Hydrangeas – Michael Perry picks his favourites!

Shrubs are the stalwarts of the border- they last for years and years, fill gaps and offer decorative foliage AND flowering! And, what better place to start than Hydrangeas– one of the most versatile shrubs you can find, and I’m going to show how comprehensive the range is too!

  1. Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’

This Hydrangea gives a colour explosion in the garden right from the word go! The foliage is long, elegant and the same colour as your favourite chocolate bar! This foliage changes with every few weeks that passes; from chocolate-brown to deep green, and then it surprises you by transforming to the most delectable amber and golden shades! ‘Hot Chocolate’ is a robust hydrangea which really fills the borders, and even performs in poor soils!

 

Hydrangea 'Hot Chocolate' and Hydrangea 'Endless Summer - Bloomstruck'

Hydrangea ‘Hot Chocolate’ and Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Bloomstruck’

  1. Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’

If you really want maximum flower power from your Hydrangea shrubs, then ‘Endless Summer’ is a real breakthrough! Usually, a Hydrangea macrophylla will only flower on old wood, which means they set their flower buds for flowering in the previous summer. ‘Endless Summer’ not only does this, but it ALSO flowers on new wood, so you get a double whammy! Remember this type of Hydrangea (macrophylla) also gives different coloured blooms on different soils; expect blue on acid and pink on alkaline!

  1. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’

This type of Hydrangea is a bit more woody than most, but with that comes extra hardiness, resilience and an easier pruning method! Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ is short, compact and makes a rounded, neat specimen for the border or pretty patio pots. The snowball flowerheads almost cover the plants throughout the summer, and gently turn to bubblegum pink as the season progresses!

 

Hydrangea 'Bobo' and Hydrangea 'Miss Saori'

Hydrangea ‘Bobo’ and Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’

  1. Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’

Undoubtedly the star of the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014, ‘Miss Saori’ was the winner of Plant of the Year, thanks to its crystallized-effect, two-tone flowers, which look like mini tiaras! A strong-growing plant, where the flower colour is less affected by different soil types too, you know you’ll be enjoying the colour you were expecting!

  1. Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’

This Hydrangea macrophylla has a distinctive appearance; with mophead blooms where each floret is curled like a piece of popcorn! An easy to grow shrub for sun or shade, great for small gardens or large patio containers! Enjoy pink blooms on alkaline, blue blooms on acid!

 

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer - Blushing Bride' and Hydrangea 'Ayesha'

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Blushing Bride’ and Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’

 

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!

Storm stories from Geoff Stonebanks

We moved to Seaford back in 2004 and have now seen 13 years of winter weather. How unprepared we were though for the Winter of 2015/2016! The storms and gales along with the salt laden winds have been by far the worst we have experienced, in terms of their impact on the garden.

 

MET office weather map & phlomis

MET office weather map & phlomis

 

It all began with Storm Abigail back in November and most recently we had Storm Jake, but by far the worst to hit the garden was Storm Imogen on the 8th February. You can see from the Met Office’s weather map for the day that we got winds of up to 80mph across the south coast! I decided to take a short video clip of the storm’s impact on the garden that afternoon and you can see the evidence in the short film I posted to YouTube. It was very difficult to stand up outside the house that day with the force of the gales! Many of the protective fleeces I put on the more delicate plants, primarily for protection from the winds, rather than from the cold, were torn apart by the gales as you can see.

 

Phormium 'Platt's Black' & torn fleece

Phormium ‘Platt’s Black’ & torn fleece

 

The view out of the front porch window across the beach garden was pretty grim too! At this time of year, the garden is usually looking quite pretty with lots of things looking forward to spring. This year however it still looks pretty desolate with so much to do to tidy it up. I look out now and think it will never be as good as it was last year by the time we open the garden gate to the public in June!

 

The front seaside garden was planted to take account of the coastal weather and it is quite amazing how resilient the plants can be in such adverse conditions. The Hellebore argentifolius in the centre still managed to look radiant throughout. The large clump of Cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ by the entrance has been decimated with the relentless salt winds but amazingly still has a few signs of new growth upon it. I am hopeful it will make a recovery when the weather changes. Likewise, the Phlomis fructicosa in both front and back has been the worst impacted with all the new growth in January completely destroyed and now looking very sorry for themselves. Another casualty at the front is the badly burnt rosemary which has had all the ends browned off.

