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.

Grow your own meals – these 11 Instagrammers will show you how

Freshly harvested veg box

These Instagrammers provide plenty of new serving suggestions for homegrown produce
Image: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Food delivered straight from plot to plate is the freshest, healthiest and most delicious food you’ll ever eat. With an allotment, veg patch, or even just a couple of window boxes, you can grow your own meals and live your version of the good life. 

Whether you’re just starting out, or a seasoned plot-to-plater, here are eleven excellent Instagrammers you’ll want to follow.


Herb seasoning salt from the seasonal table

Make your own aromatic garden herb seasoning salt
Image: @the_seasonal_table

Radishes thrive anywhere from your window sill to planters and vegetable beds. But did you know you can also eat radish seed pods? Tom and Kathy of @the_seasonal_table say: “Picked while they are green and not yet beginning to dry and harden, the pods add a crisp, slightly peppery bite to salads or stir-fries.

A herb garden is a wonderful way to start gardening, and it’s something you can do even if you have no garden at all. Here Tom and Kathy have come up with an excellent way to preserve your herb harvest to use later – make it into a garden herb seasoning salt for all year round use. Hmm, you can almost smell the aroma.


Basket of foraged mushrooms

@locallyseasonal shares how you can grow your own oyster mushrooms
Image: Africa_Studio/Shutterstock

Have you ever wished you could grow your own delicious oyster mushrooms? It’s 18 months since GB, the allotmenteer behind @locallyseasonal hammered some spore-impregnated dowels into some logs. She says, “It’s been an impatient wait ever since. So very worth it though!” We think you’ll agree, they look scrumptious.

@locallyseasonal is, as her Instagram tag suggests, all about growing and eating seasonal produce. Ready to try your hand at jam making? GB’s raspberry glut has been put to excellent use: “It’ll be worth the effort in winter when I can open one of these jars and taste summer.


Aubergine parmigiana from Sophie & Ade

Anyone for aubergine parmigiana?
Image: @agentsoffield

An aubergine harvest calls for a garden-inspired aubergine parmigiana – it’s the perfect way to use onions, garlic, tomatoes and homegrown herbs. As Ade of @agentsoffield says, “I would like to take this moment to thank the kitchen garden for providing most of the ingredients. Without you, it would have simply been hot cheese.

Ade and Sophie, the couple behind @agentsoffield, say they’re veggie adventurers in their own kitchen garden and love to share images of their produce, cooking and more via their Instagram feed. More shallots than you can eat right now? Pickle them.


Apple and blackberry pie

This scrummy seasonal pudding will get your taste buds tingling
Image: abimages/Shutterstock

Straight from the kitchen at @rivercottagehq, their Apple & Blackberry Pie features in the Gluten-Free cookbook and is the perfect way to get the best from your autumn harvest of garden apples and hedgerow blackberries.

Home of the legendary Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, this is the place to find all the latest pics of produce and wonderfully creative recipe ideas from Hugh and the team. Fantastic tomatoes? Try making this awesome pizza.


Bowl of raspberries from Lavender & Leeks

The autumn bliss raspberries have done well this year
Image: @lavenderandleeks

What better way to enjoy a juicy topping on your muesli than by picking your own succulent raspberries to sprinkle on top? Join Katie of @lavenderandleeks on her allotment where she grows a wonderful selection of fruit, vegetables and beautiful flowers.

In fact, as allotments go this must be one of the most picturesque we’ve ever seen. From the loveliest purple sprouting broccoli to bunches of the most dazzling dahlias, if there’s one thing Katie knows how to do, it’s to wow your senses with images of the fruit, veg and blooms she grows herself.


Cauliflower and mustard soup from A Country Life

Try this delicious warming soup for autumn
Image: @a_countrylife

Imagine the tang of piccalilli fused with the warmth of a winter soup and you’re on your way to imagining just how tasty Kate’s cauliflower and mustard soup is. Add a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and we think you’ll agree this is a great way to put your garnered produce to the best of uses.

@a_countrylife is curated by “gardener, cook, writer, hobby farmer and lover of the great outdoors” – Kate from Norfolk. Here you’ll discover awesome pics of big Norfolk skies, fabulous produce and, for those with a sweet tooth, some of the most innovative flavours for home made ice cream that we’ve ever come across…


A horned melon closeup from Sam at The Hairy Horticulturalist

Sam from Cornwall displaying a horned melon
Image: @the_hairy_horticulturist

They’ve got some decent girth and a few more flowers are still appearing,” says Sam @the_hairy_horticulturist! He’s talking about his horned melons – incredible fruits that look like something from a Harry Potter film.

Sam says he’s all about fruit, veg and herbs, providing info and education which sometimes involves filming wildlife – and beard growing of course. Wondering how to make your watermelons sweeter? Slow down the watering in the final weeks, says Sam.


No-bake fig, honey & walnut tart

Katie’s no-bake fig, honey and walnut tarts make great use of these delicious fruits
Image: @themarmaladeteapot

What better way to use up windfall pears than by baking a delicious pear tarte tatin? With this easy-to-follow demonstration courtesy of grower and cook, Katie at @themarmaladeteapot, you’ll be sitting down to enjoy this wonderful French pudding with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream in no time.

For those who lack a sweet tooth, we recommend you try this tasty looking courgette galette. Katie says it combines “fresh flavours of lemon & courgette cut through with pungent garlic & chive, all held together with a smooth, creamy cheese filling & crumbly wholemeal crust.” Does it get any better than that?


Stuffed squashed from a little garden

Comfort food – stuffed squashes
Image: @a_little_garden

Nothing complicated,” says Italian-Yorkshire grower, Kuki at @a_little_garden. “I basically stuffed the squash with leftovers: at the bottom mashed potatoes, followed by a layer of risotto and topped with mozzarella.

This instagram feed charts the gardening and cooking adventures of Kuki and Fedu who started out with a lawned back garden, and transformed it into a grow-your-own paradise. Here you’ll find loads of fine produce which finds an Italian flavour once it makes it to the kitchen. Fried sage leaves anyone? They’re an Italian delicacy.


mixed herbs with calendula

Add summer zest to your mixed herbs with a sprinkling of calendula
Image: @gardenplot.57

Calendula is easy to grow and is busting with antioxidant compounds, says organic gardener Carla of @gardenplot.57. To use it fresh, just pluck the petals from the flower base and sprinkle them over scrambled eggs, salads, frittatas and salsas. For a taste of sunshine all year round, Carla says “try drying the flowers and adding the petals to a homegrown herb mix.

