Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Sneaky Peek at Thompson and Morgan

The happy visiting crew + Kris Collins (front right) from Thompson & Morgan.
Picture courtesy of Michael Perry
Someone must know me very well. As an experimental kinda gardener, any invitation with the word trials in it is bound to get my attention, even if the location is many, many miles away. And so one blustery day last week I found myself at a secret location* with the pictured bunch of like minded 'online media' folk - virtual friends both old and new - at Thompson and Morgan's (T&M's) trials ground just outside Ipswich.


The site is divided into several key areas which we were taken through in turn. We'll move swiftly past the car park/admin area - leaving the remains of our coffee and cookies to one side - into the pots and hanging basket trials. Make sure you have your sunglasses to hand!


Michael Perry, our main host for the day took us through many of the plants T&M are trialling this year ready for introduction In 2015. Expect plenty of new developments in petunias, begonias, pelargoniums and New Guinea impatiens. There were also lots of climbers suitable for growing in pots, including improvements to the 'Lady Boothby' fuchsia I have already. Michael is pointing to Lady Boothby; compare it to the new introduction 'Pink Fizz' to its left.


Michael wasn't afraid to show us plants that failed their trials and thus won't be introduced next year. My inner imp was tempted to choose one of these when we were invited to place a flag in the pot of the plant we liked the most. However, my sensible head took over and I chose a dainty Euphorbia similar to the pictured one which caught my eye at the Portland Fling. Quite a few of the others went for a fab white flowered Hydrangea, which came a close second for me.

Picture courtesy of Michael Perry
Here we are hard at work in the next area - the demonstration beds designed to simulate garden borders. Again, there was a huge mixture of plants of all shapes, sizes and colours available to examine.

I was particularly struck by a mauve coloured carrot flower - I've let some of my carrots bloom and I love how they're a magnet for lots of different insects on my plot. To me, it makes sense to make them an ornamental feature in the garden.

Dahlias never went out of fashion in my book, so I also liked the look of the improved strains of bedding dahlias grown from seed. One of them looked very much like the unnamed variety of dahlia I have in one of my garden pots this year and I was pleased to see its stems are taller than the ones I have currently - sadly they're tending to get lost amongst the leaves.

Poor Kris had the job at this point of showing the potted trials of vegetables well past their best - definitely a case of 'you should have been here last week'. However, all was not lost as there were plenty of healthy looking vegetables to ogle at later.


Here's a view of the trials field looking back at the bed and potted trials areas. You can also see the greenhouses we explored to look at some of the potential developments for 2016. The fields were very muddy, so we were glad we'd been told to bring our wellies! That and a very blustery wind coming off the surrounding flat fields via the north sea showed these plants aren't mollycoddled.


Here's a shot of part of the vegetable trials field area, to prove you can take the girl away from her 52 Week Salad Challenge for the day, but you can't take the 52 Week Salad Challenge out of the girl. There were plenty of lettuces and other salad leaves on trial, including those supplied by other companies to see how they perform, as well as current T&M stalwarts alongside potential new introductions.

Back at base we had tomatoes to taste test and huge blowsy begonias to sniff test, all rounded off by a welcome round of coffee and cake plus a huge goody bag to take away. It all made for a fascinating day, so thank you Michael, Kris and everyone else at T&M who worked hard to make us welcome.

* = requiring detailed instructions on how to find it ;)

Other write-ups from the day:

Jane at Hoe Hoe Grow - I love her Roald Dahl analogy!
Claire at Plantpassion gives her flower farmer's take on the day, including that carrot flower
Alison at The Blackberry Garden who also thought we'd been given a golden ticket :)

I'll add more as and when I find them.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Onion White Rot


I've had a bumper crop of shallots this year, which I managed to get dried off thoroughly during the hot weather we had at the end of last month.

However, despite their soundness when I put them into store, some are now showing signs of onion white rot like the one in the above picture. I've not seen it so early in the season before and indeed the fungus on my shallots hasn't been reading its official entry on the RHS website:

"...in the UK the problem is more severe in cool, wet summers; in warmer climates the disease is only a problem over the winter months."

Hmm, that's wrong on both counts, but before I declare I have a new strain of Sclerotium cepivorum, I wonder if my saved sets from last year could be the source of the problem. Some of these did indeed develop onion white rot over the winter and were thrown away*. Perhaps the sound ones I saved to plant out in the spring weren't so sound after all.

Anyhoo, I can't do anything about it now, except declare one of my raised beds closed to members of the allium family for a few years. I did ponder replacing the compost in this bed, but I have no idea how far down in the soil the spores from this fungus can survive. That's a question for the RHS's advisory service to tackle methinks.

In the meantime, we'll be eating the rest up super quickly before they too go off, so we get some of the benefit from the fruits of my labours. They're looking pretty sound for now, so fingers crossed my regular inspections don't find any more shallots rotting away.

I won't be saving any of them for seed either, but will start anew with some bought from a reliable source. These were Pessandor, which produces a good crop of very large, longish sweet tasting shallots which positively melt themselves into casseroles. Are there any other varieties you'd recommend?

* = binned not composted so I don't spread the disease even further.

Friday, 15 August 2014

GBBD: Scent


I've been working a bit harder to ensure there's plenty of scent in my garden this year and the pictured Freesia is part of the result. In the spring I added a few mixed bulbs to one of the large pots by the kitchen patio door and their heady scent has greeted my entrance to the garden for the past few weeks.

Freesias formed part of my childhood as they were the bouquet of choice when buying flowers for anyone in my family. They're powerfully scented, so were considered to have double the value. The bulbs are quite tender, so I'll be lifting them in a few weeks time to store them over winter and see whether I can bring them to life again next year.

Other scented plants around my kitchen door are lavender, vanilla-scented perennial Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla' plus various herbs. Their smells don't seem to clash and I've been enjoying them whenever I've had a break for coffee in the garden.


I'm also working on creating a better entrance to the back garden. There's a pergola there which was draped with a Rosa 'Zéphirine Drouhin' until a couple of weeks ago. It's scent is beautiful and as it's a thornless rose, it seemed ideal for the job when I bought it. However, it has suffered dreadfully from blackspot and consequently only produces about 5 blooms per year.

The rose is no more and I'm in the process of adding a Trachelospermum jasminoides in its place. The pergola's trellis had to be replaced first and I'm looking forward to putting this plant into its new home. It's already scenting the holding area in the side garden, so I'm sure this is going to be a vast improvement on my tired old rose.

What have you done to add scent to your garden?

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Garden.
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