Help Mr Fothergill’s fundraise for charity

September 6th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

At Mr Fothergill’s we like to support as many charities as we can – so far we’ve raised over £150,000. Over the last few years, we’ve supported and fundraised for the Royal Hospital Chelsea Appeal, Greenfingers Charity, and RSPB – among others!

For these charities, in particular, we’ve have been selling sweet peas, seeds or fundraising through events. If you’ve contributed to any of these, then thank you – all of these charities need help and we are grateful to have given them the chance to assist their causes further.

We’ve recently completed a 20 mile walk, that some of our team took part in to raise money for the Greenfingers Charity. You can find out more about our walk here. In addition to this walk, we’ve set up a page for each of the charities that we support – so if you’d like to help with our fundraising efforts, you can find each of the pages below.

 

 

 

If you’re going to donate your hard earned money to a charity, it’s important that you know what your generous donations are going towards. Each of these charities supports very different causes and all of them important.

Greenfingers Charity

Greenfingers Charity is dedicated to supporting the children who use hospices around the UK, along with their families, by creating beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces for children to enjoy with family, friends and siblings, whether through play and fun, or therapeutic rest and relaxation.  To date, Greenfingers Charity has created 51 inspiring gardens and outdoor spaces in hospices around the country and has a further waiting list of hospices that need our help now.

RSPB

RSPB are the largest nature conservation charity in the country, consistently delivering successful conservation, forging powerful new partnerships with other organisations and inspiring others to stand up and give nature the home it deserves.

Royal Chelsea Appeal Limited

The Chelsea Pensioners are the iconic faces of the UK’s veteran community. They reside at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, their 325-year-old home founded by Charles II, in the heart of London.

Thank you in advance for all the support you’ve given us and these charities over the years, we hope we can continue to help them through the sale of our seeds and fundraising. 

 

 

RHS Award winners: a very special perennial

January 12th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Erigeron 'Profusion'

This pretty, long flowering, Award of Garden Merit winning perennial is a lovely garden plant with an unusual feature that’s not immediately obvious. I wrote about it here a few years ago, but now that it’s been included in the new Mr F Royal Horticultural Society collection – and now that I’ve found something especially interesting about it – I can tell you more.

When we propagate our plants, the usual rule is that the only way to make sure that our new plants are exactly the same as the original is to propagate them vegetatively: that is, by division or by cuttings or by layering. Erigeron ‘Profusion’ is different – it comes true from seed for a very specific reason. You never see one that’s all pink, for example, or all white, or one that’s very tall or very short. They’re all grown from seed and they’re all exactly the same.

Here’s why. Most plants need to be pollinated and fertilised to produce seed and the plants grown from that seed can be unpredictable. Erigeron ‘Profusion’ produces seed that is genetically identical to the parent plant without fertilisation so the offspring grown from seed are exactly the same as the parent. The technical word is apomixis and it also occurs in plants as diverse as wild roses, rudbeckias, dandelions and blackberries.

But as far as Erigeron ‘Profusion’ is concerned, grown from seed or grown from cuttings they’re all the same.

And what a superb plant this is. It “opens its first white daisies, which turn pink as they age, in May and continues thereafter with unabated zest until the first sever frosts of winter. In a frostless winter…, it flowers right through.” That was Christopher Lloyd in The Adventurous Gardener. You can still see the plant at his garden at Great Dixter even though he himself is long gone.

Fascinating Facts: Blueberries

January 9th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

RHS-fascinating-facts-blu

Botanical name: Vaccinium corymbosum

Origins: Also known as the northern Highbush Blueberry, this North American native has naturalised in Europe, Japan and New Zealand.

First cultivated: Elizabeth White (daughter of a New Jersey farmer) and botanist Frederick Coville harvested and sold the first commercial crop of blueberries out of Whitesbog, New Jersey in 1916.

Types: Popular varieties to grow in the UK include ‘Aurora’, ‘Draper’, Duke’ and ‘Bluecrop’.

Skill level:  Blueberries are easy to grow provided the right conditions are maintained.

Preferred location and conditions: The plants need moist, well-drained, acidic soil in a sunny and sheltered spot.

Good for containers: Yes.

