Thompson & Morgan Gardening Blog

Our gardening blog covers a wide variety of topics, including fruit, vegetable and tree stories. Read some of the top gardening stories right here.

Propagation, planting out and cultivation posts from writers that know their subjects well.

THOMPSON & MORGAN TAKES FIRST AND THIRD PLACES FOR RHS CHELSEA PLANT OF THE YEAR

Hydrangea hybrid Runaway Bride® ‘Snow White’                                                                      SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’

We’re thrilled to announce that our entry ‘Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride® ‘Snow White’ has today been awarded the prestigious accolade of RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year.

When we announced yesterday that no less than five of our seven entries had made the shortlist of 20 plants selected by RHS plant committee members, we hardly dared to hope that one of these would take the renowned title at judging today. In fact, our home-bred entry, SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ has taken third place, giving us two slots in the Plant of the Year top three!

‘Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride Snow White’  is completely unique in that it flowers not only from its terminal buds as with traditional hydrangeas, but also from virtually all the lateral stem buds. Flowering from late spring/early summer well into autumn, Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride’ produces a profusion of lacecap white flowers flushed with pale pink – often 6 along each branch – on graceful, trailing stems.

Paul Masters, our Head of Horticulture, comments this afternoon from RHS Chelsea Flower Show:

“We’re completely over the moon to have taken first and third places in this year’s RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year. ‘Runaway Bride’ is a truly spectacular plant – I’ve never seen so many flowers on a hydrangea! To see six blooms on each branch is unheard of. It really is incredible!”

SunBelievable™’Brown Eyed Girl’ is the latest of our many breeding successes. This brand new hybrid has been perfected over 8 years by Thompson & Morgan’s in-house breeding team, headed by Charles Valin. Like no other sunflower, SunBelievable™ flowers on unique multi-branching plants continuously from May until the first frosts. In trials, plants were still blooming in November! Ideal for containers as well as borders, each plant produces over 1,000 flowers during the growing season.

Head plant breeder, Charles, says:

“I’m incredibly pleased to hear that SunBelievable™’Brown Eyed Girl’ has been awarded a place in the top three Plant of the Year at RHS Chelsea. I set out to breed a new hybrid that wouldn’t waste time setting seed and would put all its energy into flowering. In creating this amazing new sunflower, I’ve crossed the very best with the very best to really boost its flower power. It’s a huge honour to have our hard work recognised by such a prestigious body.”

Easy to grow, quick to recover if neglected, heat and drought tolerant, SunBelievable™ is the first cutting-raised annual sunflower with multiple uses as a pot plant, patio decoration, bedding and as a cut flower.

All our shortlisted plants as well as other shortlisted entries are available from www.thompson-morgan.com/chelsea-2018

 

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

From Rake To Bake – Mint ‘n’ Chocolate Biscuits

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.

May is perfect for making Mint ‘n’ Chocolate Biscuits.

Hands up who only uses the mint in their garden for savoury dishes? Yet, it is so much more than a herb to enliven lamb or new potatoes, and making these tasty treats is much easier than you think.There are many varieties of this versatile herb, from plain garden spearmint to high priced Moroccan mint, and if kept in a pot it doesn’t have to be a garden thug.

Mint has many uses from aiding digestion to clearing a blocked head, cooling the body down, helping your liver and even whitening teeth. No wonder it is used in toothpastes! Mint is high in antioxidants and carotenes helping the body absorb vitamins. It also contains Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, potassium and copper. It’s also a source of dietary fibre.

Prep Time 15 minutes. Cooking Time 15-25 Minutes. Decorating Time 5-10 minutes. Oven 180°c Fan 160°c Gas Mark 4 Skills Level Easy Peasy*

Utensils.

  • Chopping Board.
  • Sieve
  • Measuring Spoons.
  • Scales
  • Spatula
  • Blunt knife.
  • Biscuit cutters.
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Rolling pin.
  • Ziplock or sandwich/freezer bag.
  • Small saucepan
  • Small Pyrex bowl.
  • Oven tray.
  • Cooling Rack.
  • Grease proof paper.
  • Plate.
  • Pasty Mat (optional).

 

Ingredients.

  • 3 Tablespoons of freshly picked Mint Leaves .
  • 50g Caster Sugar.
  • 100g Butter .
  • 150g Plain Flour.
  • 150-200g of Dark Chocolate.
  • Some Cold Water.

 

Method.

