Sweet rocket: easy and super-scented

June 16th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

Sweet rocket is one of the most fragrant plants we can grow and it’s so easy that I’m surprised we don’t see it more often. It has prolific heads of four-petal flowers, like those of wallflowers, but in softer shades of purple, lilac and white.

Plants in these shades are ideal scattered amongst bearded irises, Oriental poppies and other early summer perennials. Although the seed usually comes in a mix of colours, if you pull out plants in colours you’re less happy with then after a few years you’ll only have plants in the shades you prefer.

This is a biennial which may sometimes last an extra year or two if not too much energy goes into producing seed, so prompt deadheading is the way to go if you’d like it to last beyond its first flowering season.

It’s called sweet rocket because it’s related to edible rocket but has a superb evening scent. It also has a large number of other common names including dame’s rocket, night-scented gilliflower, summer lilac, and mother-of-the-evening. This profusion is usually associated with British natives but, although it grows wild over much of the rest of Europe, it’s not native to Britain. It has, however, been grown in British gardens since 1375 and was noticed as an escape from gardens from 1805.

The best seed sowing time is over the next six weeks so order seed now. There are two approaches to sowing. If you garden in an old fashioned, informal cottagey style you can simply scatter some seeds in the borders and enough will come up. You get 500 seeds in a packet so you’ll have plenty and, as I write, Mr F is offering seed at almost 50% off.

Alternatively, if you garden in a more organised way, you may prefer to sow the seed in a seed bed, thin the seedlings to 5cm apart and then, in the autumn, move them to where you’d like them to flower.

Oh. I must also mention that if you ever come across the double white flowered form – snap it up, it’s gorgeous. It’s called ‘Alba Plena’, it never sets seed, is a devil to propagate and will usually only last a few years. But it really is lovely.

Business Development Appointment at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

June 14th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

Business Development Appointment at Mr Fothergill’s SeedsMatt Jackson has joined Mr Fothergill’s as Business Development Manager.

This is a new role and Matt will work with the key garden centre groups and collaborate closely with the field sales teams. He comes to us after 12 years in the garden centre supply trade and brings great experience to the position.

Matt said:

“I am delighted to be joining Mr Fothergill’s to team up with their accomplished sales force. There are exciting plans for the future and I hope to contribute my part to the full!”

In his personal life, Matt enjoys travelling and sport. He has run over 100 road races in the past including two trips around the London Marathon course. He is now concentrating more on road cycling and has ambition to complete the severely testing, mountainous, Etape du Tour race in France. He is also a Manchester United season ticket holder but the company hasn’t held that against him!

Dealing With Aphids: Pest Control Tips & How To Protect Your Plants [video]

June 13th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Dealing With Aphids: Pest Control Tips & How To Protect Your Plants Aphids are one of the most common garden pests, infesting and weakening our crops while spreading plant diseases. We are here to offer you a few tips & tricks on how to protect your plants from these pests!

  1. Squash & remove – start by checking plants regularly for any signs of aphids. As soon as you spot any, squash them by hand. Clusters of locally concentrated aphids, for example at the tips of shoots – may be nipped off in their entirety and destroyed. Pinch out the tips of fava (or broad) beans once the first pods appear to make the plants less attractive to black bean aphids.
  2. Blast them off – try blasting small infestations of aphids off your plants with a jet of water from a hose pipe. Adjust the nozzle or cover the end of the pipe with your finger to force the water out at higher pressure. The aphids will be knocked off and fall to the ground and will be unlikely to return to the plant.
  3. Spray soapy water – add a couple of drops of dish soap to a spray bottle, top up with water and shake to dissolve. Spray the solution liberally over the plants, remembering to reach all parts of the plant, including the undersides of the leaves. The soapy water traps and suffocates the aphids.
  4. Cover vulnerable vegetables – winged aphids can quickly spread plant diseases such as cucumber mosaic virus. To avoid this, cover susceptible plants with row covers of fleece in midsummer when the risk of disease is highest. Vulnerable plants include cucumber, spinach and celery, so prioritise covers for these vegetables.
  5. Attract aphid predators – where you find aphids, you’ll also find aphid predators. Ladybugs, especially their larvae, have a voracious appetite for these soft-bodied insects. Hoverfly larvae also much their way through aphids. As do lacewings and many types of tiny parasitic wasp. You can attract these beneficial insects to your garden by planting a range of flowering plants. Plants with simple single flowers are best, including the poached eggplant, marigolds, calendula, alyssum, buckwheat and echinacea. Flowering herbs are also a magnet for predators, including dill, fennel, parsley, thyme and mint. Grow these plants next to your vegetables so that beneficial bugs come to feed and hopefully bring their appetite for aphids with them!

