The history of the petunia

Petunia ‘Surfinia Star Burgundy’ from Thompson & Morgan

Surfinia petunias are a popular choice for hanging baskets
Image: Petunia ‘Surfinia Star Burgundy’ from Thompson & Morgan

There’s always a plant that, like Marmite, you love or loathe, and through the ages the petunia has often divided opinion. In fact, during the 1500s people believed that petunias were a symbol of demonic power because they harboured anger and resentment!

Part of the nightshade Solanaceae family, the petunia is closely related to plants like tobacco, cape gooseberry, tomato, potato and chilli pepper. Here’s a potted history of this fascinating flower, explaining how petunia seeds have been developed over several hundreds of years to become one of the most popular choices of all time.


Summer 2018 – From Pembrokeshire with Love

Editor’s Note : Many of our customers are familiar with Amanda, one of our bloggers who has been writing for us for some years now. Here’s her latest post. Unfortunately, Amanda has some health and family issues which she quite rightly needs to concentrate on, and so she is going to be taking a break from blogging for the time being. We wish Amanda all the very best and a speedy recovery!

Dear Gardening Friends,

How’s this summer been for you? The high temperatures and lack of rain meant that apart from looking after what had already germinated, grown or been transplanted, I have done very little. Mark, on the other hand, has watered, composted, dug, cut, trimmed and taken care of everything else.

In Ty Mawr, the scorching heat meant that the Rainbow Beetroots almost bolted, but I caught them in time. It was also the same for the onions and garlic. The tomatoes grew on the vines and hundreds of cape gooseberries appeared almost overnight. The leaves started to curl on the peppers, chillies and aubergines, so for the first time ever we had to buy a whitewash paint to protect the plants. Inexplicably, in the heat, dormant Amaranthus and Nicotiana seeds germinated after we pulled the beetroots.

In the second week in July, I harvested more of the new potatoes and we went off back to the New Forest for a week, taking the potatoes with us. They were perfect for salads or a light evening meal.

After last year’s holiday disaster of not watering, Mark set up a drip irrigation system using an old hose pipe that he drilled holes into. He then attached this to the water butt and asked his mum to switch it on two days later. She did, but because Pembrokeshire experienced its hottest and driest week in decades, she and his dad came down three times that week to water everything for us. I told them to help themselves to any potatoes, gooseberries, or other produce they wanted.

Mark’s mum said to me “I had your three apples!”

“But there are none on the tree.” I replied.

She laughed and explained that she’d had them from our fruit bowl inside!

As soon as we were back, a few of the trial tomatoes had ripened, along with two dozen cape gooseberries, and have been continuously supplying me with produce.

The aubergines and peppers are flowering and the chilli bucket has tiny green fruits forming.

The spider plant has made a full recovery and is flowering.

In The Office I have done nothing except transplant two Joseph’s Coat plants into the borders. The accidental wildlife border needs only the occasional dead heading.

The shelves are now bare as plants have been put in their final positions outside.

I’m sorry to say that this will be my last blog for a while. I have some fairly major health issues and so does another family member, so I feel that I need to concentrate on our health.

Anyone who’s read my blogs will know that I love gardening, and I love writing. Some of the best people I have made friends with have been through the T&M community. I really value you too for reading them and the comments you put on my page. You have made me very very happy over the years. Thank you.

By the way, I will be growing lots of marigolds and sweet peas from September, so I’m not going to be completely idle!

Happy Gardening!  Love Amanda. Xx

From Rake To Bake – Egg-cellent Potato Salad.

Welcome to Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

July is perfect for making Egg-cellent Potato Salad.

With second-lates and main-crop potatoes in abundance grown either in sacks or the ground, why not keep July simple and just enjoy an easy Egg and New Potato salad. This month we are back off to The New Forest in the motorhome for a few days, so a few tubs of of Egg and Potato salad, will make handy lunches for the first few days.


Note – I have not used Salt in the list of ingredients as I do not cook with it, however you may wish to use it, therefore just season to taste.

Prep Time 15 minutes. Cooking Time 20-25 Minutes. Cooling Time 20- 40 minutes or overnight if need be.

Skills Level Easy Peasy.


  • Chopping Board.
  • Vegetable Knife.
  • Electric Steamer.
  • Colander.
  • Egg Slicer.
  • Teaspoon.
  • Dessert Spoon.
  • 3 Various size bowls.


