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.

Oh peas behave!

Pea Shiraz banner from Sam Corfield

Peas can be sown successionally for a continuous crop throughout the summer

If you love the idea of sowing pea and bean seeds and want to try growing them at home or on your allotment, we asked trained horticulturist, Sam Corfield, to talk you through his pea season. A man who likes to keep things simple, here are his top tips to help you enjoy excellent harvests with minimum fuss. Whether you want to grow juicy garden varieties, succulent sugar snaps or mangetout, this simple guide will have you growing your own peas in no time. 

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Growing raspberries with children

Raspberry 'Ruby Beauty'® (Summer Fruiting) from T&M

Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ is a thornless variety, ideal for growing with kids
Image: Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’® (Summer Fruiting) from Thompson & Morgan

Children love growing things they can pick and eat straight from the plant, and soft fruits are particular favourites. Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ is a dwarf variety that grows to about 3ft tall, and is perfectly happy in the ground, in a container, or even on a sunny balcony. 

As a thornless variety, children will love the easy pickings too, which is why we sent some plants to our horticultural expert, Sue Sanderson and her little helper to try out. Here’s how they got on with a raspberry that, while short in stature, is easy to grow and produces an excellent harvest of sweet, succulent fruit…

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Why you need to grow Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’

Summer-fruiting Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty' in container

Summer-fruiting raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ can be grown in the ground or containers
Image: T&M

If you’d love to grow raspberries but lack the space in your garden to accommodate rows of towering canes, Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’® is the solution you’re looking for. This space-saving raspberry has all the deliciously sweet flavour you’d expect from a modern variety, but you don’t need a veg patch to grow it – in fact, this little beauty grows to just 1m in height and is perfectly happy in a container on your patio or balcony.

Being compact makes ‘Ruby Beauty’ easy to net to protect the fruit from hungry birds. And because its stems are thornless, the fruit is easy to pick too. This plant requires little, if any, support but you may choose to add a few canes around the pot to help hold up the fruit.

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Hyacinths masterclass: best expert content

Hyacinth ‘T&M Mix’ from Thompson & Morgan

Hyacinths create fabulous colour displays with powerful scent
Image: Hyacinth ‘T&M Mix’ from Thompson & Morgan

If you want to force hyacinth bulbs indoors to enjoy their flower, scent and colour over the winter, here’s a selection of expert advice from our favourite bloggers, YouTubers and Instagrammers. These independent posts and videos give you step-by-step advice on how to make these spring-flowering bulbs bloom early. You’ll also find information on growing them in water, and getting your hyacinths to flower again, year after year.

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Rise of the bedding plants

Begonia semperflorens ‘Organdy Mixed’ F1 Hybrid from Thompson & Morgan

Fill your beds and borders with show stopping bedding plants
Image: Begonia semperflorens ‘Organdy Mixed’ F1 Hybrid from Thompson & Morgan

Bedding plants became incredibly popular in the Victorian era, when specialist plant hunters were dispatched to find new and unique specimens to add colour and interest to gardens. The surge in interest coincided with the abolition of the glass tax. This meant that, for the first time, more people were able to erect modest glasshouses in their gardens allowing them to grow a wider range of the new bedding plants that were brought back from warmer parts of the world. Here’s why this Victorian status symbol has stood the test of time…

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Best interiors Instagrammers to follow

Colourful backdrop for interior design from @poppyrobin_myhome

Follow these accounts and get interior design inspiration
Image: @poppyrobin_myhome

Do you want to give your home a stylish new makeover and change things up a bit? Here are some of the best Instagram accounts to provide inspiration. Not only do these clever creatives offer a peek at their truly lovely homes, they share top tips to help you achieve the look yourself. Whether you’re hunting for ideas or just enjoy having something beautiful to admire during your coffee break, these are the Insta accounts to follow…

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Choosing hedge plants to save funds!

Bare root hedging plants collection from T&M

Bare root hedge plants are a cost-effective way to create a boundary
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Bare root plants are often far cheaper than potted plants. These young ‘whips’ establish quicker than more mature specimens and will soon catch up in size. Given the quantity of plants that are normally required to create a hedge, it’s a ‘no brainer’ to buy your plants as bare roots – in fact bare root hedge plants are by far one of the greatest savings you can make in the garden. Here’s the best way to spend that hedge fund…

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Top 5 favourite hedges

Ornate hedging in garden

Hedges are a great way to partition different areas of your garden
Image: Stephanie Braconnier/Shutterstock

A hedge is an integral part of any garden, providing privacy and security while supplying wildlife with food and shelter too. A practical way to partition your outside space without the need for a fence, a hedge is undoubtedly a beautiful thing in its own right too. Here are five of our favourite hedge plants to provide ideas and inspiration for your own garden.

