No courgettes? No problem. Grow your own!

Beat the veg deficit -T&M has the answer!

Articles in the press this week have flagged up a shortage of courgettes in UK supermarkets. This will consequently affect prices with courgettes – and many other vegetables – becoming more costly. However, Thompson & Morgan has the answer: grow your own!

Cold weather in Spain and Italy, which supply many of our supermarkets with fresh vegetables, has been blamed for the lower-than-average production. The shortages are not just limited to courgettes; suppliers suggest that imports of aubergines, spinach, peppers and tomatoes could also be affected. The laws of economics mean that prices in shops and supermarkets are already being driven up, putting even more pressure on those trying to stick to healthy New Year’s diets.

Thompson & Morgan has long promoted the health and cost benefits of growing your own vegetables. The company is offering 20% off a collection of seeds of the vegetables most likely to become more scarce and expensive as the year goes on, encouraging gardeners to grow their own.

For those on a New Year health drive, home-grown veg is always going to be a better bet than shop-bought – for a start, it hasn’t spent weeks in transit and then on a supermarket shelf, so its nutrients and vitamins are fresh and ready to give you that 2017 ‘new you’ boost.

Growing your own has never been easier either; with a variety of ‘How to’ articles and videos on the Thompson & Morgan website, amateur gardeners can find all the information and support they need to grow a variety of tasty and nutritious veg.

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. A big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’, Sonia has had some success over the years with Buddleja ‘Buzz’, Lily ‘Defender’ and Lavender ‘Munstead’, and enjoys a small, but very tasty annual crop of blueberries from her single blueberry plant.

“Kalettes” the Ghosts of Christmas past?

Are “Kalettes” the Ghosts of Christmas past that are now making a welcome return?


Not that we at Thompson & Morgan are keen to say “I told you so”, but the recent resurgence of Kale as a superfood and now the amazing new development of “kalettes” is somewhat old news to us.

Back in 2009 we offered Brassica ‘Petit Posy Mix’ to our customers and said:

“Petit Posy™ is similar in appearance to both Brussels sprouts and kale but the flavour and nutritional content is very similar to spring greens – perfect for fussy eaters who don’t enjoy sprouts!
The loose buttons are easy to pick off the stems and are perfect for adding to stir fries, serving steamed or microwaved and make very nutritious winter greens”

kalettes brassica petit posy mix

Also known as “kale sprouts” or even “flower sprouts” these easy to grow brassicas could well be an alternative to brussels sprouts during the festive season, they could also supplement winter veg over the whole of the season due to their very long cropping season. Extremely hardy ‘Petit Posy’ will stand throughout the winter to ensure you have access to tasty fresh vegetables whenever you need them that have a milder taste than traditional Brussels and so may well appeal more to younger members of the family too.

Available to buy from seed with 20 seeds per pack, the price has barely changed in nearly 7 years too, making our very own “kalettes” superb value for money!

Graham Ward
I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

Top picks and predictions for 2017

Master plant breeder, Charles Valin, head of Thompson & Morgan’s award-winning plant breeding programme, gives his top picks for 2017. Charles’ plant breeding accomplishments include the world’s first white bidens, the first properly dwarf buddleia, the first intensely scented trailing violas and the first ever bright blue verbascum.

strawberry just add cream, lily corsage and petunia mini rosebud romantic

1. Strawberry ‘Just add Cream’.
I’ve got high hopes for this fabulous new strawberry variety bred by us here at T&M. I’m confident that the exceptional flavour and aroma will make it the new favourite of chefs and gardeners alike.

2. Lily ‘Corsage’.
This stunning lily dates from 1961, but is still among the most elegant Asiatic Hybrids ever created. Each soft pink flower has delicate spots and a subtle eyeliner edge. It is also pollen-less, so there is no danger of staining if you use it as a cut flower and it is safe for cats.

3. Petunia ‘Mini Rosebud Romantic’.
Like a miniature version of the classic double petunia, this lovely variety is ideal if you don’t like dead heading petunias due to their stickiness – this one is absolutely non-stick!

coreopsis sunkiss, dianthus dynasty and alstromeria Sndian summer

4. Coreopsis ‘Sunkiss’.
The brightest yellow flowers and largest central blotching of any C. grandiflora type to date. This is a breakthrough in seed-raised coreopsis, allowing it to be better priced compared to traditional cutting-raised young plants. Combines well with other plants.

