Petunia ‘Surfinia’ collection from T&M

Petunias are loud and proud hanging basket heroes
Image: Petunia ‘Surfinia’ collection from T&M

Petunias are the quintessential summer bedding plants, bringing superb flower power and a luxurious trailing habit to containers and hanging baskets. Here, popular blogger Alison Levey of the Blackberry Garden explains how one new variety turned her from ‘plant snob’ to petunia advocate!

What is plant snobbery?

Hosta ‘Patriot’ from T&M

Ferns and hostas are marmite for this blogger
Image: Hosta ‘Patriot’ from T&M

We all have opinions about plants, some we like, some we don’t. We may regard some plants as rather garish, maybe too flouncy and blousy, or maybe just too yellow for our taste. We make judgements on plants much the same as we make judgements on anything else. We categorise and decide what we think and it takes something quite special for this opinion to be changed.

There are plants I like, and ones I definitely don’t. Except I do know from experience that it’s rare for me to dislike a whole genus of plants. So I will tell you that I don’t like hostas, but there are one or two that are acceptable to me. I have never willingly bought a hosta, but a couple have crept into my garden from elsewhere and I’ve allowed them to stay. I also know that my taste is constantly evolving, at one time I didn’t understand why people liked ferns but now the structural unfurlingness of them makes me just want more and more. Taste is not a static thing.

Petunia trial panelling for T&M

Petunia x hybrida ‘Purple Velvet’ F1 hybrid from T&M

‘Purple Velvet’ is the best seed sown basket petunia available
Image: Petunia x hybrida ‘Purple Velvet’ F1 hybrid from T&M

I’ve been a member of the Thompson & Morgan trial panel now for nearly two years. I was very pleased to be accepted to do it and I’ve found the experience really enjoyable. It’s also rather challenging as I don’t get a choice of what is being sent, yet I feel a responsibility to grow what they send me, come what may. From day one I’ve embraced the fact that this would challenge me to face some of my demon plants and that I might have to accept some of them into my garden.

Enter the petunia. I’m not a petunia fan. I often found them a bit garish and I think I considered them old-fashioned in some way. This is slightly odd of me as I don’t think I worry generally in terms of plant fashion, but I’ve thought about this quite a lot whilst sitting down to write this and it appears to be the deep-seated root of my issue with them. I’ve never bought any petunias but I’ve sometimes seen ones that I think look quite good. I remember seeing some once in a container at a rather famous garden and they looked wonderful, but I haven’t seen that particular variety for sale anywhere since and the moment passed.

So as you’ll have guessed by now, this year I was sent some petunias to trial – petunia ‘Purple Velvet’, which came with a pyramid to grow it up. Now I confess I failed at the pyramid construction, that didn’t fit in with my type of gardening, but I wanted to use the petunias and give them a fair trial. So, I planted them with the sweet peas in the front garden to grow up the obelisk together.

Sweetpeas and petunias from Alison Levey

Sweetpeas and petunias have complementary electric colours
Image: Alison Levey

They look fantastic, the recent rain has helped them hugely, and I keep them deadheaded. I’m really happy with them and I would definitely grow them again; they’ve partnered the sweet peas perfectly. They are fantastically garish and I love the incredible depth of colour. Yes, what I thought I disliked is actually what I love most! Yet another element of plant snobbery has been cured for me, petunias are now officially on the plant list.

For more petunia growing resources, visit T&M’s petunia hub page for helpful advice and variety tips. And don’t forget to share your own favourite petunias with us via our social channels. We love to hear from you!

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