From her plot in Cornwall, Carla brings you fresh produce plus wonderfully fragrant homemade herbal lotions and potions. You’ll love her lavender and dandelion salves – they’re simple and satisfying to make, and far better than shop-bought alternatives.


Peppers and stuff for preserving

Don’t just freeze it – preserve it
Image: @monikabrzoza

With a glut of seasonal produce, it’s tempting to simply bag it and freeze it. But making traditional conserves, preserves, piccalillis, and chutneys is well worth the effort. Wondering what to do with all those cherry tomatoes? Capture their intense flavour by drying them, says Monika at @monikabrzoza.

From her Essex allotment, Monika’s posts celebrate the sheer colour of harvest time. Check out the greens, oranges and golden yellows of this year’s squash harvest. This Instagrammer offers a virtual feast for the eyes, as well as the taste buds.

We hope you’ve been inspired to get more from your plot onto your plate. If you post any of your homegrown meals on Instagram, we’d love you to share them with us.

Blogs to inspire you to grow your own

Beginner or experienced veg grower? Sharing tips helps produce bumper crops
Image: Shutterstock

Food you grow yourself is fresh, healthy, and nutritious, but if you’re new to gardening, it’s not always easy to know where to start. If you’re wondering whether you have the space or the knowhow to grow your own, here’s the inspiration you need. And if you’re looking for new fruit and veg to try, or you’re not sure what went wrong with a recent crop, try following some of these helpful grow-your-own blogs…. 

read more…

Best plants and flowers for winter colour

Garden in the winter with cornus and other winter-flowering plants and shrubs

There’s a huge choice of plants to bring your winter garden to life
Image: Andrew Fletcher/shutterstock

Create a garden full of colour, scent and interest this winter! Here’s our pick of the flowers, climbers and shrubs to help you to enjoy an all-year-round display and raise your spirits through the colder months. Looking for a little drama once the leaves have dropped? Here’s what to plant for a bright and colourful winter wonderland…

Best winter flowers

Winter pansies

Purple pansy flowering in the winter

Pansies continue flowering even in the depths of winter!
Image: Botamochy/Shutterstock

Pansies are a staple of the winter garden and they thrive in cold, icy weather. Pansy ‘Matrix™ Mixed’ is easy-to-grow – and extra strong. Specially bred for their branching habit and super-size flowers, the compact, sturdy stems hold their flower heads high, whatever the temperature. Plant them in hanging baskets, window boxes, containers and borders to ensure your garden is filled with vibrant colour throughout the coldest months.


Primrose 'Husky' Mixed from T&M

Primrose ‘Husky’ Mixed provide a welcome riot of colour in winter
Image: T&M

Primroses are another ‘toughie’ for winter and spring colour, and will even push their brightly coloured blooms through coverings of snow. Primrose ‘Husky’ Mixed offers a vibrant rainbow of flowers that brighten the gloomiest of winter days.

While primroses feature single bloom stems, polyanthus produces a cluster of 15 or more flowers at the tip of a stem. Polyanthus ‘Firecracker’ is an eye-catching plant bearing yellow blooms edged with a fiery orange-red. Or try Polyanthus ‘Most Scented Mix’ for a bright and fragrant addition to your winter beds.


Purple, pink and white cyclamen

Cyclamen hederifolium is striking planted on masse
Image: Konmac/Shutterstock

Cyclamen are the perfect ground cover plant for rockeries and woodland gardens and provide a stunning winter display. Cyclamen hederifolium will self-seed freely to create carpets of foliage and flowers from autumn to spring, before the foliage dies back in summer.


Hellebore 'Winterbells' from T&M

Hellebore ‘Winterbells’ flowers from December to April
Image: T&M

Winter-flowering perennials like hellebores, prized for their elegant, cup-shaped flowers, brighten up tricky shady corners and winter containers from December right through to the first signs of early spring. They’re also a popular choice for evergreen ground cover beneath deciduous trees and shrubs. Hellebore x hybridus ‘Mixed’ brings welcome shades of white, red, pink and purple to the garden. Meanwhile, the new ‘Winterbells’ variety – a unique hybrid of H. niger x H. foetidus that was once thought impossible – has a delicate pale green bloom with a pink flush.


Closeup of snowdrops flowering

Delicate snowdrops flower in February and March
Image: T&M

With a gentle nod, snowdrops usher in the first signs of spring into your garden. A lover of dappled shade, these winter bulbs add colour in the most unexpected places. They’re also happy in containers and window boxes, should you want to get closer to the delicate honey scent of these cheerful little blooms.

Best winter climbers


Clematis 'Winter Beauty' from T&M

Clematis ‘Winter Beauty’ flowers from December until February
Image: T&M 

For winter climbers, nothing beats a clematis. Evergreen, winter varieties will appreciate a sheltered site which offers protection from wind. Plant them against a warm house wall so you can appreciate their winter flowers from your window. Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ is a beautiful, evergreen clematis with lush foliage and delicate, white, waxy, bell-shaped flowers that bloom from December to March.

Or try Clematis ‘Advent Bells’, a winter-flowering climber that has dainty blooms from November to the end of January. Its nodding, cup-shaped flowers are creamy-white outside, with showy, red-speckled markings inside and a prominent cluster of stamens. It will happily tolerate temperatures down to -10°C.

Winter jasmine

Winter flowering jasmine

Canary yellow jasmine flowers brighten up the darkest months
Image: T&M 

Unscented, canary yellow blooms smother the bare stems of Jasmine nudiflorum from February onwards – a sure sign that spring is on its way. This vigorous winter jasmine has a loose sprawling habit that can be trained with wires, but is equally happy to scramble over walls in a cascade of stiff, bright green stems. Fantastically hardy and easy to grow, this versatile climber requires little aftercare – but does benefit from regular pruning.

