Watering, watering, watering

So, with the recent heat wave (when I say “heat wave” it felt more like someone was blow-torching the back of my neck – through the factor 50) and with all the watering I had to do. Not only my own garden by the way, but also for friend who is away in the south of France for a month – for some cooler weather – which was taking an hour a day. I got to wondering what better alternatives we sell at work for this chore we do for the plants we love.

Some of them are fairly obvious; whilst others are absolute genius if you ask me and I’ve already put my “staff order” in to help me out.

First and foremost, I have to say that I treated myself to a new hose this year. I got so fed up with the kinks, knots and tangles of my good old normal hosepipe that I decided to try something a bit different. I’d seen the “expanding hoses” on TV before but as they were a new innovation at the time; they were fairly expensive compared to a normal hose.

Watering with the Easy Hose

This is no longer the case, I ordered one of our Easy Hoses and quite frankly, I’m amazed! This weird looking cloth covered hose “crinkles” up to next to nothing when it’s not in use and looks like it wouldn’t reach my back door, let alone the sweet potatoes at the end of the garden. But turn on the tap and it literally “grows” to over 3 times its size! What’s more, it can’t kink and seems to untangle itself too, so I’m one happy chappie with it! Plus when you turn it off again it shrinks away back to its original size which still amuses me for no particular reason.

So, my amusing hosepipe aside, what else do we have that might be useful in a hot crisis?

Watering with an irrigation kit

The most obvious choice is an irrigation kit, these are a good price and each kit can water up to 22 individual pots or baskets. It’s literally just a case of running the pipe to the first pot, cutting it, putting in a “T” junction to take the first dripper and then carrying on to the next pot. There’s over 75 feet of pipe (23 metres) and so it’ll comfortably sort out a good run of different pots and baskets and to be honest, at the price, you can easily buy another and extend it if you need to. Once you’re all set up then it’s just a case of plugging it onto the outdoor tap and turning it on. Leaving it on for a few hours won’t flood anywhere as there’s a pressure regulator too so it’s all nice, safe and easy!

the auto waterer

If you’re a tomato fan and are constantly worrying about blossom end rot, poor tomatoes and finding that keeping your plants well watered is almost impossible then the tomato auto-waterer collar  is extremely useful. It’s a clear plastic open ended cone that just pushes into the soil/compost around the plant, fill it up with water to the brim and allow the water to percolate into the soil nice and slowly, rather than have it run off and water the weeds somewhere else! It has two other bonuses as well, the first one is that the top of the collar has a “double-back” on it which means that snails can’t climb up and over and munch away on your plants inside. The second bonus is that you don’t have to use it exclusively for tomatoes! If you’ve any other young plants that are in need of a bit of extra care and protection then pop one of these collars around it and away it grows!

automatic watering system

For something a little more hi-tech and extremely clever there’s the Garden Gear Automatic Watering System. A handy little timer and pump combo that can be popped into a bucket of water and have up to ten little pipes running from it on a timed setting. It could easily be used in greenhouses, conservatories etc and there’s no reason why you couldn’t run the pipes out to a flower bed either, if you have a large enough reservoir of water to put the pump in, it could easily last for a week at a time – perfect for holidays!

My last one is probably my favourite, because I think it looks fun!

It’s the Mighty Dripper! This bad boy can hold over 2 gallons of water and does exactly what it says on the tin, it really is very easy to set up and I tend to think of it as an intravenous drip for my plants, I’m tempted to hand a couple on my fence (maybe decorate them) and fill them up and let them happily water 20 pots (10 each), only having to fill up the bags each day, or every other day would be so much easier – the big plus is that I can use water collected from my water butt too, rather than mains water, and could also add in liquid or soluble feed once a week!

Here’s video (not with me in it though!)

So while I sometimes don’t mind going out and watering, it’s also handy to know I’ve got other options available to me, I’m definitely going to try one or two (can you guess which?)

The Road to Chelsea

A few weeks ago I was asked if would help out with taking the plants to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show that Thompson & Morgan would be using on various stands in the Grand Pavilion – having never been before, I readily agreed – what a chance to go and see a bit of “behind the scenes” at the world’s most prestigious flower show!

So, at 5.45am on the Thursday, five days before the show was due to start, I met with my colleague Peter Freeman, loaded up 7 trolleys of carefully packed plants (including some that were to potentially be judged for the Plant of the Year!) into a Luton van and away we went!

waiting to go in on the Road to Chelsea

The view of Chelsea from Battersea Park – Peter sitting in the queue

Unfortunately it wasn’t a smooth journey, traffic was horrendous and we eventually arrived at the main entrance to the flower show some 5 hours later (it should have taken about 2 hours!) – Only to be turned away and told to drive to Battersea Park and join the queuing system!

