Time moves on so quickly and 2017 will be the 5th year that I have been trialling plants for Thompson & Morgan in my multi-award winning seaside garden! Back in 2013, the first items I received were a Cox’s orange Pippin Apple Tree and a Plum Gage, Reine Claude. Back then we were sent whatever was chosen by the company and I feared that I would not be able to use then in my exposed coastal garden. Now, they are both established and have started to produce small amounts of fruit, always difficult here on the coast, with the wind blowing across the garden!
Another arrival that first Spring was a delicate rose ‘garden party’, which still flowers profusely in the front and back garden each Summer. Also received in the first year were Peruvian Tree Lily, Alstroemeria ‘Everest Collection’. These have been quite stunning year on year and much remarked on by our many garden visitors. They were all planted in a large container and are still doing really well. Last Summer, I was very lucky indeed to have trialled 2 brand new 2017 plants, featured in the Spring catalogue. The stunning new fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ on the front cover and the equally beautiful Bidens ‘Firelight’ on page 11. I’d suggested 2 names for the plants, but I’m afraid they weren’t the final ones chosen! However, my quote on the Fuchsia was used in publicity last November.
“Geoff Stonebanks, gardening writer, blogger and creator/owner of The Driftwood Garden near Lewes in Sussex, trialled ‘Icing Sugar’ for T&M last year and says: “The beautiful new fuchsia, ‘Icing Sugar’, certainly lives up to its name; a delicate and frosted gem.” Geoff added: “As an avid fuchsia lover, this delicate and frosted ‘Icing Sugar’, on show in my garden for the first time this summer, is utterly stunning.”
Both of these plants are ones I would heartily recommend for anyone’s garden this Summer.
So, what can I and my garden visitors look forward to seeing in 2017 from Thompson & Morgan? We’re set to open 14 times this summer and already have several coach trips booked into the garden as well, as a result of me and the garden being seen on BBC Gardeners’ World last Autumn. Here’s what we will be receiving in the next few months. Strawberry ‘Just Add Cream™’. Petunia Amore ‘Queen of Hearts’, Buddleja davidii ‘Wisteria Lane’, Geranium ‘Black Rose’, Osteospermum ‘Falling Stars’. Gazania ‘Shepherd’s Delight’, Calendula ‘Winter Wonders Collection’. Petunia ‘Mini Rosebud Romantic Peachy’, Sweet Pea ‘Earl Grey’ and finally Petunia ‘Night Sky’ again, as it was such a success in 2016.
The information both on-line and in the Spring catalogue certainly made me want to see these on show in the garden. Who could resist the chance to smell the intense perfume that evokes childhood memories of your first taste of a strawberry or appreciate the fashionable new sweet pea, offering stunning colour on both sides of the graduated or ‘flaked’ petals. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they all grow this Summer and will be posting update son my garden web site throughout the season. Check them out at wwww.driftwoodbysea.co.uk
Winter has arrived in my garden. It is later than expected, but just as unwelcome. Much too cold to mess about outside, but I am still thinking about my plot – winter is the perfect time to look back at the last season, and forward to the next.
What has worked? What hasn’t? A quick look through this year’s empty seed packets is revealing. Some of the seedlings made no appearance at all (although I live in hope that the perennial ones I scatter in the borders might take off at any time in years to come). I can see I need to be more selective about some of the seeds I grow, and more realistic about what will fit into my garden. And I must pay more attention to successive sowing, rather than trying to grow everything at once. (Note to self – a calendar kept in the greenhouse may help with that).
The new seed catalogues are here to provide me with inspiration. I choose a different annual colour scheme when choosing what to grow each year.
2016 was orange and black – Sweet Pea ‘Prince of Orange’, Calendula ‘Porcupine’, Escholtzia californica and Nasturtium ‘Alaska’ looked well with drifts of black opium poppies, cornflowers and hollyhocks.
For next year I’m thinking of crimson and lime green – Amaranthus caudatus ‘Pony Tails’, Nasturtium ‘Crimson Emperor’, Antirrhinum ‘Black Prince’, Cosmos ‘Pied Piper Red’ with Nicotiana langsdorffii, Zinnia ‘Envy’, Bells of Ireland and Smyrnium perfoliatum. The self-seeding black opium poppies will make a welcome addition too.
And what about veg? I grow lots of my favourite perennial artichokes and asparagus, but have little success with annuals other than sweet corn and runner beans.
Next year I will treat myself to a few varieties of plug plants, rather than leave the veg beds wanting. I like the idea of leeks, sweet peppers, aubergines and some grafted tomatoes – all will be given a better start to life than I can provide.
Throughout winter I will venture out to feed the birds and take a wander down to my greenhouse, so it will be good to have something growing there. I usually manage to succeed with grasses sown over winter, so I’ll try some different varieties of my favourite genus, Carex, to grow alongside some sweet peas I started in October.