Harvest time: July to September.

Planting and growing: The soil needs to be pH 5.5 or lower, and watered regularly with rainwater (tap water makes the compost more alkaline over time). Plant in the autumn and winter and mulch in the spring (they love chopped up pine needles so this is a great way to recycle your Christmas tree!) Blueberries may take a few years to reach their full fruiting potential so don’t be disheartened if you only have a couple of berries in the first year.

Possible problems:  Birds sometimes eat the fruits, buds and leaves, so use netting to protect the plants when necessary.

 

Did you know?

Many hundreds of years ago, the Native Americans recognised the health benefits and versatility of blueberries, gathering the wild fruit from the forests and bogs. They revered the fruit, calling them ‘star berries’ because of the shape of the calyx, which forms a five-pointed star. Tribal elders told stories of how the Great Spirit sent them ‘star berries’ to appease their children’s hunger during times of famine.

Blueberries make an excellent natural dye, and early American colonists even made grey paint by boiling blueberries in milk!

After Coville and White harvested and sold the first blueberries in New Jersey in 1916, ‘blueberry fever’ swept the region and by the early 1960s, 200,000 seedlings had spread across 13 states. Health researchers began to explore the antioxidant activity in blueberries in the 1990s and since acquiring ‘superfood’ status in the 2000s, their global popularity has soared.

Blueberries are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re an excellent source of vitamin C which can boost the immune system and help with the absorption of iron. They contain iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K which all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Studies have also shown that blueberries can help prevent Alzheimer’s, lower the risk of heart disease, boost brain power, combat high blood pressure and even stimulate hair growth!

Blueberries are an excellent choice for a post-Christmas detox as they have a high soluble fibre content and are rich in detoxifying antioxidants which are crucial for maintaining a healthy liver. Add a handful of blueberries to a breakfast smoothie to get your body back in shape if you’ve over-indulged over the festive period, and to give your immune system a welcome boost during the winter months.

The plants make a wonderful ornamental feature in the garden with their delicate, bell-shaped flowers and glorious autumn colours. The variety ‘pink sapphire’ is particularly striking with its bright pink berries.

Blueberries are costly to buy from the supermarket so it makes sense to grow your own for a summer-long harvest, and they freeze really well; by putting in a little effort initially to establish the correct conditions for the plants, you can enjoy these health-boosting berries throughout the year at a fraction of the cost.

 

To browse all our varieties of soft fruits just follow this link to the fruit section of our website.

Royal Horticultural Society

This article was first published on the RHS website November 2017. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing your own blueberries.

January Gardening Advice

January 8th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

It’s time to say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018. To the relief of many, the days are beginning to uncurl and stretch out once again. Sunlight hours increase daily as gardeners relish the prospect of a new growing season ahead. Perennials mark the occasion as they set about putting on new growth.

However, let’s not forget, we’re still in the depths of winter. Snow flurries are likely, as Jack Frost continues to bite, leaving landscapes shy of colour.

Nevertheless, what can’t be done outside, can be planned inside. Lists are drawn, and seed catalogues marked for must-haves and old favourites.

A new year brings with it resolutions. Maybe it’s time to sign up for an allotment, join the gardening committee, or be part of a community garden project. Could this be the year you bring your gardening to a wider audience, by creating a blog? Write about your horticultural experiences, the successes and failures. Or, perhaps take pleasure from reading other gardening blogs. If writing isn’t your thing, how about photography? You don’t need to be an expert to point you phone camera at your winter hyacinths and take a picture. Open an Instagram account and fill it with snap shots of all your gardening triumphs and failures. The internet can be a wonderful place to meet like-minded people, to share tips, and ideas. So, start the year as you mean to go on, and grow.

In the flower garden

Mulch

Don’t be too quick to bin your exhausted Christmas tree as there’s still plenty of value in it. Shred it for chippings to spread on ericaceous plants, such as blueberries, or use it to create allotment paths. The branches can also make useful allotment plant supports for peas and broad beans.

Perennials

Make way for new growth by cutting down and tidying up flower borders. Ensure you do not cut into new growth as not only will you lose vital young shoots, but an exposed wound will be open to the elements, which could potentially kill the plant.

