Totally Tulips

tulip bulbsTulips may not be on the top of everyone’s wish list but they certainly are on mine! With at least 100 species, they offer so much variety and when selected carefully, you can get blooms from March right through to May. Whilst tulips flower in spring, they flower at different times, so you can extend the flowering season by selecting your varieties carefully.

November is the ideal time to plant your tulip bulbs ready for a magnificent spring display. What I admire most about tulip plants is that they are incredibly versatile! They make beautiful bedding plants as well as cut flowers! There is a ‘tip’ spreading round the office like the plague that once cut, if you prick the stem just beneath the flower where the seeds form, you will stop the leaves falling off and prolong the bloom. I’m sceptical but I am going to give it go!

Tulip bulbs will grow in any moist and well drained soil, except particularly wet soils. Plant them in a sunny position that is sheltered from strong winds and when planting, avoid shallow planting as this may reduce the winter cold period that is essential for tulip bulbs to produce flowers in spring. Plant them at a depth of 15cm (6″) and at a distance of 13cm (5″) apart. Once your tulips have flowered, deadhead the faded tulip flowers and allow the foliage to die back completely before removing it in summer.

tulip bulbs

I particularly love the new tulip varieties such as ‘Mixed Parrot’. They look so exotic that you may not even recognise it as a tulip! They will certainly jazz up and add excitement to any garden beds with their ruffled blooms and intriguing colour.

tulip bulbs

Customer trialist Geoff Stonebanks shows off his Tulip ‘Silver Parrot’

A firm customer favourite is Tulip ‘Silver Parrot’. It has proved so popular that we are actually out of stock, but hopefully will be back soon. But, too good not to share with you, the magnificent rosy pink blooms actually reach up to 20cm across!

Let us know what Tulips you are growing and why you love them!

Gear the Greenhouse

Whilst the weather is still relatively nice and warm, and autumn days are still upon us, now is the ideal time to start preparing your greenhouse ready for winter. Come spring, there is nothing more nerving than having to clean a dirty greenhouse. Prepare now and in spring you can get started on sowing your seed without the mammoth task of preparing your greenhouse.

greenhouse winter

Firstly, clear out everything from your greenhouse, yes everything. That means plants, pots, seed trays and benches. As you are cleaning the outside it makes sense you do the inside too. Because days are becoming shorter and light is an increasingly valuable resource, removing the shade in your greenhouse will maximise the sunlight available to your plants. Ensure you scrub down all of the glass, paying particular attention to any restricted areas where debris such as leaves will collect and prevent water escaping from the roof. Cleaning the inside of your greenhouse with a horticultural disinfectant will remove any pests and disease lingering in the greenhouse, and prevent the spread in future. It is therefore essential that when moving your plants back into the warmth of your greenhouse, that you check them thoroughly for pests so you are not re-infecting your clean greenhouse.

Throughout the winter months, wash out pots and seed trays ready for spring sowing and planting. Don’t forget that you can still sow plenty of vegetables to grow in winter. Take a look at our ‘Top 10 vegetables to grow over winter‘ article.

Greenhouse heating

Greenhouse heaters will protect your tender plants from becoming a frosted, soggy mush, and keep your young plants snug and warm until spring. Heating your greenhouse will open up a whole new world of winter gardening!

For now, here are some top tips on insulating your greenhouse;

  1. Insulate with bubble wrap – A layer of bubble wrap clipped to the inside of your greenhouse frame will reduce heat loss and block icy winter draughts.
  1. Only heat the area that you need to – Heating a large greenhouse can be expensive and wasteful if you only have a few delicate plants.
  1. Don‘t forget to ventilate – One drawback of heating your greenhouse is the problem of increased humidity.
  1. Use horticultural fleece – On extra cold nights a layer or two of horticultural fleece will provide several degrees more protection to your plants without the need to turn up the thermostat.
  1. Use a thermometer – Invest in a good thermometer with maximum and minimum readings, and check it daily. By keeping an eye on the air temperature you will be able to use your greenhouse heater more efficiently and adjust it when necessary.

Don’t have a greenhouse? We have an extensive range of quality greenhouses online which will be a perfect addition to your garden when overwintering young plants.

greenhouse winter

Our guest blogger Amanda Davies always keeps us updated on her greenhouse growing, why not have a read and pick up any tips, advice or ideas!

Winter vegetables – Harvest and grow

A gardener’s work is never done, so why shouldn’t we be rewarded with tasty crops all year round? When I think ahead, I think of cosy nights in front of the log burner with a cup of delicious hot chocolate topped with perfectly whipped cream, feet up and scouring the Thompson & Morgan (slightly biased) catalogue with pure delight and excitement. But what better way to top that than being able to harvest your own winter veg?


Whilst there are plenty of vegetables you can harvest over winter, you will need to be organised late spring/summer and already planting your winter vegetables outdoors. There are crops that you can sow and grow over winter for a much earlier crop than spring plantings, but I will come onto that in a bit.

winter vegetables

Over winter you can harvest mouth-watering parsnips, carrots, savoy cabbage and the vegetable that splits the nation, brussels sprouts! Parsnips will need to be sown from mid-spring to early summer as soon as the ground is workable. Carrots can be direct sown between March and July depending on your variety. Top Tip: If growing carrots, make sowings of mint or spring onion nearby this will deter carrot fly. If you haven’t already thought about your winter harvest then make note now so that next year you can be showing off your home grown veg at Christmas dinner.


What can you sow in winter?

Most winter vegetable plants are fully hardy and will cope well with cold winter weather, but if hard frosts threaten then you can always throw some fleece across them to provide some extra protection. Most can be planted or sown directly outdoors to ensure that your winter vegetable garden is fully stocked.

winter vegetablesGarlic – Growing garlic couldn’t be easier and there are lots of varieties to choose from for autumn planting. Like onions, they have a long growing season and won’t be ready to harvest until next summer, but it is well worth the wait!