  • Wash the mint leaves, strip from the stalk and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper.
  • Snip or chop the leaves into tiny pieces and place in a ziplock bag.
  • Preheat the oven and line a baking tray with grease proof paper.
  • Measure the dry ingredients and place in separate containers.
  • Measure the butter and cut into small squares, then put it in a mixing bowl.
  • Break the chocolate into a small Pyrex bowl and set to one side.
  • Next rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips – try not to use the palms of your hands as you do not want the heat of your hands to melt the butter. The mixture is ready when it resembles fine breadcrumbs and there are no obvious butter lumps when you shake the bowl.
  • Add about a tablespoon of sugar from your measured ingredients to the bag of mint. Then take your bag outside to a hard surface such as a windowsill or patio tile and bash the mint and sugar bag with the end of your rolling pin for about two minutes, or longer until you can no longer see the sugar and that dark juices escape from the mint.
  • Tip everything from the ziplock bag into the breadcrumb mixture along with the rest of the sugar then turn with a blunt knife.
  • Once the dough starts to stick put a very small amount of water in and knead the dough with your hands. Too much water will make the dough crack when baking, so just start with quarter to half a teaspoon. You just need enough moisture to make the dough stick. Note this is a hard dough and requires a good amount of kneading.
  • The dough is ready when you can shape it. Roll the dough onto a pastry mat or lightly floured worktop to about 5cm in thickness, then use a biscuit cutter to make to cut the biscuits . Any shape cutter is fine but a 5cm sized one works best.
  • Re-roll the dough to get as many biscuits as you can. Place in the centre of the oven for about 15 minutes,  check they are rising, but do not open the oven door. The biscuits are ready when they have risen and are a light golden colour. Don’t try to brown them as it impairs the taste.
  • Leave the biscuits to cool then move to a wire rack and allow to go fully cold.
  • Once the biscuits are cold, heat some water in a small saucepan, then turn the heat down and place the Pyrex bowl of chocolate in the saucepan. Keep stirring the chocolate until it’s half melted.
  • Turn the heat off and carefully remove the Pyrex bowl. Keep stirring the chocolate, there should be enough heat in it to melt the rest of the chocolate. If not just place the bowl back over the saucepan but don’t turn on the heat.
  • When your chocolate is ready place a small amount on each biscuit and use the back of a
  • teaspoon to swirl it around.
  • Allow to cool and harden. They will keep fresh in an airtight container for a week.

Serving Suggestions.

Pop in a bowl of Vanilla or Strawberry ice-cream.

Enjoy with a hot coffee/tea.

Or just eat them outside in the fresh air.

Grow Your Own.

Mint can be sown from seed in late spring or propagated from cuttings at any time. It can be

invasive so it’s best kept contained in a pot of multipurpose compost and divided every few years.

Once the flowers die off chop the mint right back. Mint does best when watered regularly and does  not like to dry out unlike Mediterranean herbs.

There are many different varieties but ensure you keep them separate or you will loose the individual scents and flavours.

 

*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.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Five entries shortlisted for RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year

FIVE THOMPSON & MORGAN ENTRIES SHORTLISTED FOR RHS CHELSEA PLANT OF THE YEAR

We’re so proud to announce that FIVE of our seven entries into the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year competition have today been shortlisted. We were awarded this very distinguished accolade in 2012 for our fabulous Digitalis Illumination.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year finallists

Our Head of Horticulture, Paul Masters, commented this afternoon from RHS Chelsea Flower Show:

“I’m thrilled that we’ve got five plants through to the final – including two that are from our own breeding. Each of the plants is so incredible in its own way, we’re really so pleased that this has been recognised by the judges today. We’re keeping everything crossed for the final selection tomorrow!”

Sunbelievable™’Brown Eyed Girl’ is the latest of our many breeding successes. Like no other sunflower, Sunbelievable™ flowers on unique multi-branching plants continuously from May until the first frosts. In trials, plants were still blooming in November! Ideal for containers as well as borders, each plant produces over 1,000 flowers during the growing season. This brand new hybrid which has been perfected over 8 years by our in-house breeding team, headed by Charles Valin, is bred to be sterile so it puts all its energy into flowering rather than setting seed.

Stunning Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride’ is completely unique in that it flowers not only from its terminal buds as with traditional hydrangeas, but also from virtually all the lateral stem buds. Flowering from late spring/early summer well into autumn, Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride’ produces a profusion of lacecap white flowers flushed with pale pink – often 6 along each branch – on graceful, trailing stems.

The third short-listed plant is another breeding success from our in-house team. Isotoma axillaris ‘Fizz n’Pop Glowing Purple’ is an extra-large-flowered Isotoma boasting an exceptional unfading colour of bright purple. Flowers and petals are much larger than traditional Isotoma and instead of fading over the flowering period, they actually become darker with age.

Next on the list is the latest in the Garvinea® Gerbera series is Gerbera hybrida Garvinea® Sweet Sunset®. Sweet Sunset® is the very first bi-colour variety. Uniquely, this fabulous, vibrantly-coloured gerbera flowers non-stop from early spring until the first frosts, producing masses of large, warm yellow-orange flowers on each plant – more than 100 per plant each year.

The last on the list of the shortlisted plants for RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s Plant of the Year is the amazing Dahlia Lubega Tricolour. This strikingly attractive dahlia represents a major colour breakthrough. Red, yellow, orange and white areas on the petals give the blooms an ever-changing appearance through the flowering period. In a never-before-seen colour combination, flowers will seemingly change colour as the season progresses. It has taken 5 years for this variety to come to the commercial market after its unique colouring was discovered during a bicolour breeding programme.

All plants are available from www.thompson-morgan.com

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Spring? Blink and You’ve Missed It!

So on Thursday 19th April we went away for The Long Weekend (more of that later). 27ᵒc. Evidence of new shoots emerging in garden at last. Daffodils coming into bloom. Last minute seed sowing completed.

Fast forward to Sunday 22nd, 24ᵒc, daffs gone over, tulips out already! Fern coils, emerging from the soil, now 12” tall; hostas, from spears to full leaf in three days; ricinus seedlings sown on Wednesday, up 4”. Woodruff marching all over the central bed and helianthus Lemon Queen rampaging through the tubs on the roof terrace.

