There is always a plant that, like Marmite, you either love or loathe, and it appears that through the
ages the petunia has been this plant. As part of the Solanaceae family, it is closely related to the tobacco, cape gooseberry, tomato, potato, chilli pepper and deadly nightshade.
In the early sixteenth century when Queen Elizabeth I reigned, Spanish explorers in South America
discovered a low growing, trail forming, white flowered scented Axillaris, which in the Tupi-Guarani language was called Petun. This roughly translated from their language to the “worthless tobacco plant.” But, because of its perceived ugliness, the explorers did not think it was worth sending samples of it back to Spain. And ironically, anyone in Britain during the fifteen hundreds believed that the petunia was a symbol of the demonic power of satanism as it was reputed to harbour anger and resentment.
Petunia x hybridia ‘Sparklers’
Fast forward about three hundred years to Eighteen Twenty Three, during the reign of King George III. It’s just after the Napoleonic Wars and the French King, Joseph Bonaparte, (Napoleon’s Brother) has sent explores back to Argentina. This time they send samples of the plant back to Spain, where botanists confirmed the Indian name for it and place it in the tobacco family. Just a few years later there are records that state in 1831 the great Scottish Explorer John (James) Tweedie was exploring the Americas, and he came across another genus of the Petunia the Violacea which is purple in colour. He too, took specimens of the plant and he sent them to the Glasgow Botanical Gardens.
Tweedie is also listed as a collector for the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens and out of the 35 genus of petunia, there is one named after him. Petunia Tweedia. Categorised as a Grandiflora the series is an example of this genus. He is an extraordinary and inspiring person and there is more about him in part two of this blog. In the late eighteen hundreds breeders, especially in England Germany, America and Japan began crossing the sample of petunias they had in search of more varied colours and larger petals. These early crossings were referred to as Petunia X Hybrida although they were not strictly hybrids.
In Nineteen Hundred a well known American Seed company noted in their sales catalogue that
double petunias only occurred in twenty to thirty percent of petunias grown from seed. Moving to Nineteen Thirty Four, a mere eighty two years ago, when King George IV reigned, the Japanese once again came to the forefront of petunia breeding, by being the first to breed the consistently double petunia. They had managed to understand and apply Mendel’s Third Law of Dominance. (In a cross between two organisms pure for any pair [pairs] of contrasting characteristics the character that appears in the F1 generation is called the dominant one).* So now you know why so many seed packets have an F1 hybrid on them.
There are also F2 type Petunias and T&M’s Petunia Rainbow is an example of these. It does not mean that it is a lesser plant, it just means that its the seeds collected and grown from a F1 parent. To read more on the differences between F1 and F2 plants I would recommend you read the info pages on the T&M website. Within the same decade, German seed companies bred Grandiflora Petunias looking for colour diversity, and in the late Nineteen Thirties the American Charles Weddle discovered the fact doubleness was a dominant gene and by crossing a true double with a suitable petunia would result in seeds that would only produce double flowers.
Queen Elizabeth II is crowned in Nineteen Fifty Three and breeders are still trying to find the perfect petunia, Firstly there is Claude Hope who releases the F1 hybrid cultivator Connache. He is instrumental in the producing of the hybridisation of the single and double Grandiflora and Multiflora strains we see today, In addition there is Fred Statt who we must thank for breeding disease and weather resistant plants. In Nineteen Eighty Three a new class of petunias called Floribunda are created. In 1995 Petunia ‘Purple Wave’ is introduced and in 1996 the Milliflora is bred.
So that’s a brief history of how the petunia emigrated from Argentina to Britain, but I was curious about the life of John (James) Tweedie so read the rest of my history of the Petunia in Part Two.
A variety that will regenerate the buddleja market! That was the expert verdict of industry specialists as they crowned Buddleja ‘Buzz™ Indigo’ Best New Variety: Hardy Nursery Stock at the recent UK Grower Awards 2016.
Hailed as the world’s first patio buddleja, all colours within the Buzz™ series have gone down a storm with UK gardeners looking for a more manageable way of adding the iconic flower spikes of buddleja to their planting displays. The dwarf variety reaching little more than 4ft (1.2m) in height, retains the best qualities of its larger cousin B. davidii, but has done away with all its negative aspects.