Winter honeysuckle

Winter honeysuckle flowers

Winter honeysuckle can produce tiny red berries as well as pretty white blooms.
Image: T&M

Wonderfully seasonal, creamy white flowers and red berries vie for attention on Lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle). But, as with many honeysuckle varieties, it’s the heady fragrance that’s the real heavy hitter. Whether you’d prefer it as a climber or a shrub, make sure to plant it somewhere you can get up close (even if it’s in semi-shade) to really appreciate its scent.

Best winter plants and shrubs

Sweet box

Sarcocca sweetbox from T&M

Discover the heady, honey fragrance of Christmas box!
Image: T&M

For winter fragrance, plant Sarcococca confusa, an easy to grow shrub also known as sweet box – or, even more seasonally, Christmas box! Its creamy white flowers might be inconspicuous, hidden beneath leathery foliage – but you won’t miss their powerful, honey-like fragrance. The flowers are followed by red, purple or black berries, which may last into the following winter.

Ornamental grass

Ornamental Grasses from T&M

‘Nigrescens’ adds drama and colour to the winter garden.
Image: T&M

For many gardens, flowers are in short supply during the winter, which is why it’s important to make the most of structure and texture. Enter: Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, a hardy, herbaceous perennial. It adds fantastically black, grass-like foliage – a bold choice that leans into the darkness of the season – and graceful bell-shaped blooms to the space. For the most dramatic impact, interplant it with snowdrops.


Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’ from T&M

Create a fiery winter display with Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’
Image: T&M

Who needs foliage when you have the ‘Winter Flame’? One of the best shrubs for winter colour, Cornus Sanguinea (also known as dogwood) lights up cold, grey gardens with a shock of fiery red, orange, and yellow stems in the autumn and winter. This deciduous shrub is a year-round showstopper, with the warmer months seeing it produce tiny white flowers, glossy black berries and verdant green leaves.


Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ from T&M

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ flowers from October to April
Image: T&M

A great addition to borders or wildlife gardens, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ adds both colour and fragrance to the winter garden. Beautiful by any measure, the flowers bud in the darkest days, offering dark pink blooms on bare stems. While the flowers are remarkably tolerant of frost (and last longer than other winter flowers), should you want to cut a few stems for some indoor colour – go ahead! ‘Dawn’ is pretty prolific so you won’t see any ill effects.

Top tip from our horticulturist Peter Freeman: plant it next to your front door so you can enjoy the sweet, rich fragrance as you pass by.


Mahonia Collection from T&M

Bright yellow flower spikes brighten even the darkest corners of your winter garden
Image: T&M

Commonly known as Oregon Grape, Mahonia x media is a superb hardy shrub for tricky shaded spots. The large yellow flower spikes bloom from November through to March, bringing colour and fragrance to your garden during the cold winter months. As the flowers fade, they’re replaced by bunches of purple berries, and the holly shaped, evergreen leaves look great all year round.


Wintersweet collection from T&M

Cut a few sprigs of wintersweet to enjoy the exquisite fragrance in your home
Image: T&M

Chimonanthus praecox, or wintersweet, is an elegant, fragrant winter flowering shrub. Grow it in borders, or against a house wall, where you can enjoy its exquisite perfume every time you step into the garden. It bursts into life in the dead of winter, its bare woody stems dripping with pendulous, sulphur-yellow blooms. On the darkest of winter days, Chimonanthus flowers can be seen in full bloom while most other plants lie dormant.

Witch hazel

Witch Hazel from T&M

Enjoy vibrant bursts of yellow through January and February
Image: T&M

There’s nothing like a splash of bright yellow to cheer up a wintry day and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ – the recipient of a well-deserved RHS Award of Garden Merit – delivers. The little flowers burst open on the craggy stems, offering up a sweet scent, as well as vibrant colour. Position it somewhere in full sun or semi-shade, and get it in place in time for autumn so you can enjoy the show as its leaves turn brilliant orange and red before January arrives and the bare stems explode into bloom.


Winter-flowering daphne shrub

The winter-flowering daphne is scented, compact and evergreen
Image: T&M

Another RHS Award of Garden Merit winner, Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is an evergreen shrub that adds structure to the garden all year long. But it really comes into its own in late winter, thanks to the blooming of its highly-scented pink flowers. Daphne plants appreciate a little acclimatisation to the outdoors before taking up their final positions; a process that’s made easier by the fact that this plant is perfect for patio containers.


Yellow Coronilla plant

Coronilla can be grown as a shrub or trained up a wall as a striking feature
Image: T&M

There’s nothing dull about a December day if you have Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’ in your garden. Its lemon-yellow flowers can appear throughout the year, but it reaches its peak in the winter months with blooms from December to April. With a bit of shelter and sun, this compact evergreen with small blue-green foliage does well even in harsh coastal conditions. For added winter drama, why not train it as a wall shrub for a bit of vertical interest?

Gardens don’t have to be dull in the dark, winter months. With these flowers and plants, you really can have all year round colour and interest. Get planning and planting now, and you’ll reap the rewards in the changing seasons to come. What are your favourite winter plants? Let us know over on our Facebook page.

A Summer of new plants at Driftwood

As what would have been my open garden season, draws to a close, I can look back on a very different summer here at Driftwood. Considering the diversity of the weather we’ve experienced here in Seaford, ranging from extreme heat, gale-force winds through to torrential rain, I am quite amazed that the garden is still looking quite good.

Driftwood Garden

©Geoff Stonebanks – Driftwood Garden September 2020

The things I have missed this year are having visitors, interested to see the garden and talk to me about its creation and raising much needed funds for charity, notably Macmillan Cancer Support. The things I’ve not missed, well, baking all the cakes I usually sell at my open gardens for one and the pressure of always having to make sure the garden was at its peak for all visitors. That said, I’ve been sharing pictures of visitors over the last 10 years, most days of the week, on my social media accounts to keep the momentum alive.  Our rescue dog, Chester has certainly been grateful I’m sure, not to have be stuck in the house when the garden would have been open.

This year, as I have for the past 8 years, I’ve had a number of plants to trial in the garden from Thompson & Morgan and most of them have done exceptionally well. Here I’ve picked out five of my particular favourites that I’d certainly recommend for others to purchase.