And now, one week later, 13ᵒc. If the plants knew how to retract their foliage, now would be the ideal time. My poor cannas, liberated from under cover one minute, back inside the next. Greenhouse needs a revolving door.

Seeds Sowed!

Still, undeterred, I’ve been keeping busy (and active, just to keep warm) in the greenhouse, potting on all the T&M Trial seeds: tomatoes Artisan, Rainbow Blend & Sweet Baby and cucumber Nimrod (100% germination – note to self: need a polytunnel!), ricinus (4 out of 6 seeds germinated), mina lobata (supposed to be so easy, eh? 4 out of 16 seeds germinated, huh!) & cerinthe Purple Belle (5 out of 10 seeds germinated). Rooted cuttings of fuchsia thymifolia, erysimum Bowles Mauve and salvias Confertiflora and Involucrata are sulking now that I have switched off the propagators. Jumbo plugs Petunia Sweetunia Suzie Storm are storming ahead (ha, got it?) as are Begonia Fragrant Falls Orange Delight and Solenia Apricot, but I’ve lost over a third of my 36 Begonia Non-Stop Mocca cartridge plugs; I think I’ll stick to the larger plugs in future. What exactly was I going to do with 3 dozen of them anyway? Prize for the Greatest Endeavour goes to Foxglove Illumination Flame, already potted on twice and ready for planting out after all risk of frost has passed. (August maybe?)

 

Overwintering

What a learning curve this winter has been though, seriously. Plants I felt sure would perish, such as salvias involucrata Boutin and Black & Blue, are up and about, whilst other more robust shrubby salvias, deadski as one New Yorker friend used to say. Melianthus major and fuchsia thymifolia are resurrected from the depths of the earth, while I’ve managed to lose lamium. Who could kill that? Just shows how crucial it is to apply thick autumn mulch. That, coupled with the T&M plastic tomato rings, has saved the day. To that end, I carried out a controlled experiment: two agastache Golden Jubilee with ring surrounds and one without. (In truth a happy accident, as one of the rings was blown away in a gale). All three survived, however the unprotected one is markedly smaller at this stage in the game.

Ascot Spring Gardening Show

We’ve been getting out and about. The new Ascot Spring Gardening Show mid-April was a real treat, especially as it wasn’t actually raining or snowing for once. Much larger than I had anticipated, there was  a Plant Village with about 3 dozen specialist nurseries, and as Spring is my favourite time of year (hmmm, usually…) the array of pulmonaria, brunnera and ferns was right up my street. Good job there was a Plant Crèche too! There were six show gardens from established designers and six created by talented horticultural students for the Young Gardeners of the Year Competition, horticultural trade exhibitors, and a programme of free talks, as well as floral demos by royal florist Simon Lycett.

 

 

 

Norfolk

So, to the birthday celebration weekend in Norfolk, bathed in glorious 28ᵒc sunshine, so brief but so welcome. (Enshrined in the canon of clichés since the 1730s, George II is supposed to have characterized the British summer as “three fine days and a thunderstorm”.) We had a lovely time; the boutique hotel was very shishi, the food surely cooked by a Master Chef finalist, and the two resident cats begrudgingly graced us with their presence. At Sandringham, my new concessionary status saved me £2 on the entry fee. But it was the Norfolk Nursery Network that was the highlight for me. Poor David, destined to languish, with all the other bored partners, in the café of one such nursery, while I ran around semi-hysterical, swooping up such gems as clianthus puniceus (Lobster Claw climber), nepeta Six Hills Gold (variegated version of Giant) and centurea pulchra Major (pink thistle to the uninitiated), clematis recta purpurea and geum coccineam EOS. Pure Joy. Where are they going to go? Who cares! Mind you, David satisfied his craving for buying Souvenirs That Seem like a Good Idea At The time. In Southwold he got some funny looks as we strolled around the town centre, swinging an anchor from his shoulder, (it’s for our Beech Hut Summer House, silly) and in Swaffham it was a rusty old petrol can. (I stand corrected – it’s  Vintage apparently. Heaven knows what he’s got in store for that!)

Another highlight was our visit to Holkham Hall to see the 6 acre walled garden, surely the largest in England. An exciting project is underway to restore the walled garden which was originally laid out by Samuel Wyatt during the late 1700s. Huge greenhouses adjacent to the substantial walls, others sunken to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations; an  ‘Arena’ of plants, vineyard, kitchen garden, one ‘room’ complete with lawn surrounded by ornamental beds. A veritable work in progress with knowledgeable guides and a team of local volunteers. How I wish I could have rolled up my sleeves and joined in. Nearby Gooderstone Water Gardens was a haven of tranquility:  One Man’s Dream fulfilled. Billy Knights, a retired farmer, began designing and creating the Water Gardens in 1970 in his 70th year, on a damp site too wet to grace cattle. He worked on his garden until he died aged 93.

Inspiration was another thing we brought back from Norfolk. Driftwood is very prevalent in the coastal gardens of East Anglia, and so on the patio, our multistriped fence will be transformed into a driftwood groyne, engineered from old scaffold planks. Mercifully the stripy bench has now fallen apart (nasty looking thing) to be replaced by a stylish (by that I mean subtle, not a concept usually associated with us Broomes) bleached wooden bench.

