It takes two – Fuchsia planting partners

Fuchsia Colour Collection (hardy) from Thompson & Morgan

Discover your fuchsia’s perfect planting partners in our guide
Image: Fuchsia Colour Collection (hardy) from Thompson & Morgan

The world’s your oyster when it comes to choosing the best companion plants to complement your fuchsias. Seasonal tender fuchsias blend so well with other summer bedding plants that you’re almost spoilt for choice. The same applies to hardy types, which work well alongside a wide range of perennials in mixed borders. Here’s some tried and tested wisdom when it comes to finding the perfect partners for your fuchsias.


T&M’s top 10 trends for 2019

In an ever changing gardening world, everyone is looking for both short term and long term drivers which we use to shape the way that we British gardeners use our outdoor spaces.

We took a look at what we at T&M thought would be the top 10 trends for 2019:

1. Hot colours and cold hardiness

Our customers are increasingly looking to add the tropical or temperate touch to the garden. Perhaps as a result of tightening purse strings and less foreign holidays, we’re seeing more interest in both seasonal summer exotics and hardy plants with an exotic feel to them. Perhaps it’s just the hot weather this summer.
• Great examples of seasonal summer display plants that may need to be brought indoors during winter, or protected from frosts – thunbergia, mandevilla, cobaea, glory lily, palms, banana, jacobinia (Brazilian Fuchsia).
• Other plants that have an exoctic look or feel to them but actually hardy in our British climate – lewisia, Campsis ‘Indian Summer’, Fatsia japonica, bamboo, palms, alstroemeria, gerbera.
• Houseplants that always feel exotic year round – Bird of Paradise and Parrot Plant (Impatiens niamniamensis), citrus.


2. Extending summer

With cold starts to the past few seasons, our customers are looking to make the most of warm weather moving into autumn. Many of our recent summer introductions look to tackle this by having much longer flowering periods, to maximise garden enjoyment for our customers:
SunBelievable™; new rudbeckias; renewed focus on dahlias – all flowering into November or the first hard frosts of autumn.

3. Wabi sabi

Wabi sabi is the art of imperfect beauty; appreciating imperfections in life and the ability to age gracefully (shabby chic). In the garden, this translates as a delicate balance between nature and nurture – a natural feel in the garden yet with a design edge. Thompson & Morgan’s seed scatter boxes work well in this concept as whilst there is a “random” element to the seed distribution, there is also a uniformness in the fact that the varieties have been carefully chosen to suit the desire effect. Our Perennial collections have a similar, though slightly more formal feel to them, giving a wider range of heights, colours and textures in a flower bed.


4. Grow your own protein

The vegan movement has gained momentum on social media and in wider media in the past 12 months, becoming more widely recognised as a way of living in the mainstream society. This, alongside the issue of how we sustainably feed the world’s fast-rising population has led to a shift to high protein veg as an alternative to meat.

Good examples of veg that are high in protein are: Peas, spinach, kale, broccoli, sprouts, mushrooms and globe artichokes.



5. Purple reigns

The health properties of purple vegetables continue  to appeal, usually being higher in anti-oxidants and vitamins as well as having “plate appeal” in restaurants too.

Varieties to look out for include:

Pea Shiraz
Carrot Purple Sun
Cabbage Red Jewel
• Radish Diana
Potato Salad Blue
Brussels Sprout Red Bull
Tomato Indigo Cherry Drops
Sprouting Broccoli Summer Purple

6. Generation rent

With more and more people now choosing to live in rented accomodation, we’re seeing an uplift in houseplants and ‘take-away’ garden containers that can easily be transported to a new property, conatinerised plants are also much easier to rearrgange according to colour schemes, seasonal changes etc
• New this season we have introduced is a full range of house plants to help our customers that are looking into indoor gardening
• Alongside this we have increased the number of pre-planted pots and baskets we have available to our customers, alongside our garden ready plants, which are ideal for planting straight into pots and baskets too
• Shrubs and perennials ideal for containers have also been on the rise, again these can be grown in a large pot and transported easily to a new home without the risk ofloosing an established plant grown in the ground and uprooting it.– more compact forms of garden favourites are; Lavatera ‘Barnsley Baby’ and Buddleja ‘Buzz’™.

