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’
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’
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’
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’
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.
Innovative Egg & Chips® plant makes the finals in two of gardening’s most prestigious floral awards
Thompson & Morgan is celebrating a second time in as many weeks, following the industry success of its latest dual cropping creation, Egg & Chips®.
The innovative potato and aubergine graft has been well received by all sectors of the industry and customers alike, with strong sales in its first season on the market. Already an announced finalist in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year, the Ipswich-based seed and plant specialist has just been informed that Egg & Chips® has also been shortlisted as one of the five finalists in the prestigious Fleuroselect Fleurostar awards.
Egg & Chips®
Traditionally a bedding plant event, organisers where so impressed with the unique attributes of Egg & Chips® that it is being pitted against four new floral creations in this year’s ceremony; Argyranthemum ‘Grandaisy’, Dahlia x hybrida ‘Dahlegria Red Yellow Bicolor’, Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Capitán Colón’ and Begonia hybrid ‘Miss Malibu’.
Thompson & Morgan new product development manager, Michael Perry said; “We’re really pleased to see recognition being given to this very special creation. Previous finalists of these two prestigious awards, such as Petunia ‘Night Sky’ and Viburnum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’, have gone on to become top-sellers for the industry, so expect to see Egg & Chips® widely grown on allotments, patios and gardens across the UK. Our recent focus on dual cropping vegetable plants has opened up home growing to everyone. Both our Egg & Chips® and Tomtato® plants allow home grown crops to be produced in the smallest of spaces. As long as you have room for a large patio pot, you have the space to grow your own potatoes and aubergines or potatoes and tomatoes.”
Egg & Chips®
Michael says these quirky plants could be the answer to encouraging the next generation of gardeners too. He adds: “These plants really capture the imagination of children. Grow Egg & Chips® with your kids or grandkids this summer and see their amazement as they harvest large shiny aubergines from the top and a crop of large white potatoes from the pot below.”
Egg & Chips®
The FleuroStar Contest will be held at nine locations in The Netherlands and Germany as part of the annual Flower Trials open days. More than 30 professionals working in plant breeding, production and retail, as well as trade journalists and marketing specialists, will choose the ‘Winner with the Wow Factor’ based on the highest average score on commercial potential and point of sale attractiveness. The winner will be announced on 16th June at the Green Inspiration Event at RAI Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Egg and Chips® can be grown outside in a sunny sheltered spot and will crop right through to the first frosts of autumn – even longer if you can bring the pot indoors later in the season. So there is still time to grow Egg & Chips® this season. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com and search ‘Egg & Chips®’ to order yours.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been a guiding figure in the UK’s gardening community since it was founded in 1804. The RHS has been at the forefront of horticultural practice, research and education ever since. The RHS was founded on principles of encouraging and improving the science, art and practice of horticulture in all its diversity.
The main aim of the RHS was to provide a repository of horticultural knowledge for the general improvement of the country. Now the leading gardening charity in the UK, the RHS is dedicated to helping people share their passion for plants, and encouraging excellence in horticulture.
Aubergine ‘Bonica’ & Broccoli ‘Red Fire’ F1 Hybrid
Thompson & Morgan (T&M) has been in the business of horticultural practice for nearly as long as the RHS. T&M began trading in 1855, also to provide excellence for the horticultural community. The aim of the company is to provide quality and innovative products; incorporated with the valuable knowledge needed to educate customers to grow their own produce successfully.
By providing quality products, T&M has become one of the leading horticultural companies in the market place today, frequently winning medals and honours for gardening excellence, especially from their customers, who are always happy to champion their favourite company.
Carrot ‘Primo’ & Dwarf Bean ‘Sonesta’
T&M, just like the RHS, wants to achieve gardening excellence and so the Royal Horticultural Society has given its seal of approval by endorsing a range of T&M seeds. These seeds all have the Award of Garden Merit, which means each plant is expected to perform under a variety of strict requirements. Such as excellent for ordinary use in an everyday setting, availability, of good constitution, essentially stable in form and colour and needs to be reasonably resistant to pests and diseases.
The extensive range of seeds include the staples of British vegetable growing. From the delicious Aubergine ‘Bonica’ to Radish ‘Mars’ F1 Hybrid with the range including everything else in-between. Along with this large range of seeds is a range of the RHS Kids’ Collection.This collection includes a fantastic range of fun seeds for kids to grow. The Cress Extra Curled will have the children excited about growing their own food, and the Snake Gourd is an amazing looking gourd to delight the youngsters.