The weather forecast is set fair from early May so maybe now I can get on and do some actual gardening! There’s the new plants to go in, the overwintered ones to go back out. The hardstanding is smothered in slippery moss but the reclaimed sets are too delicate for pressure washing, so its hands and knees time. The rill is fowl – full of pond weed, rotting leaves and stagnant water, but also full of tadpoles so no action required for now. The living wall needs replanting. The hanging baskets need filling.

 

 

 

And so it goes on……..Happy gardening! Love, Caroline

New Forest April Holiday and Pembrokeshire Greenhouses

Dear Gardeners,

I’m afraid I have been an April Fool. We went on a much needed holiday to the New Forest the day after the Easter Bank holiday. My first holiday since the cancer and heart failure, the weather down in Hampshire wasn’t the best, but the break was.

I’d planned the timings of all the greenhouse chores so all seedlings were transplanted, all recently sown seeds were in propagators, and all plug plants were establishing nicely. Mum and my best friend were asked to just check on things and give a good watering to them midweek and especially if the weather turned nice.

Best laid plans and all that! Mum had her sister home from Scotland, and also was on babysitting duties for both of my brothers’ children, as it was half term. In-between she was helping my youngest brother with his new business venture, so she wasn’t home much. My best friend unfortunately has a memory like a sieve at the moment and at least owned up to totally forgetting my plants, even though she walks her dog past my house at least once a day. When mum eventually had time to check on my greenhouse (the day before we came home,) the poor plants had all dried up.

My favourite quotes from mum are-

“Were they like that when you put them in the greenhouse?”

Nope. I don’t believe they were crispy.

“We had a really bad frost one morning. My shed roof was white!”

No one else remembers this.

And my all time favourite:

“Do you think I should have come down earlier in the week?”

Erm let me think about that…

I went through a myriad of emotions, but couldn’t really hold anyone responsible, as I did say to mum, that Rachel will check on the greenhouses and vice versa.

So confession time, how bad was the damage?

In The Office.
  • Expensive to buy in plug format, but grown from seed Himalayan Blue poppies all dead except two I had left in the tray in the kitchen.
  • Cape Gooseberries all dead except three left in the kitchen.
  • Trial Strawberry Blonde Marigolds. One seedling left after the whole packet germinated. As T&M gave me these seeds, I was mortified that I had killed their plants, so I ordered another packet from their website. I still have to trial them.
  • Trial Sunflower Shock-o-late seedlings all dead. Luckily I had only sown half the packet so I had some left over, which I have re-sown
  • Sunflower Velvet Queen same as above.
  • Lewisia, Basil Lemonade, Mint, Grasses, Foxgloves, Forget-me-nots, Hollyhocks, French Marigolds, Buddleja and Hyssop all dead.
  • Rainbow Beetroots – stressed. I rehydrated them little by little watering every few hours for the first two days.
  • Sweet Peppers. Hugely hardy and responded well to a good drink.
  • Just Bee flower mix, stressed, but stable.
  • Lettuce Mix. Difficult to say, some had died completely, some had thrived.
  • Dad’s spider plant – looking green again, with a little new growth.
  • A few stray beetroot seeds had germinated, along with radish, borage, chillies and a different variety of sweet pepper.
  • The trial Sweetpeas Turquoise Lagoon, were in pretty good shape as I had left a lid over the blue bread basket they were in, conserving the water in the soil by reducing evaporation.
  • Lavenders and Christmas cacti thriving.
In Ty Mawr,

No,damage whatsoever, in fact plenty of growth on everything.

It’s taken me up until the end of the month to clear the staging, between 35°c temperatures under the glass and torrential rain showers, gardening has been difficult. Once sorted the disaster out, I then decided to book another holiday in the New Forest, because that’s just the way I roll!

I told Mark that I wouldn’t buy any more seeds as I had enough, but as I had to replace the trial marigolds, it seemed silly to pay postage for just one packet of seeds, so I went onto the Special Offers page and looked at the 99p range. I set myself a budget, and for once actually stuck to it.

The Office.

Even though I haven’t sown all of my seeds I bought last week, I have started with six Glory Lily seeds. At around 16p each these beauties grow into six foot climbers. The tubers are not hardy so will need to be stored like a dahlia. It takes a few years to flower, so I really hope I get these right. Another new seed I picked was herb Golden Feverfew. I would like to add this perennial pretty yellow mound forming leafy plant to the grassy knoll area. Its daisy-like flowers should soften the structure of the other strappy grass fronds. I am trying achieve a low maintenance area without the use of gravel, concrete or man-made products. I next sowed African Marigolds Spinning Wheels, followed by Garden Pea Alderman. I love this vegetable it’s sweet, abundant and easy to grow. Again, a new seed I chose for 99p was a Potentilla named Monarchs Velvet, this too, is a perennial, I am hoping it will fit in with the black and blue grasses in the knoll. If not, then maybe I will grow it in clumps near the wildlife borders.

As the basil had died and I didn’t have the lemonade type left, I decided to grow both Rubin and Sweet Genovese instead.

Then I sowed Rudbekia Green King, and although I haven’t grown this variety I have had success with Rudbekias. Finally, I sowed some free seeds from Gardeners’ World Zinnia Orange King and repotted some of the aubergines from my completely unscientific seed trial. Oh and I’ve also re-sown the both types of sunflower mentioned above, as well as the Strawberry Blonde Marigolds, plus the Mint and Hyssop.

