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.

Vibrant veg growing blogs

Basket full of fresh veg

Take some tips from these amazing bloggers about growing veg!
Image: Shutterstock

If growing veg is your thing, you’ll love our selection of some of the best vibrant veg growing blogs around. From ingenious folk who garden the smallest of plots, to budding self-sufficiency enthusiasts and smallholders, here we present some of the very best online diaries from the most prolific and knowledgeable gardeners you’ll find anywhere.

read more…

The 12 Days of Christmas: A Horticultural Conundrum

As I continue to expand my knowledge of the world and what grows in it, some observations have caught me unawares. I, perhaps foolishly, have started to question basic concepts and precepts that have always been a part of my lived experience through this lens.

Take Christmas carols for example.  I was listening to the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ when, like a shock, something struck me as odd.  On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a ‘Partridge in a Pear tree’. 

Now first, I’ve always assumed that the partridge was living. You wouldn’t give someone taxidermy for Christmas, would you? An initial search online revealed that there were three centuries of the history of taxidermy to explore, but I thought this particular rabbit hole was too much of a detour, so I continued my reflections.

The carol never makes it explicitly clear whether the partridge was alive or stuffed, and as I’ve always presumed it’s a lovely live Partridge, in a golden cage, or perhaps silver, something festive anyway, given the season, nestled amongst the leafy green… wait a minute.  It’s December isn’t it? The first day of Christmas.  Pear trees are deciduous!  How could it have leaves??

Am I to understand this gift of a partridge in a sparkly cage is clinging to the skeletal form of a well, let’s see, presumably a variety of Pyrus communis … Conference pear?  Concorde? 

pear tree

Or is the origin of the carol referring to gift-giving in sunnier climes?  Australia? Southern Florida? Tenerife?  Further investigation – and why not, now that I have this silly idea in my head – leads me to discover that the song was actually first published in England in 1780 without music as a chant or rhyme, though thought to be French in origin. The standard tune now associated with the carol is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin. 

Okay, so that blows the warm climate origin theory. They didn’t have plant passports the way we do today in the late 19th and early twentieth century, so I’m going to go with greenhouse cultivation. Okay Alice – now we’re going to follow you down this particular rabbit hole. 

History shows us that the first true greenhouse, called ‘the botanical garden’, was built in Italy, in the 13th century. A protected space where plants and trees could grow regardless of the climate and the time of year?  What a fantastic idea! It was so attractive that it quickly spread all over Europe, first to the Netherlands and then to England and France.

Developments throughout the 17th century wrestled with the problem of maintaining constant heat and ventilation, working to develop angled glass walls and heating flues. Up until the 19th century, greenhouses, or conservatories, as they were then called, were a symbol of prestige for the rich and powerful.  

In the 19th century public conservatories became popular places in which to study plant life and botany. The world-famous Crystal Palace, built in 1851 in Hyde Park in London to house the Great Exhibition, ran to 1,848 feet long by 456 feet wide.  Its cast-iron and glass structure was made of 900,000 square feet of glass and had full-size mature elm trees growing inside it. What an incredible sight that must have been.

greenhouse

Only a few short years before the extraordinary achievement of the Crystal Palace, the Glass tax was abolished in 1845.  Introduced in 1745, this punitive tax sought to exploit the wealthy by making glass a taxable luxury item.  Three years later plate glass was invented, and not long after that the Window tax was also abolished.  The cost of glass fell, and with new innovations, and at a more affordable cost, greenhouses began to become increasingly popular in the latter half of the century. 

By 1909, with music by Frederic Austin, it would have been perfectly reasonable to receive – though still an extravagance – the gift of a partridge in a pear tree, in December, as sung in the carol that we still enjoy today, thanks to the invention of the greenhouse!  

Inspiring indoor gardening blogs

houseplant feature image

Take advice from these expert houseplant bloggers
Image: Houseplant ‘Urban Jungle’ Collection from T&M

Growing indoor plants is fun, rewarding and even good for your health. House plants purify the air, help counteract mould and fungi, and the sight of foliage and flowers in the midst of winter is a great morale booster. 

To help you get started on your indoor gardening adventure, we’ve scoured the web for some of the best indoor gardening blogs. Here are expert hints and tips to help you create your own indoor oasis, plus new ideas for what to plant and how to propagate.

read more…

Our Spring 2021 Top 10 Preview!

Thompson & Morgan Lead the Way this Season with their Spring 2021 Top 10 Preview!