 

Sprinklers-on-lawnLawn

If you can, keep off the grass. The freezing weather combined with your weight can cause permanent damage to your prized lawn.

 

Water supply

If you haven’t done so already, cover those garden taps. Frozen water can expand, forcing taps and pipes to burst.  Better still, if you can, turn off the external water supply altogether.

 

Snow

With the prospect of snow more likely this month, it’s important to brush fallen snow from greenhouses, cloches and cold frames. The extra weight can break the glass, plus the plants inside need all the warmth and light they can get. Remove snow from delicate evergreens and tree branches to prevent damage.

Greenhouse

A heat supply in your greenhouse will give you the advantage of making early sowings, for plants such as sweet pea and aquilegia. If you’ve been growing sweat pea since last autumn, then pinch out the tips, this will encourage side-shoots, and result in a bushier plant.

Storage

Any fruit or veg currently in storage should be checked regularly to ensure they haven’t spoilt. Turn them over, and remove any decaying or damaged produce. Ensure they aren’t touching to encourage a good air supply around them.

Snow drops

If you’re lucky enough to have inherited a garden with established snowdrops, or you planted bulbs yourself last autumn, you just might see their delicate little heads rear themselves from the hardened, snow-covered ground this month. Not only is this a beautiful sight, but it’s a welcome indication to gardeners that spring is on its way!

Blue-Tit-Feeding-in-winterGarden wildlife

If you have bird-feeding stations, ensure food supplies are topped up, and water supplies are changed regularly and not left to freeze. If you have a fish pond, avoid smashing the ice if it freezes over, as this can shock, or even kill the fish. Instead, try to melt the ice gently with hot water. Don’t worry about harming the fish as they tend to remain at the bottom of the pond during the winter.

On the veg patch

Winter veg

Continue to harvest veg, such as swede, parsnips, carrots, winter brassicas, Brussels sprouts, leeks and artichokes. As beds become bare, turn over the soil and add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. You should aim to get all of your winter digging done by the end of this month at the latest, to give the mulch time to deteriorate and work into the soil.

Seed potatoes

Potatoes-in-soil-in-hands

You’ll find most suppliers are already delivering stock to customers. If you leave it too late, you could run the risk of your chosen varieties being unavailable. Get them ordered now and you could be chitting your first earlies by the end of the month.

Chitting is purely speeding up the aging process of a tuber, and letting its eyes sprout. By the time you come to planting, ground temperatures still won’t be at their warmest, but those weeks of chitting will give your tubers a valuable head start.

Remember, stand the tubers apart (egg boxes make ideal holders), with their eyes facing upwards. Place somewhere warm, dry and with plenty of sunshine, such as a kitchen windowsill, porch or warm greenhouse. Try to keep sprouts down to three maybe four, so the energy isn’t too dispersed, thus producing weaker shoots. Six weeks on, and tubers should be ready for planting out.

Onions

If you have a heat supply to your polytunnel, or greenhouse, you might consider sowing onion seeds. They will need that extra protection, but by giving them an extended growing season, the end result will be worth it.

Chillies and peppers

These crops need a long growing season, so get sowing now. With so much variety and choice, growing these fruits has never been so popular. The seeds can be grown in modules, pots or trays to the depth of 6mm, on a windowsill. Although germination can be slow, once their true leaves have been revealed, it’s important to pot them up. Keep them warm, lit and well-watered.

Fruit

Rhubarb

By forcing rhubarb now, you’re simply speeding up its growth for an earlier harvest, and sweeter stems. As soon as new growth appears from the crown, cover the plant over with a rhubarb forcer or container, excluding all light. Eight weeks on, the stalks should be 20-30cm long, and ready to harvest.

Apple and pear trees are still dormant, and can be pruned. Bare rootstock varieties can be bought, and planted out.

Continue to ensure all trees, fruit canes and climbers are staked and tied-in, thus avoiding wind-rock, and potential winter damage.