 

 

The Office border has turned into a mess. The money tree has re sprouted, but thanks to the extra space the aloes have almost carpeted the soil. Fighting for survival are two houseplants, some violas, a rogue cornflower, and an unexplained poppy and foxglove. Mark and I have come to the decision that we are going to try and remove some aloes to the grassy knoll. I have no idea if they will live, but I have to do something.

 

The same day these arrived I potted up some rosemary cuttings, I had left to root in water before going away.

 
Ty Mawr.

The first job was for Mark to earth up the potato sacks, feed them, and move them to their final growing positions outside. Then he planted up the stored Dahlias. Once he had done that, we realised that growing Cornflowers under glass was probably not my best idea. They loved the conditions too much, so on the hottest day of April he evicted them to the garden, where they are now flowering. Mark also transplanted eight tomatoes to their final growing places. Part of my trial plants and some of last year’s yellow stuffers. He then transplanted some of my beetroot. Another of my unscientific experiments – I am seeing if they grow better under glass or out in the fresh air. Also growing happily in the borders are Turnip, Garlic and English Marigolds.

In Rhett’s House (aka) The Cold-frame, I have the Coleus Canninia, they survived the unintentional drought and to prevent them going sappy were moved there as soon as we were back. Keeping them company are some marigolds, some larkspur, Bee Mix plants, a random geranium I found in the back of The Office, a Malva and something that I can’t identify as the label has disappeared. It looks like a primula. Plus several Borage plugs. You’d think that would have been enough wouldn’t you – but no, in my infinite wisdom after doing a happy dance that not only my chillies designed to do well hanging baskets had germinated, but also the super hot ones in the fire bucket Andrew (younger brother) had given me had germinated too, I remembered that Richard (youngest brother) had given me a funky veg kit. So I had a go at that too.

The funky veg kit comes with cardboard type pots, soil disks that expand in water five packets of seeds and five labels. Lucky me had six packets. Although I’ve only chosen to grow three due to the fact that the greenhouse will be a bit full shortly. For now I’m trying Purple Brussels Sprouts, Purple Carrots and Yellow Courgettes. The instructions were simple. Place disks in water and leave to expand until they are seven times bigger. Squeeze out the excess water, put most of the soil in the pots, add the seeds, then cover with leftover soil. Label, leave on a kitchen windowsill.

 

 

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Until next month.

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda xx

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Beat the slugs

Article by Carol Bartlett, of The Sunday Gardener

slug-on-a-leaf

Protect your garden from these troublesome gastropods
Image: Dmitri_ESTONIA_TALLINN/shutterstock


Slugs are officially the gardener’s No 1 enemy. Turn your back for a gardening moment, and these tough-skinned terrestrial molluscs will completely shred new shoots and tender lettuces.

Given that they have neither mouth parts nor teeth, slugs eat a disproportionate amount by using their surprisingly efficient rasping tongues. Make no bones about it – when it comes to slugs – it’s war! Here are some handy prevention tips to help you beat the slugs.

How to deter slugs – the barrier method

copper-ring-protecting-young-leaves

Copper tape can help keep slugs at bay
Image: Sarah Marchant/shutterstock

Slugs can cause havoc in the garden, but the good news is that there are a number of really effective deterrents.

Slugs don’t like sliding over rough dry surfaces. This works well where raised beds are constructed from rough sawn wood, such as old railway sleepers. The texture of the timber is not ideal for slugs, and mostly they prefer not to tackle it. My lettuces were untouched last season.

You can also buy adhesive copper tape to circle pots and containers – slugs and snails don’t like to cross the barrier as it gives them a mild static electric shock.

Other barrier methods such as coffee beans and egg shells are often suggested, but I don’t find them particularly effective. They can look unsightly and lots of coffee beans are not ideal for the soil. Wood ash and grit work to some extent, but are not foolproof.

Organic methods to get rid of slugs

defender-slug-traps-by-thompson-and-morgan

Slug traps are a great way to protect your garden.
Image: Defenders Slug Traps (Thompson & Morgan)

Slug Nematodes are an organic method of control. They need to be watered into the ground when the soil has warmed up to at least 5 degrees. Once watered in, the micro-organisms will go to work on the slugs. Generally a repeat application is beneficial 6 weeks later. Nematodes are widely available and repeated use, year on year, will diminish your slug population over time.

Undoubtedly, one of the most effective organic methods of slug control is to place beer traps around your garden and sensitive plants. You can make your own using small containers, but the advantage of bespoke traps is that they have lids. In our climate, keeping a lid on the beer really helps, otherwise it can become too diluted by rainwater to work its magic. Any ‘value’ beer will do the job. Sink the container into the soil so the slug can access it easily. Slugs are attracted to the beery smell, fall in and die. The only downside is that emptying slug traps is not for the faint hearted, it’s a smelly job.

Organic slug pellets are good and safe to use. Non-organic versions, based on metaldehyde, can be dangerous to pets and wildlife. Keep a tub handy to scatter around vulnerable new shoots and plants. Rain does render the pellets ineffective so it’s necessary to reapply frequently.

If you’re not squeamish, you can’t beat “picking and dispatching” as an organic method of reducing the slug population. Slugs are mostly nocturnal and are particularly active after a rain shower. Armed with a pair of tongs and a sharp stick it’s easy to dispose of a dozen or so. Placing an upturned orange or grapefruit will encourage the slugs to collect underneath, which makes them easy to find and dispatch.