Over the years, I seem to have acquired a real taste for hydrangeas, they seem to work well in my seaside garden. I remember my grandmother grew lots of them in her garden near Blackpool, back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The first new plant to arrive this year was Hydrangea paniculata ‘Hercules‘, named after the fabled Greek hero Hercules. It produces huge, spectacular plumes which are bursting with large soft shaded green blooms, through to pure white.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Hercules'

©Geoff Stonebanks – Hydrangea paniculata ‘Hercules’ with large blooms, from green through to pure white.

Mine has some way to go, in terms of size, but has grown three-fold since it arrived back in February and has produced 5 large blooms through the summer. My collection includes a stunning ‘Vanille Fraise’ a large, if a bit floppy ‘Annabelle’, ‘Red Baron’ and one of my favourites, paniculata ‘Limelight’ which I got from Thompson & Morgan over 4 years ago now. Indeed, I’ve just ordered 2 paniculata  ‘Little Spooky’ which should arrive later this month.

One of my favourite summer annuals is the ever-popular Petunia. Over the years I have bought many from Thompson & Morgan. This year, the one that took my fancy was Petunia ‘Peppy Blueberry Muffin’. I just loved the colours. Whilst they were extremely slow to grow, once they did they came into their own and looked quite amazing as you can see. They are still flowering profusely now.

Petunia 'Peppy Blueberry Muffin'

©Geoff Stonebanks – Petunia ‘Peppy Blueberry Muffin’ are still flowering profusely now.

When I browsed the catalogue last December, one plant that caught my eye was Sedum takesimense ‘Atlantis’. To be honest, I had meant to buy one after seeing it being named RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2019.  It’s easy to see why this caught the judge’s eyes! Fleshy, moss green leaves with delicate serrated edges, boast a contrasting creamy-yellow border which stays vibrant from summer through to autumn.

The pale-yellow blooms emerge from pink flower buds, while new foliage  bursts from cherry-red leaf buds. I bought 3 and planted one in the beach garden at the front of the house and two, including the one pictured, in the gravel beds either side of the central path at the back. It looks gorgeous as you can see.

Sedum takesimense 'Atlantis'

©Geoff Stonebanks – Sedum takesimense ‘Atlantis’ was named RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2019.

The Gazania ‘Tiger Stripes Mixed’ also caught my eye when browsing. I do like vibrant colours in my garden. You can see they are a stunning blend of flowers, in shades of yellow, rose, bronze and cream, with an attractive, contrasting stripe on every bloom. I found them very easy to grow and they have been flowering all summer long. I love the way the curl up and close when the sun is not shining on them.

Gazania 'Tiger Stripes Mixed'

©Geoff Stonebanks – Gazania ‘Tiger Stripes Mixed’ are easy to grow and they have been flowering all summer long.

My final favourite this year is the delicate Thalictrum ‘Little Pinkie’. Not really a plant I knew a lot about. It transpired I had some in my garden when I first moved in, back in 2004, I had to ask someone what it was. It’s everywhere around the pond, with delicate mauve-blue flowers, and looks quite amazing in amongst ferns and other greenery. This one is great for attracting bees, it is a distinctive perennial that brings a light and airy feel to the front of herbaceous borders. Mine pictured here is in a container close to the pond. As its name suggests, this is a dwarf variety with a compact, dense habit. The finely cut foliage is borne on slender stems as you can see, forming a neat, textural clump which is reminiscent of Aquilegia. In early summer, clusters of fluffy pink flowers rise to around 50cm (20″) creating a hazy effect. I love them.

Thalictrum 'Little Pinkie'

©Geoff Stonebanks – Thalictrum ‘Little Pinkie’ is great for attracting bees.

So, 2020 has been a very strange year on all fronts. Let’s hope 2021 will allow me to open the garden again to visitors. I’ve already picked my dates, which are all advertised on my garden website, This year though, I have realised what a treadmill I have been on for the last 10 years so I have decided to slow down next year and not create as much pressure for myself. All our openings for the National Garden Scheme will be by pre-booked ticketed timeslots only, making open days more manageable and hopefully, for me, more enjoyable. Another bonus! I won’t have to bake as many cakes either!!

Growing vertically

Living wall full of greenery

Transform any vertical space into a growing opportunity
Image: CoolKengzz/Shutterstock

Is your garden overflowing with plants, flowers and shrubs, leaving no room to squeeze in exciting new specimens? Perhaps you have limited outside space? The solution is one and the same – go vertical! With a little ingenuity, you can create an interesting, colourful and productive garden where there wasn’t one before.

What is vertical gardening?

Living wall surrounding windows

This eco-friendly “living wall” is vertical gardening on a dramatic scale
Image source: Evannovostro/Shutterstock

Vertical gardening simply means growing plants on a vertical plane, like up a fence or wall. It could be as straightforward as training climbers up a trellis, or as elaborate as engineering eco-friendly “living walls”, like those with integrated irrigation systems seen on eco-friendly homes and office buildings. Whatever your style, space, or budget, a vertical garden is a fun and creative way to make the most of your outdoor space.

What are the benefits of vertical gardening?

Balcony full of handing baskets and a table

Make the most of small spaces with shelves, hanging baskets, and window boxes
Image: Isa Long/Shutterstock

Adding height and interest, a vertical garden is, in a word, beautiful. But vertical gardens don’t just look good – they do good! They improve the air quality, boost biodiversity, and even reduce ambient noise and temperature. Not to mention boosting mental wellbeing.

These are particularly welcome benefits for space-challenged urbanites for whom a vertical garden is the only way to add a bit of green to the city’s grey. Vertical gardens can grow on balconies, patios, or even just a fence, if that’s what you have.

For those with more traditional gardens, growing “up” lets you make the most of your garden real estate, while giving you the chance to highlight particular areas or disguise unsightly ones.

Happily, it also makes gardening much more accessible. Tasks can be tailored to any height and level of intensity, which is ideal for gardeners with mobility issues. It also makes vertical gardening a fun project for the whole family.

What can I use as vertical planters?

Vertical pallets that have been turned into planters

Upcycled pallets make a great frame for a vertical garden
Image: lulu and isabelle/Shutterstock

Garden walls and fences are a blank canvas. Let your creativity loose!