 

Orlearia & Eleagarius x ebbingeii

Orlearia & Eleagarius x ebbingeii

 

Whilst the front garden actually still looks quite good overall, the back is another story. Even old stalwarts like the eleaganus x ebbingeii and the several bay shrubs have taken a real beating with many of their leaf ends turning brown.

One of my favourite Euphorbia, Mellifera, has really been badly scorched with all new growth and even whole stems decimated by the salt, there is still some newer growth now further down the plant which is promising.

This hardy fuchsia, riccartonii had lots of new growth prior to the storms but they were all burnt off but amazingly nature is incredible and there are signs of it starting to shoot again.

 

Bay & Fuchsia riccartoni

Bay & Fuchsia riccartoni

 

There is lots of ivy around the garden too, which has taken a real beating as this picture alongside the gate at the top of the garden bears testament. Even good coastal shrubs like olearia have taken a real thrashing too this winter with many scorched leaves across the tops of the hedges.

 

Ivy & Euphorbia mellifera

Ivy & Euphorbia mellifera

 

The container of Phormium ‘Platts Black’ alongside the Summer House was right in the line of fire for the winds blowing up the garden, it is a relatively recent New Zealand Flax cultivar with leaves in the most remarkable shade of purple-brown that is almost black. One of the more compact Phormiums, this has an elegant weeping habit that makes it eminently suited to growing in a pot, lets hope we see some new growth so I can cut back the damaged leaves.

 

Physocarpus Opulifolius 'Summer Wine'

Physocarpus Opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’

 

One of the lovely shrubs in a container, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ has also been a victim to the weather too, even though relatively protected at the back of the house. Many gardeners know this as ninebark, an undistinguished shrub with ordinary green leaves, white flowers, and fall fruit. But ‘Seward,’ sold under the trademark name ‘Summer Wine’, has outstanding burgundy leaves and pink flowers that bloom in early summer. This plant is super tough and makes a stunning focal point, let’s see how tough it is and hope it does well again this summer. We now need a sustained period of good weather to enable me to get out and work on the garden ready for is summer visitors.

 

You can read more about the garden at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk and see how the garden looks by the summer!

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.

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……..

Roses for Valentine’s Day – What is your favourite?

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching I thought I would have a look at some of the beautiful roses available. Roses come in a wide variety of colours, growing habits and sizes. Some like ‘Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’ are great for growing in patio containers due to their low growth habit. This means you can have roses on a balcony, or even in a small garden, so no excuses for not being romantic.

Rose 'Sweet Spot Calypso'

Rose ‘Sweet Spot Calypso’

Climbing roses such as Rose ‘Climbing Masquerade’ are good at growing up trellises or walls and can therefore be trained to climb, making a beautiful archway down the garden where you can woo your suitors and impress them with your dreamy garden! These double blooms unfurl into a charming shade of yellow and then mature through tones of soft pink to a deep raspberry red colour. Other climbing roses are the beautiful, deep red Rose ‘Pauls Scarlet’ and Rose ‘Golden Showers’ in a bright, bold yellow will also climb up walls and trellises and look great all summer long. If you don’t have much space how about something smaller?

Mascarade

Mascarade

 

Minature Rose Standards are one of our easiest roses to grow, they are more reliable and floriferous than traditional roses and they too look great in containers on the patio.  They can also be included in your borders, with tones of red, yellow, white and pink these lovelies will be great for picking and giving to your beau when they come over for tea. If a miniature rose is not for you then how about the Rose ‘Giant Collection’? These extra special hybrid tea roses come in a host of colours, with Rose ‘Naomi’ being perfect for Valentine’s Day with its gorgeous shade of red in the traditional Valentines Day colour.

If red is your thing but you don’t want a giant rose then the eye-catching Rose ‘Red Fairy’ (Polyantha) may be for you.  This beautiful hardy shrub is perfect cut flower material and flowers right through summer, it has a neat, compact habit and makes a lovely patio shrub.

Rose 'Red Fairy'

Rose ‘Red Fairy’

Rose ‘For Your Eyes Only’ a Floribunda rose is an early flowering plant that continues right through until autumn. It was the Rose of the Year 2015 and is set to change the face of modern roses with its unique open flowers and central blotching. This compact rose has a short height and is best suited to ground cover or containers, so bunches of roses can be cut and added to a bouquet made at home.