Not only do plants in the series remain bushy and compact for container growing, they will grow in almost any free-draining soil too. The scented flower spikes have extremely low fertility, virtually removing the risk of self seeding in the garden – or worse, in brickwork and hard landscaping features – something that has seen B. davidii added to the UK invasive plant species list, vastly reducing its appeal with the gardening public. While Buzz™ blooms won’t set seed, they are the only dwarf variety to retain the large flower size of B. davidii and certainly produce a lot of nectar – an essential attribute if gardeners are to help conservationists turn around the dramatic decline in UK butterfly populations*.
Buddleja ‘Buzz Indigo’
These unique attributes, plus a new colour-break, set the Thompson & Morgan entry apart from the crowd, with award judges stating: “Buddleja ‘Buzz™ Indigo’ has the potential to revitalise Buddleja sales with the support of a good marketing campaign, regenerating the market for the species.”
This is the second time that Thompson & Morgan’s exclusive dwarf buddleja series has been applauded at the UK Grower Awards, considered by industry insiders to be the Oscars of the plant world. In 2010, following an extensive breeding programme at its Ipswich HQ, Thompson & Morgan launched the first colour in the Buddleja ‘Buzz™’ series – ‘Lilac’, which quickly took the title of Best New Plant Variety at the 2010 award bash.
Growers Winner Banner
Since then T&M Plant Breeding Team has been developing new flower colours to maximise the potential of this groundbreaking series, which has transformed the way buddlejas are used in UK gardens. Buddleja ‘Indigo’ was launched for the 2015 gardening season, joining ‘Lilac, ‘Magenta’, ‘Sky Blue’ ‘Candy Pink’ and ‘Ivory’.
Buddleja Buzz™ 3 in 1
There are no new Buzz™ colours for 2016, but the latest concept is set to be another strong contender for the awards in 2017. Buddleja ‘Buzz™ 3-in-1’, new to the Thompson & Morgan Spring Catalogue, offers three different flower colours, seemingly on the same plant. Supplied as a 3litre potted plant it is actually three varieties grown together; each will grow in harmony and produce a compact bush with fragrant, indigo, ivory and candy pink flower spikes!
- Thompson & Morgan was also recognised in two other categories at the UK Grower Awards. Assistant Nursery Manager, Hannah Miller, was a shortlisted finalist for Young Grower of the Year, while Raspberry Ruby Beauty was Highly Commended in the Best New Variety: Soft/Top Fruit category.
- The following evening the mail order specialist’s incredi-range of incredicompost® and incredibloom® and incredicrop® fertilisers was also announced as a finalist for the Best New Garden Product category at the Garden Retail and Garden Industry Awards.
- * A recent report published by Butterfly Conservation has revealed that more than three quarters of butterfly species have significantly declined in the past 40 years and is urging the British public to act by planting suitable supporting plant species. See butterfly-conservation.org.uk for more information.
- All colours in the Buddleja ‘Buzz™’ Series are currently available to order via
thompson-morgan.com/Buzz Prices start at £7.99
Thompson & Morgan promises best year on the vegetable patch with host of innovative growing concepts for 2016
2016 product developments from the specialists at Thompson & Morgan are paving the way for the easiest ever route to fresh home grown produce this season. Whether you’re short on time, space or knowledge, there’s now an easy solution for you.
Following success with our groundbreaking Tomtato®, a hand grafted plant producing both potatoes and tomatoes, T&M has launched Egg & Chips®, a world first in duo grafting. Gardeners can now grow aubergines and potatoes on the same plant. What’s more the potato ‘root stock’ gives the aubergine part the extra energy needed to crop successfully under UK conditions. You don’t need a greenhouse to grow Egg & Chips®, a large pot on a sunny patio will produce perfect plants. £14.99 for one Egg & Chips®, £19.99 for two.
Egg & Chips®, Tomtato®, and Pea ‘Terrain’
Staying with the grafted concept a new Grafted Summer Vegetable Collection has also been launched for the season, made up of Cucumber ‘Mini Stars’, Pepper Orlas, Tomato ‘Solena Red’ and Tomato ‘Sportivo’, promising to increase yields by up to 75%. Joining a fruiting variety to a more vigorous rootstock has brought massive benefits to commercial crop production. Now T&M customers can bring the goodness of grafted veg to their own pots or plots.
