Busy summer enjoying the fruits of our labours

It’s been a busy summer, what with the new shed roof terrace, the beach hut themed patio makeover and the plans for our new front garden.

This is the first year that the greenhouse has really been used to its full potential; it’s a veritable salad factory! Our 8ft x 5ft greenhouse is home to 2 cucumber Mini Fingers Cucina, 3 bush tomatoes Losetto and 3 cordon tomatoes Sungold, along with 15 varieties of chillies and sweet peppers, a spare courgette Defender from the allotment, an aubergine and some of last year’s leftover strawberry runners. Despite cramped conditions, good housekeeping and regular attention has resulted in an early and abundant crop of cucumbers, several promising tomato trusses and dozens of peppers; even the aubergine has 4 flowers on it – beginner’s luck perhaps. Having said that, the tomatoes are trying to climb out of the skylights and the cucumber vines are being suspended across the entrance on string! I’m looking forward to harvesting the produce to make my favourite Gaspacho soup.

tree lillies
The emphasis on colour has shifted somewhat from the main body of the garden, now that the towering tree lilies have finished flowering, to the basket and container displays on the patio. Begonia Apricot Shades Improved combined with lime green and black ipomaea foliage is a winner, blooming away through drought, rain and wind, no deadheading needed. The two hanging baskets of Petunia Peach Sundae just keep on flowering; daily deadheading and the occasional haircut keeps them compact and good as new. A couple of extra plugs crammed into the window box are the perfect match for the pastel striped bench beneath, although sitting on it is out of the question now that they are trailing over its back!

begonia apricot shades

Calibrachoa Ruby Buttons, although slow to get going, is flowering away in a hanging basket brightening up a neglected corner. Bidens ‘Hawaiian Flare Orange Drop’, selected to hang above abutilons megapotamicum and Kentish Belle, has produced an abundance of vigorous ferny foliage but very few flowers, although they are starting to bud up now, better late than never. Fuchsia Eruption hasn’t stopped flowering for weeks and needs no maintenance other than the occasional feed and regular watering. Pots of begonia Glowing Embers are having a tough time due to Fred our oriental cat’s tendency to treat them like a running buffet, so perhaps they will have to be displayed in hanging baskets next year instead of ground level. I find begonia tubers really easy to overwinter so I see no reason why these ones can’t be rescued at the end of the season.

petunia peach sundae

But surely one of the most striking additions to the garden has been the planting scheme for the shed roof terrace. I’ve been able to indulge myself with all the plants that I have never been able to grow at ground level due to slugs & snails and heavy clay soil: echinacea, helianthus, red hot pokers, heleniums, rodgersia, interwoven with tall grasses – and bubbling up through them all is Nasturtium Jewel of Africa, tumbling down the sides of the shed almost to ground level, a froth of huge marbled leaves and fiery flowers! And all from one packet of seeds. That’s what I call value for money.

As for the new front garden, watch this space…..work should start in September.

A look into the ‘fuchsia’

When you look at how many fuchsia varieties are available in the UK, in Europe, even worldwide, you would be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing left to discover or breed. But, you are wrong.

As a product developer, I have a mental wish list that covers pretty much every Genus… and for fuchsias it’s just as long a list than any other. My dreams cover: a true yellow fuchsia, a fuchsia with tasty berries, triphyllas for hanging baskets in every colour, more exciting coloured hardy fuchsias…. you get the idea!

fuchsiaWhilst some plant breeders may be beavering away on these projects behind closed doors, they could still be 20 years or more away. However, there’s some superb fuchsias right around the corner too.

We could soon be seeing fuchsias more suited to growing in sunny borders, which could change how they can be used in the garden or the patio. For many years, fuchsias have flagged in full sun, and far prefer dappled conditions. Their versatility will grow!

One of the most interesting breeding angles to emerge recently has been one that’s responding to European tastes; table top fuchsias. These small beauties, called the Bella Series, are covered in blossom, jutting out in every direction, not just dangling and hiding in the leaves!