 

Indoors

Indoor plants

With Christmas now firmly behind us, the only reminders of the festive season are plants such as Poinsettias, Amaryllis, and early blooming Hyacinths. However, their time is drawing to a close, so introduce a new range of indoor plants to your home. Whether it’s the exquisite Cyclamen persicum, trendy cacti and succulents, or a refined orchid for the bathroom, there are options to give the home-grower endless hours of pleasure, with as little or as much effort they desire. With different structures, styles and colours, the choice is endless; a quick scan of Instagram will show you houseplants have never been so fashionable.

 

Could this be the year you bring the outside in?

 

RHS award winners: Essential climbers

January 5th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue' and Mina lobata

The new collaboration between Mr F and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) features seeds of flowers and veggies that have been awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). I discussed these new ranges briefly here last year but I thought, as seed sowing season approaches, I’d take a closer look at some of the floral highlights. And the ipomoeas are especially interesting.

There are two AGM ipomoeas in the Mr F catalogue and, at first sight, they look completely unrelated.

Mina lobata (above right) features in the RHS range and, although long known by that name, it’s now been recognised as so similar to ipomoeas that it needs to be classified as one: so it’s now known, botanically, as Ipomoea lobata.

Fiery orange buds are held along arching stems, maturing to yellow and then cream but even as they pass their peak the new flare and the flowers stay tubular. It makes a great deal of growth, reaches 1-8-2.4m depending on the richness of the soil and the watering, and needs stout support. It flowers for months. Sow in frost free conditions from April.

The closely related Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ (above left) is also an AGM variety but has been listed for years so is not in the new RHS range. It’s very different, with large flared sky blue flowers that open early in the day and close by afternoon – which is why it’s called morning glory. It reaches the same height as Mina lobata but its growth is less bushy and dense. It’s one of the most beautiful of garden climbers, no garden should be without it.

Just to emphasise how varied the ipomoeas are, Mr F also lists two special varieties of sweet potato grown for their coloured foliage; they’re ideal in sunny containers and trail neatly. These foliage varieties of Ipomoea batatas do not have AGMs – but I suspect this is only because the RHS has not yet held a trial.

I think these varied ipomoeas deserve a try, don’t you? I’ll be growing them all this year.

Turn your Trash into Garden Treasures

January 4th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

The garden is the perfect place to repurpose old items into new ones. You could transform off-cuts of wood into a new raised bed, bricks into paving or old CDs into bird scarers.

Here are a few of our favourite ideas to reuse or upcycle:

Plant pots: Make sure your containers have drainage holes in the bottom for excess water to drain out. Consider the depth of your container as well, as not every plant need as much as depth as others. Old guttering is perfect for shallow rooters like salads or strawberries for example.

Vegetable garden using old pallets

Beds and Borders: You could use old bricks or edging to create the outline to a beautiful herb wheel. Making raised beds is a great opportunity to reuse old wood. Join them at the corners with screws, brackets or hinges. They look great, offer good drainage and an earlier start to the growing season.

Protection and support: Create your own cold frame to keep your crops safe at the start of the year, by simply using a polycarbonate sheet screwed to a wooden frame. Another idea is to reuse old plastic water pipes to create arches for your vining crops to                                                                                              climb onto.

 

Scare birds away: Some birds like pigeons can be a pesky nuisance in the vegetable garden. To scare them off, hang some old CDs onto string suspended above your crops. You could also attach silver tape to canes, or string out coloured tape over vulnerable crops such as brassicas. Of course, you always have the option to create a classic scarecrow and get creative with your recycling!

Attract wildlife: pots, bricks, straw, twigs and other offcuts can be used to create cozy homes for beneficial bugs such as beetles or mason bees. Ponds are also an idea if you would like to attract frogs or toads; if you don’t fancy a full size one, why not try a container pond?

Make an apple store: Old furniture, such as a chest of drawers, can be used as apple stores. Just add 1-inch holes at regular intervals for airflow

Using old wood: If you are using pallets, make sure to check the labels to ensure the wood has been heat treated and that there is no risk of contamination from toxic pesticides. Pallets are great for transforming into structures such as compost bins.

Hard landscaping: Add reclaimed bricks and paving to create a lived-in-feel to your garden. You can lay bricks to make hard-wearing paths or patios. Paving slabs can also be positioned between beds for quick and easy access.

 

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you get started with recycling and repurposing old items into new ones in your garden. If you have any top tips that you can offer us let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page