This week’s been a real challenge on the allotment. Not only have we had some lovely sunny afternoons up here in Sheffield, but we’ve also had frost, rain and wind. LOTS of wind. Luckily, my greenhouse and shed are still standing. I can’t say the same for some of my fellow plot holders, in fact there is a pile of metal and plastic on one plot, it used to be a poly tunnel!
I love this time of year when the postman knocks on the door, it means I have plants arriving, and this week didn’t disappoint me!
I ordered a few plants and seeds, all from Thompson & Morgan, and I must say, everything arrived in top notch condition and the plants look really healthy. I had a selection on parcels arrive, including plug plants, potted plants and seed packets. All bar the pot plants are packaged so that they fit through the letter box, this really helps as I’m rarely in the house when the postman gets to my house.
I’m sometimes a dubious about getting plants through the post. I always think the plants are going to be weedy little things that no one wants, but the company can flog on line and send out to dis-appointed customers. Don’t get me wrong, I have had this happen before with a certain company, in fact I ordered some ‘Green Envy’ zinnia plugs for The Big Allotment Challenge (BAC). When they arrived, they were the weediest, straggly plants you have ever seen, totally unfit for purpose and a waste of money, and hence why I didn’t grow them for the show. The only thing they were fit for was the compost heap.
I’m glad to say, that experience did not involve T&M, and everything I’ve received from them has been great quality. The Geranium ‘Appleblossom’ arrived a couple of days ago and they are cracking plants. They’re well wrapped ad secured in a decent box, so I had no problems with damage in the post. I took them straight out of the package, gave them a drink and stood them in the greenhouse, where they are doing great. If you are wondering what the flower on them looks like, you’ll find it on the front of the T&M catalogue you got through the post a couple of months ago.
I also received carnation and dianthus plug plants, both came in the letterbox friendly box and included a great booklet on how to care for and get the best from your plants. I’ve chosen ‘Crimson Rim’ as its go stunning pale flowers with a deep red, almost purple, rim on each petal. It’ll be a real eye catcher in the garden, and in any arrangements I make this year. Apparently, it also has that nice carnation smell, spicy cloves. I can’t wait for those beauties to bloom.
I’ve decided to have a go with some heritage seeds from big seed companies this year, and thought I’d give T&M ‘The Amateur’ tomato a go. It’s a bush variety that’s a good cropper outdoors. I really hope this is the case, I have so many tomatoes planned for in the greenhouse, I won’t have room for any more.I’m starting them off in the propagator, and then leaving them on the windowsill until the middle/end of April, when I’ll transfer them to the greenhouse staging for a couple of weeks. After they’ve hardened off, they are going to go either in pots on the patio, or in the open ground on the allotment. I’ll keep you posted on their progress.
My niece and nephew love sunflowers. We always try and grow a really big whopper, but this year we’ve also gone for some smaller, more manageable ones that are happy in pots. T&M ‘Solar Flash’ is the one that I grew on BAC last year. It’s the one that helped me win Jonathan’s massive floral arch challenge in the final. This plant is great; it produces a small bush with lots of gorgeous mini sunflowers that have that orange/red ring towards the centre of the bloom. I grew them in old chicken manure buckets, I just made drainage holes in the bottom and made sure I watered and fed them, that’s it! Then I was rewarded with loads of stunning flowers, which looked lovely on the plot, but amazing in arrangements. I even took a bunch home and they lasted over a week in the vase. A proper little performer!
Geraniums are my new guilty pleasure this year. Not only did I order the ‘Appleblossom’ ones, I also thought I’d try the ‘Spanish Wine Burgundy’. They are the typically Mediterranean flowers I always see when I visit my friend in Spain. They have those gorgeous frilly dark red petals on top of those almost lily pad leaves. I’ve potted them up in 9cm pots in the greenhouse and I’m just waiting for the weather to pick up, before I plant them in nice little terracotta pots on the patio. Just call it Casa Rob!
Here they are in the greenhouse, with some ‘Scented Pink Peony’ Dianthus. I ordered these as they are a hardy perennial and will provide me with masses of lovely pink flowers, year after year. So that’s ideal as I’ll have them in the garden and for cutting. They have a more domed and rounded flower than your average pink or carnation, so I’m hoping they will be a talking point on the plot,as everyone will want to know what variety they are.
It’s time for me to brave the weather and go and make sure the greenhouse is still standing, it’s blowing a wholly out there.
I hope some of the plants I’ve mentioned have inspired you to try ‘postage plants’, its a great way to get unusual plants, and less hassle that fighting your way around a garden centre on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t forget, give it a grow!
Winner of BBC2’s Big Allotment Challenge, Rob Smith writes for Thompson & Morgan providing practical growing tips from his allotment. A gardening columnist and kitchen gardener, Rob’s debut book ‘Grow to Eat: Growing Colourful And Tasty Vegetables From Seed’ is due to be released in March 2024.