RHS Kids Collection Carrots & Runner Beans
The Royal Horticultural Society and Thompson & Morgan have brought another great improvement to the gardening world, with extensive trials over the years both have worked hard to bring the gardener a crop they can rely on and which includes the latest in horticultural breeding.
Well, what a year it has been for us at Thompson & Morgan. Each year is never complete without its ups and downs, and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Spring in particular is our busiest time of year, but it is also the most valuable for us as a business. We learn about areas which we need to improve on and your feedback is incredibly valuable to us, good or bad. You, our valued customers, help us to offer you a fantastic service. That aside, I just wanted to go back to a few funny, emotional, hard, but most importantly memorable times we have had over the past year.
2015 was the year of the fuchsia where we celebrated this much loved garden favourite with the Fuchsia Festival. We had a calendar of online activities including top growing advice from our experts, exciting blogs from customers and staff and on top of that, we added a further 20 new fuchsia varieties to our online range.
Chelsea centrepiece fit for a Queen
Did you read about this in the news? This year, there was a chance that Her Majesty The Queen was going to visit the Fresh gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but there was a gaping hole where the centre piece was meant to be. The team at Fernando Gonzalez Garden Design was missing its’ star plant when UK stocks of our Digitalis ‘Illumination Apricot’ failed to flower in time for display in the Pure Land Foundation Garden.
We stepped in to widen the search, calling on growers across Europe. Plants in perfect bloom were quickly tracked down at a nursery outside Barcelona, Spain, more than 1,500km from us. Without hesitation, I embarked on a 3,000km round trip to collect the plants and ensure they were safely in the garden at the time of build. For more info take a read about my mad dash (includes security checks with a large box of plants, broken fixtures on the plane and plant selfies!)
Not forgetting the potato exhibit we sponsored at Chelsea that won gold – the first ever potato display to win gold at Chelsea in the shows 150 year history.
Brightening up Suffolk Stations
Aiming to brighten the daily commute for Ipswich locals, we decorated train stations around Suffolk with 24 large hanging baskets filled with our customer favourite Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’.
We teamed up with Activgardens to get the baskets ready for their display back in June, donating all the plants, baskets, compost and feed needed to get the job done. The local charity, part of ActivLives, operates in the walled garden at Chantry Park, stepped up to the mark and grew magnificent baskets. We had tweets coming in from all around Suffolk, showing us the view of our baskets during their commute.
A fool too far?
Every year we try to come up with our best fool yet, and this year I think we managed just that! We created the Bridge in Bloom, 160 hanging baskets were set along each side of the Orwell Bridge in Ipswich, creating two 1,237m swathes of spring colour above the River Orwell.
One customer said;
We all wished it was real, what a magnificent sight that would be!
Thompson & Morgan trials at Jimmys Farm
In previous years, our Thompson & Morgan open day drew thousands of keen gardeners to our trial grounds here in Ipswich. Unfortunately, due to the large number of attendants and health & safety, we could no longer hold them on site. This year, we were able to team up with Jimmy’s Farm to showcase our magnificent trials to customers once again.
Over a thousand containers and many large flower beds injected colour to the activities at the farm, and the garden was open for free for customers to enjoy all week throughout summer. When it was time for Jimmy’s annual beer and sausage festival, we didn’t want to close the garden. So up stepped numerous T&M employees to man the garden to make sure those happy festival gooers could enjoy the display safely.
Expanded our range of garden supplies
2015 saw the launch of our range of gardening equipment, furniture and accessories. Look out for this range to expand in 2016! From garden furniture and greenhouses to pest control and garden tools, our range includes everything you need to grow, maintain and enjoy your garden. Can’t find what you are looking for? Then let us know and we will try our best to stock it!
Thrive listed as charity of the year
We were so delighted to announce this year that Thrive are our charity of the year. Thrive is the UK’s leading charity using gardening to help bring positivity to the lives of those who have a physical or mental disability. The dedicated staff and volunteers at Thrive, provide much needed support and respite for those that need it most.
Thrive Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ has been launched to raise money for this incredible charity. Thrives supporters named this Sweet Pea to commemorate the late wife of the founder of Thrive, the late Rev. Dr Geoffrey Udall and we couldn’t have thought of a name better suited.
So please, get buying and sowing and not only will you be supporting this amazing charity, but you will be creating incredible displays in your garden for all to enjoy.