It wasn’t so bad, in the shade of some London Planes we patiently waited, glad that the plants were being kept cool in the back of the van, shuffling forward a few vehicles at a time until an hour later we were allowed back in!

Security was understandably tight, we were high-viz jacketed, steel toecap booted and then, suitably attired, we were scanned in and drove through.

inside the show - Road to Chelsea

It’s a bit busy in here!

To say it was absolute bedlam in there would be an understatement….and yet it was well organised bedlam, traffic marshals, were about, one personally led us to a place to park – somewhat amazed that we were involved in no less than 4 different stands!

There were literally vans everywhere and the air rang with the sound of circular saws, drills, cement mixers and hammers as sets were furiously being constructed, gardens created and magic was being woven into what everybody sees on the first day of the show.

unloading the plants - Road to Chelsea

Unloading the plants

Unloading the trolleys was fun as Peter and I negotiated them through tiny gaps between vans and got them into the Grand Pavilion. We immediately located Birmingham City Council’s Stand and duly gave them a huge number of Hydrangea ‘Black Diamond Shining Angel Blue’, Laurentia ‘Fizz n Pop Glowing Purple’, Orange begonias and stunning bi-coloured petunias ‘Miss Marvellous’. Peter soon located the Dahlia Society’s stand and they took their Dahlia ‘Lubega Power Tricolor’

By pure luck I spotted Mr. Peter Seabrook wandering through the throng and managed to accost him, say hello and got him to show me where the main stand for The Sun Newspaper was, the remaining plants, including a precious cargo of our SunBelievable ™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ , Gerberas and Hydrangea hybrid Runaway Bride® ‘Snow White’ were soon unloaded with them.

The sun newspaper stand - The Road to Chelsea

The Sun Newspaper stand under construction

Peter Seabrook absolutely loved both SunBelievable and the delightful spreading hydrangea was also greatly admired, soon both were being planned into the stand by Peter and Val, with Peter even clambering to the top with a huge pot, to see how it would look with a “river” of plants coming down the stand from the very top all the way down and then I got asked to go up too and hand him some more plants!

The last of the plants were delivered to the Horticultural Trades Association stand and we were then on hand to help with various bits and pieces, including taking some plants up to the Press Office area to “decorate” the steps.  And of course to grab a much needed bite to eat!

Once the van was loaded up with the now empty trolleys we slowly (and I mean VERY slowly) wound our way off of the site. As we were going so slowly, we had a great opportunity to peek at some of the other gardens and stands under construction, all looked amazing and I can’t wait to go back and see them finished

loading up and views - the road to chelsea

loading up and leaving the show

I’m returning to the show on the last Saturday to help on the stand, I’ll be armed with my phone’s camera and hopefully will have a tale to tell about the experience!

Grafted veg – The advantages of going that extra step

Grafted plants

Freshly grafted plants

Last year we at Thompson & Morgan started to sell grafted vegetable plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers; this year we have extended the range to include melons and watermelons too!

Too much trouble?

So why graft a plant that’s only going to be around for a season or two and then be composted? I can understand going to the trouble of grafting trees and shrubs as these will last a lifetime and are worth the trouble, but surely a tomato plant is a lot of work for little reward?

I was totally wrong of course!

Grafting is easier than I thought, especially with the soft shoots on these fruit and vegetable plants, these days there are even special snips that can cut the stems on rootstock and scion (top part) so that they match up exactly and form a perfect bond so that they graft together much faster.

Grafting a rootstock

Grafting onto a root stock

So why graft?

Imagine you have the best and fastest growing tomato plant that’s strong, disease resistant, grows outside with ease and also produces a huge crop of juicy tomatoes reliably every year. Now, if you could take all the qualities of that plant and then use it on another variety of tomato, that would be great! So that’s what we do. We take the rootstock of the super growing tomato plant and then graft on to it an different variety… so that all the power and vigour that comes from the roots will then go into the new variety and give it all the same traits as the original plant – a stronger growing, disease resistant plant with huge crops – up to 75% more in some cases!

One step further

So we have established that we could successfully graft tomato plants, it then made perfect sense to do the same with other favourites too, cucumbers were added to the range, and then a melon, and a watermelon too!