  • Hook window boxes from fences or balconies, or suspend hanging baskets for interest, colour, and depth.
  • Use a climbing frame to encourage evergreen plants like clematis to thrive upwards.
  • If you have a craggy or dry stone wall, plant alpines or succulents directly in the gaps.
  • Try securely mounting flat-backed planters for a permanent feature wall.
  • Affix wire mesh to the wall or use a freestanding trellis for a more adaptable approach. You can then use a variety of removable containers; a great option for gardens with limited sun or if you plan on changing the plants with the season.

Whatever your approach, you’ll need to balance practicalities with aesthetics. Will the plant need regular pruning? Will it produce fruit that needs picking? Can you water it from that height? And some plants can be heavy, especially after watering, so make sure your support structure can take the load.

There are lots of ways to grow vertically – many of which you may already have, knocking around in cupboards or sheds. Upcycling is a great way to help your garden grow up – and save you money, as well as space. Old tin cans, plastic bottles, bookshelves, and pallets can all be used for creative effect. See what you can repurpose from around the house to suit your chosen plants.

What fruit and veg can I grow in a vertical garden?

Strawberries growing vertically

Ripe for the picking – strawberries adapt well to vertical gardens
Image: Luoxi/Shutterstock

Herbs, fruit, vegetables, annuals and perennials can all be grown in vertical gardens. In fact, away from the ground, they’re more likely to avoid pesky pests and diseases, so it’s a win-win.

An edible vertical garden offers a great return on investment. If you’ve got a decent amount of sun, strawberries are well-suited to container planting. Fast and strong growing, the unique “Mount Everest” climber variety is a knockout. It can be trained up a trellis or obelisk climbing frame, or cascade from window boxes and hanging baskets.

Cucamelons and kiwis are also climbers that are lovely to look at and eat, and they’re very happy in containers. Bush varieties of tomatoes like ‘Romello’ will also thrive vertically. Same goes for a huge variety of easy-to-grow salad leaves, as well as hardy, low maintenance herbs like thyme, parsley, and oregano.

What plants and flowers can I grow in a vertical garden?

Fence with greenery growing out of it

Break up a plain fence with some welcome greenery
Image: AMMARIN NANTASEN/shutterstock

Vertical gardens are an ideal way to add colour and structure to your outside space without sacrificing square footage on the ground. Sun-loving plants – best for south-facing vertical gardens with a bit of shelter – include fuchsia, salvia, and nasturtiums. And with their dense rosettes of foliage, evergreen succulents like sempervivum can grow to create a living carpet in wall crevices and troughs. They are also pretty drought resistant, making them a very low maintenance addition to any vertical garden.

For a longer term investment, try a climbing hydrangea like Moonlight. It’ll need training for the first few years of slow growth, but then it will use self-clinging aerial roots to cover entire walls with its creamy-white, lace cap flowers and silvery blue leaves.

Gardens with more shade, meanwhile, will benefit from plants like small ferns, pansies, and wallflowers. For more coverage for less effort, Virginia creeper is the way to go. A fast-growing and easy climber, its beautiful foliage turns flame-coloured in the autumn, making it a striking garden addition at any time of year.

Colourful, creative, and offering a whole suite of positive benefits, vertical gardening is a great option for amateur and seasoned gardeners alike.


How to Grow Hibiscus

Hibiscus flowers are one of the most beautiful flowers you can find. And guess what? They can be easily grown in your own home or garden.

Let’s discuss what are the most popular types of Hibiscus and what you can do to properly care for them, whether you opt for a hardy garden variety or a tender house plant.


Types of Hibiscus

In total, there are more than 200 known species of Hibiscus. The most suitable Hibiscus to grow indoors is Chinese Hibiscus, otherwise known as Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Whereas Hibiscus syriacus, or if we use its other name, Rose of Sharon prefers to be grown outdoors.  Hardy Hibiscus syriacus are more widely available that the the tender indoor types, and you will find a superb range of flower colours on offer.

Now, let’s find out a bit more about them.


1. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Apollo’

Hibiscus rosa-Sinensis ‘Apollo’ has very pretty flowers with a mix of yellow, orange, and red colors, making it look almost like a Sun, hence its name, after the Greek god of Sun. This variety was bred especially for larger flowers, so it makes quite an impression in the conservatory or a bright, sunny room indoors.

Hibiscus 'Apollo'

©Zenflora – Hibiscus ‘Apollo’ produces dazzling flowers!


2. Hibiscus syriacus ‘Pink Chiffon’

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Pink Chiffon’ is quite recognizable, due to its ruffled, double pink flowers that don’t appear until quite late in the summer, but deliver plenty of colour while early summer plants are starting to fade. It really likes direct sunlight, enjoying 6 hours of direct sun per day, so make sure it is placed in a bright location.

Hibiscus Pink Chiffon

©Shutterstock – Hibiscus Pink Chiffon boasts ruffled, double blooms.


3. Hibiscus ‘Starburst Chiffon’

Hibiscus ‘Starburst Chiffon’ will really add an exotic feel to your garden, with its huge semi- double flowers with the crimson-red streaks. This hibiscus species can grow up to 150cm in height and spread, making a fabulous specimen shrub that will really make an eye-catching display.

Hibiscus 'Starburst Chiffon'

©De Nolf – Hibiscus ‘Starburst Chiffon’ is a real eye-catcher!


4. Hibiscus ‘Big Hibiskiss’

Hibiscus ‘Big Hibiskiss’ comes with extra big flowers that grow up to 18cm (7”) across! It makes an incredible focal point for late summer borders. This impressive variety comes from British breeding, with flowers that are much flatter than most other varieties.

Hibiscus 'Big Hibiskiss'

©De Jong – Hibiscus ‘Big Hibiskiss’ has been bred for extra-large flowers.


5. Hibiscus syriacus ‘Oiseau Bleu’

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Oiseau Bleu’ is  a real head-turner for its silky blue flowers. Like many Hibiscus it is often one of the last plants in the garden to begin leafing-up after winter – often not until May. It’s worth waiting for though, as the late summer flowers will keep going right into autumn.

Hibiscus 'Oiseau Bleu'

©Shutterstock – Hibiscus ‘Oiseau Bleu’ flowers right through to autumn.


