Pottering on regardless

I am sitting looking out at the rain searching for inspiration. If another person says to me, “…but all this rain is good for the garden” I shall not be responsible for my actions. I have become obsessed with on-line weather forecasting sites, checking them morning, noon and night, going from one to another if I don’t like what I see, but they remain remarkably accurate! So let’s get the moaning over and done with shall we: Rose buds are all balled, saturated shrubs are drooping over the underplanting cutting out all the light, hanging baskets are limp. I can’t remember the last time I sat outside and admired the view, and worst of all I dread having to do tasks that I usually enjoy, like deadheading and just fiddling about.

Tomato 'Tutti Frutti' & Rose 'For Your Eyes Only'

Tomato ‘Tutti Frutti’ & Rose ‘For Your Eyes Only’

Right that’s enough of that then! According to theory we still have July, August, September and even October to enjoy summer before it all starts going downhill. I still have gaps in the borders to fill with new discoveries. I don’t have to keep watering the allotment and it’s a good job I couldn’t be bothered to shade paint the greenhouse – the automatic night light actually comes on when I enter during the day! In all truth the garden looks amazing, flowering away to itself, a far cry from the normal mid-season slump. OK maybe a little less colour but certainly the most verdant high summer I can remember.

Rose 'For Your Eyes Only' & selection of begonias

Rose ‘For Your Eyes Only’ & selection of begonias

Cordon Tomato ‘Tutti Frutti’ are very well behaved, hardly any side shoots, trusses forming evenly and since David ran wire supports around the apex of the greenhouse roof I have been able to train them vertically. Last year they kept turning right and climbing out of the automatic window and then getting chopped off when it shut. Despite their delicate appearance cucamelons are scrambling away with tiny fruits forming all over.  No sign of any insects either (too cold!)

 

Petunia 'Cremissimo' & Petunia 'Mandevilla'

Petunia ‘Cremissimo’ & Petunia ‘Mandevilla’

By some miracle the afternoon of our NGS Open Day was dry, we raised nearly £1000 and welcomed 130 visitors. The roses were spectacular, Rose ‘For Your Eyes Only’ being the star of the show.(Good job too as virtually nothing else had come into flower yet.) This year we allowed visitors access to the roof terrace as the grasses and tall perennials created privacy for our neighbours. (You get a good view the church spire – and the small bit of wasteland adjacent to our garden which I wish I had bought from next door when I had the chance.) A guest suggested that we should have some seating up there so David is building a chest out of decking with storage for hanging baskets and such like in the winter. The surrounding canopies of Plum ‘Victoria’ and apple tree have created such shelter that it’s virtually 100% secluded. With the fridge underneath in the Man Shed there is no excuse not to enjoy a drink à deux one of these days.
We usually get through about eight cakes on the Open Day but for some strange reason this year cake upon cake kept arriving from supportive neighbours and friends; we had two gluten frees and even a lactose free. Shop bought cake will be spotted a mile off and reviled.  (It’s a funny thing but there is a lot of cake rivalry amongst fellow Garden Openers you know!) If we didn’t do teas I don’t think anyone would come.

Petunia 'Mandevilla' & Digitalis 'Illumination Ruby Slippers'

Petunia ‘Mandevilla’ & Digitalis ‘Illumination Ruby Slippers’

Trial results of this summer’s annuals vary greatly to date. Petunia ‘Mandevilla’ flowers are spectacular and bounce back after the rain and their stalks are long and robust so are easy to snap off. Petunia ‘Cremissimo’ is very dainty, but every single minitunia Calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Terracotta’ has been eaten by snails. Bidens ‘BeeDance Painted Red’ looks really good with Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’. But with so little sunshine (she’s moaning again) the gingers, eucomis, fuchsias and cannas are almost static. I’m so glad that I planted loads of ferns and heucheras on the patio as they are thriving. Even the hostas and begonias are still in one piece as our herbivore cat Fred is too rain-phobic to venture outside, preferring to laze all day in the sunroom with his harem, watching the return of the door mice and the toing and froing of the blackbirds nesting in the viburnum.

Caroline's cats having a really hard life & Fred doing what Fred does best - nothing!!