Quite a selection

There are now no less than eight different plants that we have available to buy as grafted veg

Grafted Tomato 'Philona' F1 Hybrid

Tomato ‘Philona’ F1 Hybrid




Solena Chocolate

‘Solena Red’


Grafted Tomato 'Philona' F1 Hybrid

Tomato ‘Philona’ F1 Hybrid



Mini Stars



Grafted Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid


Watermelon ‘Mini Love’ F1 Hybrid


All of our grafted veg are sent out in June as well established plants so that all you have to do is plant them up and reap the rewards of this great idea!  Give them a try and see how much of a difference it makes to your harvest this year!

The Top Ten Pop Songs proven to boost plant growth

As the UK’s best-known horticultural company, Thompson & Morgan is always at the cutting edge of plant innovation and welfare. We strive to give all our plants the best possible environments to grow in and we’re continually looking for new ways of bringing out the very best in our plants before we send them to our customers.

It was suggested in recent research that plants respond well to sound; from simple speech to complicated songs from all eras, so naturally we decided to put this to the test.

The results were quite astonishing!

In our trials, we have established quite quickly that today’s plants, using the latest breeding techniques, actually respond best to modern music. The results were so conclusive that our plant breeding team has set up a sound system in the polytunnels at our plant development site to play a daily Top Ten playlist to all the plants starting at midday when the sun is at its highest. At this time, the plants get maximum light and appear to be most receptive to the music.

Resident Music Expert and former DJ, Kevin Ketley, said:

It doesn’t surprise me that plants respond in this way to music. After all, it stimulates our brain activity and causes us to smile, tap our feet and so on, so plants will naturally grow better in that environment

The Top Ten Songs that our trials showed that plants are receptive to are:

  1. Kiss From A Rose – Seal
  2. Black Horse and A Cherry Tree – KT Tunstall
  3. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
  4. I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair) – Sandi Thom
  5. Lemon Tree – Fools Garden
  6. Where The Wild Roses Grow – Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue.
  7. Flowers – Sweet Female Attitude
  8. Supermarket Flowers – Ed Sheeran
  9. Bed Of Roses – Bon Jovi
  10. Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations



Interestingly, as you can see – and hear – the plants seem to respond better to songs that actually mention them! We feel this is really quite a breakthrough and our plant breeding team will be looking for new inspiration in the coming months – they hope to be able to increase yields on root crops by playing subterranean music!



Driftwood Garden’s Geoff Stonebanks’ trip to the Palace

Geoff Stonebanks attends Macmillan Cancer Support Volunteers Reception at Buckingham Palace, Hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace on 31 January. The event recognised and thanked exceptional volunteers for their life-changing contributions to helping people living with cancer.

The reception focused on the contribution these supporters have made, and celebrated the vital role volunteers play at Macmillan. One of our long serving customer trial members from Seaford, Geoff Stonebanks, was extremely lucky to be one of those invited to attend this prestigious event. Geoff is a local gardener and active fundraiser for the charity through his Driftwood Fundraising Group.  Macmillan said that all of those who attended had gone above and beyond their volunteer role.

Geoff raises money for The Macmillan Horizon Centre, over £54000 to date, through events in his own garden, Driftwood, and by single-handedly organising an annual Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail of approximately 25 gardens each year between Brighton and Seaford.

Geoff recounts how he brought the smile to The Prince’s face by telling him of a trick he had picked up for his own garden after a visit to Highgrove a couple of years ago. The Prince has some large urns at the back of the house which were looking a little faded and tired. As Geoff watched on, a couple of gardeners came up with a tractor and trailer loaded with pots of perfectly primed tulips, just about to burst into flower! They lifted out the tired, inner container from the urn and replaced it with one of tulips. Instant impact! This principle is something that Geoff now adopts, not on such a grand scale, in his own award-winning garden each season, where he has over 200 different containers. The Prince smiled.

Image by Paul Burns Photography, Courtesy of Clarence House

Geoff said:

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and so totally unexpected. Never ever did I imagine I would visit Buckingham Palace and engage in conversation on one of my favourite pastimes with The Prince of Wales, utterly magical! Thank you, Macmillan!”

Image by Paul Burns Photography, Courtesy of Clarence House

The royal connection does not end there though! Geoff was dumbstruck in January to receive an invitation to The Queen’s Royal Garden Party, also at Buckingham Palace, in June, for his services to the local community in Seaford, where he lives.

You can see Geoff’s own garden and discuss with him the tips he pinched from Highgrove when it opens 8 times for various charities this Summer. You can also see and discuss the plants he will be trialling for Thompson & Morgan too!  www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

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