Hibiscus Care


First of all, most Hibiscus like moderately wet soil, with the ability to drain well. This means that if you are gardening on clay soil, you may need to mix in some grit, sand and garden compost when planting , to increase its drainage.

If you are growing it in a pot then make sure that there are plenty of drainage holes in the base of the pot to allow good drainage, and prevent it becoming water-logged.

Pot grown plants will need regular watering during the summer months. Plants grown in borders should be able to look after themselves once they are established, so you will only need to water them for the first month or two after planting.

Hibiscus in the garden

©Shutterstock – Hibiscus are quite low maintenance once they are established in borders.


Hibiscus likes sunlight, so whether you are growing a hardy variety outdoors or a tender houseplant, make sure that they are in a bright spot.


You can use fertiliser to help your hibiscus to grow. Feed them with a liquid plant food every 4 weeks from spring to late summer.


Indoor Hibiscus rosa-sinensis won’t really need pruning so there’s no need to worry if you are growing this type.

Hardy Hibiscus syriacus should be pruned in in late spring, just as the leaf buds are opening. Remove any dead or damaged branches, and lightly prune the rest to shape the plant.

As you can see, Hibiscus plants are really easy to grow and don’t need a lot of special care. You can enjoy their bright flowers outdoors or in your home. Wherever you grow yours, you will love its exotic-looking flowers!


Why you should grow amaranthus

Red amaranthus flower with green leaves

Amaranthus caudatus ‘Love Lies Bleeding is one of the most popular varieties
Image: pjhpix/shutterstock

‘Love Lies Bleeding’, the name most commonly used for Amaranthus caudatus, is a bushy, 5ft tall, half-hardy annual with distinctive flowers that cascade to the ground in dramatic, crimson tassels. In each of these fascinating tassels is a colony of tiny, tightly packed flowers that last for many weeks. 

From the Greek word ‘Amaranth’ meaning ‘the unfading flower’, the bright red blooms of Amaranthus generally retain their colour even after the flower has died. No surprise that they’re loved by gardeners and flower arrangers alike. Here’s how to grow Amaranthus in your garden.

Amazing amaranthus

Amaranthus tricolor 'Joseph's Coat' from T&M

The foliage of ‘Joseph’s Coat’ is just as prized as its flower
Image: Amaranthus tricolor ‘Joseph’s Coat’ from T&M

In addition to the popular weeping panicles of ‘Love Lies Bleeding’, there are many other different types of amaranth to bring interest to your borders. Amaranthus tricolor ‘Joseph’s Coat’ is coveted for its stunning variegated leaves, while Amaranthus paniculatus is loved for its tall, feathery spikes.

Amaranthus is a warm weather annual that prefers a sunny position and slightly acidic soil. It belongs to a genus of over 60 amaranth species that have an established presence in nearly every continent. They’re easy to cultivate, able to tolerate poor soil and don’t require a lot of watering. Amaranth will also self-sow, bringing more flowers every year.

How to grow amaranthus

Amaranthus paniculatus 'Marvel Bronze' from T&M

Amarathus look great dotted through borders, or planted en masse
Image: Amaranthus paniculatus ‘Marvel Bronze’ from T&M

Sow amaranthus seeds outside in late spring or early summer after the last frosts. The minimum germination temperature is around 13°C, but best results are seen at 15-18 degrees.

You can direct sow seeds every 15cm (6 inches), thinning to 45 cm (18 inches) as the plants become established. Amaranth can grow to 1.8m (6 feet), so tall varieties like Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ will need approximately 60cm (24 inches) between plants. Don’t worry that the extra seedlings will be wasted. Rather than throwing away these tender shoots, add them to salads or stir-fries instead.

Many people prefer to start their amaranthus seeds off indoors, to give them an early start. If you want to get them going a little sooner, sow your seeds in pots or trays of moist seed compost in February to March, and cover with a very fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Keep them at a constant temperature of between 20-25C but allow the temperature to reduce at night. Keep the seeds somewhere bright, as light helps them to germinate. Germination usually takes 3-15 days. Transplant your seedlings into larger pots and harden them off for 10-15 days before planting out.

As amaranthus are generally large plants, they’re best grown at the back of a flower border where they make dramatic companion plants to other tall summer favourites such as sunflowers, Cleomes, Zinnias and Nicotiana. Smaller varieties, such as Amaranthus paniculatus ‘Marvel Bronze’, look fantastic grown en masse, providing a spectacular display!

Is amaranthus safe to eat?

Amaranthus caudatus ‘Pony Tails Mixed’ from T&M

Amaranthus leaves are slightly sweet and can be eaten like spinach
Image: Amaranthus caudatus ‘Pony Tails Mixed’ from T&M

Historically, amaranthus was revered by the Aztecs and Incas, who believed that it had supernatural powers as food and medicine, making it one of the world’s oldest crops. It’s also sometimes known as ‘Chinese spinach’ or ‘callaloo’ in Caribbean cooking.

Today Amarathus is gaining popularity as a superfood, and more and more people are choosing to grow it in the vegetable garden. The plant’s green leaves can be eaten raw in salads, added to soups and stir fries, or simmered in curries. Similar in taste to spinach, Amaranthus leaves contain almost twice the vitamin C and the same amount of iron, but unlike spinach, the plant doesn’t bolt.

Each Amaranthus plant also produces multiple seed heads, yielding up to 5,000 seeds that are a bit like quinoa. Mild and nutty, gluten-free and packed with protein and calcium, the mild peppery flavour is a great addition to breads and cereals.

How to harvest amaranthus seeds

Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ from T&M

Tall varieties look good at the back of borders
Image: Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ from T&M

While most people want to grow Amaranthus for its ornamental value, it’s worth knowing a little bit about harvesting the seeds. Perhaps also having some recipe ideas if you fancy growing amaranthus to add variety to your diet.

The seed heads mature from the bottom of the tassel and move upwards, so the simplest way to test if they’re ripe is to shake out the ripe seeds into a clean bucket. Alternatively cut the seed heads, cover them with a paper bag and hang them upside down in a well ventilated place to allow them to dry for a week or two.

Are you excited by the possibilities of amaranthus growing? Tag us in your photos and share your interesting new amaranth recipes over on Facebook or Twitter.