  • 400g of New potatoes.
  • 1/2 Small Onion.
  • 150g Fresh or Frozen peas.
  • 2 Large Eggs.
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Black Pepper.
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Mixed Herbs.
  • 2 Dessert Spoons of Salad Cream.
  • 2 Dessert Spoons of Mayonnaise.



  1. Wash the soil off the skin of the potatoes then chop them into bite-sized cubes and place in a single layer on the bottom tray of the steamer, and steam for 20-25minutes. (Or place in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender.)
  2. Place the eggs in the lower tray of the steamer 15 minutes from the end of cooking the potatoes. (Or boil in a small saucepan for at least ten minutes.)
  3. Place the peas in the top layer of the steamer for the last 7 minutes. ( Boil a small saucepan of hot water, reduce heat, add peas and simmer for a few minutes until just soft.)
  4. Drain everything, run the eggs under cold water and peel immediately, before allowing everything to cool fully with n appropriate sized bowls.
  5. Slice the onion and and mix it with the peas, season with black pepper and herbs.
  6. Place a spoonful of both Salad Cream and Mayonnaise onto the cold potatoes and mix thoroughly, add the onions/peas gently combine, then add another spoonful of salad dressings.
  7. Season with more herbs and pepper. Slice the eggs and place on top. Refrigerate until use. Will last about three days.


Serving Suggestions.

  1. Add some turmeric and paprika and eat as a side dish at a hot and spicy BBQ.
  2. Mix dried mango, dried apricots a small apple and raisins with cream cheese in a baguette, pack it along with the potato salad and eat it out on n the fresh air watching the sunset.
  3. Morning munchies – eat with leftover cold sausages, and a cup of coffee/tea for breakfast.


Grow Your Own.

It’s not too late to grow potatoes now with plenty of late varieties available, I even start potatoes off in September to have new ones on Christmas Day.

Potatoes do best on open sunny ground, but I grow mine in deep sacks. They will grow in an old plastic or metal dustbin so long as there are sufficient drainage holes. Place 4 inches of compost in the bottom of the sack, add three seed potatoes, sprinkle over some fertiliser, (according to the packet directions) then cover with another 4 inches of soil. Each time the stalks grow through the soil, add more compost (earth up) until the sack is 3/4 full. Water regularly. Potatoes do not like to dry out, but neither do they like to sit in wet soil.

Once the potatoes have flowered (12-16 weeks) cut the stalks to soil level, then dig up the potatoes after ten days.

Leave them to dry then wash the skins, dry again and store in a cold dark place.


*Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

**Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

***Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

Flaming June in Pembrokeshire

Hello Gardening Friends,

For the first time in many years Pembrokeshire is experiencing an actual “Flaming June!” With temperatures exceeding 25°c most days and sticky 18°c nights, it’s been mostly impossible to garden. The water butt has been emptied days ago, and for now we are using our “Grey Water” from washing up, bathing, and showering to water the beds and borders.

The lawn is only green in so far as its full of clover, thistle, dandelion and daisy. The actual grass is brown and crispy. I can’t remember if it was Monty Don or Alan Titchmarsh who said that a perfect lawn wasn’t good in the summer, but you could keep it green with weeds.

This month I am holding my hand up in admittance of being wrong. Or maybe misguided. A while ago I wrote in one of my blogs, that I didn’t agree with garden designers telling us to chose just a few species of plants and grow many of them. However, due to limited capabilities this is what I did this year. I had an abundance of Black Ball Cornflowers that I planted in large clumps all over the front garden, they with our stalwarts of fuschia,margaritas, red hot pokers, azaleas , firestorm And St John Wart shrubs, created a striking scene. Many neighbours stopped and asked what the pretty little burgundy/black flowers were. They also stopped me to ask if my trial Petunias were real or plastic, because the bright pink against the blue bungalow is pretty hard to miss. So although I hate the thought of growing just one type of flower, it does look very effective and the garden designers were right. I haven’t made my mind up if I will just grow a single variety or not in the future, but it has given me pause for thought.

It’s a little difficult to write about the greenhouse this month, because, quite frankly, not a lot is happening in this heat. But here’s a quick run-through.

The Office.