Spring Onion – Winter hardy varieties of Spring onion make a tasty accompaniment to winter salads. They are a fairly quick growing crop and early autumn sowings should be ready to harvest by early spring. Spring Onion ‘White Lisbon’ is a popular and reliable winter hardy variety.

Asparagus – If you have plenty of space then why not plant a permanent asparagus bed this autumn.  Although asparagus beds take several years to establish, each asparagus crown can produce up to 25 spears per year and will continue cropping for 25 years. You will need to be patient with this crop as it will be 2 years before you can harvest them properly.


Wasabi rocket – This exclusive variety is perfect for windowsill growing. Wasabi Rocket can be harvested as a baby leaf within weeks of sowing or left to mature into a full leaf alongside your cut and come again salad varieties

Garden Space Fillers

Whilst our garden favourites take centre stage in our beds and borders, plants are much like people, they need companionship! Garden space fillers are a great way to add further interest to your garden, without taking away from your star performers. Buy low growing ground cover varieties such as Heuchera or Wallflowers to fill in those spaces. And who likes bare soil? Bare soil is not only unattractive but will also lose moisture in weather come wind, rain or shine, so they will also offer some protection.

garden space fillers

Rudbeckia ‘Early Bird Gold’

Late flowering perennials will help fill in those gaps and add colour right through to the first frosts. Rudbeckia ‘Early Bird Gold’ erupts into bloom weeks earlier than other perennial varieties. Their long-lasting colour will add interest to herbaceous borders and will attract beneficial pollinating insects to your garden! You don’t want to squish those tall, flamboyant perennials together either, so why not mix it up and add some annuals such as Clematis ‘Freckles’ that will flower from December to February.

garden space fillers

Clematis ‘Freckles’

You may be wondering what you should do for added interest when your blooms start to fade? Autumn foliage space fillers! Heuchera is our top pick. When your flowers come to an end, the foliage will provide spectacular colour and performance throughout autumn until the first sign of frosts. ‘Patchwork mix’ will add a distinctive splash of colour to the front of borders, or even brightening your winter containers. Their airy blooms attract bees and are also useful as cut flowers.

garden space fillers

Heuchera ‘Patchwork Mix’

We’ll soon be despatching winter and spring bedding: pansies, primroses, violas, bellis and wallflowers! These are the perfect winter space fillers. They will cover bare soils right through winter, giving a flush of colour in late autumn and again in spring. Wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’ offers fragrant flower spikes in shades of cream, yellow, red and purple not only in the spring, but throughout the autumn too, blooming in just 6 weeks from an August planting! Available as garden ready plants, these customer favourites will be delivered at the right time for planting. Wallflower ‘Winter Party’ is an evergreen hybrid that is so undemanding it can even cope in the poorest of soils!

Ground cover plants

Ground cover plants are useful in the garden for covering bare patches of soil beneath trees or shrubs or for covering steep banks where access is difficult. Their roots also help to stabilise soil on steep slopes. Ground cover plants brighten up otherwise dull areas and will suppress weeds, making them ideal for a low-maintenance garden. We’ve put together a list of some of the best ground cover plants, which are fast-growing and make an effective dense covering.

Ground cover plants for shade

From foliage to flowers there are plenty of colourful ground cover plants to light up a shady spot in your garden. Even vigorous plants may grow more slowly in heavier shade so don’t be too concerned if they are taking their time to spread. You may need to be more vigilant in weeding whilst these plants become established as the soil will be bare for some time. Once they do establish however, they will form an impenetrable mat.

Bbergenia 'Dragonfly Sakura'

Bergenia ‘Dragonfly Sakura’

Bergenia ‘Dragonfly Sakura’ is a hardy evergreen ground cover plant with incredible winter colour! The pretty blooms provide invaluable food for pollinating insects early in the year, and make dainty cut flowers too.  Plant Elephant’s Ears in any well-drained soil in sun or dappled shade.

Heuchera 'Patchwork'

Heuchera ‘Patchwork’

Heuchera ‘Patchwork’ Mix are prized for their colourful leaves, these versatile semi-evergreen perennials make excellent drifts of ground cover, adding a distinctive splash of colour to the front of borders, or even brightening winter containers.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is a scented ground cover plant. Each delicate arching stem carries a flurry of snow-white, bell shaped blooms with a powerful, timeless fragrance. Set against of a carpet of lush green foliage, the exquisite blooms of Convallaria majalis make a wonderful cut flower for scented, springtime posies.

Ground cover plants full sun

From annual to evergreen ground cover plants, there are plenty of options for a sunny spot in the garden. Plants growing in full sun benefit from mulching in their first year to help retain moisture at their roots. If the weather is very hot and dry make sure you water your new plants regularly to help them establish. It’s also essential to keep on top of weeds so there is no competition for nutrients and water.

Delosperma 'Hardy Mixed'

Delosperma ‘Hardy Mixed’

Delosperma ‘Hardy Mixed‘, Hardy ice plant, is fantastic for those hot, dry problem areas where   many other plants would fail to establish.

Lily 'Colour Carpet™ Mixture'

Lily ‘Colour Carpet™ Mixture’

Lily ‘Colour Carpet™ Mixture’ is the only ground cover Lily that will flower within 10 weeks. These short stemmed dwarf lilies are a ‘must have’ for creating vibrant ground cover in exotic gardens, or edging paths and borders.

For more information take a look at our ground cover plants guide. Find plenty more shade growing tips at our dedicated plants for shade hub page.

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