Get kids gardening with Mr Men & Little Miss seeds

Get kids gardening with Mr Men & Little Miss seeds
Image: Mr Men & Little Miss Seeds

Gardening is a healthy and inexpensive way for children to learn and have fun. It gets them out into the fresh air – and many will develop an interest in healthy eating if they grow their own fruit and veg. The key to making it a positive first experience is to choose the right varieties – things that are quick and easy to grow, such as our Mr Men and Little Miss range.

We partnered with ‘Mr Men and Little Miss’ in 2018, to create a range of child-friendly seeds that are easy and quick to grow. Each variety has been carefully selected and features a favourite character on the packet. Here are our tips to use ‘Mr Men and Little Miss’ seeds to inspire the budding gardeners in your family!

How to get kids out into the garden

Little girls gardening with tomatoes, carrots & flowers

Give children a taste of gardening success, with quick, easy-to-grow, plants.
Image source: / Shutterstock

Kids love growing brightly-coloured flowers and tasty, quick-growing veg. Here’s our advice to help make their first attempt a huge success:

  1. Find easy to grow flowers and veg: Flowers that are easy to grow from seed, with minimum preparation, fuss and care include nasturtiums, sunflowers and poppies. And lots of veg will grow quite happily without much attention, beyond a little watering.
  2. Choose seeds that produce quick results: Quick-sprouting seeds are great for impatient little ones, who can see their results without much waiting! Cress will be ready to harvest just a week or two after planting – and sunflowers grow super-fast!
  3. Instill a sense of independence: Give your kids their own small flower bed or veg patch so they can sow and grow their own. You can also start most of these seeds on window sills and grow them in containers.
  4. Invest in the right tools: Get a set of child-friendly mini-tools, such as a watering can, rake and trowel, that small children can hold and use by themselves. This helps build independence and fine motor skills.
  5. Help them find the right resources: Check out our Kids’ Grow guides – free, downloadable fact sheets with simple, child-friendly instructions to get them started.

Best flowers to grow with kids

Here are some of the best flowers for kids to grow. Encourage them to fill window boxes, hanging baskets, patio containers and borders. They’ll brighten up your home and keep pollinators happy too. You’ll find the following in the Mr Men and Little Miss range:

Best veg to grow with kids

Get your kids involved with cooking as well as gardening, by using the fruit and veg they’ve grown themselves. It’s a fun way to encourage fussy eaters to try new foods! Here are some popular crops to get them started:

Inspiring children to enjoy gardening gives them a healthy hobby for life. Start them off growing these quick and easy seeds, and you’ll soon have your own Mr Happy or Little Miss Sunshine! For more information, check out our free Kids’ Grow guides for child-friendly instructions on how to grow these plants and more. 


5 things you need to know about tomatoes

Tomato ‘Gigantomo’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Tomatoes come in all shapes, colours and sizes
Image source: Tomato ‘Gigantomo’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Is there anything more satisfying than a perfectly ripe, homegrown tomato, freshly picked and warm from the sun? They’re easy to grow from seed, and a couple of plants will produce hundreds of tomatoes to keep you supplied from mid-summer right through to autumn.

If you grow tomatoes, you’ll know they soon become a passion. But how much do you know about them? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that a tomato is a fruit. But here are five interesting tomato facts that you may not have come across.

1. Tomatoes originated in the Andes

Tomatoes growing in the Andes

Tomatoes growing in the Andes mountains
Image source: JHON JAMES GRACIA / Shutterstock

Tomatoes were first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas, dating back as early as 700 AD. The Aztec name for them translates to ‘plump thing with a navel’ – and they were grown for decoration rather than food. They were first brought to Europe in the mid 1500s.

2. You can call it a ‘wolf peach’

Tomato ‘Gourmandia’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Some tomatoes are certainly delicious enough to wolf down a peach!
Image source: Tomato ‘Gourmandia’ F1 Hybrid from T&M – vegetable of the year 2020

The scientific name for tomatoes is Lycopersicon lycopersicum, which means wolf peach! At least it sounds better than ‘plump thing with a navel’.

3. People used to believe that tomatoes were poisonous

Multicoloured tomatoes in a metal bowl

Don’t serve tomatoes on a pewter plate!
Image source: Jane Rix / Shutterstock

In the 1700s, some Europeans became wary of tomatoes because aristocrats were getting sick after eating them – even dying. The problem wasn’t the tomatoes however, but the pewter plates on which they were served. Highly acidic foods such as tomatoes may leach when touching certain metals, like pewter. Thus the problem was lead poisoning, falsely attributed to tomatoes – or ‘poisonous apples’, as they became nicknamed.

4. Tomatoes were originally yellow

Tomato ‘Limoncito’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Tomatoes weren’t always red!
Image source: Tomato ‘Limoncito’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

The first tomatoes weren’t red, but small and yellow – which explains the Italian word given to them when they were brought to Europe: pomi d’oro, which translates to ‘yellow apples’. Tomatoes are now available in a variety of colours: red, orange, yellow, pink, green, purple and even black.

5. There are 10,000 varieties of tomato worldwide

Multicoloured tomatoes lying on a wooden board

Which tomato variety will you choose next?
Image source: Shebeko / Shutterstock

What are your favourite tomato varieties? You might know the ever popular ‘Gardener’s Delight’, ‘Moneymaker’ and ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ – but did you know there are 10,000 varieties of tomato across the globe? Some of the less familiar names include ‘Midnight Snack’, ‘Orange Beauty’, ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Black Russian’ But you could eat a different variety every day and still not get through them after 27 years!

What unusual tomato facts have you come across? Let us know on our Facebook page!

7 wonderful ways to sow wildflowers

Wildflower meadow surrounding old bench

Wildflowers deliver colour, scent, texture and interest to gardens large and small
Image: shutterstock

Wildflowers are a colourful, low-maintenance and cost-effective way to make your garden buzz with life. Particularly attractive to pollinators, they provide important food and shelter for a wide range of bees, butterflies and insects. What’s more, perennial wildflowers usually prefer poor soil, and often perform well in tricky areas where other plants fail to thrive.