Encouraging wildlife into the garden such as frogs and hedgehogs will also help, as they like to snack on slugs. But even a lot of frogs won’t solve the problem – you’ll still need additional protection.

What are the best plants for gardens with slugs?

foxgloves-in-garden

Hardy and slug-resistant, these beautiful foxgloves brighten up any garden.
Image source: PRILL/shutterstock

If you’re really struggling with slugs, opt for plants that they simply aren’t interested in. Whilst the Hosta is a firm slug favourite, they’re not keen on those varieties with thick ribbed or blue coloured leaves such as Big Daddy, Gold Regal, Liberty, Halcyon, and Silvery Slugproof.

There’s also a long list of perennials that slugs display no interest in such as:

If you love to create a splash with summer bedding plants, good varieties to choose are Pelargoniums (also known as Geraniums), Begonias, Fuchsias, Lobelia and Antirrhinums (Snapdragon). Rather than planting your usual variety of slug-magnet Marigolds, try the English Pot Marigold, Calendula, a lovely bright annual that is of little interest to the hungry molluscs.

How to rescue slug-savaged plants

slug-on-leaf-with-holes

Slug ravaged plants can be saved from the compost bin with some TLC
Image source: Starover Sibiriak/shutterstock

If the worst happens and your garden is attacked by slugs, don’t despair. You can make a rescue bid. Ragged Hosta leaves can be trimmed and you can remove several entire leaves per season. New leaves will grow and replace those you’ve cut away.

Dig up damaged bedding plants and salvage by giving them some TLC in a protected environment. They’ll recover and regrow in around 2-3 weeks, ready to be planted out again with extra protection.

The best way to win the war on slugs and snails is to keep watch over young and vulnerable plants and employ a combination of methods to keep them at bay. You can never completely eradicate slugs and snails, but over a period of time, you can reduce their numbers and control them.

 

About the author:

Carol Bartlett, The Sunday Gardener, lives in the north of England where she has created a diverse garden including wildflowers, natural areas, herbaceous borders, a wildlife pond, trees and wetland plants, along with a vegetable plot. She has been gardening, reading, researching and photographing plants for over twenty years and her website is a popular resource for gardeners young and old.

Growing summer flowers for cutting

Article by Nic Wilson of dogwooddays

fresh cut flowers

Satisfaction twice – from growing, and from arranging.
Image: shutterstock

As spring arrives and temperatures start to rise, my thoughts turn to flowers. And not just flowers to be enjoyed in the garden. I’m talking about those grown specifically for cutting, to allow me to bring a little of that colour, scent and sunshine indoors too.

You don’t need as much space as you might imagine to grow your own cut flowers. Here’s what I’ll be planting throughout the spring to fill my vases – from showstopping arrangements to elegant bouquets and simple posies.

The centrepiece of your arrangement

red dahlias

Rich red dahlias work beautifully in cut flower arrangements.
Image source: shutterstock

Dahlias, gladioli, hardy and half-hardy annuals are the stalwarts of my cutting patch. In preparation for summer harvests I’m planting and sowing nearly every day at the moment, filling windowsills and greenhouse with rows of trays.

First, the dahlias have been potted up to provide a centrepiece for summer arrangements. They can be planted from mid April, either in the ground or in 2-3 litre pots in multi-purpose potting compost.

I love the rich purples and reds of ‘Bishop of Canterbury’, ‘Downham Royal’ and ‘Thomas A Edison’ alongside the softer tones of ‘Café au Lait’ and ‘Henriette’. I also grow single flowers like ‘Happy Single Date’, ‘Happy Single Wink’ and ‘Happy Single Romeo’ – with vibrant open flowers that contrast with the dark chocolate foliage.

Flowers to create contrast

gladioli providing colour

Gladioli make beautiful cut flowers
Image source: shutterstock

Gladioli perform well as cut flowers and the corms don’t need digging up over winter in my garden in Hertfordshire, although in colder areas of the country they will have to be lifted for the winter when the foliage dies back. If you plant corms in containers every couple of weeks from early May until the end of June, you’ll have flowers throughout the summer.

It’s important to ensure good drainage and to add stakes to support tall cultivars. The central focus of my arrangements last year was Gladiolus ‘Green Star’. Its statuesque flower spikes combine beautifully with other lime flowers such as Zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Lime’, tobacco plant (Nicotiana langsdorffi and Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’) and the foliage of Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis). It can also be used to create visual impact as a counterpoint to the deep purples of Honeywort (Cerinthe purpurascens), Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’ and a range of salvias.

Flowers for texture and volume

nigella, love in a mist

The delicate flowers and ferny foliage of ‘love in a mist’ add texture to a bouquet.
Image source: shutterstock

Behind these dramatic performers you can add softer, more delicate forms like bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’), feathertop grass (Pennisetum villosum ‘Cream Falls’) and the euphorbia-like green bracts of common hare’s ear (Bupleurum rotundifolium ‘Green Gold’) to give arrangements greater depth.

Other favourite annuals include the ferny foliage and white umbels of bishop’s weed (Ammi majus ‘Graceland’) and love-in-a-mist (Nigella ‘Blue Starry Skies’) spilling over the front of a vase in a delicate blue haze.

