Biennial inspirations

It’s biennial time again.
As our Aquilegias, Digitalis, Erysimums and Myosotis finish flowering, it is time once again to sow next year’s new ones to ensure that we get as good, if not better, display as this year.

Aquilegia 'Green Apples', Aquilegia 'Firecracker' & Belle perennis 'Pomponette Mixed'

Aquilegia ‘Green Apples’, Aquilegia ‘Firecracker’ & Belle perennis ‘Pomponette Mixed’

This biennial cycle goes on in our gardens almost without us noticing it, as various plants self-seed in the quieter corners of our gardens. Plants such as forget-me-nots (Myosotis) can pop up almost anywhere if we leave the parent plants to seed in May and June. This happens in the wild as well, with plants such as hedge garlic/jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata) seeding themselves at this time of year in the bottoms of farm hedges – the seeds then germinate before winter, surviving the harsh winter weather as young plants that then flower in spring/early summer. The parent plants die as they drop their seed.

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrid Mixed', Foxglove 'Silver Cub' Myosotis 'Symphony Blue'

Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’, Foxglove ‘Silver Cub’ Myosotis ‘Symphony Blue’

So, what can you sow now that are grown as biennials? The starting point is to look for the letters HB at the beginning of the description of the plant. Sow Aquilegias cultivars now and watch out for a stunning display in May and early June – I like the look of ‘Green Apples’ and ‘Firecracker’ as interesting variations on the normal range of colours. Bellis ‘Pomponette Mixed’, although actually a perennial, is normally grown as a biennial and looks fabulous in the spring garden and in containers. It is loved by bees as well so we all win!
For something a little unusual, try Cabbage ‘Northern Lights Mixed’ with various foliage colours to delight you and your friends. If you leave them in until early summer they will flower and the yellow flowers are edible  – yummy!! Dianthus barbatus, more commonly known as Sweet William, gives a stunning display in early to mid summer and there are a number of wonderful cultivars to choose from. Foxgloves (Digitalis) have come a long way in recent years from their biennial wild relatives and the range of colours and forms is worth studying, from ‘Excelsior Hybrids’ up to 1.5 metres to ‘Silver Cub’ at only 60cm high.

Dianthus barbatus 'Excelsior Mixed', Pansy 'Majestic Giants Mixed' & Viols 'Sorbet Orange Jump Up'

Dianthus barbatus ‘Excelsior Mixed’, Pansy ‘Majestic Giants Mixed’ & Viols ‘Sorbet Orange Jump Up’

Pansies and Violas are amongst of the most popular winter and spring flowering plants for containers in our gardens and, although they are classified as perennials, we do tend to grow them as biennials. The flowers are edible as well as colourful and one of my all-time favourites is ‘Majestic Giants’ with flowers up to 10cm across. Wallflowers (Erysimums) are one of the more traditional biennial plants used by local authorities and larger public gardens for spectacular spring displays. Try ‘Tom Thumb Mixed’ for an easy to manage cultivar with a wide range of flower colours from yellows to rusts and reds. It works well in a container because it only reaches 20cm high.

Cabbage 'Northern Lights', Calenduala officinalis nana 'Fruit Twist' & Nigella papillosa 'Midnight'

Cabbage ‘Northern Lights’, Calenduala officinalis nana ‘Fruit Twist’ & Nigella papillosa ‘Midnight’

Some plants can be nudged into a biennial life-cycle just by changing the sowing dates. Plants such as Calendula, Limnanthes and Nigella can be sown directly into the garden in late September, will germinate quickly in the warm soil and will then overwinter as young plants, flowering in April and May for instead of June, July and August. These plants are normally sold as hardy annuals for direct spring sowing. Give it a try and surprise yourself and your neighbours.
Whatever you grow now for your winter and spring garden, enjoy the surprises that these wonderful plants can give you.

Graham Porter

Graham Porter
I have worked in horticulture for the past 49 years and have become more involved with and concerned about the environmental impact that our profession has had on the world. I am married with 2 grown up children and 4 wonderful grandchildren. I am currently writing my first book that reflects my thoughts on gardening / horticulture in an environmentally friendly manner.

Gardening is great therapy

Summer greetings gardeners,

Hope you are all well. I have spent the last two weeks sitting in my garden everyday in hot sunshine, I’ve eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner on the patio with family and friends and I’m loving every minute of it.

I have a confession to make though, Mark and my mum have been doing the greenhouse duties for me. I have decided to be supervisor until I am stronger. Unfortunately not long after writing Mays blog I was struck with a medical emergency (not related to my heart condition) that put me in hospital for nine days. It also coincided with the hottest week of the year, a delivery of plants, and a build it yourself solar lighted trellis planter. Poor Mark would spend most of the day at the hospital with me, return home to feed himself and water the plants then rush back to the hospital to be with me. To be honest I don’t know how he and the plug plants, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, and numerous plant pots and hanging baskets survived.

