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?
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
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.
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!
I am a keen amateur gardener living in the East Midlands. During the day I work in an office so I love the times I can get outside. I would not call myself an expert gardener but I am an avid learner. I have been writing a blog based on my garden and gardens that I have visited for nearly two years now and it is something I really enjoy doing. It has added an extra dimension to how I view my garden.
Thanks for the comment. I think I am getting more excited about the plants I don’t usually like than the ones I do. It is becoming like a personal challenge to see if I can still dislike them once I have grown them. Being a trial member is just such good fun and an education. I’ve just received notification I am doing it again this year, I’m so excited.
I am also a trials person and have been since March 2009….cannot believe I am still trialling in 2014.!! I enjoyed reading your blog Alison as it made me realise what a lot of plant snobbery does go on……I am very particular in plants I grow in my garden and have groaned when I have been sent a plant to trial. Once 2yrs ago I was sent Salpiglossis Royale Mixed being a bit short of space I grew them in a large pot……I think I was thinking they were very old fashioned and garish! How wrong was I…they grew brilliantly the flowers were absolutely gorgeous the more I cut them for Church flower arranging the more they came…..hence ordering each year….I love them….I also grow ferns and hostages as I have a lot of shade in my garden and they thrive. This is my first attempt at blogging!!!!