Vegetable Grafted Collection
T&M Vegetable Expert, Colin Randel said: “Some vegetable varieties produce fantastic fruit but are weak growers, others are vigorous growers with poor fruits. We’ve selected the best grafting matches to bring you the best possible results from a single plant. Spend a little extra on our grafted plants and reap the rewards right through the season.” 4 plant collection £19.99.
Changes in EU regulation mean that for the first time in a long time, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer mixed vegetable seed varieties in the same packet, creating the easiest route to success on the veg patch and the longest harvest, with no need for successional sowing.
The All Season Collections take the hard work out of crop planning. Each is made up of several toptasting and top-performing F1 varieties that can be sown in one hit, but will crop at different times to give a harvest window of up to 36 weeks. The All Season Leek Collection for example, offers a nine month harvest from a single sowing of three trusted varieties – ‘Lincoln‘, ‘Oarsman’ and ‘Below Zero’. The collections have been based around the most popular crops grown by British gardeners, including peas, beans, broccoli, sweet corn and cabbage. The collections are the perfect solution for novice gardeners and those without the time (or skills!) for detailed crop planning at the start of the season.
All Season Leek Collection
Stand out vegetable seed introductions for the season include Pea ‘Terrain’ and Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’. The T&M trials team was stunned at the results of new Pea Terrain in 2015 and are heralding the variety as the most exciting introduction since the launch of existing bestseller Hursts ‘Green Shaft’. Paul Hansord said: “We’ve been truly amazed at the outstanding performance of this powerhouse pea. Yield, pod quality and taste – Pea Terrain couldn’t be beaten in our 2015 trials, but most impressive was the resistance to both downy and powdery mildew. In a field surrounded by a dozen infected varieties, only Terrain stood clean and green, making it the best pea for late harvesting. A final sowing on 31st July lead to a mildew free harvest at the end of October. Plants would have kept going if it had not been for a frost.” 99p for 300 seeds.
Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ and Potato ‘Jazzy’
Similarly, Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ has shown full resistance to all blight strains currently prevailing in the UK, making it the best option for outdoor growing and late cropping. Thompson & Morgan is so impressed with the performance and flavour of the new variety, it is championing Mountain Magic as its Vegetable of the Year for 2016. £3.99 for five seeds or £9.99 for five plug plants.
Trial results and customer feedback for Potato ‘Jazzy’ have been so impressive it now comes with a Double Money Back guarantee if T&M customers fail to produce 35 potatoes or more from a single tuber. This new second early potato can be grown in small 8 litre pots to easily achieve this number, so is a great space saving option. Pricing for ‘Jazzy’ starts at £3.99.
Many of the varieties are available from selected garden centres now. All are available for order at www.thompson-morgan.com
Hobby gardener’s favourite becomes important commercial crop in race for earliest stems.
Couldn’t wait for your home-grown forced rhubarb this winter? Chances are if you relied on the first supermarket produce of the season, you’ve been eating Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’.
This extra early forcing variety was on sale in the wholesale markets from 30th December, beating forced rhubarb from the ‘Golden Triangle’ in West Yorkshire to stores by a full three weeks. Traditionally Golden Triangle rhubarb is the first to market every year.
The area is renowned for early rhubarb production and at its peak in the 1930s produced 90 per cent of the world’s forced winter rhubarb. It seems the region now has some tough competition from Essex growers producing commercial crops of Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’. And home growers could be beating the professionals at their own game too.
Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’
Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, said: “We’ve sold this top variety to home gardeners for many years, with the promise of the earliest natural harvest. Thick flavoursome stalks are produced in March –a full month ahead of all other varieties. But it now seems you could be enjoying your own fresh stalks with your Christmas leftovers!”
Industry experts agree. Fruit specialist Will Sibley said: “I cannot imagine that there is an earlier variety in commercial production. To bring the season on by a full three weeks, just goes to show the qualities of this top-tasting variety.”
If you are not already growing Thompsons Terrifically Tasty, a favourite with T&M customers, orders are now being taken for spring planting crowns, two for £9.99 or four for £17.99. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com or call 0844 573 1818
Forcing rhubarb for a late December or early January crop is simple. In late November cover crowns with straw and place a forcing pot, large tub or dustbin on top to block out the light. This will initiate out of season stem growth leading to the earliest possible harvest.
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……..