. The seeds themselves are very tactile, and large enough for small fingers to plant easily. Although there will inevitably be a wait for germination, that will be richly repaid after the seedling appears, as growth will be rapid – and measurable!
Sunflower seeds – the perfect Christmas gift for children
Children also enjoy novelty, so it might be worth trying Thompson & Morgan’s ‘Snake Gourds’, which produce snake like fruits that can be painted when dried. There is also an easy-to-grow ornamental cucumber, ‘Hedgehog’, which produces a fascinating variety of striped and prickly fruits.
Any seeds chosen for children to grow should germinate easily and reasonably quickly, so that success is only a seed tray away. A negative experience is hardly going to encourage a small, potential gardener. The plants themselves should be tough, vigorous and hard to kill off!
Adolescents are notoriously difficult to buy for, and unless a present hits the spot precisely, it will remain untouched and unused. Seeds are only a couple of pounds a packet though, so if your teenager’s imagination does not ignite, then you haven’t broken the bank. What might appeal? Maybe something exotic, dark and unusual, like sweet pepper ‘Black Knight’ or tomato ‘Black cherry’. Teenagers usually love to eat! Unless your teenager is an experienced gardener, then any seeds chosen would have to be easy to germinate and grow.
For adults, it is more about matching the seeds to an individual’s interests and character. A traditional vegetable grower, who sticks religiously to the same varieties every year, might relish the challenge of unusual varieties like dwarf bean ‘Purple Teepee‘, zingy ‘Rainbow Beet’ or courgette ‘Zephyr’, (which is yellow with a green tip). The same is true of the traditional annual grower, who may, without question, grow the same lobelia and marigolds every year. Encourage them to widen their horizons with new annuals such as yellow and white nemesia cheiranthus ‘Shooting Stars’, whose name describes it perfectly… and it smells of coconut!
Give unusual seeds as gifts to tempt gardeners into trying something different
Passionate gardeners love to try new things and to grow plants they have never grown before. Even someone with a tiny garden could find room for an unusual annual climber, and a good one to try is cobea scandens, with large purple or white flowers. It germinates very easily and grows on well, flowering from late summer onwards. The ‘cup and saucer’ blooms are truly spectacular. Another unusual annual climber is mina lobata or ‘Spanish Flag’, so named because it displays all the colours of the Spanish flag. It is quite vigorous and will ramble over walls and fences.
Ageing or less mobile gardeners can be a problem to buy for, but seeds solve the present predicament yet again! For example, cacti seeds are easy to grow and a mixed packet is full of surprises. It is fascinating to watch the young plants develop and grow into different shapes and sizes. They germinate more easily and quickly than you might think and within a couple of years, they will be reasonably substantial plants, requiring minimum care. Succulents and ‘living pebble’ plants (lithops) are also interesting options.
There are some seeds which you should never buy for a gardener, and I speak from personal experience here! Never buy seeds which will turn an interest into an obsession. That means no auriculas, dahlias, giant veg seeds or alpines. Buying any of those could mean that you see very little of the person you bought them for, as they will be in the greenhouse constantly, or whizzing round the country to show and exhibitions.
So, what would I like Santa to bring me, in his sack? Now, I grew ‘Bishop’s Children’ this year and was amazed by how large and floriferous the plants were in the first season. I vowed I would grow dahlias from seed every year from now on. So, I would be delighted to find dahlia variabilis ‘Redskin’ in my stocking on Christmas morning. It is a mix of dark foliaged dahlias with flowers of varying colours, all compact and free flowering.
Last summer, I visited Sissinghurst garden and fell in love with ‘love in a mist’, such a traditional annual, which is often overlooked. In my own garden I have grown an unnamed variety, saving the seed every year, and scattering it the following spring. The blue of the flowers has become more and more washed out over the years. Sissinghurst grows the most spectacular sapphire blue with a darker blue eye, and the nearest match I can find to it is nigella damascena ‘Oxford Blue’. Go on Santa, get me some!
So, there you are, all your Christmas presents sorted now, and you get a good excuse to spend hours trawling through the seed catalogues too.
You can read more of Jane’s blog posts at Hoe hoe grow