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Garden redesign – Geoff Stonebanks at Driftwood

Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks shares his exciting garden redesign
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Catch up with one of our favourite bloggers, Geoff Stonebanks, creator and keeper of the award-winning Driftwood garden. Here he gives us an exclusive insight to the creation of his brand new Mediterranean themed area, and shares a snapshot of his time capsule for the future!

Creating a Mediterranean garden

Geoff Stonebanks mediterranean garden

Geoff’s new drought tolerant area is easy to care for and has a striking, mediterranean look
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Back in March 2021, I conceived the idea to create a sunken patio garden at the rear of the house by digging out the area on the left side of the garden and creating a Mediterranean area with drought tolerant plants, a collection of succulents and shrubs.

While doing this, we created rustic brick and old railway sleeper edging to replace the original raised wooden beds alongside the rear of the house and around the central steps, which had started to rot. The small patio by the green folly door was extended to meet the rear of the dug-out area which is secured, unusually, with 50 old railway sleepers on end.

At the onset of the work, a follower on Twitter said: “the destructive bit is terrifying – but then comes the creative bit”. How very true those words really are.

So, for 11 days in October, local landscaper, Dan Smith and his company, Ace Of Spades, worked their magic using my own design ideas to create an amazing space, bordered by upturned old railway sleepers. Dan navigated a mini digger through the left side of the house and excavated 4 skips of chalk and debris, creating the new sunken garden area.

I felt so sorry for his team as they then had to wheelbarrow all the debris down the steep drive to the waiting skips. More importantly, they then had to carry the 50 railway sleepers up the drive too. Landscaper Dan said: “Thanks Geoff, hope you enjoy the new area as much as we did building it. It looks amazing, can’t wait to see it in its full glory spring time“.

The completed space already looks amazing but will not show its true potential until next Spring, when it will be dressed with my large collection of succulents.

A facebook visitor and follower, Sacha Hubbard, posted on social media: “Anyone who hasn’t seen Driftwood but has read your posts, might think you’re Mr Manyacres! What you do with an average size modern garden plot is simply astonishing. I think a ‘How I did it’ book about your garden could be inspirational and valuable to so many people who don’t have a large garden but want to do something interesting with a relatively small space”.

The Driftwood garden time capsule

Driftwood garden time capsule

Geoff’s time capsule is a snapshot of the garden for the future
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

A friend suggested I bury a time capsule beneath the new patio paving. Spurred on by the idea, I purchased a capsule and set about asking people on social media what I should include inside. There is no date set to open it, so it’ll be discovered whenever anyone changes the garden in the future!

These are the items that made the final selection:

  • Digital memory stick with images of the garden, media & award coverage, charity recognition, achievements, cake recipes, garden visitors and a pdf copy of Geoff’s book about the garden
  • Current monetary coinage
  • Covid-19 test kit and Frida Kahlo face mask
  • Petrol receipt
  • National Garden Scheme 2021 booklet, Driftwood on cover, scheme name badge and pin badge
  • Macmillan Cancer Support biro, pin badge and 2019 trail booklet.
  • Morrisons & Waitrose club cards
  • Business cards: Geoff Stonebanks & Mark Glassman
  • Lapel Remembrance poppy
  • 3 packets of seeds
  • Garden visitor’s favourite cappucino cake recipe
  • Fingerprints, Geoff Stonebanks, Barbara Stonebanks (mother), Mark Glassman (partner) and pawprint of Chester the terrier
  • Photo of John & Lois Starley, (Seaford residents) our most frequent paying garden visitors over the years!
  • Copy of Geoff’s monthly gardening page ‘Bournefree’ from October 2021
  • Copy of Geoff’s Argus weekly gardening column from 8th October 2021
  • Copy of Geoff’s monthly Garden News column from September 2021
  • Latitude and Longitude details of the house and the time capsule
  • Digital stick with Latest TV Brighton gardening television features from 2014, filmed at Driftwood with Geoff, courtesy of Angi Mariani
  • Midland Bank crown dated 4th August 1980, donated by Barbara Stonebanks

Visit Driftwood garden

Driftwood garden Mediterranean area

Visit Driftwood to see the rest of Geoff’s fantastic garden
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

After over 10 years of opening Driftwood garden to the public, I realised it was starting to become a chore to water so many containers of summer annuals. Watering them could take in excess of 5 hours from start to finish! At last count there were over 300 containers across the garden as a whole, with a heavy concentration on the back patio. This inspired the idea to design an attractive new ‘Mediterranean’ area, to reduce the need for so much water while still looking fantastic.

