Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground Awarded Fleuroselect Status

January 14th, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, the Newmarket-based seed experts, are delighted to announce our selection as a trial site for Fleuroselect, the international organisation for the ornamental plants industry.

The company will now undertake trials of newly bred, yet to be launched, ornamental varieties on our trial field site and evaluate according to criteria such as wow factor, innovation, and technical features such as floriferousness and garden performance. The assessments will count towards the award of prestigious Fleuroselect gold medals and approved novelty awards.

The last of the UK seed companies with a fully functioning field trial, we will be the furthest west of all the 18 Fleuroselect trial grounds which stretch across mainland Europe to Russia in the east.

A colourful photo of the Mr Fothergills Trial Ground 2017

Tim Jeffries, commercial director at Mr Fothergill’s and a member of the Fleuroselect Home Garden Committee, said: “We are delighted to become a Fleuroselect trial facility as it is further recognition of our place as a leader in the European seed industry. Our trials, run by Brian Talman who has 60 years of horticultural experience, have long been recognised as among the very best of their type in Europe. Although quality control is the main driver of our trials, we also seek to evaluate forthcoming new varieties and their suitability for UK gardeners and this development sits perfectly with that aim.”

Sally van der Horst, secretary general of Fleuroselect added; “Mr Fothergill’s have long been an important member of the Fleuroselect family and a driver for the interests of the home gardener. We are so happy that such a prestigious home gardeners’ trial will include Fleuroselect entries.”

Fleuroselect celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020 and allows industry professionals to join together to test and evaluate new pot and bedding plants, promote award winners, protect member varieties, network with each other and contribute to the development and advancement of the industry as a whole. The current membership comprises approximately 75 pot and bedding plant breeders, producers and distributors, mostly European, but also from Japan, Russia, the U.S., China and Thailand.

6 Sensational Gardening Hacks

January 13th, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

Seedlings growing in eggshells that are resting in an egg carton

Who doesn’t love clever shortcuts or handy tips that make life easier in the garden? Well, have we got a treat for you because we’re sharing six ingenious ideas to help you achieve more in the garden with less – less time, less effort or less money! You interested? Then let’s dive straight in! Read on or watch the video for our six sensational gardening hacks.

1. Eggshell Pots

We’re egg-cited (sorry!) to get started with our first hack: using eggshells to grow seedlings. Eggshells are completely biodegradable, and as they break down they’ll add valuable nutrients such as calcium to the soil. The shells are free too, assuming you were going to eat their contents anyway, of course. So let’s get cracking!

Carefully peel the top off your morning boiled egg then prick a hole into the bottom using a drawing pin or push pin – this will serve as a drainage hole. Enjoy your egg as normal.

Once you have enough eggshells, boil them in water for one minute to sterilise them, then let them dry. Fill them with seed starting mix, sow, water, then grow your seedlings on somewhere warm and bright. When it’s time to plant, just give the shell a gentle crush between your fingers so the roots are able to get out into the soil, and plant the whole thing.

2. Make Some Fertiliser

A banana peel, some garden leaves, broken eggshells and soil laid out on a wooden surface

Really love your eggs? Then use the leftover shells as part of an organic fertiliser made using kitchen scraps.

Add banana skins, coffee grounds and those eggshells into a blender together with a few cups of water. Whizz it all up into a grainy soup then use the mixture fresh, diluted with more water. This kitchen-created fertiliser is full of nutrients – ideal for use around hungry feeders such as squashes, tomatoes and climbing beans.

3. Stop Losing Plant Labels

Are you forever losing plant labels and with them the handy growing instructions found on the back? Us too! Use a hole punch to make a hole at one end of the label then thread your labels onto a key ring. Hang them up somewhere obvious in the greenhouse or shed so they are always on-hand for easy reference.

4. Care For Tools

While we’re in the shed, let’s give those hand tools some TLC. Mix together sand with vegetable oil. The abrasiveness of the sand will help keep your tools clean, while the oil should prevent blades from rusting.

Fill a pot with your sand-oil mixture then plunge hand tools such as trowels into the mix whenever they’re not in use, or fill a bucket with the mixture to dip spade and fork blades into before putting them away.

Rows of old large plastic bottles sticking out of some soil, being used as cloche protection for young plants

5. Protect Young Plants

Recently transplanted seedlings are vulnerable to frost and chilly winds, but keeping them snug is a cinch with instant cloches made from old bottles. Gallon-sized milk cartons or soft drinks bottles work best. Cut off the bottom, remove the cap so air can circulate and pop them over your plants.

6. Kill Off Weeds

Hoeing and hand weeding is great in beds and borders, but what about niggling weeds sprouting from the cracks in driveways and paving? Nasty chemical weed killers are out for organic gardeners, but scratching around with a weeding tool doesn’t sound like much fun either, so why not see them off with a safe but powerful organic spray you’ve made yourself.