Thompson & Morgan introduce their top 10 new varieties which represent the best of the best this spring. Here you will find exciting World and UK Exclusives, stunning breakthroughs in breeding developed under T&M’s own breeding programme, as well as award winning varieties, much improved customer favourites and those stand out varieties set to be this season’s must have plants for this year’s spring garden.

 

Thompson & Morgan’s Spring 2021 Top 10 Preview

 

Petunia 'Mystical Midnight Gold' and Geranium 'Tall, Dark & Handsome Hot Pink' ®Thompson & Morgan

Petunia ‘Mystical Midnight Gold’ and Geranium ‘Tall, Dark & Handsome Hot Pink’ ®Thompson & Morgan

Petunia ‘Mystical Midnight Gold’

Introducing UK Exclusive Petunia ‘Mystical Midnight Gold’ a breeding breakthrough and first of its kind, providing unique summer colour and perfect for UK growing!

Unique summer colour
This striking petunia features brand new and unique coloured blooms in shades of creamy yellow with contrasting, rich dark black centres, producing a profusion of flowers to provide fabulous summer displays, a standout hanging basket or container feature perfect for adding drama to the patio.

Perfect for UK growing
Unlike a lot of larger petunia varieties which can be left looking a little bedraggled after a heavy downpour, the petite blooms of ‘Mystical Midnight Gold’ stand it in good stead when the rain comes in making it perfect for UK growing! This versatile variety is happy growing in sun or part shade and brings a profusion of flowers from June to September providing four months of summer long colour for borders, baskets and patio pots.

Geranium ‘Tall, Dark & Handsome Hot Pink’

Thompson & Morgan lead the way with this next World Exclusive and it certainly lives up to its name being tall, dark and very handsome!

Geraniums come of age with new Geranium ‘Tall, Dark & Handsome Hot Pink’ as it climbs to the top to take its place in T & M’s top ten preview. A result of over ten years of breeding by Thompson & Morgan’s own breeding programme sees this new geranium is growing up!

Geraniums are an ever-popular favourite in the summer garden and a consistent bestseller for T&M, so they wanted to bring a Geranium with a point of difference to the market. Having been bred to grow up with a narrow, upright columnar habit makes it perfectly suited to grow up a Tower Pot – three plants in a tower will provide an impressive climbing display on the patio. Featuring stunning hot pink blooms and chocolate coloured foliage it’s sure to stand out in the crowd! Producing flowers from June to October and perfect grown in a pot in both sun and part shade.

Sunflower ‘Sunbelieveable™ Golden Girl’, Sweet Pea ‘Three Times As Sweet’ and Geum ‘Samba Sunset’ ©Thompson & Morgan

Sunflower ‘Sunbelieveable™ Golden Girl’, Sweet Pea ‘Three Times As Sweet’ and Geum ‘Samba Sunset’ ©Thompson & Morgan

Sunflower ‘Sunbelieveable™ Golden Girl’

Another World Exclusive sees brand new Sunflower ‘Sunbelieveable™ Golden Girl’ land a top ten spot in the spring preview and seeing is believing, so see for yourself!

Another triumph of T&M’s own breeding programme which follows on from the success of customer favourite ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, which achieved third in 2018’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year competition.

A real ‘Golden Girl’ with every plant producing over a staggering 1,000 blooms in each growing season! Rightly so T&M are delighted to have introduced this prolific sunflower this season. A super producing hybrid producing flowers from June to November bringing months of sunshine colour to the summer garden. Being low maintenance makes it easy to grow it will bask in full sun in borders and pots and will even forgive a forgotten watering.

Sweet Pea ‘Three Times As Sweet’

Introducing Sweet Pea ‘Three Times As Sweet’ this high flier will fill both garden and home with its triple colour combination and delectable scent!

T&M introduces a further World Exclusive, with ten years of breeding this sweet pea really delivers on every front! A truly beautifully scented sweet pea and the World’s first, a cultivated modern grandiflora tricolour stripe boasts with three colours on one bloom! These fragrant frillies are perfect to grow in full sun in borders and pots throughout the garden and will cover walls or fences with ease, whilst providing a wonderfully scented cut flower for the vase too.

Peter Freeman, Thompson & Morgan’s Product Development Manager, said:
‘I grew ‘Three Times As Sweet’ in my garden this year and was blown away by not only it’s performance but the blooms were the most stunning of any sweet pea I’ve ever grown.’

Geum ‘Samba Sunset’

World Exclusives keep coming from T&M with the introduction of Geum ‘Samba Sunset’ with its supreme, super-sized flowers!

