Thompson & Morgan Triallist’s Blog – July 2017


I feel sorry for David, I really do! He can’t help getting nervous when every time I go into the garden I dig up any plant that displeases me, seemingly on a whim. He reckons if he stands still too long I‘ll get rid of him an’all! I felt so vindicated when, a couple of weeks ago, Monty said that in his opinion it was perfectly acceptable to get rid of a plant if you had “gawn awf” it. Sell it for charity, give it away to friends, compost it, but replace it with something you love. I suppose I have always felt guilty about doing that, as if somehow I had a duty of care to those plants which have fallen out of favour, disloyal in a way. Not so anymore! I have been whipping them out with obscene abandon and thus have ended up with immense new planting possibilities.

Well, obviously (you know me, he who hesitates is lost) by the time you read this those gaps will have been filled, so let me tell you about the provenance of some new additions to the borders:

compost bins, planter 3 wise monkeys, july 2017

In early July David and I went on our annual pilgrimage aka The Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society coach holiday. Based in Kings Lynn for three days, we visited Easton Walled Garden (compost bins spotted on Google Earth) on the way up, Henstead Exotic Garden in Beccles and Bishop’s House Gardens (Diocese of Norwich) to the East, and Cathy Brown’s Garden and the late lamented Geoff Hamilton’s Barnsdale on the way back. Plants to the right of me, plants to the left!

compost toilet - july 2017You could be forgiven for thinking you were in the midst of the Burmese jungle at Henstead Exotic Garden, that is until you reached the wire boundary overlooking the neighbouring housing estate. Point of Interest: Compost toilet Throne Room. Souvenirs of visit: Papyrus, Aeonium Schwarzkopf and miniature gunnera magellanica. Amazing host, worth a visit to meet him alone.

Barnsdale. Well, what a walk down Memory Lane! The Gentleman’s Cottage Garden, the Artisan’s Cottage Garden, and as soon as we entered the Paradise Country Garden my head was full of the haunting TV series sound track.  I am a sucker for a celebrity so our visit to their nursery (Paradise indeed) was all the more special because of the presence of Nick Hamilton, who even identified a plant for me. Talk about Plant Lust though: Revered (and oft feared for her unlimited knowledge of Latin plant names, most notably vernonia crinita) group leader Diane was on the hunt for a potentilla Gibson’s Scarlet. Oh the dilemma when she found it! I can’t have those flower stems flopping over my edges, but she did succumb in the end. My folly? Moisture loving astilbes Lollipop and chinensis Vision for the driest part of my garden. Solution? Plant them by the irrigation hose. Sorted!

So, (I do so hate this current trend of opening a sentence with So, don’t you) before The Trip there was the small matter of the NGS Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society Group Gardens Open Day June 25th. What a dream! The sun shone, we welcomed 435 visitors, served 240 helpings of tea and cake, sold over 400 raffle tickets and raised nearly £700 on locally propagated plants and produce alone. Grand Total Donation to NGS £5585.76 (one wonders how the 76p crept in). How about that then, eh! Fab-u-lous!

This week? Well, this coming Sunday 30th July David & I are having our NGS Open Day. The thrice daily visit to the Met Office website for weather forecast updates is in full swing. Not looking great I have to say at the moment. (I have been known to log out then straight back in to the website just in case it’s been updated.) But after so much recent horticultural activity I am feeling quite Zen about the whole thing this time around. Seeing as the garden had to be Band Box perfect last Sunday for the judging of the London Gardens Society competition, it’s been coasting along nicely since then. Yesterday I filled my last remaining gap (yeah right, I can see me not planting another thing until next year.) A rigorous regime of dead heading along with a favorable balance of rain and shine (and several doses of Tomato feed, Mother Nature shan’t take all the credit) has brought the late summer flowers out right on cue. That is, apart from the T&M tree lilies, which of course have gone over! Now comes the real preparation for Open Garden Day: Cakes. New recipe from Cathy Brown’s garden (You will be served tea at 3.55pm precisely) Orange and Almond cake Gluten and Dairy Free amongst other old favourites. Pricing up plants-for-sale, distributing signage, organizing Float money, buying paper plates, plastic cutlery etcetera etcetera etcetera.

tree lilies, cakes stall, exotic basket - july 2017

Hoovering the paths and patio can wait until Sunday morning. Wish us luck, hope to see some of you in our garden on Sunday, come rain or shine, as the saying goes………

National Garden Scheme – It started as a hobby

It all started as a hobby 30 years ago and now we’re opening our garden for the National Garden Scheme for the 5th year running! The garden behind the house was once a scrap yard, so we started by clearing it to make a garden for our young family.

It all started as a hobby


It all started as a hobby

Next door were once allotments, we watched them for 20 years slowly being reclaimed by nature, bindweed, nettles and brambles. In 2006 we acquired over half an acre of land in the centre of town and so began our huge project. We knew the bricks to rebuild the walls were in the undergrowth somewhere. My husband said you clean the bricks and I’ll build the walls, I thought he was joking, how wrong was I.

It all started as a hobby

So, after 140 tons of rubbish was taken away, all that was left was one apple tree and a handful of snowdrops.