And then, how could you have missed it? One of the biggest developments in fuchsias, the climbers!! Well, they’re not truly climbers, as they have no tendrils, but varieties such as new ‘Pink Fizz’ have upright growth, and reach 6 feet in just a few months too! Finally, an alternative to the predictable choice of clematis!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Fuchsia Festival at Driftwood

It’s like a fuchsia festival every summer in my garden! I have been collecting them since inheriting 2 standard specimens from family members, one from my Aunt, Margaret Grindrod, in 2004 (plant pictured in 2005 on left) and one from my father, Ron Stonebanks, in 2007, (plant pictured in  2007 on right).  My own enjoyment of fuchsias has clearly stemmed from these very first two. Dad and Auntie Margaret can be seen, sat together in my courtyard garden in North London, back in 2003 before we moved to Bishopstone, the following year.

fuchsias at driftwood

They had been very keen gardeners themselves, so after their deaths, I needed to make sure the plants did well and lived on in my new garden here on the south coast. Dad’s, I am led to believe is an Empress of Prussia and my Aunt’s a Geneii. My mother tells me that my Dad had bought the standard Empress for their ruby wedding anniversary back in 1990. Today, I still have both their original plants and have since propagated many specimens from them to either sell on when I open for the National Gardens Scheme every summer, or indeed to plant additional specimens in my own amazing garden, Driftwood.

fuchsia winston churchillIn addition to their original plants, I probably now have over 20  different fuchsias and maybe over 50 different plants, a mixture of trailing, standard and bushes both in the ground, in pots or raised beds! Some hardy and some not! They are the perfect addition to my coastal garden and one in particular, Winston Churchill. This variety thrives really well in my front garden, which directly faces the sea and takes the brunt of the salt laden winds we have here! You can see it protected by the upturned railway sleepers acting as wind breaks.

fuchsia festivalThe back garden has been described as an exuberant yet immaculate seaside garden, split into several garden rooms. It has an eclectic palette, creating a layered tapestry of coloured plantings, beautifully integrating wooden and rusted metal features with the landscape. The heavy, dense plantings (over 600 plants) with no lawn and no exposed soil create an illusion of a much bigger garden. Fuchsias delicate and intricate blooms have always drawn attention from the 10000 plus visitors to the garden in recent years. They love a story and to hear the provenance of the plants, so the one to tell of the Empress of Prussia and Geneii, go down very well. In the picture to the left, you can see one of the Geneii here on the left an Empress on the right with magellicana versicolour centre and Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground and Riccartonii in the background! To the right, a flower from Empress of Prussia.


In 2013 Thompson and Morgan sent me some Duke of Wellington plugs and 3 are doing really well in the garden now and are very easy to grow and seem to cope well with what the weather throws at them here. As is the stunning Quasar that were sent as a trial plant in 2014. Their enormous blooms making a real statement in any garden.  I also inherited some lovely terracotta wall pots from my Aunt as well and each summer I plant them up with two of my favourite fuchsias, Pink Temptation (a bushy, trailing and floriferous fuchsia with bright, fresh looking flowers) and  Lena ( a medium-sized deciduous shrub of open habit ) They seem to flower all summer long and look so dramatic tumbling out over the wall creating a stunning display of mini ballerinas!

fuchsia duke of wellington

That said, another pretty bloom that looks great in wall pots tumbling down is Ballet Girl which I have had in the garden for the last 3 years! It really is amazing the different colour palettes to be had with fuchsias. Another pretty one we’ve had for a few years is Miss California, another that does not seem to mind the weather conditions down here on the coast! A great coloured variety that looks great in any bed, mine are grown in a raised bed and large pot, are Lady in Black with stunning dark flower heads! No matter what the type, the bees seem to love fuchsias and flock to them in the garden each summer.

fuchsia variety

Last summer I decided to create a bed dominated by fuchsias as they just do not let you down with their beautiful, long lasting displays in the garden! The 2 images above are  Ballet Girl and Duke of Wellington. Other beds last summer had  mixes of Riccartonni,  Lady Boothby, Empress of Prussia, and Lady in Black, which looked amazing all through the summer.

fuchsia varietyLast year I bought a new hardy fuchsia, Versicolour Magellicana and put one in the front garden and one in a raised bed in the back garden and both have done really well flowering prolifically until the first frosts! Here you can see it dominate the raised bed with a Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground.

I would have no hesitation in recommending fuchsias to any garden owner wanting long lasting and interesting colour in their garden in 2015. There are so many to choose from that there can be no question of not being able to match the colour palette you want to create.


So come gardeners across the UK go out and plant some stunning fuchsias for the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia Festival 2015!

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 as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 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.

Bumper crops and fabulous flowers

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 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.

Bumper crops and fabulous flowers

Cucumber 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.

Bumper crops and fabulous flowers

Fuchsia ‘Duke of Wellington’

Clematis ‘Twinkle Bell’ has gorgeous bell shaped yellow flowers which hang down in rows and just keep on flowering.

Bumper crops and fabulous flowers

Clematis repens or ‘Twinkle Bell’

Joy Gough
Joy Gough joined Thompson & Morgan’s trials team in 2011 and tests plants and seeds in her own garden in Wiltshire.

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