7. Climate gardening

David Wolfe, Department of Horticulture at Cornell University said:

“We are in the unfortunate situation of being the first generation of gardeners ever, who cannot rely on historical weather records to tell us what our climate is, or what to expect in the future.”


Our customers are increasingly realising that we need to work with what we’ve got and are asking for planting solutions for;

• Wind-swept gardens
• Longer periods of heat/drought
• Extended periods of wet/rain
• Extreme cold/frost


Summer bedding needs to withstand drought, but also be able to bounce back after summer down-pours – deeming it “weatherproof”
Spring bedding must be able to cope with increasingly poor winters.
Our hardy nursery stock has to cope with all these factors.
As such, all our new T&M plant introductions are tested for their suitability to variable UK conditions, with the above four factors in mind.


8. Under cover gardeners

Again, off the back of more unpredictable weather patterns, we at Thompson & Morgan are seeing increased use of greenhouses, cloches and cold frames in our customer gardens to help level out climate and environment. These help regulate temperatures for crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers an make pleasant environments to garden in too!

9. Stress relief

By 2030, anxiety will be the number one health issue, outranking obesity. A recent survey by Ypulse shows 81% of 18-34 years old are making mental health a priority, looking for new ways to balance physical and mental wellness via ‘digital detox’. Switching off the technology and getting outside.
Gardening and plants can play a big part in mental wellness. Being surrounded by air-purifying plants, creating a quiet tranquil space, eating a plant-based diet are all reflections of wellness trends that have become status symbols for people who make health a priority.



10. Living Social Network

The concept of companion planting (eg. growing marigolds with tomatoes to keep whitefly away) has moved on from plant pairing to viewing planting schemes as a living ‘social network’ rather than a collection of
individual plants. Creating symbiosis between plants puts the focus on garden design and management rather than time-consuming garden maintenance.
For example:
• Low-growing evergreen grasses being grown as a green mulch to reduce watering and weeding.
• Planting nitrogen fixing plants such as lupins to fix nitrogen and feed soil (and using green manures in general).
• Planting taller plants in gardens to create shade and shelter for smaller additions.
• Growing scented flowers to keep pests away and others to attract beneficial insects and also to help the environment by encouraging bees and butterflies.
• Further symbiotic link with the use of mycorrhizal fungi, with research now showing ‘communication’ and transfer of nutrients, plant to plant, carried by fungi.

Decorative dual cropping veg plant holds its own against latest flower introductions

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®

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®

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®

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 and search ‘Egg & Chips®’ to order yours.

Golden Wonder!

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold two years in a row for amateur potato growers

A Great Pavilion exhibit without a single decorative bloom on show has again charmed judges into awarding a Chelsea Gold Medal to Scots potato aficionados Morrice and Ann Innes.

The exhibit, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, acts as a simple showcase, highlighting more than 140 varieties, and traces the origins of the potato while drawing attention to its diversity and versatility in the garden and kitchen. Morrice of Old Town, Aberdeen, claims to have the largest private collection of potato varieties, built up over 20 years, and has long championed his favourite vegetable.

In 2015 Morrice and Ann took the first ever Gold Medal for a potato-only display in the show’s 150 year history. Having followed judges recommendations for 2016 by giving the tubers more breathing space on a bigger stand, they have done it again.


Many of the potatoes on display this year come from Morrice’s unofficial national collection of over 300 varieties, and include original South American species as well as historical European heritage varieties such as Karaparea, which was taken to New Zealand by Captain James Cook in the 1770s. The exhibit is completed with some 50 modern varieties grown from Thompson & Morgan seed potatoes including blight resistant main crop Sarpo Axona and high-yielding salad potato Jazzy, currently the mail order supplier’s best seller.

The modest, yet impactful display also includes several plants of wild potato species which were the starting point of many of today’s cultivated varieties. Seeds of these species varieties were supplied by The James Hutton Institute and grown in containers by Thompson & Morgan’s horticultural team in Ipswich. Visitors to the show have commented on the surprisingly pretty flowers of these wild forms.


