I can’t wait for spring!

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', 'Peach Sundae' and Begonia 'Garden Angels'

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'

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 ‘Rainbow Blend’ 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

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

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……..

Take a tour of our petunias with Michael Perry

“We’ve really pushed out the boat with our new Petunia introductions this year, and it now means there’s a Petunia for almost any part of the garden! So, let’s take a bit of a tour…

Right outside your backdoor, there’s room for a few terracotta pots filled with some of the newest and most colourful petunias! Mix and match with varieties such as ‘Green with Envy’, new ‘Cloud Nine’ and super scented ‘Anna’! Or, for something really indulgent and show-off, try ‘Black Night’, with jet-black, velveteen blooms! Also, for little pots, try Calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’, with its sprawling habit, with blooms a lot smaller than a standard petunia, but boy there’s a lot more of them!

 

Petunias 'Green With Envy', 'Cloud nine' and 'Anna'

Petunias ‘Green With Envy’, ‘Cloud nine’ and ‘Anna’

 

Then, look up, where Petunia ‘Surfinia’ is trying to escape the hanging baskets like Rapunzel letting down her hair! ‘Surfinia’ offer some of the longest trailing stems in the business, and is actually one of the best known petunias IN THE WORLD! For something a bit more ‘designer’, try out ‘Peach Sundae’. The flowers change colour from yellow to peach, with a myriad of shades in-between!

 

Petunias 'Black Night', Calibrachoa 'Crackerjack' and Petunia 'Surfinia'

Petunias ‘Black Night’, Calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’ and Petunia ‘Surfinia’

 

So, imagine you’re starting to walk down your garden, and you’ve got some borders by the path to fill. Why not plant a ground-covering variety that would make a low, billowing hedge! Step forward ‘Tidal Wave’! Although we often promote this as a climbing variety, the vigorous habit means it can also be used for carpeting. Don’t underestimate the sugary fragrance of each bloom either!

 

Petunias 'Peach Sundae', 'Tidal Wave' and 'Art Deco'

Petunias ‘Peach Sundae’, ‘Tidal Wave’ and ‘Art Deco’

 

Then, if you really want to show off petunias in your borders, why not plant up some of the very new and very shiny, ‘Art Deco’! Each bloom is a work of art, and the plants are well-behaved in the border too, rounded and compact, with so many blooms you can’t see the foliage…!”

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

My love of petunias

Petunia Hanging Basket

Petunia Hanging Basket

I love petunias, they are so bright and colourful and make beautiful displays in hanging baskets and containers.  I use mainly baskets and containers in my garden which are displayed on my decking at the front of my house during the summer.

This year I wanted to do something different with the petunias.  Our local football team AFC Bournemouth had been promoted to the Premier League so I decided to do something in their honour.  I have a stand with three baskets, small, medium and large which stands by my front door.  The Bournemouth colours are black and red so I bought some red double petunias and was able to find some single black petunias which looked just like velvet.  I planted them and stood back to await the results.  Bournemouth Football club sent me a digital photo of their emblem which I enlarged and put in the window at the side of the petunias.  It caused interest amongst neighbours especially those who were supporters including two of my grandchildren.  As you see on the photo I had a hanging basket with the same petunias in just to the right of the stand and they ended up in growing together.

AFCBournemouthcolours

AFCBournemouthcolours

I also grew some very different petunias, a cerise colour with very light leaves which really showed up the colour of the flower and lasted for most of the summer.  Another idea I had was to grow red, white and blue petunias for the fence baskets which worked out very well, and also a red, white and blue triple hanging basket.  Red in the top, white in the middle and blue in the bottom basket.

I have also had success with growing petunias in hanging bags but have learnt from previous disappointments that when I have planted up the bag is to leave it lying flat until they are settled. This seemed to work much better for me this year.   I really like the new kind of petunia which graduates from white in the centre to a deeper colour middle to top of the flower.   A couple of years ago I tried some climbing petunias – Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’ – which were very successful.

Petunia in hanging bag

Petunia in hanging bag

Of course it hasn`t all been success, I got up one morning only to find that the dripper from the watering system had fallen out of one of the baskets and the strong winds we had dried it out completely.   Although I tried very hard to save it I wasn`t able to, and another basket this happened to, I had to cut them right back, soaked it in a bucket of water and in about a month they were all flowering again, so at 77 I still have to ‘live and learn`!

This year I bought some petunias called Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’ they were beautiful shades of yellow, orange and peach.  They lasted throughout the whole summer no matter what the weather did, including some torrential rain and hailstones but after a few days they all just bounced back again.

Petunia 'Peach Sundae'

Petunia ‘Peach Sundae’

I am now wondering which petunias I shall plant for this coming year?  Roll on summer I say.

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.

Growing petunias

Growing petunias – Our blogger Hannah gives some helpful hints and tips

Growing Petunias will provide sunny positions in your garden with months of colour. They are one of the easiest summer bedding plants to grow; with a few tips they will look stunning in your sunny seasonal displays!

Petunias are easy to grow from both seeds and plugs. However, plugs will provide an established plant in a much shorter time. If growing from seed, sow around 10 weeks before you want to get them outside. Petunias can be planted into your chosen container as soon as we say goodbye to the spring frosts.