Caroline’s cats having a really hard life & Fred doing what Fred does best – nothing!!

The nasturtiums have covered the living wall by our front door and the strawberries in the single column on the opposite side are starting to fruit; David’s observation that “those plants look just like strawberries” is a testament to his horticultural knowledge. But then again I should have realised what I was letting myself in for – when we first started creating the garden I asked him what colour he liked the least, he did say green!
So having taken stock, after all, I think the garden will cope with whatever the weather throws at it. By mid-July I shall be revving up for our next NGS Open Day 31st July but for another couple of weeks I intend to relax and potter about as much as I can. Happy gardening to one and all!

Thompson & Morgan Blog: July 2016

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.

So Much To Do – So Little Time

I hate gardening! Our 18 year old acer Bloodgood has died; it resided in a huge terracotta planter on the patio so replacing it will be disruptive and expensive. Melianthus major, focal point of the hot border, followed in its footsteps (rootsteps?) shortly after. Digging that up was no joke (so why are you all laughing?) The root ball was solid with finger thick roots that had anchored themselves under all neighbouring perennials, so the whole lot had to come out and be replanted afterwards. Then a branch of our ancient lilac came down in the recent windy spell, straight across the barbecue (could have been worse, we might even have wanted to use it this summer). Finally I discovered that the potting tray containing my own mix of compost, water retaining gel and T&M incredibloom® had become a giant litter tray! Oh joy.

Brunnera 'Alexander's Great' & Fred having an identity crisis!

Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’ & Fred having an identity crisis!

Still, the hanging baskets have all been planted up, with four extras in dappled shade: two on the patio combining ipomoeas with T&M begonias, and two in the fernery with hostas (how do those snails manage to get up there?), heucheras and some lovely as-yet-unnamed T&M trial bidens. Very impressive bidens they are too; within four weeks their 9cm pots were full of roots. These compact plants are already in flower, their delicate white petals blushed with pale pink, belying their robust form.

Petunia 'Mandevilla' & Cucamelons on the go!

Petunia ‘Mandevilla’ & Cucamelons on the go!

So now that all the baskets are planted up – Crazytunia Mandevilla and Bidens Bee Dance Painted Red already in flower – I can concentrate on the greenhouse crops. Tutti Frutti cordon tomatoes are in the raised bed. Shame I didn’t realise that they came in three different varieties; I’ll just have to wait and see which is which! Chillies have gone in with them to maximise space. The canes supporting the three cucamelon vines are not going to be sufficient so David is going to rig up some mesh for them and whilst he’s at it he can put up some wires for the cucumbers I have yet to plant (David are you reading this?) It’s only an 8ft x 4ft structure, not Kew Gardens, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

Digitalis 'Ruby Slippers'

Digitalis ‘Ruby Slippers’

Ricinus are in! One in the kadai on the roof terrace, surrounded by Canna Durban and blood grasses, one in prairie border and one in the front garden, amongst other architectural plants melianthus major (son of deceased), filipendula and contorted hazel. Very directional I must say!
Courgettes de Nice a Fruit Rond, courgette Soleil and Patti Pans Summer Mix have been planted on the allotment. I’ve taken no chances after last year’s initial fiasco of the disappearing crops (the dreaded mollusc again) so they each have a T&M tomato auto waterer collaring them as well as slug pellets, and I’ve kept back a couple of spare plants just in case.

Flaming Kadai & unnamed bidens

Flaming Kadai & unnamed bidens

Oh, and then there’s the small matter of our NGS Open Day on 12th June. Never mind the borders! All hands are on deck baking cakes, putting up signage, distributing leaflets and London Guides. Volunteers, raffle and children’s treasure hunt to be organised, plants for sale labelled and colour coded by price point. The living wall, nicknamed the dying wall due to an unfortunate misjudgement regarding the watering system, has to be replanted, so I’ll fill it with nasturtiums for a quick fix.  T & M nasturtium Phoenix seeds are popping up all over the roof terrace but no time to grow more from seed; it’ll have to be a case of Instant Gardening at this late stage.
Oh well back to the grindstone. How I love gardening!

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