  • I started off Blue Moon and Pink Moon Radishes along with Rainbow Beetroots. They germinated fantastically quick, but the soaring temperatures had me moving them outside to the cold frame then into their final growing spaces within two weeks. I also had the same success with lettuce, mint and wildflower mixes.
  • Unfortunately the heat has now stopped all germination and I have lost a lot of the seeds to not  being able to keep things moist enough. The compost just kept drying out all the time. The Brussel Sprouts died in the cold-frame and the second batch died in the greenhouse. I will try these again in the autumn. Joseph’s Coat Amaranths thrived in the heat, with seedlings appearing in less than three days. I’ve sowed them in batches, so I have many of them in various states of growth to prolong the season. I love their patterned leaves.
  • Marigold Strawberry Blonde was a huge success too. I marvel at how they change colour as they mature. I will definitely buy these again. Strangely the African Marigolds that were supposed to be in citrus colours are a burgundy red, so the two complement each other. The African ones were not a T&M product and to be honest I am not someone who complains to companies who give out the wrong seeds in the packets, because a) they may have been a more expensive seed b) it worked out well with my colour theme and c) life is too short to complain!
  • The Eating and Sweet peas have been sown, grown and left to scramble up obelisks outside.
  • The purple carrots and yellow courgettes are outside but I fear if we have a water ban then the veg won’t form. Although there are fruits just forming on the courgettes.
  • We have had,and are planning more trips in the motorhome this summer, so for now The Office is just ticking over. I’ll sow more when the weather is cooler, maybe at the end of July. Perhaps it will still be too warm until September and then I will have even less to write about during the summer!
  • Perhaps the biggest surprise for me in The Office is I somehow managed to grow a wildlife border in between the aloes, money tree, cactus and violas. The strappy-leaved houseplants died in the intensive 40° heat so cornflowers, corncockle, veronica, marigold and poppies filled the gaps, along with some amaranths. I’m thinking the wildlife border happened by me either emptying dried out compost pots in the border, or from the nerve damage in my fingers and accidentally dropping seed packets or pots I’d just sown with fresh seeds. Either way, I’m happy with the results.

In Ty Mawr.


  • I nearly lost the crops as I couldn’t find any shading paint. I am pretty sure the only reason that the fruit and veg survived is because the English marigolds were so big they provided them with shade.
  • The tomatoes took a really long time to get growing. We tried tomato feed granules, more water, less water, newer compost, but in the end it was leaving the windows open at night that triggered the regrowth. In regards to them, I am trialling two sets of Ferlines, one that has had a natural coating put on the seeds and one without. The one with is in the lead with fruits and flowers forming. I am then comparing these to Yellow Stuffer in terms of colour versus colour. Yellows are taller with fruit just forming, but reds are more prolific.
  • We harvested the garlic, and the onions are not far off. The Rainbow Beetroots are almost ready. The Italian White ones love the heat.
  • The Orange sweet peppers currently have leaf curl, I’m not sure if they will make it. The sweet peppers I grew from Lidl Snack peppers I ate are really strong. I hope I get some fruits soon though.
  • With my aubergine trial the T&M aubergine is tiny and seems to stop growing once it’s put in its final,position – same as last year. The same mix from Lidl Shop bought seeds are doing a lot better. Triple in size. The other third company seed, (but a different variety) are also doing okay. None however have any flowers yet.
  • The Chilli Fire Bucket got full so we split the plants. Three are in the border near the tomatoes and the slugs have had a go at them. Although the slugs were dead after, I feel sorry for the slugs as when I was transplanting the chillies the leaves made my fingers sting. The chillies in the border are slower than the fire bucket which has fruits forming.
  • The slugs ate my other Amaranthus Oesburgh and the Nicotianas. The marigolds kept all the pests away from the crops. Plenty of aphids and caterpillars made their home there in the borders of Ty Mawr but the resident blackbirds usually keep the numbers down.
  • The most successful crop to date is the Cape Gooseberries. They are romping away, and as they climb they form discreet flowers, then the fruits almost like magic appear. I cannot wait for these to ripen, they look delicious.
  • The hanging shelves are empty as the elevated position in direct sunlight is far too hot. I did think about growing pots of cactus but I don’t really know if this is a good idea as I have an aloe vera overload as it is!
  • Dad’s spider plant is looking lush. It sits on the path of Ty Mawr. It survived the brutal cutting back and cold snows earlier in the year.