With many weather resistant varieties now available, they are much more tolerable to rain. In addition to this, breeding of new varieties has developed climbing petunias such as our own Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’. This exclusive double flowering Petunia grows rapidly and produces a tower of purple once established on a frame.

Petunia 'Purple Rocket'

Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’

Petunias love the sun so place in a bright place in the garden and the plants will flourish.

If planting in containers, mix in a fertiliser such as Incredibloom into the compost when planting.   The high potassium content will boost the plants nutrients and ensure prolific flowering throughout the season.

In order to help the plants last throughout the season, deadheading is vital. Petunias produce so many flowers, that the seed will naturally follow. As the plant is putting all energy into producing seed, it doesn’t make so many new flowers. In order to keep the plants in top condition, removing the faded flowers will help the plant make new buds and keep it to a good shape before it gets too leggy.  Some varieties will benefit from pinching early to keep a nice bushy shape to the plant, particularly in baskets or pouches. Ensure the flower is pinched back close to the stem, removing the whole part of the flower. If only the petal is removed the plant will continue to produce seed.

Petunia 'Stars In Their Eyes'

Petunia ‘Stars In Their Eyes’

It is also important to not let the plants dry out, as this will slow growth. Keep the container moist at all times, however keep the balance and don’t let the plants ‘sit’ too wet. When watering, try to avoid getting the petals wet as this will prolong the life of the flowers.

Keep an eye out for pests and diseases on your plants. Aphids camouflage very well onto the colour of petunia leaves! If you can take action as soon as you see them as they distort the new buds. Later in the season, powdery mildew can sometimes become a problem with the British weather. If you have any bicarbonate of soda in your baking cupboard, mix a solution of 10gm of bicarbonate of soda per litre of water and spray onto the affected area.

Assistant Nursery & Site Manager

Getting the most from your petunias

 

Extend your flowering season and keep your petunias in top condition with these simple tips from T&M gardening expert Kris Collins

Petunias are something I turn to every spring in order to get my garden ready for summer. I couldn’t be without them in my hanging baskets. Trailing types, covered in their mass of fragrant trumpet blooms, such as Petunia ‘Easy Wave Ultimate Mixed’, are perfect for getting that luxurious feel to your summer garden.

Petunia 'Easy Wave Ultimate Mixed'

Petunia ‘Easy Wave Ultimate Mixed’

Most commonly used in container displays, there are actually many varieties that lend well to border plantings too, creating a carpet of colour, while smothering soils to prevent weeds and trap moisture.

Petunias require very little specialist upkeep. As long as you are prepared to water regularly and remove spent flowers as they go over you’ll be in for a season of scent and colour right though to autumn.

Get the best from your petunias, no matter the variety, with my top tips for success:

 

Choose the right variety for the right location

When it comes to getting the best from your petunias the first thing to consider is where you want to grow them. Grandiflora types such as Petunia ‘Titan Blue Velvet’ are best saved for basket and container displays – the large blooms are better shown off at height, and will be less prone to weather damage and mud splash. For a show stopping petunia bedding display, multiflora types including Petunia ‘Frenzy Mixed’ are the best option. They have smaller flowers and more of them, creating a carpet of colour that will shrug off a summer shower.

Petunia-'titan-blue-velvet'

petunia-‘titan-blue-velvet’

Water regularly
Watering is key – in height of summer you may need to water containers and baskets twice a day, but at least every other day in an average British summer. For those that work long hours  and have less time for watering, it’s a good idea to move  petunia hanging baskets and small containers to a shady spot during heatwave conditions, keeping them out of the afternoon sun until you can get home to give them a drink. Alternatively invest in an auto watering system to reduce your workload and keep your baskets evenly moist.

 

 

Deadhead faded blooms
Remove spent flowers as often as possible – don’t just clear away spent petals, make sure to remove the flower stalk otherwise seed pods will form, the plant will then think it has achieved its objective and flowering will start to reduce.

Petunia 'Frenzy Mixed'

Petunia ‘Frenzy Mixed’

Feeding
We’ve seen some excellent results with petunias in our technical trials for Incredibloom. Our one-off granular feed, applied at planting time to soils or composts, encourages up to 400% more blooms and provides everything your plants need for up to 7months – covering the whole growing season.

Early training
Pinch out during early stages of growth, do this two or three times before planting out to encourage side shooting. This will lead to much more compact plants with many more flowers throughout the season

Late training
By mid August, some petunia varieties may start to look a little tired and straggly. To encourage a second strong flush of blooms to last well into autumn, cut the whole display back by a third and offer a general purpose liquid feed. Within a week or so the plants will start to bush out again and fresh new flowers will soon follow. Within 2 weeks – just in time for your August Bank Holiday garden parties the display will again be in full bloom with no sign that it has been pruned.

Starting from seed
If growing from seed aim to sow plants 10-12 weeks ahead of safe planting. So if you are generally safe to start planting out bedding plants in your area from the 1st week of June, aim to sow your seeds in the first week of March. I’ll be looking at sowing petunias in more detail before then, so stay tuned.

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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