See the new look Driftwood in 2022. It’s listed in the National Garden Scheme’s handbook and will be open from 1st June to 31st July, by arrangement, and for the Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail on 23rd and 24th July. Full details on the website at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

If you can’t make it in person, then view the whole design process from start to finish and keep up to date with daily videos on the garden development page of the website.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this update from Driftwood garden. Have you got big plans for your outdoor space? Explore the rest of the T&M blog for simple design tricks to transform your garden. Share your before and after pics with us via our social channels, or drop us a line via email.

Top 10 Easiest Houseplants

A group of easy to grow houseplants including Zamioculcas (back left) Sanseviera (far left), Aspidistra (second right) and Spathiphyllum (far right).

Would you love to have some lush greenery in your home but don’t feel that you have the expertise? Let’s face it – we have all killed a houseplant – or two or three….perhaps more! But don’t let that put you off. There’s a houseplant out there for every type of gardener, however inexperienced or guilty!   

If you are self-confessed plant-killer with a shameful back catalogue of murdered houseplants our Bombproof Houseplants are the answer.

Or perhaps you are a well-intentioned plant-lover who is just too lazy, forgetful, or busy to love your plants full time? Then our Low Maintenance Houseplants will cope with neglect.

Bombproof Houseplants

Aspidistra elatior (Cast Iron Plant)

Keep the Aspidistra Flying! The titular Aspidistra in George Orwell’s novel has typecast this plant as a Victorian fuddy-duddy. But Aspidistra really deserves more appreciation and the RHS have awarded it an AGM for good reason. Aspidistra has a cast iron constitution, hence its common name. Naturally growing in the deep, dry shade of forests in Japan and Taiwan they can cope with poor light levels and drought. With its strong, upright leaves it creates ambient greenery in grim spots where no other plant will survive. There is plenty of evidence to support the psychological benefits of indoor greenery, so if you have a gloomy room or a soulless office which could do with some green life to perk it up, then the Aspidistra is perfect. Although like all plants it needs water, if you forget to water your Aspidistra she will cope. If you are a determined plant-killer, Aspidistra is a tough cookie and will treat neglect with disdain.

Sanseviera trifasciata var. Laurentii (Mother in Law’s tongue)

A born survivor long known under its dated nickname ‘Mother-in-law’s tongue,’ Sanseviera has been justly rehabilitated as a style icon. Its clean, simple lines and boldly striped design make this plant a living sculpture which looks at home amongst modern décor. Sanseviera comes from desert habitats in Africa and Southern Asia and is well adapted to arid conditions with its hard, fleshy leaves which store water. They also exhibit a novel form of photosynthesis. Unlike most plants, which open their leaf pores during the day whilst photosynthesis takes place, Sansevieria keeps its pores firmly shut during daytime heat, reducing water loss through its leaves. As a result, this plant should only be watered every few weeks and is ideal for reckless neglect. However, leaving her soaking in a puddle of stagnant water is like kryptonite to this houseplant superhero. Such appalling treatment is likely to make other houseplants expire in sympathy!

ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Aptly known as the Eternity Plant, Zamioculcas is practically unkillable. Stiffly upright and armoured with thick, dark green leaves, this warrior of a plant is not easily defeated. Its dark foliage is rich in chlorophyll making it perfect for rooms with lower light levels. And if you fancy something striking, there is even a variety with leaves so dark they are almost black. The ZZ plant is ideal for the inattentive gardener. Swollen stems and roots hold moisture and nutrients so it is rarely hungry or thirsty. Before giving it a drink ensure that the compost has dried out completely.

Low Maintenance Houseplants

Aloe Vera

The adaptable Aloe Vera has spread far beyond its native habitat in the Arabian Peninsula and become naturalised across the world in warm climates. It will adapt equally well to the warmth of your home, as long as you keep it in a bright place and go easy on the watering. Known to the ancient Egyptians as the ‘plant of immortality,’ lazy gardeners should have a job trying to kill this one. Equipped with thick fleshy leaves full of water-storing gel and covered with a waxy skin the Aloe only needs an occasional drink when its gravelly compost is completely dried out.

