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!

Gardening in springtime

I am slightly behind with my blog this time, as after tests my husband Alan has been diagnosed with a rare cancer and the only hospital that deals with this in the South of England is St. Georges in London.  He is waiting for a date for an operation and will spend five days there.  Hopefully when all this is over we will be able to enjoy the summer, but I shall miss my right hand man in the garden for a while. He is already building my two tier and three tier stands, baskets and containers ready for me to fill, and checking the watering system we have in the front and back gardens.

Jean Willis' back garden

Jean’s back garden

The last storm of the winter ‘Katie’ managed to throw my containers and empty baskets about the garden yet again, including a large container full of daffodils which was very heavy because of the rain – I really can’t see the wind turning that over I thought although some of the daffodils were damaged which was a shame as they were really standing tall. My Andre Rieu tulips have already been out for a month and are really lovely, very straight. The petals opened gradually over the month and proved to be a long lasting tulip even through a snowstorm we had at the end of April. These have now finished flowering and the bulbs are drying off ready for planting later in the year.

Acer & tulips in the snow

Acer in the sun & tulips in the snow

The two greenhouses are full of plug plants which now that the warmer weather is here are really moving along nicely. I have kept them undercover at night because we have had some frosts – even in Bournemouth. There are  lots of garden ready plants to come by the end of May it will be really satisfying to see them all planted in baskets in the garden. The decision to buy some new containers was made as the new ones look a lot nicer and not so battered and faded.

Trough & decking in the snow

Trough & decking in the snow

I am trying something different this year and going to grow five Fuchsia Berry plants it looks quite interesting, and I am looking forward to seeing what the berries taste like when the time comes. I remember when I first grew a passionflower (the one that has an orange egg like fruit). I told Alan that if anything happened to me to tell everyone I had eaten it!  I didn’t know then that you could eat them at that time!
My Clematis ‘Josephine’ on the arch at the top of the garden has started  flowering with big flowers which appear to be green on some and green/pink on others.  I have been feeding them so hopefully they will soon be showing their normal colour pink.  Not sure why this happened though, very strange!
This year I decided to try and grow tomatoes from seed, ‘Akrom’ F1 never tried it before. I picked the three strongest plants and now they are growing nicely on the window sill. Thankfully the weather has turned warmer so will plant them in a grow bag outside. During the last week of April 27th to be exact we were treated to all sorts of weather including ‘Thundersnow’,  the heavier the snow the louder the thunder, very weird. It doesn’t appear to have damaged anything as it only lasted just over an hour. There are a couple of photos of the snow with the Andre Rieu tulips looking pretty and all covered in snow.

Four troughs in the back garden

Four troughs in the back garden

I have been asked to trial some unnamed fuchsias and bidens and also trailing antirrhinums.  At the time of writing they are doing very well; especially as we have had a week of really lovely weather. This weekend is forecast to be cold again, poor plants not sure whether to grow or not! I have already planted up my geraniums into a container with a trellis from Thompson & Morgan, I will train them on the trellis instead of trailing them.  I also planted out the Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’ and within a couple of days Wow! they flowered, and are very pretty too.  Also included in the photos is one of my acers with the morning sun on it looking really lovely this morning. This year I am using Thompson & Morgan incredicompost® I am very pleased with how easy it is to use with no bits and pieces in it like some compost. It usually takes me quite a few minutes taking the pieces of wood and bark out before I can use it but this time I didn’t have to do any of that. We will see how it goes, and I will keep you informed.

Thanks for reading see you next month all being well.  Jean.

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

So many plants, so little space!

The greenhouse is packed to the gunnels with plugs-in-waiting and half hardys. With the cold spell behind us, at least for now, at last I can start thinking about hardening some of them off. I’ve managed to plant the millions (well, 2 dozen actually) of sweet peas on the allotment, as well as some more tree lilies salvaged from the carnage created by slugs and snails. Half of the postiplug Minitunias have been demolished as well, so displays will be somewhat diminished sadly. I’ve received some surprise (as yet unnamed) trailling antirrhinums, bidens and fuchsias to trial though so hopefully they will compensate. It took three 50 litre bags of compost to refill the tomato trough, but at last I can transplant the Tutti Fruttis.

Fred the cat & chillies and curcumas

Fred the cat & chillies and curcumas

The salvias and cannas can be relocated to the shelter of the patio now, so I can set up the tubs for the cucamelons. I’ve got the T & M Incredibloom® and fuchsia plant food at the ready so there should be no excuse for a poor harvest. It’s Russian Roulette as to whether I remember to open the greenhouse door in the morning (think tropical rainforest) and then close it again in the evening (frozen waste). A friend once trapped a neighbour’s cat in hers overnight but I digress!