Striking flowers for stand alone bouquets

large bunch of rudebeckia

A large bunch of Rudbeckia makes an impact all on its own.
Image source: shutterstock

Some flowers are at their best in combinations, whereas others, like rudbeckia, create maximum impact in large bunches on their own. Coreopsis x hybrida ‘Incredible Dwarf Mixed’ also works well in loose bunches as the colour variation of each flower creates interest within the arrangement.

Sweet peas are another annual with the ability to blend with other flowers, but they do look beautiful on their own. The perfume from a small posy of ‘Fragrantissima’ can fill a room with the heady scent of summer, and there are always enough flowers on the wigwam to satisfy the pollinators too.

When to plant summer flowers for cutting

planting gladioli

Plant gladioli in groups at 14-day intervals to enjoy their fabulous blooms all summer long.
Image source: shutterstock

The next few weeks are an ideal time to sow many annuals. Sow directly in the ground (after the last frost for half-hardy annuals) or into trays ready to transplant outside once the seedlings are large enough to handle.

For the last few years, I’ve been growing flowers and foliage for the house in a small cutting patch alongside edible plants, and in containers. You don’t need acres of space. There’s a huge variety of flowers you can grow to fill your house with colour and scent throughout the summer, no matter what size your garden.

About the author:

Nic Wilson is a writer, garden designer and Garden Media Guilds Awards nominee (Best Blog, 2017). She enjoys growing flowers and unusual fruit, vegetables and herbs, and loves to encourage nature into the garden. She also blogs at www.dogwooddays.net

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

Tomatoes:

Fantasio

Philona

Solena Chocolate

‘Solena Red’

 

Grafted Tomato 'Philona' F1 Hybrid

Tomato ‘Philona’ F1 Hybrid

 Cucumbers:

Dominica

Mini Stars

 

 

Grafted Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

Melon ‘Perseus’ F1 Hybrid

and

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!

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.

Thompson & Morgan and RHS Garden Hyde Hall team up for a ‘Floral Fantasia’ this summer

We’re teaming up with RHS Garden Hyde Hall to create a fabulous garden for an event this summer, aptly named Floral Fantasia. We’re transforming an area of the well-known RHS site near Chelmsford in Essex into a magnificent floral exhibition, showcasing many varieties of bedding plants.

Over four months from June to September, visitors will see thousands of summer bedding plants displayed in beds, pots and hanging baskets in and around the Floral Fantasia garden.

The theme of the event is ‘Inspiring Gardeners Old and New’ and aims to provide visitors with inspiration to create floral impact in their own gardens.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall Head of Site, Ian Le Gros, says:

I’m delighted to welcome Floral Fantasia to Hyde Hall for the first time and it’s been great to work with Thompson & Morgan on this project. It will provide a dazzling display during the summer months and will surely inspire novice and seasoned gardeners, both old and young, to have a go at growing themselves.

 Bedding plants are simple to grow and add instant impact to your garden be it in baskets and pots or as gap-fillers for your border, so by the time our visitors have seen the display, they will hopefully go home buzzing with ideas for their own gardens.”

 Our own Head of New Product Development, Peter Freeman adds:

We’re thrilled to be working with RHS Garden Hyde Hall to design and create the T&M Floral Fantasia garden. I think it will be one of the highlights of the summer in the East of England! We will be planting many traditional summer favourites, as well as a selection of our new introductions some of which are exclusive to Thompson & Morgan.

 We’re particularly excited about our new and exclusive sunflower, Sunbelievable™ which will be on display in borders and pots. There will certainly be tons of inspiration for visitors to take home with them!”

 Floral Fantasia at RHS Garden Hyde Hall runs from 1st June to 30th September 2018.

To view our extensive range of bedding plants, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/bedding-plants

For more information on Floral Fantasia at RHS Garden Hyde Hall this summer go to

www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall

About the RHS

Founded in 1804, the RHS is a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. It aims to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and is committed to making the UK a greener and more beautiful place. The charity’s core objective is to be the world’s leading gardening charity by inspiring passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture.

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

10 Brilliant Bird Watching Blogs

Fall back in love with our feathered friends, and get inspired by these birdy blogs.
Image: M.Zonderling/Unsplash


Whether you’re a committed twitcher, a seasoned birder or an occasional birdwatcher, following a selection of birding blogs is an excellent way to keep up with bird news and events and meet like-minded people.
We’ve scoured the Internet to bring you ten brilliant birding blogs. These people know their birds, tell a great yarn and share some excellent birding photos. Enjoy!

 

Birding Dad

‘Frank’ the Fieldfare, defending his patch in Jono’s Yorkshire back garden.
Image: Birding Dad

Ever suffered from gull blindness? Jono Leadley – AKA Birding Dad – did whilst visiting a snowbound Yorkshire nature reserve. Eventually he and mate Duncan both spotted an adult Med gull, only to discover they were watching two different birds!

Jono is a “Yorkshire nature geek” who loves nothing more than spending a few hours birding in his native county. When he’s not looking after the two kids or campaigning for wildlife, he’ll be found watching female Smews cavorting with goldeneyes or spotting an unexpected Caspian gull.

 

Black Audi Birding

Black-headed Gull photobombing two Med Gulls on Hayling Island.
Image: Black Audi Birding

“To visit a gull colony… is to be ceaselessly entertained by the constant activity of the birds, accompanied by a cacophony of cries”, writes Ewan Urquhart of Black Audi Birding following a visit to Hayling Island, on the South Coast of England. Friday birding has become a ritual for Ewan and partner Moth – the two regularly set off in the eponymous black Audi, looking for something of interest.