Desert Candle (Euphorbia abyssinica)

Your Euphorbia abyssinica may not reach these heights!
But it still makes a striking and sculptural houseplant

The crazy candelabra of Euphorbia abyssinica is capable of growing into a tree reaching ten metres in the wild. Don’t worry! It won’t reach such unwieldy proportions as a houseplant, but it is a fast growing succulent capable of becoming a large and striking specimen. Boldly columnar with multi-branching, ribbed segments edged with spines, the Desert Candle is a dramatically sculptural plant. It makes an excellent solitary centrepiece or can be used to provide effective contrast amongst a group of softer leaved plants. Give Euphorbia abyssinica a bright position growing in gritty compost and all it needs is an occasional splash of water when the roots are dry.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

The cool white spathes of the Peace Lily create a tranquil atmosphere and reflect light in dim corners where other houseplants won’t thrive. This easy-going plant is native to tropical rainforests of the Americas. An inhabitant of the understory, it is adapted to lower light levels. If the idea of caring for houseplants induces anxiety, the undemanding Peace Lily will calm your fears and live quietly and contently in partial shade only asking that you water it enough to keep the compost just moist.

Epipremnum aureum (Golden Pothos, Devils Ivy)

Originally from one small island in French Polynesia, Epipremnum has bullied its way across the tropical world to become an exotic pest in wild habitats. But this invasive brute makes a perfect houseguest as its tough constitution shakes off terrible growing conditions making it almost impossible to kill. It also has the advantage of being a climbing vine, which lends it adaptable to different types of display. Its sprawling stems are equipped with aerial roots which will attach themselves to any grippy surface, including your wall if you let it! More usually, it is grown up a pole lending height to indoor plant displays and creating columns of greenery which don’t occupy much space. Alternatively, it can be left to trail out of a pot and grown as a hanging plant.

Epipremnum’s other strengths include its ability to tolerate lower light levels. Finding good light spots for houseplants can be a challenge and light intensity plummets dramatically as you move away from a window. But Epipremnum tolerates lower light levels and will even retain its golden variation. It will also put up with lazy watering and should only be given a drink when the compost is drying out.

Cacti

Perfectly at home in scorching deserts, Cacti won’t get in a prickly mood when you turn your heating up! Many houseplants come from tropical regions with high humidity and the dry atmosphere of your centrally heated home during the winter months may not be the most hospitable environment for them. But cacti love to be warm and dry. These resilient characters are basically water-holding stems that have ditched their leaves for spines. They have frail and shallow root systems, but these roots will quickly grow in response to rainfall. So, if you habitually forget to water your plants, Cacti will thrive on your negligence as it will give them the chance to dry out between waterings. Grow them in bright light on a south facing window sill, always using a proprietary cactus compost.

Sempervivums

Long-living Sempervivum is commonly known as ‘houseleek’ but its Latin name literally translates as ‘forever (semper) alive (vivum)’. These rugged little survivors are used to coping with deserts, stony ground, and sunny rocks. They are great for beginners because they come in a fabulous range of colours and textures and offer the opportunity to gradually amass a varied collection. As well as their decorative foliage, attractive spikes of starry flowers are borne on mature rosettes. Although the mother rosette dies after flowering it produces plenty of baby plants to replace it.

With a bit of creative flair sempervivums can make wonderful displays. Cram them into terracotta pots, old teacups, or rusty tins for an eccentric and fun exhibit. Any recycled container will do, provided you make a drainage hole in the bottom and use a very gritty compost. Make the holes by gently tapping a nail into the bottom of the container.

Keep your Sempervivums on a bright sunny windowsill and they don’t need much care other than removing dead rosettes and old leaves. In the summer months they can be left outside. An occasional feed with cactus and succulent fertiliser will give a boost to growth. But avoid high-nitrogen feeds as these will make your plants grow soft and become liable to rot.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Over time, Spider Plants can become spectacular specimens

You might be scared of spiders but there is nothing intimidating about the Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum. Spider Plants are perfectly unfussy creatures which adapt to a wide range of conditions, although unlike spiders, they don’t like to hide in dark corners. Grow your spider plant in a bright spot and water regularly but allow the compost to dry out between drinks. They look great cascading from a shelf or tumbling from a hanging pot.

So even if you don’t have green thumbs or lots of time, there’s a host of undemanding houseplants which will beautify your home without requiring much skill or effort. For more ideas browse our Houseplant Section.

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