The breeding here brings further improvement on a much love gardener’s favourite ‘Samba Sunset’ with its giant double blooms spanning 7-8cm – double the size of other varieties!
This hardy perennial has a long flowering period from June through to August, growing in sun or part shade it’s a standout new variety for both garden borders and pots on the patio.

 

Other highlights from T&M‘s Top Ten Preview

 

Monarda ‘Electric Neon Pink’, Petunia Frills & Spills ‘Darcey Rosa’ © and Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine <br />©Walter Blom / Visions BV, Netherlands, ©Thompson & Morgan and ©De Jong Plant BV/ Visions BV, Netherlands

Monarda ‘Electric Neon Pink’, Petunia Frills & Spills ‘Darcey Rosa’ © and Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine
©Walter Blom / Visions BV, Netherlands, ©Thompson & Morgan and ©De Jong Plant BV/ Visions BV, Netherlands

Monarda ‘Electric Neon Pink’

Monarda ‘Electric Neon Pink’ its nectar rich bright blooms will have pollinating insects flocking as well as those looking for pops of colour for their summer garden.

Its Intense pink blooms produce a two-tone effect because of their sheer brightness, it’s no surprise bees and butterflies find it totally irresistible and if that wasn’t enough it packs a mint scented foliage too! This hardy perennial is happy in sun or part shade, filling the garden borders and pots with its brilliant blooms from July through to September.

Petunia Frills & Spills ‘Darcey Rosa’

Further introductions include Petunia Frills & Spills ‘Darcey Rosa’ yet another brand-new summer sensation from T&M!

This new addition to the incredibly popular Frills & Spills range is sure to be hit in the summer garden being colourful and easy to grow. ‘Darcey Rosa’ is the very first double petunia with a unique picotee edge – its purple-pink blooms are edged with a contrasting green and pop against its vibrant foliage. Having been bred for the British climate makes its resilient flowers completely weather tolerant!

Grow this striking Petunia in full sun – it’s easy to grow and makes a gorgeous addition perfect for growing in window boxes, baskets or pots.

World Exclusive – Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine

World Exclusives keep coming! Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine opens the door to the never seen before, this camelia puts on quite a show to provide a midsummer day’s dream garden!

With Camellias normally limited to the spring months for flowering this introduction sees this ground-breaking new summer flowering variety from T&M blowing those typical expectations clean out the window!

A breath-taking breakthrough in Camellia breeding!

This handsome evergreen is a real breeding breakthrough! Bred in China by Mr. Gao Jiyin, who has worked with camellia for over 50 years, with his colleagues Mr. Zhao Qiangmin and Mr. Liu Xinkai.

Unlike most Camellias, which flower in spring, this extraordinary new variety is at its best in the middle of summer! The ruffled, rosette blooms are borne continuously from May to October, bringing an exotic feel to the garden. Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine is neat and compact, making it ideal for planting in patio containers. Thriving in sun or part-shade, it makes a useful shrub for providing year-round interest and colour in the garden.

Peter Freeman, Thompson & Morgan’s Product Development Manager, said: ‘I was really taken aback by this breakthrough; plants were covered in flower right through the summer!’

 
Further highlights include…

Cortaderia 'Tiny Pampa' ©Visions BV, Netherlands and Sedum Sunsparkler 'Dream Dazzler'

Cortaderia ‘Tiny Pampa’ ©Visions BV, Netherlands and Sedum Sunsparkler ‘Dream Dazzler’

Cortaderia ‘Tiny Pampa’ the World’s first dwarf pampas grass growing to just 60cm tall!

This newcomer is perfect in a border for anyone with a smaller garden or for those looking to create a feathery feature it’s perfect in a container on the patio placed in full sun. Producing an abundance of flowers even as a young plant makes this a textural winner for the summer garden.

The new Sedum Sunsparkler ‘Dream Dazzler’ is full of surprises – this season’s colour changing and drought resistant variety!

This brilliant sedum has a surprise in store – featuring different coloured foliage depending on its position in the garden!

Its succulent leaves form a dense low cushion of vibrant colour. Rich tones of dark purple with bright pink edges when in the sun, or blue green with white edges when positioned in the shade. With the addition of pink flowers in the summer months makes it a must have new variety for this season. Both disease resistant and hardy to -30oC this sedum will thrive in dry conditions basking in full sun and perfect for both borders and rockeries whilst attracting pollinating insects into the garden.

All varieties featured above will be available in our Spring 2021 Catalogue, and available to buy online from late December.