5. Dianthus ‘Dynasty’.
A double-flowered, more elegant version of the classic Sweet William, ‘Dynasty’ is perennial and perfect for cottage gardens. It has a lovely fragrance too and makes a fabulous cut flower.

6. Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’.
This variety has been around for a while, but I think it’s still the best performing Alstroemeria for the garden. The contrasting bronze foliage and never-ending blooms are hard to beat!

coronilla citrina, wasabi rocket, pepper padron and scabious kudos

7. Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’.
This plant is a gardeners’ dream: it has nice glaucous blue evergreen foliage, flowers for nine+ months of the year and its strong Narcissus fragrance wafts quite a distance even on the dullest of winter days.

8. Wasabi Rocket.
This popular salad green has even more of a kick than the traditional rocket and it’s much easier to grow than the real Japanese Wasabi plant in our climate. Just what sushi lovers have been waiting for!

9. Pepper Padron.
I have personally tried this one in Spain. It is served gilled as tapas and has become a sort of edible version of Russian roulette: they are so tasty and mild, so you tuck in confidently, thinking they’ll all be the same, but roughly 1 in 10 of them is devilishly hot! This is bound to be a favourite with chilli fans.

10. Scabious Kudos.
In my opinion, this is the best performing Scabious around; it just flowers and flowers and flowers. It performs equally well in the garden and in containers. Kudos is also a Mecca for bees and butterflies which we all need to attract to our gardens.

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. A big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’, Sonia has had some success over the years with Buddleja ‘Buzz’, Lily ‘Defender’ and Lavender ‘Munstead’, and enjoys a small, but very tasty annual crop of blueberries from her single blueberry plant.

Christmas is fast approaching!

Over the past few weeks I have been tidying the garden, putting the containers away upside down so they don`t fill with water.  Also have been putting away ornaments which were in the garden so they don`t get spoilt with the salt spray/wind that gets carried here in Bournemouth from the sea front. Sprayed them with a well known oil spray to stop them going rusty and wrapped them in fleece, putting three of them together in a black bag. Covered some of the more tender plants with fleece and waiting for my fleece bags to arrive  – with thanks to Geoff Stonebanks letting me know where I could buy them.

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia 'Apricot Shades'

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’

I have also finished planting up some tulip bulbs, unfortunately they were being dug up as fast as I planted them. Whilst talking to friends at our coffee club who said she had a large holly bush if I would like some. I put quite a few sprigs into each container and so far this has stopped my bulbs being dug up – we shall see how long this lasts!
My patio Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ which were planted on the edge of a narrow border have just finished flowering. I have had them growing with Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ which really filled the small border right up to the middle of November. I have cleaned off all the begonia corms that were dried off and put them away in newspaper and then wrapped in brown paper until around February when I hope to get them started for Summer 2017.

 

Rose 'Golden Wedding' & unnamed fuchsia trialled

Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ & unnamed fuchsia trialled

My smaller acer trees have looked  wonderful this autumn, the colours seem to change day by day, also the Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ was still managing to flower up until middle of November with slightly smaller flowers.  The Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY has lost all its leaves and almost all the fruit but there are a few fuchsia flowers still appearing. The trial of the un-named white trailing bidens is still flowering even though I have cut it back, from the same trial an un-named peachy pink antirrhinum was still flowering and as there was a frost forecast I decided to gently take it out of the basket and pot it up for the kitchen window sill, where it is continuing to thrive and grow – fingers crossed!!

Acer trees

Acer trees

We have just had the first storm of the season – Storm Angus! Trees down, roads blocked, underpasses flooded and the poor garden knocked about. That really was the end of the leaves on my acers, such a shame, now they just look like twigs. At the top of the garden I found the top part of one of my containers (which is usually fixed on its own stand) just sitting on the ground and couldn`t find the stand anywhere. Eventually found it under a fuchsia bush at the bottom of the garden, at least it didn`t tip the plants out that were still flowering. I was thrilled to bits that both my Calla Lilies (as mentioned in my previous Blog) are still flowering – end of November. I also have two cactus indoors which are flowering profusely and have been for almost a month now.