Digitalis

Unfortunately, not all of the plants survived, I have lost my Banksia Hookerensia and most of my seedlings, apart from some mint and dill. The first thing I did when I came out of hospital was a garden inspection. I cried when I saw my wildlife border it was so pretty filled with poppies, foxgloves, corncockles and lupins. Then I tied in the eating peas and sweet peas.

The next day I asked mum to help with the new planter Mark had built one evening, that I had from Thompson & Morgan as I had nicotianas, sweetpeas, petunia, and a dwarf mallow that needed potting up, as well as the geraniums. Seeing all the failed germinated seedlings also made me sad, so I asked mum to empty the soil into the established outdoor pots rather than waste the compost.

Inside the little greenhouse I have the mint and dill, a few hebes that we have collected from around the garden and growing on so that we can make a new hedge, our aloe border and two cucamelons and a small pot of lettuce. At least Mark thinks they are, he can’t remember if they were them or the squashes as ‘they all looked the same”, he says.

Amanda's garden

In the big greenhouse we have the basils, aubergines, chillies, sweet peppers and tomatoes all romping away happily in the borders, there is possibly a cucamelon in there too. Mark has pinched out the tips on the tomatoes, but needs to get in there and cut back some of the stems. There are flowers forming on the trusses as well as tiny fruits.

Amanda's Garden

As I have had so many people back and forth to see me these last few weeks, I feel a bit of a fraud as my greenhouses are not looking their best. And it’s amazing how many people just want to have a look at what’s inside them. It a big compliment but dirty pots and clutter is not the look I wanted. As I said to mum I’ve never had such an empty small greenhouse in June. Sadly I can’t plan any seed sowing and growing at the moment as my illness means I will be going for surgery and possibly further treatments. It’s not fair to ask Mark or mum to look after the plants as well, as look after me. I’m just happy to watch the things we already have growing.

Amanda's Garden

Being part of the T&M social community has really helped
( Wendie and the rest of the team have been supportive too), because if I can’t get out into my own garden, I can read the other blogs or connect to their Facebook pages and look at photos of other people’s gardens. When I was in hospital my garden and greenhouses seemed to be calling for me to get better and get back out there. I so wanted to see the new planter and my potatoes and flowers and I even had a discussion with the Radiographer about how successful my aubergine seed germination was, he said his was terrible, we also discussed what else was thriving during a particularly painful procedure.

Amanda's Garden

My blogs might be on hold for a while as I have to concentrate on fighting my illness and getting stronger, but I promise you, if I am well enough to get into the garden, then I will be well enough to supervise Mark and write about our greenhouses once again, in the meantime, please keep posting your gardening endeavours – it really does cheer up my day.

Until next time,

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda xxx

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

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 www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk.

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.

Garden water features

If you want to make your garden the ultimate place to relax and unwind then you can do no better than to invest in a garden water feature.

Water features create a focal point in the garden that you garden plants can be centred around.

Water feature and planter & Wishing well water feature

Water feature and planter & Wishing well water feature

With a variety of styles to choose from, such as traditional to contemporary water features, there is something for every garden. Some even have additional features such as LED lights and a place for your flowers to be planted for extra colour and texture.

Many water features are now made from hard wearing polyester resin that will not rust or rot, lasting for many years.

Stone water feature & pebble water featureStone water feature & pebble water feature

Stone water feature & pebble water feature

Most water features are supplied with power leads and pumps and are easy to install. Once installed, all you need to do is switch the pump on with the outdoor cable and the submersible pump will circulate the water. Solar powered water features are also available.

Water features create a tranquil haven for birds and other wildlife in your garden and are a perfect alternative to birdbaths.

Jug water feature & tub water feature

Jug water feature & tub water feature

If you are lucky to have LED lights built into your water feature, you will be able to enjoy your water feature at night just as much as in the daytime, enjoying the ambience of running water whenever you want.

Wendie Alexander
Having just finished my English Degree at university I am excited to continue working for Thompson & Morgan where I have worked for more than 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

Top 10 new varieties in our autumn catalogue

Here is a selection of our favourite new varieties in the autumn catalogue. We have picked our top 10 just for you.

Clematis-'Picotee-Kiss'

Clematis ‘Picotee Kiss’

Clematis ‘Picotee Kiss’
One of the finest hardy clematis introductions in recent years, expect Clematis ‘Picotee Kiss’ to be a future classic. The dazzling pink picotee-edged blooms, each up to 15cm (6in) across, have amazed us on the trial ground, adorning the plants in abundance – once in spring and again in summer! Enjoy the first flush of blooms through May-June, then watch the plants flush into colour again though July- September. Each petal looks like a lipstick kiss! Be one of the first UK gardeners to cover walls, fences and trellis with the stand-out flowers of Clematis ‘Picotee Kiss’. Pruning group 2. Height: 2-3m (6.5-10ft).