 

Tulip bulbs – never too late for tulips!

collection of coloured tulips in a field

There are so many varieties of tulip from which to choose
Image: paula french/Shutterstock

Think it’s too late to plant tulip bulbs? Fear not. The best time to plant these enduringly popular spring bulbs begins in October. At Thompson & Morgan, we’re always on the lookout for special and unique plants. So which tulips do we love the most?

Here are our top tulip picks, along with other favourites to grow for scent, colour, size and indoor vases…

When to plant tulips

bulb planter from T&M

Plant tulip bulbs in late autumn to a depth of 2-3 times the bulb’s height (8-15cm)
Image: Bulb planter from T&M

Garden centres often try to sell tulip bulbs from late summer but the best time to plant tulips is much later than many people imagine. In fact, you shouldn’t put your early bulbs in the ground before October or November when the soil has had time to cool down.

Colder conditions kill some of the soil-borne pests and diseases that can attack tulip bulbs. Later planting also means your flowers will bloom at the optimum time – mid to late spring. This slightly later display provides a vital splash of colour that perfectly bridges the period between spring-flowering daffodils and the first summer-flowering perennials.

Our three favourite tulips

Tulip 'Florist's Treat Mixed' from T&M

This mix contains voluptuous doubles, fringed petals and a magnificent array of colours
Image: Tulip ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’ from T&M

Rather than the usual tulips available in supermarkets, why not grow your own colourful bouquets with ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’ (featured above)? We love this selection of vibrant, peony-flowered tulips for their unashamed flamboyance.

Also in our top three, ‘Red Impression’ is a classic red tulip. A fantastic perennial, this will come back year after year with a strong display every season. Our top tip? Be bold and grow them nice and close for maximum impact.

Last but not least, our third choice is the classic Tulip ‘Blueberry Ripple’ which combines the looks of a heritage tulip with modern vigour and a tough attitude! Each petal looks almost hand-painted in the most divine lilac-blue shade. Try giving it pride of place in a container on its own – pack the bulbs in and max out your display.

Best three tulips for fragrance

Double Sugar Tulip from T&M

These frothy sweet-scented blooms beautifully herald the arrival of spring
Image: Tulip ‘Double Sugar’ from T&M

Tulips are usually selected for spring colour rather than scent, but there are several varieties that offer both. For a truly angelic fragrance, choose Tulip ‘Angelique’. Growing up to 50cm tall, it boasts beautiful pink rosettes replete with elegant petals. The perfect spring bulb, grow it in a sunny position that’s sheltered from high winds.

Tulip ‘Double Sugar’ (featured above) takes its name from the delightful sugar-sweet scent of its large ruff-like blooms. Why not give this opulent tulip pride of place in borders and patio containers? Blooming from March through to May, it’s sure to get your summer display off to a vibrant start.

Looking for scent and drama? Tulip ‘Blenda-Flame’ makes a great addition to spring gardens. Featuring dazzling white blooms with stunning cerise variegation – this tulip is perfect for mass planting in beds and borders and offers a pleasingly subtle perfume.

Best three miniature tulips

Tulip Ground Cover Mix from T&M

Growing to just 25cm high, these mixed tulips are a clever way to suppress weeds
Image: Tulip ‘Ground Cover’ Mix from T&M

Miniature tulips look fabulous at the front of borders and around the edges of your container displays. Coming in a fantastic array of colours and shapes, they’re also less likely to be battered by wind or spring showers.

Tulip ‘Red Riding Hood’ offers lovely mottled and striped foliage which gives way to striking and long-lasting red blooms. Growing to 20cm in height, this miniature tulip will thrive in your rockery, and makes a good cut flower too.

If you’re looking for spring ground cover to provide a dazzling display and discourage weed growth, you’ll love our Tulip ‘Ground Cover’ Mix (featured above). An ensemble of varieties, this low-growing mix includes the ever-popular butter-yellow ‘Tulip Tarda’.

Another top ground-cover selection, Tulip ‘Murillo Mixed’ offers early colour, and excellent longevity, ensuring your borders are filled with action until the first of your summer blooms kicks in.

Best three tulips for cut flowers

Tulip ‘Black Satin’ from T&M

Gorgeous in bouquets with pale pinks or sizzling reds
Image: Tulip ‘Black Satin’ from T&M

Tulips are guaranteed to add extravagance to your spring cut flower displays, enriching your home and bringing their delightful early season scent indoors.

Looking for a professional colour matched cut-flower display? Try our gorgeous ‘Tulip Magic Lavender’ and ‘Mango Charm’ collection. Blooming simultaneously, flamboyant deep mauve and complementary soft yellow-pink combine to bring harmony to your borders and vases.