Hopefully these tips will help you to combat any aphid struggles you’ve had in your garden. If you have any of your own then please let us know in the comments below or on our social media. The video below gives further information on aphids and how to fight back without using pesticides.

GrowVeg – Dealing With Aphids: Pest Control Tips & How To Protect Your Plants

6 Ingenious Ways to Reuse Your Plant Pots [video]

June 13th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Salad - Reuse your Plant PotsAnyone who is into gardening will likely have a lot of little plastic pots stacked in their shed!  Plastic pots are perfect for reusing, and here are six ideas on how you can reuse your plant pots in ingenious ways. 

  • Tomato plants are always thirsty and when you plant tomatoes into the open ground, the water seems to just disappear. You can use plastic pots to make a water reservoir halo to help you concentrate the water towards the roots of the plant.  Simply cut off the bottom of the pot with a sharp knife or scissors, then push the pot  half way into the soil.   Plant the tomatoes into the bottom. Now when you water your tomatoes, the pot will help contain the water, ensuring it gradually soaks into the plant.
  • Use an empty plant pot to help transfer a plant into a larger container.  Before adding potting compost to your new container, place an empty pot that is the same size as the old plant pot into the middle of the new larger container. Then add compost into the gaps surrounding the plastic pot. Remove the pot, leaving a ready made hole for you to place your plant straight into its new home.
  • Plastic pots can also be used to created bug hotels. Fill the plastic pots with a variety of materials like bamboo, corrugated cardboard, hollow stems and twigs. then place this in a sheltered position for bugs to find.
  • Garden twine is always useful in the garden, but it can get tangled and make using it a nightmare. Plastic pots can come in handy here. Put the twine into a pot and feed the end through one of the drainage holes. Use Duck Tape on the open end of the pot to keep the twine enclosed.  You now have a handy twine dispenser for easy use in the garden!
  • Scrub your old pots clean and use them as the perfect opportunity to get creative. You can paint, cover and create designs on your old plant pots to brighten up the garden.
  • Larger plastic pots can be used to help with harvesting your vegetables.  Place your harvested vegetables into a pot, then blast them with a jet of water to wash them.  The water will then drain through the holes at the bottom leaving you with clean veg!

If you have any other inventive ways of using pots in your garden, then let us know about it in the comments below. 

6 Ingenious Ways to Reuse Your Plant Pots

6 Ingenious Ways to Reuse Your Plant Pots

Fake facts about chocolate cosmos

June 9th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Cosmos 'Eclipse'

The chocolate cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus, is one of the very few plants that have a strong chocolate fragrance and this tempting aroma accompanies chocolate coloured daisy flowers. It’s a summer and autumn perennial with small tubers that sometime makes it through the winter, more often not.

Over the years a certain mystique has developed about the plant, partly because it was thought to be extinct in the wild and partly because it never produced any seed. Well, that all turns out to be fake news.

Seed was sold until the 1940s but since the 1980s the chocolate cosmos has been propagated from cuttings (or by tissue culture in the laboratory) as the form grown in Britain could not set seed. Here in Britain we all thought that this one form was the only form grown anywhere and also that the plant was extinct in the wild. There was even a plan to re-introduce it to Mexico.

Now, I’ve discovered that this is all nonsense. It turns out that C. atrosanguineus has been grown from seed by a geneticist in New Zealand for decades and that a Mexican botanist has seen and photographed the plant in three different counties in Mexico (below).

In New Zealand, Mr F’s favourite sweet pea breeder, Keith Hammett, who’s also developed some superb dahlias and dianthus and other plants, has used cosmos raised from seed to create improved forms, including the large-flowered and super-scented ‘Eclipse’ (above; sold out this year, I’m afraid).

A number of other new varieties, some raised from seed, are starting to become available but Eclipse’, in particular, is worth looking out for. And, happily, with plants happily growing in the wild, re-introduction is unnecessary.

But it just shows how completely unfounded “facts” can take hold and distort our views of the plants we grow. Fortunately, in this case, the news turns out to be much better than the “facts” suggested.

Cosmos atrosanguineus growing wild in Mexico © Universidad de Guadalajara