Stenocarpus sinuata

Stenocarpus sinuata

Stenocarpus sinuata
One of Australia’s most spectacular trees now available in the UK! Despite the exotic flowers, the Firewheel Tree can be surprisingly adaptable to UK conditions. Many gardeners report getting this unusual exotic through our cold winters, but to ensure years of enjoyment we recommend moving it to a frost-free location over winter, particularly during the first few years in the garden. Thrives in full sun. Height: 2-2.5m (6.5-8ft).

Trachelospermum asiaticum 'Variegatum'

Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Variegatum’

Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Variegatum’
The creamy splashed, variegated foliage of this Asiatic Jasmine adds another dimension to an already handsome climbing specimen! and it becomes tinged with crimson in autumn, but – as it’s evergreen – stays on the plant! You’ll be knocked out by the potent fragrance of the twinkly little blooms too! Ideal for covering a trellis, pergola, arch or fence. Height: 3m (10ft).

Clematis 'Picotee Kiss'

Clematis ‘Picotee Kiss’

Cornus ‘Royal Red’
Flowering dogwoods have become a design staple in recent years, featuring heavily in RHS show gardens. They have gained a big following from garden designers and home gardeners alike. Be a trendsetter with this new red flowering version. Cornus ‘Royal Red’ produces a profusion of blushing ‘bracts’ around simple, nectar-laden blooms, which will draw butterflies from near and far. Height: 1.2-1.8m (6.5-8ft).

Viola 'Bunny Ears'

Viola ‘Bunny Ears’

Viola ‘Bunny Ears’
Cheeky little violas that retain that classic pansy face beneath unusually long ‘rabbit ear’ top petals. The compact plants are perfect for smaller containers or planting pockets in rockeries and borders – you can even set them in cracks in walls and paving. Despite their size these tidy viola plants pack a real floral punch, creating cushions of mounded colour in cool corners. Height: 20cm (8in).

Clematis 'Taiga'

Clematis ‘Taiga’

Clematis ‘Taiga’
The name will make you think ‘tiger’, but the blowsy double blooms shout “lion’s mane!” Clematis ‘Taiga’ is a real show off climber, producing countless blooms right through summer over a canvas of rich green foliage. Great for covering walls and fencing, this unusual clematis also suits patio container growing. It also looks great planted in a border and left to ramble through other plants in your display. Make Clematis ‘Taiga’ the king of your jungle this season! Pruning group 3. Height 2m (6.5ft).

Viola 'Plums & Peaches'

Viola ‘Plums & Peaches’

Viola ‘Plums & Peaches’
New colour blend. Pretty spring violas that carry on through summer if given shade. Try this seductive colour blend of friendly-faced violas in shady corners where other summer bedding fails to thrive. Height 20cm (8in).

Star Jasmine 'Pink Showers'

Star Jasmine ‘Pink Showers’

Star Jasmine ‘Pink Showers’
The first pink trachelospermum for UK gardeners. This pretty evergreen climber offers unique candy-pink star-shaped flowers with the same rich perfume we know and love. Star Jasmine ‘Pink Showers’ is perfect for large patio pots, grown up an obelisk or trained on trellis, and will thrive in borders against walls or fencing in sun/partial shade. We can only offer limited stocks this autumn, so make sure you’re at the front of the queue! Height: 3m (6.5-8ft).

Narcissus 'Butterfingers'

Narcissus ‘Butterfingers’

Narcissus ‘Butterfingers’
Large butter-yellow trumpets surrounded by creamy-white petals make this a choice selection for spring displays. Tall sturdy stems and good fragrance make Narcissus ‘Butterfingers’ an ideal early season cut flower. Bulb size 12/14. Height: 45cm (18in).

Camellia 'Night Rider'

Camellia ‘Night Rider’

Camellia ‘Night Rider’
A little shrub offering big impact! The size of most camellias rule them out for many gardeners, but everyone has the space to grow Camellia ‘Night Rider’. This compact form is one of the most exciting developments in camellia breeding for many years. Not only is it small in size, it also offers some of the darkest blooms in the genus. Velvety, cup-shaped, maroon flowers smother the glossy, evergreen foliage from February through April, bringing a contemporary look to container displays and mixed border plantings. For those with the space for mixed shrub displays, ‘Night Rider’ makes a perfect underplanting for larger rhododendron and camellia varieties. We have secured limited stock for the this season – order today to reserve your prized specimen! Height: 1.2m (4ft).

Wendie Alexander
Having just finished my English Degree at university I am excited to continue working for Thompson & Morgan where I have worked for more than 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

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