For a cut flower display which really packs a punch, you can’t beat Tulip ‘Striped Mix’. Combining three varieties; Tulip ‘Slawa’, Tulip ‘Gavota’ and Tulip ‘Havran’, it guarantees spring vases with the ‘wow’ factor.

And for something really unique, add a stunning contrast to your cut flower arrangements with Tulip ‘Black Satin’ (featured above). This deep maroon-black flower contrasts perfectly with soft pink. Alternatively, try combining it with rich reds for sultry bouquets that ooze gothic sensuality.

Whichever tulips you choose for your borders, containers and cut flower displays, do remember to plant your tulip bulbs later in the autumn after the soil has had time to cool. That way, you’ll give your tulips the best chance of producing a warm and vibrant spring display.

Gift guide: Houseplants to celebrate the spirit of Christmas

Red azalea hoop from T&M

Adorn your mantlepiece with stunning Christmas gifts from Thompson & Morgan
Image source: Thompson & Morgan

Christmas is a time to be thankful and show people you care – whether it’s through the exchange of thoughtful gifts, spending time together, or taking a moment to catch up on news. 

And what better way to spread goodwill than with the surprise delivery of a festive houseplant? These eco-friendly gifts can be easily ordered from home, and will continue to give pleasure long after the tinsel has been returned to the loft. Here are five cracking choices from T&M’s Christmas gift selection

Spider Azalea ‘Winter Beauty’

Spider Azalea 'Winter Beauty' from T&M

‘Winter Beauty’ costs £22.99

Reminiscent of a little Christmas tree frosted with snow, the bright and starry blooms of this Spider Azalea burst into life during December and last for several months. For the rest of the year, a shapely cone of dark, glossy, evergreen foliage lends an exotic feel to your conservatory or patio. A special gift that radiates cool Scandi style.

Azalea Hoop ‘Red’

Azalea Hoop 'Red' from T&M

Azalea Hoop ‘Red’ costs £34.99

Trained to form a beautiful floral wreath, this striking Azalea Hoop looks magnificent on a mantelpiece over the festive season. Traditionally, azalea flowers were sent to remind loved ones to take care of themselves, while in Chinese culture they symbolise happy times spent at home. The perfect gift for those you hold near and dear.

Lit Hyacinth Bowl

Lit Hyacinth Bowl from T&M

Lit Hyacinth Bowl costs £22.99

Exquisitely perfumed, this elegant glass bowl filled with gleaming White Hyacinths makes a beautiful Christmas table centrepiece or window display to welcome family home. Lit by a delicate string of fairy lights, the sparkling simplicity of this popular flower brings a real touch of class to any room. Ideal for anyone who loves a white Christmas.

Clivia Miniata in Zinc Pot

Lit Hyacinth Bowl from T&M

Clivia Miniatia costs £19.99

Originating from South Africa, this spectacular tropical houseplant will delight green-fingered friends and family. Prized for its bright orange flowers with delicate yellow throats, the Clivia Miniata is just as impressive when not in bloom with sculptural evergreen leaves that grow up to 60cm long. A gift that will bring joy for many years to come.

Poinsettia ‘Golden Glo’

Lit Hyacinth Bowl from T&M

‘Golden Glo’ costs £22.99

For a sensational twist on a seasonal favourite, Golden Glo is the guiding star of poinsettias. Deep green, heart-shaped leaves contrast with luxurious golden bracts to striking effect. Not sure how poinsettias came to be associated with Christmas? Legend has it that, long ago, a Mexican child’s religious offering of weeds were turned to poinsettia ‘flowers’ as part of a Christmas miracle. However it came about, this glorious plant remains the perfect way to convey your message of love and goodwill.

We hope we’ve persuaded you to go green this Christmas. With free personalised gift cards and just one delivery charge regardless of how many Christmas Gifts you send, T&M has you covered.

 

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.

@the_seasonal_table

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.

@locallyseasonal

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.

@agentsoffield

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.

@rivercottagehq

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.

@lavenderandleeks

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.

@a_countrylife

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…

@the_hairy_horticulturist

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.

@themarmaladeteapot

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?

@a_little_garden

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.

@gardenplot.57

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.

@monikabrzoza

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.

Primroses

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.

Cyclamen

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.

Hellebores

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.

Snowdrops

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

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.

Dogwood

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

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

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

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.

Daphne

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.

Coronilla

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, www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk 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!!

Meet the experts

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

Archives

Pin It on Pinterest