One final thing before I sign off, Mark and I went over to my brother’s house and both Mark and my brother finally to erect his greenhouse. I spent a happy few hours with my nieces teaching them to grow their own foods. I gave them aubergines, sweet peppers, mint,strawberries and radish. Mum came over later on in the and gave them tomato plants.

My other brother has taken on an allotment and his wife has opened a baguette shop in the City of St Davids using local produce. More excitingly they are going to be opening another local business soon, in a well-known tourist hotspot in St Davids!


Mum has redesigned her back garden and I gave her my sail shade as we can’t use it in our garden, I won it in a gardening competition ages ago.

The only redesigning I have done in our garden is buy a hammock and plonked it on the back lawn to watch the sun setting! It’s the best £30 I’ve spent this year.

Since what’s happened to me in the last few years, we have all decided to follow our dreams. I was hoping to return to work, though sadly it’s not possible. So for this year my mission is to encourage the family in their pursuits and to spend more time in my garden relaxing in my hammock.

From Rake To Bake – Cheats Curry for One

Welcome to Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

June is perfect for making Cheats Curry for One

With crops sown in late winter now bursting in the allotment, greenhouse or garden, this month, I thought I’d take advantage of some of ingredients available right on our doorstep, along with a way to use up any of last year’s sauces you may have hidden in the freezer.

The list of ingredients used was enough to make just a meal for me as my partner doesn’t like aubergines. Just double/triple etc, the quantities to make extra portions and use up a glut of crops.

Note – I have not used Salt in the list of ingredients as I do not cook with it, however you may wish to use it, therefore just season to taste. You may also add chilli flakes.

Defrost Time 12 Hours. Prep Time 10 minutes. Cooking Time 30 Minutes.

Skills Level Treat as Tender*


  • Chopping Board.
  • Potato Peeler.
  • Vegetable Knife.
  • Small saucepan
  • Large Saucepan with lid.
  • Colander.
  • Spatula
  • WoodenSpoon.
  • Garlic Press/Heavy Handled Knife.


  • 1 Small bowl of defrosted homemade sauce containing onion, red pepper, garlic, red and yellow tomatoes and herbs and spices.
  • 1 Small potato.
  • 1 Snack sized Sweet Pepper of any colour.
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 1 Clove of Garlic.
  • 1/4 of an Aubergine.
  • 3 Dried Apricots
  • Handful of Raisins.
  • Tablespoon of Olive Oil.
  • Garam Masala.
  • Curry Powder.
  • Black Pepper.


  1.  Defrost the homemade sauce the night before.
  2.  Peel the potato, cut into bite size chunks and par-boil in the small saucepan.
  3.  While the potato is boiling, de-seed and slice the sweet peppers. Wash and slice 1/4 of the aubergine into identical shaped cubes.
  4.  Chop the dried apricots into quarters. Slice and dice the onion and press the garlic. If you don’t have a press just bash the handle of a heavy knife onto the garlic on a chopping board.
  5.  Drain the potatoes and leave in a colander.
  6.  In the large saucepan, on a low heat mix curry powder, garam masala and black pepper with the olive oil, and allow the spices to infuse.
  7.  Add the garlic and onion and fry until translucent. Next add the aubergines. The aubergines will soak up the oil, but don’t add any more, just turn down the heat and keep moving the pieces around with the spatula/wooden spoon.
  8.  Add the sweet pepper and fry for about two minutes. Next pour over your sauce, stir well, cover with the lid and heat for ten minutes.
  9.  Add the cooked potato, apricots and raisins. Taste and add more spices if needed.
  10.  Replace the lid and heat on low for a further ten minutes. If your sauce is getting too thick you can either add some vegetable stock or a splash of boiling water.
  11.  When you have the desired consistency and taste, serve immediately.


Go traditional and eat with rice and naan bread.

Go British and serve with chips.

Go Lazy and just eat with brown bread and butter.


Grow Your Own.

Home-Grown food is on the increase – with more and more people waiting for allotments, but you don’t need a huge area to grow tasty crops. There are many websites, bloggers, books and magazines showing how even the smallest space is capable of producing an abundance of fruit and veg.

Make windowsill propagators out of fruit punnets to grow salad leaves.

Use an un-lidded dustbin to grow potatoes.

The only limit is your imagination!

*Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

**Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

***Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

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