Ewan’s blog is full of poetic birding commentary and stunning photography, not just of English birds, but of those spotted on trips to exotic countries including the Seychelles and Colombia. Ewan will go to any length for a tick – check out his mammoth journey to spot an Amur Falcon in Cornwall last year.

 

Brian’s birding blog

Brian’s beautiful shot of a Red-backed Shrike.
Image: Brian’s birding blog

“If you get out there you might just see something,” is Brian Anderson’s motto. This Essex birder loves driving around the country with Dad and brother Jim, chasing birds and accumulating year ticks.

Brian’s blog is packed with beautiful photography, not just of common and rare birds, but also of butterflies and other wildlife spotted in our isles. And with an Arctic Warbler, a glossy Ibis and a Hoopoe among his photographs of rare birds spotted in Britain, there’s plenty to inspire everyone to do as he says and get out there.

 

Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher

Nesting grebe in the Cheshire sunshine.
Image: Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher

“I started this blog so I could share my wildlife encounters and stories with other nature lovers around the world,” says Mike Mottram of Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher blog. More than just a birding site, keen kayaker Mike shares photographs and film of everything from birds to badgers and fish to funghi.

An expert in wildlife photography, Mike’s blog is a great resource for those wanting to perfect their own techniques. Read all about his adventures with a homemade wristcam, and the drone that he modified into a remote WIFI camera.

 

Cornwall Birding

Close encounter with a Firecrest in Nanjizal, Cornwall.
Image: Cornwall Birding

“Stithians Reservoir is undoubtedly the best area of open water for birdwatching in the county,” writes Paul Freestone of Cornwall Birding. If you live in or around Cornwall, or would love to explore the birding prospects of that county, this is the blog for you. Paul has been a bird-watching tour guide and bird ringer for over 30 years and his blog provides daily sighting information and birding site guides.

But there’s more. With an extensive common and rare birds photo gallery, a complete county list since 1950, and tidal and weather information, this is your go-to site for birding in Cornwall.

 

Dan Rouse

Red Kite spotted in Rhayader, Wales.
Image: Dan Rouse

“It’s always worth checking through wintering flocks of wildfowl for some abnormal or unusual birds,” comments Dan Rouse on her eponymous blog. The hybridisation of wildfowl fascinates this young birder: “how certain species will consider breeding with another species”. Dan’s spot turned out to be a Eurasian Wigeon crossed with a Northern Shoveler.

Her love of birds started early when, at age five, her family built a bird table for their Swansea back garden. Now she writes and speaks on her favourite subject in print and on local radio, with a special interest in encouraging the next generation of birders.

 

Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog

Great White Egret at Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire.
Image: Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog

“The sky was full of the song of Skylark and Meadow Pipits which were performing their parachuting display,” writes birder Bill on the Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog. Bill started the site in 2012 as “a virtual replacement for the trusty old birdlog that was situated on the marsh”.

With almost daily posts from birders, this blog will delight and inspire those who want to investigate the Cheshire hotspot. And counting Green-winged Teal and European Honey Buzzards among top spots, you might want to head to Frodsham yourself.

 

Penny’s Hot Birding and Life!

Spotted! A rare Citril Finch at Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk.
Image: Penny’s Hot Birding and Life!

“I have seen several MEGAS in Norfolk inc: Ivory Gull, Fan-tailed Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Pine Bunting, Stilt Sandpiper… Black-headed Bunting, Alder Flycatcher, Collared Flycatcher, Great Snipe, Citril Finch to name but a few!” writes blogger Penny Clarke.

Daughter of Peter Clarke, founder of the Norfolk Ornithologists’ Association, Penny’s birding pedigree is second-to-none. Follow her blog for daily Norfolk bird news, national mega news, her own birding experiences and anecdotes from day-to-day life.

 

The Deskbound Birder

Pine Bunting spotted in Mongolia.
Image: The Deskbound Birder

“My twitching ‘career’ was relatively short… I realised that crowds were not for me and quickly shunned twitching for the far more honourable pastime of looking for my own rares,” writes Simon Colenutt, AKA The Deskbound Birder.

Since the birth of his son and development of his business, Simon is not so deskbound these days. Birding in the UK is generally split between Hampshire and Cornwall, but he’s also an enthusiastic foreign birder. Follow his blog for accounts of birding trips to places as far flung as Mongolia and the Andaman Islands. You’ll be more than a little bit envious.

 

Too Lazy to Weed

A grumpy Redwing in Nicky’s garden.
Image: Too Lazy to Weed

“I’ve nothing against gulls, but I don’t think I can afford the seed bill if they start regularly hoovering up the bird food!” writes Nicky, the blogger behind Too Lazy to Weed. She’s talking about a large gull which availed itself of her bird table during the recent cold snap.

Organic gardening and lazy weeding has resulted in Nicky and husband Chris inadvertently creating a little nature reserve in their Worcestershire back garden. They capture some great stills and video via various remote cameras including pretty Goldcrests, greedy gulls and the grumpy Redwing pictured above.

 

And that’s the end of our roundup of brilliant birding blogs. We hope you’ve found some new sites to add to your list of favourites. If you’ve got any birdy photos you want to share, we’d love to see them over on our Facebook page. 

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