Morrice said: “We’ve tried to tell the tale of the potato by highlighting a vast array of skin colours, shapes and sizes, while suggesting the best uses of each variety and the places where they come from. You won’t find many of the varieties for sale at the supermarket. Hopefully we’ll help inspire more people to grow potatoes and to try some of the more unusual forms while they are at it.”

Thompson & Morgan has worked with Morrice and Ann in the past, scooping silver and bronze medals at previous RHS shows, and is delighted to see a second Gold Medal awarded to the nation’s favourite vegetable. Thompson & Morgan Vegetable Product Manager, Colin Randel, worked with Morrice to set a world record for the largest display of potato varieties at the 2004 Shrewsbury Flower Show. He said: “Amongst all the glitz, glamour and colour of the world’s most prestigious flower show, it’s great to see a homage to the humble potato stand out from the crowd to scoop another Gold Medal. Morrice and Ann have put on a fantastic display again this year. There’s pretty much every potato colour under the sun on show, from very old varieties right up to our latest hot potato, Jazzy.”

Show Time

I’m one of the lucky few who get to visit the RHS Chelsea Flower Show the day before it opens to the general public. I attend most years, but took a break in 2015.

The break did me good. When you visit year on year it can start to feel a little samey – exhibitors in the same spot as the year before, doing little different to the year before. This year I had fresh eyes for the show and took plenty of planting ideas away with me.

Chelsea Plant of the Year is always my first point of call. It was great to see T&M’s very own Egg & Chips® plant making it through as a finalist – particularly when there is such focus on a plant’s ornamental value in the garden. Judges praised Egg & Chips® for its unique dual cropping (potatoes and aubergines from the same plant), and its value in small gardens, balconies and patio settings.

Left: Egg & Chips®, Right: Tomtato®

Egg & Chips® and Tomtato®

With Plant of the Year under my belt its time for my favourite part of the show – the Grand Pavilion. This is where the plants are the stars (not some designer you may or may not have heard of). This is where nurseries and growers show off their skills and their wonderful collections – all brought on to perfection, often flowering outside of their natural cycle to the delight of the thousands of visitors who flock to the show each May. I could spend a whole day and more in the pavilion.

Particular highlights for me were Peter Seabrook’s Sun Flower Square (four front gardens featuring 80 different container plants, plus much more, brought together with the help of school children. It was great to see the Thrive charity sweet pea, ‘Eleanore Udall’ on display alongside pots of Petunia ‘Night Sky’, Bidens ‘Bee Dance Painted Yellow’ and Marigold Strawberry Blonde’.

Marigold 'Strawberry Blonde' and Petunia 'Night Sky'

Marigold ‘Strawberry Blonde’ and Petunia ‘Night Sky’

At home I’m trying my hardest to encourage my children into gardening, so anything that helps nuture their interest is good in my books.

The Miracle-Gro’wers Urban School Garden featured many vegetables from the T&M range including Egg & Chips®, Tomtato®, Fuchsia ‘Berry’ and many more. Miracle Gro aimed to bring the benefits of school gardening to the fore and certainly did that. The exhibit highlights the wide range of fruit and veg that can be grown in an urban school garden and spreads the 5-a-day message.

Fuchsia Berry

Fuchsia Berry

What little time I don’t spend in the pavilion I then use for a whistle stop tour of the show gardens. It’s taken me many years to get my head around these displays. As a true hands on gardener (as opposed to a flouncy designer) I’ve always viewed these gardens as unachievable – flowers are forced to bloom out of season and the hard landscaping is so high-end that most households would need a second mortgage to get the same look.

I came at things with a different approach this year, viewing each show garden as a living art installation and I appreciated them much more than I ever have in the past.

Working with plants every day, Chelsea can be a bit of a busman’s holiday for me, so one aspect I really take advantage of on the Monday press day is the celeb spotting. I didn’t do as well as I have in previous years, but there were plenty of stars to be seen among the flowers – Dame Judi Dench, Rob Brydon, Ainsley Harriot, Richard E Grant, Jerry Hall, to name a few, plus of course the usual gardening gang; Carol Klein, Toby Buckland, Alys Fowler and the man himself Mr T! I took a few blurry candid snaps of celebs, but I’m not brave enough to run up to them paparazzi style or ask for a selfie!

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