All the roses in Thompson & Morgan’s selection have wonderful colours but the New Rose ‘Hot Chocolate’ is something different. With rusty orange blooms that open out to rich smoky browns, this scented rose has a rich and fruity perfume that will charm any would be suitor, and as an extra bonus it is disease resistant too. This repeat flowering rose continues through summer and into early autumn, making it a long lasting addition to your borders.

Rose Hot Chocolate

Rose Hot Chocolate

These are just a few of the huge range of roses available, and although they may take a while to establish they will always be worth it, just like your love who deserves nothing but the best our roses flourish well with the addition of our Incredibloom.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all…

Wendie Alexander
Currently at university I have nearly finished my English Degree. I have been at Thompson & Morgan for nearly 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

10 Years in my Garden

It can be magical, inspiring or just plain stupid, to take photos from the same point in your garden over a 10-year period. I recently posted some on social media and had some amazing reactions from people saying they had been inspired to see the changes over the years. So, here is a snapshot across 10 years, taken by me around the pond looking up the back garden.

The first from 2004, the year we moved in, shows a very green be plain plot.

By 2005 I had begun to tidy the area, neatened the edges of the lawn and moved a few shrubs around as well as added a few containers. I started with many new shrubs in containers, giving me the flexibility to place them around the garden until such time as I had a final plan in my head. A new shed didn’t go amiss too as well as a greenhouse and a studio! Not a trained gardener, I simply did what I thought was right for the exposed seaside slope. I have done nothing to improve the chalky ground, not knowing any better. I started to use structures to help get some height as the salt laden winds blow with such force across the garden, doing much damage.

Having appointed a garden designer in 2007, I soon realised that maybe I was better cutting my losses and having-a-go myself. So, in the spring of that year a summer house and new patio went in at the top of the garden. This was much needed as the sloping garden needed a level area upon which to put a table and chairs. I had killed off the lawn and temporarily covered it with bark chip to help create a totally new look until I could afford to move to the next stage.

Geoff Garden 2004,2005 & 2007

A grape vine was put in to cover the shed. 2008 saw more work done around the pond, digging out old shrubs and putting in new. My ultimate aim was to have no exposed soil across the whole garden, requiring me to put as many plants in as I could!

By 2009 it was well stocked and opened up to the public for the very first time, which then inspired me to try and make it look a little different each year by moving plants around and changing the look of the garden rooms I was beginning to create.

In 2010 the exit area from the pond was sealed off with a low wall and created the pond room which has become one of my favourite areas of the garden, a visitor this year, Eileen Wottsford, said “absolutely magical garden, full of original ideas and inspirations.” More plants had gone in around the pond 2 pairs of tall rusted metal arches had helped create some more height and I was beginning to achieve the overall look I was seeking. Every year I just did what felt right, there was never any grand plan, each garden room developed as I went along.

Geoff Garden 2008, 2009 & 2010

In 2011 the area by the shed and beyond the bench were crammed full of plants finally creating the illusion of a garden room. The rapid growth of the grape vine across the shed helped too. This was the year I was accepted into the Yellow Book by the NGS.

By the summer of 2012 the overall garden was really becoming quite special and looking very lush! This year it became one of the 4 finalists in the Daily Mail National Garden Competition as well as the overall winner of the Garden News Best Small Garden in the UK.

Needless to say I was thrilled. Hamish Webb from the Mail said “I’ve seen hundreds of gardens over the 21 years of judging the Daily Mail Competition and believe me, you are up there with the best of them.” Head judge Tim Sharples said “This bright, beach-inspired plot embraces its location with imaginative planting.” I could not believe that my small seaside garden had succeeded in reaching the final of a national competition from over 1500 entries, let alone win outright the Garden News competition. It just goes to show that you can do whatever you put your mind to, despite the challenging elements and lack of knowledge!

Geoff Garden 2011, 2012 & 2013

By 2013 I’d really become little more confident about what I was doing and was keen to show that anything is possible and the garden was featured in the Mail on Sunday too. The range of plants had increased significantly too, with over 500 on show.

2014 was a truly amazing year for the garden, it featured in a French national gardening magazine, 100 Idees Jardin in February, Garden Answers Magazine in May and on Good Morning Britain in July.

 

Geoff Garden 2014

2015 was equally successful with features in the Sunday Telegraph in August and Daily Mail Weekend Magazine in June. You can see above how amazing the garden is looking each summer now. I never fail to be amazed by what visitors say and post on TripAdvisor. It makes me incredibly proud, so never doubt your own ablility to create something special, and just go for it!

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.

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