But how do you incorporate wildflowers into a modern manicured garden? What if you don’t have space for a lawn, let alone a meadow? We sent boxes of ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ wildflower mix to a dozen garden bloggers to try out. Here are 7 different ways to sow wildflower seeds in your garden, including what some of our favourite bloggers did with theirs…

1: Replace your lawn with a wildflower meadow

Wildflower meadow with a cut through path

Don’t use your lawn? Let it grow!
Image: jax10289/shutterstock

Maintaining a perfect lawn all year round can be a thankless task, so if you find that you don’t use it, why not simply let your lawn grow – adding some wildflowers into the mix for a constantly changing carpet of colour as well as a healthy ecosystem. Wildflower meadow lawns look fantastic with curving paths mowed through them. They draw your eye through the space and can be moved whenever you feel like a change.

Alexandra of The Middle Sized Garden wasn’t able to sow her T&M wildflowers this year due to adverse weather conditions, but next year she’s planning to replace the grass in her front garden with a pollinator-friendly mini meadow. Keep an eye on her blog to see how it turns out.

2: Create a wildflower border

Photo of wildflowers from The Chatty Gardener

The Chatty Gardener used her wildflower seeds to fill this empty border
Image: The Chatty Gardener

Wildflowers provide important food for insects, as well as a place to shelter and breed. But you don’t need an entire meadow to make a difference – just a small corner of a regular sized garden will have an impact. The Chatty Gardener used her box of ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ wildflower seeds to quickly fill a bare border with colour. She says:

It’s become one of my favourite areas with a mix of annuals and perennials in various shades. They provide the sort of semi-transparent planting that I like and look really good against the reclaimed brickwork… I’m seriously considering recreating it next year.

Over at Agents of Field, Sophie and Ade also used their seeds to fill a border:

They took a while to get going, but when they came good they looked great! It was a hive of activity, not only bees and bugs, but birds feeding on both the seeds and the bugs. Due to the recent hot weather, they’re now past their best but we’re very happy with the results.

3: Contain your wildflowers in a raised bed

Raised beds, hanging baskets or patio containers make a great home for wildflowers
Image: Carrot Tops Allotment

Modern gardens don’t always lend themselves to the slightly nostalgic feel of naturalised wildflowers. But if you want to contribute to your suburb’s superhighway for pollinators, don’t rule them out just yet.

Try using some geometrical raised beds, planters or containers to contrast with the frothy colour of your wildflowers. Sharp angular planters are perfect – think about painting the wooden railway sleepers of a raised bed with black paint for a contemporary and striking statement.

Over on Carrot Tops Allotment, Adam used his seeds to fill an assortment of hanging baskets and containers, which he says ‘gave a lovely show.’ Check out his blog to learn more.

4: Scatter wildflower seeds around your pond

Pete's pond with newly planted plants

Pete’s pond will soon be surrounded by scented wildflowers
Image: Weeds up to me knees

Over at Weeds Up To Me Knees, Pete spent the summer working on his pond area – an important part of any wildlife-friendly garden. Having recycled broken paving slabs to create a rockery feel, he scattered his wildflower seeds in the cracks. Pete says:

Where I’ve planted them isn’t the sunniest place in the garden, but I’m down there with a watering can daily! I have faith in them. Even though I’m not getting that much out of them at the moment, I think when we get a spot of rain in the next few days they’ll come into their own.

5: Mix them into existing schemes

Wildlflowers planted underneath a sweetpea tower

Alison underplanted her sweetpea towers to fill the space
Image: The Blackberry Garden

Any spare patches of ground, particularly under wigwam towers or around the edge of vegetable plots make great places to sprinkle a handful of wildflower seeds. A lack of rain has held back some people’s wildflowers this year – they do like a bit of water to get them going. Luckily Alison at The Blackberry Garden sowed her seeds in three different areas to find out where they’d feel most at home:

The dry May didn’t help them but they’re doing well where I’ve used them to underplant my sweetpeas. They’re still developing as they’ve been held back a bit, but now we’ve had rain I’m hopeful they’ll romp away!

6: Plant a wildflower orchard

Wildflower orchard with trees in blossom

Traditional orchards were often carpeted with wildflowers to help pollination
Image: Nicola Pulham/shutterstock

Whether you actually have fruit trees or you just want to capture the romance of an old English orchard using the regular trees in your garden, sowing drifts of wildflowers around their trunks will look gorgeous and save scrabbling around them with the lawn mower. Over at The Veg Grower Podcast, this is exactly what Richard plans to do:

My plan is to create a mini orchard in my garden with the wildflower seeds sown under the trees to create the old fashioned orchard feel. Unfortunately Covid meant I was unable to get my fruit trees in the Spring and so I’ve spent the last few months concentrating on clearing the ground and ensuring it’s weed free before planting all my trees and wildflower seeds in the autumn.

We can’t wait to see the photos of Richard’s new orchard when he gets it all planted!

7: Go rogue!

Guerilla gardening with poppies and various other wildflowers

A bit of guerilla wildflower hedgerow planting
Image: Brian Maudsley/shutterstock

Some pollinators can’t travel very far, so it’s really important that there are plenty of places for them to rest and recharge. This is even more important in towns and cities where there are fewer flowers to sustain them. One of our favourite bloggers, who shall remain anonymous, said that his garden is too small to lend itself to ‘drifts’ of wildflowers. He does, however, have another plan:

My intention is to do a bit of ‘guerilla gardening’ and sow them in a publicly-owned space near to my house…My local council often sows wildflowers in ‘spare’ bits of ground, so I don’t think they would object, though they didn’t do it this year, due to other priorities. It would be quite satisfying if I could drive past an otherwise drab area and think ‘I sowed those flowers’!

While we admire the concept of spreading the love, we obviously can’t condone spreading the actual wildflowers themselves!

Thank you to all the bloggers who kindly let us know how their wildflower seeds fared this summer and gave us a number of interesting ideas for ways to use them. If you want more information, read How to sow wildflower seeds. And if you have any wildflower success stories to share, please get in touch via Facebook or Twitter. We always love to hear from you.

Meet the experts

The T&M blog has a wealth of knowledgeable contributors. Find out more about them on our "Meet the experts" page.


Pin It on Pinterest