Preparing for the new gardening season

Today Alan (my Husband) has put my 4 foot portable greenhouse up after being stored away for the past 8 months since it was last used. I also have a 2 foot one which just fits nicely together alongside the 4 foot one, close by the kitchen door and will be erected as the first one fills up.   You will see from the photograph that Alan has made a bracket which is fitted to the front of both greenhouses and screwed into the wall, following an unfortunate experience last year when on a very rough day it lifted the greenhouse up together with all the plants! This seems to work very well now against strong winds. Updated 8th February: We have had storm Imogen whistle through today with winds of 60-70 mph here on the South Coast of Bournemouth and thankfully my greenhouse is still standing.

I also have a hexagonal greenhouse which will be near Alan`s workshop. The last two years have been unable to use it as the zip had broken and I was unable to get another cover. Towards the end of last year I managed to find a new one, so now it will used this year for extra room until the plants are big enough to be put in their baskets and containers.

Jean's Greenhouse, chains and shoehanger

Jean’s Greenhouse, chains and shoehanger

A lot of the flowers from last summer seem to have continued flowering through the last three months. Some of the Diascia in the hanging basket just keep going on and on. Erysimum, the everlasting wallflower has been in flower and is still has more flowers to come.

The bulbs that were planted last October in containers have several daffodils which have been flowering since just after Christmas and at the time of writing (the beginning of February) I have tulips in bud, although to be honest it could be a few days before they will flower and then only if the weather warms up and the sun comes out. Until 10 days ago my Lantana was still flowering, we had a very hard frost one night and it was `goodbye` to them. The Eucomis (pineapple lily plant) is shooting well, so have covered it with some new compost in case we get another hard frost.

Jean's Bumblebee Hyacinth, Magnolia 'Susan' and Hyacinth

Jean’s Bumblebee Hyacinth, Magnolia ‘Susan’ and Hyacinth

I have also been sorting out my hanging baskets – do I really have that many? A friend who has moved into a flat gave me some of the original terracotta easy fill plastic baskets, large and also smaller ones which hold six plants round the outside and three or four plants in the top. I have also cleared space for my Incredicompost® which is on order from Thompson and Morgan and is due within the next week, and the first plants should be arriving towards the end of March.   This year I have also purchased two new computer timers for our watering system, the old ones finally gave up and weren`t reliable.

Spring looked as if it had come a little early a couple of days ago. My hyacinths from Thompson & Morgan were in full flower and had been left in the porch with the door open as it was a sunny day. I found three huge bumble bees fighting over the hyacinths one of which had nestled itself right into the flowers. The Magnolia Stellata has one flower out so far, a little early, but still very welcome.

Jean's Erysium, Daffodils and Geraniums

Jean’s Erysium, Daffodils and Geraniums

At the end of each day when I have finished with my gardening tools, I like to clean them with a rag and spray them with a well-known lubricant oil which keeps the tools from getting rusty and always ready for use. In my small shed I have an old shoe hanger where all the small tools, trowel, hand fork etc. are kept. All the chains for the hanging baskets hang on the inside the door and are sprayed with the same lubricant as the tools at the end of the season for protection during the winter. Now if only I could keep my kitchen that tidy…I guess something has to give when you love your garden! Until the next time…Happy Gardening!

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.

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 ‘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

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!

Size does matter: Thompson & Morgan sees shift in customer buying patterns

Busy gardeners looking for easy solutions boost Garden Ready plant sales for mail order giant

Sales of Thompson & Morgan Garden Ready plug plants have nearly tripled in the past season as gardeners look for time saving products alongside value for money. It seems gardeners still want the financial benefits of buying young plants instead of mature plants, but without the hassle of potting up and growing on before planting out.

T&M vs Competitiors Garden Ready

T&M vs Competitiors Garden Ready

 

The mail order seed and plant specialist supplied more than 4 million Garden Ready bedding plants to UK gardeners in 2015. When asked if they would be buying them again in a satisfaction survey powered by Typeform, 96 per cent said they would be back for more in spring 2016, giving the concept a 5 star rating for quality on arrival and performance in the garden.

 

The new plant sizing bridges the gap between traditional small mail order plug plants and larger retail pack bedding. Small enough to be produced and mailed as plug plants but big enough to rival and exceed pack plant performance, Garden Ready plants represent the perfect balance between convenience and value for money.

 

Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, says the over-sized Garden Ready plants bring many benefits in comparison to smaller plugs and larger pack plants: “Our Garden Ready bedding plants are selected and grown to give our customers the best possible performance in the garden, we send them direct from the nursery at the perfect time for planting, usually before blooms form, for quicker establishment, better root growth and flowering, and a longer, stronger display.”

Garden-Ready-Plant

Garden-Ready-Plant

 

Unlike smaller plug plant offerings sent early in the season, which remain popular with Thompson & Morgan customers who prefer a more hands on approach to their gardening, the Garden Ready plants are despatched from May onwards, already hardened off for immediate planting – just watch out for late frosts.

 

Launching the concept in 2014, the mail order specialist supplied 1.5million Garden Ready Plants to customers in the first year. That figure nearly trebled in 2015, with 4,020,000 plants sent out during the busy spring and autumn despatch windows. Expecting strong demand to continue in 2016, Thompson & Morgan is putting more varieties into Garden Ready production with 44 bestselling seasonal bedding varieties now in the range.

 

Petunia Easy Wave

Petunia’ Easy Wave’

Despite 94 per cent of customers rating garden ready as value for money, Thompson & Morgan is seeking to make these premium plugs even more economical in 2016 with a range of multi-buy deals. One 30-plant pack retails at £14.99 but three packs can be had for just £35. Customers buying three packs will also receive a £5 voucher for their next Thompson & Morgan purchase. Catering for gardeners working on bigger plots, bumper 120- and 360-plant collections have also been developed, which will take prices down to just 27p per plant for the 2016 season.

 

Gardeners can take part in Thompson & Morgan’s next big survey for a chance to win a 30 pack of Garden Ready plants, 2 x Easy Fill Hanging Baskets and 25 litres of incredicompost, together worth £45. Five lucky winners will be selected at random from entries received before 31 March 2016.

Visit www.thompson-morgan.com/hanging-basket-survey to take part

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.

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.

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