Last week I squeezed in a large pot of young Echium pininana plants to protect them from the frost, along with cuttings of some potted up unusual hebes and buddlieas from gardening friends. I shall look forward to checking up on all of these throughout the coming months.
After a very busy November I finally found myself at home on a fresh, bright, still day and decided it was time for The Big Garden Tidy Up. I’ve always sworn by the adage that there is no such thing as the wrong weather, just the right clothes (or something like that anyway). So, togged up appropriately, I strode outside with implements in hand to – Leaf Fall Hell! As I stepped into the garden I felt the Silent Scream come upon me. I have never seen so many dead leaves, and I wouldn’t care, but the majority of them aren’t even from our trees! I can only assume that last year the wind must have blown them elsewhere.
Where to start? I decided to tackle the worst bit first. Have you ever tried raking dead leaves out of heavily planted gravel? You have to create a pile and then sieve the gravel back out of said pile before finally bagging up the leaves. Not fun. Next I decided to tackle the rampant ivy colonising the corner behind the apple tree. This task was quite satisfying as it happens, dragging the tendrils out of the tree canopy and cutting back to a nice hedgy silhouette. As the trellis backs onto the greenhouse the gutters where choked with leaf litter and yet more ivy was starting to run over the roof, creating a cavern inside! All was going well until my thankfully gloved hand touched upon something cold and clammy. No more the Silent scream! Having unearthed several hibernating frogs during clearance my first thought was dead amphibian. Girding myself up I reached back into the gutter and retrieved – the 6″ rubber lizard!
Caroline clearing up leaves and one of the many frogs she found
That lizard is haunting me. Last autumn I unearthed it from the leaf litter under the hydrangea petiolaris and thought I had hurled it over the fence from whence it came (junior neighbours) so unless it crawled back under its own volition (it’s eerily lifelike), I have a very poor aim!
Somewhat unnerved I decided to clear the roof terrace. Open air, bright sunshine, back into the land of the living. Straightforward apart from one thing: how to dispose of the ricinus? So, well gloved up, I chopped it up into manageable pieces and bagged it up. However, by now the recycle bin was virtually full so – do I stuff it in the top and risk poisoning the dustmen? Oh no, I delve deep into the bin, emptying half of its contents onto the pavement, so that the ricinus can be safely buried beneath. Lifting and transporting the three cannas (picture The Three Tenors haha!) down the ship’s ladder was no joke; they had tripled in size so that only cut-down black dustbin sacks were big enough to contain their massive root balls. I am having to overwinter them in the summer house with the colocasia and banana as there is no room in the greenhouse raised bed in case I disturb the mice.
The beach huts at Southwold, Suffolk and David’s new water feature idea
As I continued to sweep, prune and mulch the borders into submission I reflected upon the passing year. Our most recent adventure was a long weekend in Southwold, Suffolk with good friends Amanda and Michael. Southwold in November brings its own unique meteorological challenges. France has its Mistral, Lybia has its Ghibli. The horizontal wind driven Southwold rain that surges across the gorse dunes towards Walberswick deserves its own name too! In summer, amble across the dunes, surrounded by the delicious aroma of coconut emanating from the gorse, and pay your 20p to be rowed across the estuary by the small family run boat service. But in the winter even they hang up their oars! So a two mile walk becomes a four mile trek and of course being stalwarts we were not to be deterred. A refuelling stop at The Bell Inn to break the round trip certainly helped!
The beach huts at Southwold are the inspiration for our new summer house theme, and we had great fun picking up little nautical whimsies from the gift shops. The cheeky Heath Robinsonesque clock water feature on the pier gave David food for thought regarding his next water feature. Take a close look every quarter hour and you will be shocked or hysterical with laughter depending on your temperament!
Caroline’s raised bed decorated for the festive season
David installed our exterior festive lights at the end of November before a hand operation put him out of action over the holiday period. The twinkling red lights threaded through the undergrowth in the raised bed out front look lovely, but the multi-coloured flashers in the eucalyptus out back were like Blackpool illuminations (nothing wrong with Blackpool – right plant right place or some such analogy). But when he reprogrammed them to be static, the neighbour’s young daughter complained, so now they are fading on and off tastefully!
So it only remains for me to wish you all Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy the photo of me in action. We’ve had Gardening In your Nightie, Gardening in your Pyjamas and now we have – Gardening in Your Curlers! xx
A view of London from Hampstead Heath
Over the past few weeks I have been tidying the garden, putting the containers away upside down so they don`t fill with water. Also have been putting away ornaments which were in the garden so they don`t get spoilt with the salt spray/wind that gets carried here in Bournemouth from the sea front. Sprayed them with a well known oil spray to stop them going rusty and wrapped them in fleece, putting three of them together in a black bag. Covered some of the more tender plants with fleece and waiting for my fleece bags to arrive – with thanks to Geoff Stonebanks letting me know where I could buy them.
Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’
I have also finished planting up some tulip bulbs, unfortunately they were being dug up as fast as I planted them. Whilst talking to friends at our coffee club who said she had a large holly bush if I would like some. I put quite a few sprigs into each container and so far this has stopped my bulbs being dug up – we shall see how long this lasts!