Caroline's overflowing greenhouse & ricinus

Caroline’s overflowing greenhouse & ricinus

The sunroom is crammed with the cucamelons, courgettes De Nice A Fruit Rond, patty pans and chillies, all fed and potted on into 4” pots, ready for planting into their final positions by end May. The curcumas and eucomis are finally emerging too. I’ve got several thriving hosta divisions wedged in behind the bin store in the front garden. The helianthus Lemon Queen, run riot in one of the containers on the roof terrace, has been dug out, split and potted on for our National Gardens Scheme Open Day Plant Sale, now currently residing between shed and greenhouse. David reckons if he stands still long enough I’ll plant him too!
Tulips in pots on the patio are coming into bloom in succession (more by luck than judgement), their leaves the object of a running buffet for my Oriental cat Fred. I can’t have New Guinea impatiens, begonias or hostas at ground level as he munches on them too. (Winky the Sphynx cat is partial to chives.) I’m getting impatient with the tulips now, even as I enjoy their riot of colour, as I am already planning their replacements: all those zingy T&M petunias and bidens in waiting!

Tulips & more tulips

Tulips & more tulips

I did treat myself to some T & M perennials as well this summer. Brunnera Alexander’s Great are said to grow far bigger than Jack Frost, so we will see in due course. Following the success of Digitals Illumination I’ve also bought new Ruby Slippers. But my most anticipated plant so far this spring is the Ricinus communis Impala. The four seedlings are romping away, their leaves and stems already deep red. I shall plant one in the raised bed out front with melianthus major, grasses & ferns for an architectural effect, and one in the island Prairie bed out back combined with (yet more) grasses, thalictrum, angelica & eupatorium. But my Piece de Resistance (or dramatic flop) will be planting up the kadhai (won in a prize draw at GROW London last year and an unwanted eyesore ever since) with ricinus as a centre piece surrounded by fiery red hot pokers and cannas, on the roof terrace. It will probably end up looking like a sacrificial altar – hope it doesn’t frighten the neighbours!

Hanging basket habits revealed

Thompson & Morgan survey reveals nation’s habits when it comes to summer hanging baskets

Love them or loathe them, nothing sets up the garden for summer like a vibrant display of hanging baskets. As the UK’s leading mail order supplier of seasonal basket plants, Thompson & Morgan has surveyed the nation’s gardeners to see how they use them to best effect in their garden, with some interesting findings.

Highlights include:
•   Red is the nation’s favourite basket flower colour
•   Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ named best basket plant
•   Begonias, fuchsias and petunias hold the top slots but….
•   60% of gardeners are planning to try something new in their summer baskets this year
•   Hanging basket numbers per garden ranged from 1 to 28, but the average is 5.4 per plot
•   15% of gardening households don’t include hanging baskets in their summer displays

Begonia 'Apricot Shades' & Begonia 'Lotto Mixed'

Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ & Begonia ‘Lotto Mixed’

Hanging baskets are all about showing off and adding colour to the garden scene, so Thompson & Morgan was keen to identify the nation’s favourite floral basket shades. When gardeners were invited to take the Thompson & Morgan online survey this spring, the top three flower colours were red (24%), purple (22%) and pink (17%). Just 5% prefer white flowers, and while only 10% chose yellow and 9% orange, Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ received the most mentions as a favourite hanging basket plant, with trailing begonias, petunias and fuchsias in general filling the top slots.

Petunia 'Night Sky' & Begonia 'Illumination Mixed'

Petunia ‘Night Sky’ & Begonia ‘Illumination Mixed’

The survey findings reveal that the majority of basket gardeners use just two or three flower colours in their basket displays (38%), with only 9% sticking to one colour. 26% go all out with a riot of mixed colour in their baskets, while 27% of respondents said they employ a combination of single colours, duos, trios and mixes across their various baskets.

Hanging baskets seem to be the place for gardeners to experiment with new plants, with over 60% looking to try something different in their displays this summer. Thompson & Morgan sales analysis shows that the new edible Fuchsia Berry and the unusually speckled Petunia ‘Night Sky’ are stand out ‘experimental’ basket options for customers this season.

Petunia 'Frills & Spills™ Mixed' & Fuchsia 'Trailing Mixed'

Petunia ‘Frills & Spills™ Mixed’ & Fuchsia ‘Trailing Mixed’

Tastes in basket style are fast changing too, with just 13 per cent opting for traditional moss-lined wire baskets. Coir matting is now the preferred option for lining older style baskets, but 45% of respondents said they had no need for basket liners as they now use pre-lined wicker baskets or plastic Easy Fill Baskets that need no lining at all. These were also chosen for their durability and ease of planting and upkeep through the season.

Only 36% of basket gardeners have tried fruit or vegetables in their hanging displays, despite many edible plants being suitable for baskets. For those that do grow their own this way, strawberries, tomatoes and mixed herbs were the most common planting option, but the new edible Fuchsia Berry and basket Blackberry ‘Black Cascade’ look set to shake things up.

Fuchsia Berry & Blackberry 'Black Cascade'

Fuchsia Berry & Blackberry ‘Black Cascade’

Gardeners are savvy about the benefits of regular deadheading of basket plants to promote more flowers and extend the life of their baskets – Just 1% admitted to never deadheading, saying life is too short. But 31% dead head their basket plants on a weekly basis, and 29 % do it daily. 23% deadhead twice a week, leaving 15 percent to do it “when remembered”.

Thompson & Morgan’s survey also threw up some interesting findings when it comes to the nation’s use of winter and spring hanging baskets, to be revealed soon.

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

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