Indoor cactus plants

Indoor cactus plants

As we approach the end of November and in my case there is less to do in the garden, everything is turning towards the Big Man in his Sleigh and with over 30 members of our family ranging from a four year old great granddaughter to Alan who is 79 we have to start early with presents etc. and cards, I usually make all my own cards.
Here`s hoping that you all have an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas with lots of `garden` presents and a great gardening year for 2017.
…..Happy Christmas Everyone…..

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.

Gardening gifts for Christmas

1. Scented Celebration Rose ‘Warm Wishes’

Scented Celebration Rose 'Warm Wishes' - Christmas Gift

Christmas rose seems to be a very popular choice among our customers; and with good reason. This beautiful rose exudes love and Christmas spirit. Anyone who receives this will I am sure, feel blessed.

 

 

 

2. Rosa Chinensis Gardening Tools – KneelerRosa Chinensis Gardening Tools - Gift

This set can be bought individually, the kneeler is the ideal gift for those that have lots of beds and borders and are always getting dirty knees! This gift will be much appreciated and enjoyed all year round.

 

3. Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus are very colourful and reminds me of a Christmas tree with lights blazing. Cactus can last up to 20 years so make sure your recipient is prepared to enjoy this gift for a long period of time!

 

 

4. Gardener’s Gubbins Pot Set Gardener's Gubbins Pot Set

With a name like Gubbins who can resist this attractive Burgon & Ball set? Gardener’s, myself included, seem to aquire lots of bits and pieces, which we like to keep on us when we are in the garden. There is always a label or snips required which are back in the shed!

 

 

5. Cut Flower Seed & Bottle Gift Set

Cut flower seed & bottle gift setThis is a really pretty set for those of us who like to have something to do over the Christmas holidays. Gifts that need a little bit of time and attention are ideal for gardeners, who may be stuck in doors, due to awful weather or family commitments. This gift allows them to sit and be sociable and do a bit of gardening too.

 

 

6. Hyacinth 'Scented Pink Pearl' Hyacinth ‘Scented Pink Pearl’

This is one of the most popular gifts from the Christmas gift range. Smelling wonderful, looking fabulous, I have bought this one for my mother. When hyacinths have finished flowering during the festive period, they can be planted in the garden to flower again during springtime.

 

7. Crockery Teacup & Saucer Bird Feeder

Crockery Teacup & Saucer Bird FeederFor bird and wildlife lovers, this is ideal. Hang it anywhere, from a tree or on the fence, pop some bird seed on it and watch those birds flock in to have a feed. By choosing different bird seed you can attract different birds, so investigate and perhaps invest in the bird seed too.

 

 

 

8. Succulent BasketSucculent Basket

A trendy gift which will be enjoyed by any age. A minature succulent garden in a basket, has become a fashion item! Succulents seem to thrive on neglect so this is the perfect gift for those who are rubbish at watering their plants.

 

9. Seed Starter Kit

Seed Starter Kit

I first got this for myself when I began gardening. It proved to be a worthwhile investment, as I still use the propogator today. Although the  seeds have all been sown and the labels are now on their third year of being used. A seed starter kit can be the reason someone gets into gardening, which can become a lifelong passion.

 

 

10. Ladies Parisienne & Men’s Tweed Garden Gloves

Ladies' Parisienne Garden Gloves & Men's Tweed Garden GlovesLadies' Parisienne Garden Gloves & Men's Tweed Garden GlovesBoth pairs are made by Burgon & Ball, a company known for its high quality. These soft, functional gloves will be a welcome gift for any gardener. Gloves are used all year round, saving hands from thorns and blisters. With the trendy name on the outer cuff,  your gardener will feel very refined!

 

 

One for the animals? Pet Candles

Pet Candles Christmas GiftI don’t expect the dogs and cats of the world will be thrilled with this gift, but the owners will! Neutralising nasty niffs, these candles will make the house smell lovely for Christmas parties and get-togethers.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions, but if you have something that you think I should have included let me know on the comments box below. Happy Christmas readers!

Wendie Alexander
I have worked for Thompson & Morgan for nearly four years. In that time I have learnt lots about gardening, but consider myself very much a novice. I have started growing veg on a colleague’s allotment and also growing windowsill seeds such as Salad Leaves and Rocket. I love gaining more knowledge about horticulture and am lucky enough to work here.

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