My patio Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ which were planted on the edge of a narrow border have just finished flowering. I have had them growing with Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ which really filled the small border right up to the middle of November. I have cleaned off all the begonia corms that were dried off and put them away in newspaper and then wrapped in brown paper until around February when I hope to get them started for Summer 2017.
Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ & unnamed fuchsia trialled
My smaller acer trees have looked wonderful this autumn, the colours seem to change day by day, also the Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ was still managing to flower up until middle of November with slightly smaller flowers. The Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY has lost all its leaves and almost all the fruit but there are a few fuchsia flowers still appearing. The trial of the un-named white trailing bidens is still flowering even though I have cut it back, from the same trial an un-named peachy pink antirrhinum was still flowering and as there was a frost forecast I decided to gently take it out of the basket and pot it up for the kitchen window sill, where it is continuing to thrive and grow – fingers crossed!!
We have just had the first storm of the season – Storm Angus! Trees down, roads blocked, underpasses flooded and the poor garden knocked about. That really was the end of the leaves on my acers, such a shame, now they just look like twigs. At the top of the garden I found the top part of one of my containers (which is usually fixed on its own stand) just sitting on the ground and couldn`t find the stand anywhere. Eventually found it under a fuchsia bush at the bottom of the garden, at least it didn`t tip the plants out that were still flowering. I was thrilled to bits that both my Calla Lilies (as mentioned in my previous Blog) are still flowering – end of November. I also have two cactus indoors which are flowering profusely and have been for almost a month now.
Indoor cactus plants
As we approach the end of November and in my case there is less to do in the garden, everything is turning towards the Big Man in his Sleigh and with over 30 members of our family ranging from a four year old great granddaughter to Alan who is 79 we have to start early with presents etc. and cards, I usually make all my own cards.
Here`s hoping that you all have an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas with lots of `garden` presents and a great gardening year for 2017.
…..Happy Christmas Everyone…..
1. Scented Celebration Rose ‘Warm Wishes’
Christmas rose seems to be a very popular choice among our customers; and with good reason. This beautiful rose exudes love and Christmas spirit. Anyone who receives this will I am sure, feel blessed.
2. Rosa Chinensis Gardening Tools – Kneeler
This set can be bought individually, the kneeler is the ideal gift for those that have lots of beds and borders and are always getting dirty knees! This gift will be much appreciated and enjoyed all year round.
3. Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus are very colourful and reminds me of a Christmas tree with lights blazing. Cactus can last up to 20 years so make sure your recipient is prepared to enjoy this gift for a long period of time!
4. Gardener’s Gubbins Pot Set
With a name like Gubbins who can resist this attractive Burgon & Ball set? Gardener’s, myself included, seem to aquire lots of bits and pieces, which we like to keep on us when we are in the garden. There is always a label or snips required which are back in the shed!
5. Cut Flower Seed & Bottle Gift Set
This is a really pretty set for those of us who like to have something to do over the Christmas holidays. Gifts that need a little bit of time and attention are ideal for gardeners, who may be stuck in doors, due to awful weather or family commitments. This gift allows them to sit and be sociable and do a bit of gardening too.
6. Hyacinth ‘Scented Pink Pearl’
This is one of the most popular gifts from the Christmas gift range. Smelling wonderful, looking fabulous, I have bought this one for my mother. When hyacinths have finished flowering during the festive period, they can be planted in the garden to flower again during springtime.
7. Crockery Teacup & Saucer Bird Feeder
For bird and wildlife lovers, this is ideal. Hang it anywhere, from a tree or on the fence, pop some bird seed on it and watch those birds flock in to have a feed. By choosing different bird seed you can attract different birds, so investigate and perhaps invest in the bird seed too.
8. Succulent Basket
A trendy gift which will be enjoyed by any age. A minature succulent garden in a basket, has become a fashion item! Succulents seem to thrive on neglect so this is the perfect gift for those who are rubbish at watering their plants.
9. Seed Starter Kit
I first got this for myself when I began gardening. It proved to be a worthwhile investment, as I still use the propogator today. Although the seeds have all been sown and the labels are now on their third year of being used. A seed starter kit can be the reason someone gets into gardening, which can become a lifelong passion.
10. Ladies Parisienne & Men’s Tweed Garden Gloves
Both pairs are made by Burgon & Ball, a company known for its high quality. These soft, functional gloves will be a welcome gift for any gardener. Gloves are used all year round, saving hands from thorns and blisters. With the trendy name on the outer cuff, your gardener will feel very refined!
One for the animals? Pet Candles
I don’t expect the dogs and cats of the world will be thrilled with this gift, but the owners will! Neutralising nasty niffs, these candles will make the house smell lovely for Christmas parties and get-togethers.
I hope you enjoyed these suggestions, but if you have something that you think I should have included let me know on the comments box below. Happy Christmas readers!