It all started as a hobby

We had a huge new garden to fill, so I started taking cuttings from the original garden and sowing seeds, to keep the cost down.

It all started as a hobby

Now the garden is filled with trees, shrubs and flowers for all year round interest!

By Joy Gough

Terri Overett

Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

A busy summer at Driftwood

Well, since I wrote my first blog back in March this year it’s been a very busy summer at Driftwood, both from a visitor and from a Thompson & Morgan trial perspective! We have opened the garden 17 times this summer, 10 garden openings and 7 for a local art festival, Artwave! During that time we have seen an amazing 2800 visitors see this tiny plot on the south coast!

A busy summer at Driftwood

Photo of Driftwood taken by Russell Sach

Not only did it feature in The Mail on Sunday back in June (photo above and one below of me taken by Mail photographer Russell Sach) but was also the featured garden in Sussex Life magazine in July. However the icing on the cake has been the £31000 raised for charity over the last 4 years and £12500 of that in 2013 alone!

A busy summer at Driftwood

Photo of me taken by Russell Sach

Thompson & Morgan have sent me a whole raft of plants this summer but some were not as successful as others in my crammed coastal plot. Back in August, T&M’s New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry and photographer Helen came to see how some of the trial plants were doing in my exposed garden.

A busy summer at Driftwood

With Michael Perry

These are some of my personal favourites that I would heartily recommend as they have really done well and received lots of comments from visitors! Some that looked amazing at the time of Michael’s visit were the Peruvian tree lily, alstroemeria ‘Everest Collection’ a hardy Perennial, new for 2013. The plugs arrived in April and as promised on the pack, created a floral sculpture on the patio as shown.  Support was advised and I used 2 large semicircular rusted frames and ended up with this most impressive display.

A busy summer at Driftwood

Alstroemeria ‘Everest Collection’

Meanwhile, the half-hardy dahlia “Fire & Ice” that arrived in March provided these beautiful red and white striped blooms with a bright golden eye that really livened up the garden, recommended for borders but due to lack of space, mine went in to a pot and still looked amazing.

A busy summer at Driftwood

Dahlia ‘Fire and Ice’

A third plant that was still looking great for their visit was the wild carnation, dianthus picotee with its beautiful red edged petals!  A beautiful flower that Michael missed was the outstanding tree lily® ‘Leopard Lion Heart’, received in May and flowering in mid July. Three very erect stems were produced that generated over 30 blooms! Amazing!

A busy summer at Driftwood

Dianthus ‘Picotee’

A busy summer at Driftwood

Tree Lily® ‘Leopard Lion Heart’


The gorgeous pelargonium, rosebud geranium, ‘Pink Sybil’, that arrived on the 25th April has looked divine throughout the summer, as has the delicate foxglove ‘Dalmatian Peach’, (digitalis purpurea, a hardy biennial) with exquisite peachy trumpets that arrived on the 15th March. The unusual colour makes this statuesque foxglove particularly eye-catching in cottage gardens and woodland borders, mine however is surplanted beneath a thinning escalonia.

A busy summer at Driftwood

Rosebud geranium ‘Pink Sybil’

A busy summer at Driftwood

Foxglove ‘Dalmatian Peach’


Just starting to flower and form fruit is the lovely physalis Golden Berry also known as the Cape gooseberry. It is an exciting addition to the kitchen garden with tall, bushy plants producing these golden berries enclosed in attractive papery cases, similar to Chinese lanterns. The berries, which are produced from early autumn, are similar to a ripe cherry tomato in texture and the flavour is sweet but tart, perfect in fruit salads, jams or as an eye-catching garnish! Physalis peruviana is half-hardy so is normally grown as an annual plant in the UK. Due to lack of space though, and not having a kitchen garden, I have had to put mine in the borders but they still look great!

A busy summer at Driftwood


So all the above are trial plants received from Thompson & Morgan but I have also bought some myself to add to the garden! I purchased a new twist on a much-loved garden favourite, ‘Buzz’™, which is the world’s first patio buddleja! These attractive, compact plants are loved by bees and butterflies, (of which there have been many in the garden this summer) but won’t take over the garden. Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ is easy to grow and problem-free, believe me, with a super long-flowering period. Perfectly proportioned for patio pots and smaller gardens. Mine have looked stunning this summer, two in containers and one in the ground.

A busy summer at Driftwood

Buddleja ‘Buzz’™

Another purchase this year has been the foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ digitalis, a half-hardy perennial. You can see how beautiful it has been  in the garden this summer and unlike most foxgloves which are generally biennial, this half-hardy semi-evergreen is a true perennial so I will be able to enjoy its flowers for years to come.

A busy summer at Driftwood

Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’

Finally another plant I have been really pleased with is this althaea which came from Thompson & Morgan. There were 3 plants and they all look amazing in the garden, the beautiful delicate flowers have been much commented on!

A busy summer at Driftwood

Althaea or hollyhock

It has been an extremely interesting year in the garden with the openings, art festival and trialling the many plants from Thompson & Morgan, something I hope to be doing again next year! Full details on all the plants I have trialled in 2013 can be found on my web site page

Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, featured on Gardeners’ World on BBC TV and finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016, he’s raised £95000 for various charities in 8 years, £53400 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

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