Finalist for website of the year
The Garden Media Guild awards are a much anticipated awards ceremony for any keen gardener and the horticultural trade. Sporting their suits and ties, our horticulturists Kris Collins and Michael Perry attended the event held in London, which also provided the opportunity to meet with some of the Thrive team.
This year, we were a finalist for Website of the Year, which is just amazing. We work endlessly to improve our website to provide you with top quality plants and a great experience, and I cannot tell you how much this means to us! Maybe next year, just maybe, we will be top!
Egg & Chips™
Following the success of our 2-in-1 Tomtato ®, we excitingly launched Egg & Chips ™. This grafted plant provides Aubergines AND potatoes from the same plant, perfect for patio and balcony pots. The best part, the grafting process makes it easier to grow aubergines in the UK climate. The hardy, vigorous potato plant supports the more delicate aubergine far better than its own root system can in British soil, enabling optimum fruit production. You won’t even need a greenhouse to grow Egg & Chips™ !
There have been so many memories that I could share with you but this blog would become more of a report! Today is my last day Thompson & Morgan, it has been great to be able to reminisce on the past year and it has been a joy to be a part of. Wishing you all the very best for 2016.
After scrolling through Royal Horticultural Society’s website for information on different plant varieties and how to grow this and that in more detail, I came across the ‘gardens to visit’ section and thought it was about time I actually checked it out in real life, rather than staring at pretty pictures through a screen.
It was probably the worst day I could have visited on. The wind was crazy! It was so windy that they had to restrict the areas you could walk around. The New Zealand and Australian Gardens and the Woodland Walk were both out of bounds. Two areas I actually wanted to snoop around, although, it’s probably the perfect excuse to re-visit next year.
It wasn’t all bad though, as we were able to save some money on entry with a 2 for 1 offer this particular weekend. It’s always worth checking out deals and events that are happening before you go. In the past they have had some great events, such as an official tour of the gardens, fun kid’s events and arts and crafts workshops to take part in. Pretty much something to cater for everyone!
The weekend we went there was a Christmas fair; perfect to get into the festive mood and even better for looking for homemade and unique Christmas gifts.
Trying to keep my hat on!
We were greeted by about 5 different members of staff within 5 minutes of walking through the door. I always appreciate friendly customer service (after all, I am in customer service myself!) and we got exactly that. We were handed a map and we were off on our way! We explored for a good hour and a half before being defeated by the wind and returning to the marquee to browse the gift fair.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from the gardens in the winter. I guess as a new gardener’s outlook I was half expecting dead looking plants and trees from every angle I looked. I’ve quickly learnt that winter is not a time to ignore your garden. There’s still plenty of colour around and beautiful evergreens in every bed.
I particularly loved the shrubs and trees with the various coloured berries. They’re perfect for attracting wildlife too; I can imagine such a Christmas image, a robin on a beautiful red berries hedge. These Firethorn shrubs we sell here at Thompson and Morgan and I’m definitely buying one of these for my garden next year! They’re quite quick growing and easy to maintain. That is ideal for me as a new young gardener who is still learning what to grow and how to look after.
A lot of plants were dormant or past their best as we walked around, however Rosa plants were still in bloom and looking sweet and delicate, Nerines were bobbing around in the wind (or viciously being thrown around on this particular day) and colourful autumnal leaves clinging on several trees. It was really lovely to stroll from place to place and take inspiration from the largest RHS garden in the UK.
Hyde Hall also hosts some of The Chelsea Flower Show on its over 300 acre patch, and I’d love to return at that time of year and see the entire buzz surrounding it. Working for Thompson and Morgan allows an insight into the event and the company has won several awards for plants such as the Foxglove Illumination Pink. It would be nice to see it up close and in person.
After walking around and checking out the various nooks and crannies of the gardens, and the beautiful restaurant area, we headed to the Christmas fair. I didn’t buy any presents, although did spend some pennies on a mulled wine. Well, it is the festive season after all!
I’d definitely recommend a visit to one of the 5 RHS gardens in the UK. Hyde Hall was really enjoyable; however I’d probably have preferred a warmer day in spring or summer to visit. It did give me some great ideas for my own garden over winter though, and has left me with plenty of designs I could use in my own little patch of land.
Have you visited Hyde Hall before and what were your thoughts? Feel free to drop a comment and let me know your favourite gardens in the UK – I’m always looking for new gardens to visit!