Simply mix one pint or half a litre of white vinegar with two tablespoons of salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add a teaspoon of dish soap too, then stir to combine. Decant into a spray bottle and, with gloves on, spray the potent brew onto weeds. Do this on a still, sunny day and be sure to cover all surfaces. Weeds will quickly wither and die.

And there you have our handy horticultural hacks. Have you got one to add to this list? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Looking ahead with the RHS

January 10th, 2020 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Nemesia Karoo Series and 'Big Devil' chilli

It’s the new year, so everyone’s been making predictions – including the Royal Horticultural Society. Many of their ideas are, not to put too fine a point on it, continuations of existing trends – more and larger houseplants, naturalistic planting styles, and the continuation of the whole grow-your-own phenomenon for example.

But here we focus on plants and the RHS has picked a couple of out-of-fashion favourites for a comeback: diascias and nemesias. These two, often not quite hardy, are plants best used in patio containers and were very popular in the 1980s and 1990s but diascias in particular have drifted out of favour.

The problem with diascias is that they come mainly in orange and in vivid pink – colours which most gardeners think clash horribly – plus the less often seen white, and not much else. Demand has been so slow that Mr F now lists neither seed nor plants of diascias although eyes are open for new introductions that break the mould.

Nemesias come in a wider range, as in the Karoo Series (above), and have lost less of their popularity but they too need the kickstart of something new. Deadhead and feed them regularly, though, and they’ll flower all summer.

The RHS also mentions grow-your-own, and in particular chillies. “Chillies remain the number one choice owing to their ease of growing and colour,” they say but I confess that I’m surprised that chillies are the most popular grow-your-own crop. My advice is to grow grafted plants like ‘Big Devil’ (above) for their extra vigour, disease resistance and the ability to thrive in less than ideal conditions.

All grafted chillies need is a pot on a sheltered patio – you can even plant them in a large container and surround them with nemesias. Now there’s an idea…

Mr Fothergill’s Announces its RHS Range Extension

January 7th, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

Following the success of the RHS Award of Garden Merit flower and vegetable ranges, leading seeds and plants supplier Mr Fothergill’s has added a seed collection range to its selection of seed products for gardeners, again in partnership with the experts at the Royal Horticultural Society.

The RHS believes it’s possible for everybody to enjoy growing flowers and vegetables from seed and get great results, whatever space or experience they have. And, with themes including ‘Flowers for Cutting’ and ‘Vegetables for Easy Growing’, there’s something in this range for every gardener.

There are 8 vegetable collections and 8 flower collections, each pack contains 6 specially chosen varieties. For instance, Flowers for Drought-Resistance were selected to thrive in dry and hot conditions, where Vegetables for Heirloom crops have reputation for being reliable and rewarding for generations.

Flowers for Drought-Resistance, part of Mr Fothergill's RHS collection.
Vegetables for Heirloom Crops, part of Mr Fothergill's RHS collection.

Ian Cross, retail marketing manager at Mr Fothergill’s, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this new range of collections. Working with the team at the RHS we have created 16 inspiring themes to appeal to all gardening tastes’’.

Examples include ‘Vegetable Superfoods’, ‘Vegetables for a vertical garden’ and ‘Flowers for hanging baskets’.

Each collection packet has a RRP of £4.99. Visit your local garden centre, head over to www.mr-fothergills.co.uk to shop or request your copy of the Mr Fothergill’s latest seed catalogue.

Sweet peas can take the cold

January 3rd, 2020 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sweet peas 'Blue Shift', 'Spanish Dancer', 'Erewhon' and 'Gwendoline'

I’m always bashing on here about how important it is to sow sweet pea seeds in the autumn, to grow the strongest plants that will flower for the longest possible time. But you know what? It doesn’t always happen. Life gets in the way.

But if you have any sort of protection – a cold frame, some plastic cloches, even a low fleece tunnel you used to keep carrot fly off the carrots – anything that provides a little protection will help January sown sweet pea seeds germinate a little more quickly and grow a little more strongly.

And here’s something to think about. In 1909, at Cornell University in New York state, they sowed a sweet pea trial. They sowed the seed in succession in October and November, and some of it germinated before winter set in while some germinated in the following April.

But here’s the thing. New York state is cold in the winter, far far colder than here. We’re talking about temperatures getting down to -23C to -29C. And whether the seeds germinated before the winter or later, they flowered the following summer. This proves they can take the cold.

I’d suggest sowing in 12cm pots, six seeds in each, and standing them under the cloches or fleece. To be honest, slugs and mice will be more of a danger than cold so be sure to take precautions.

Varieties? Well, the new and exclusive varieties like ‘Mayflower 400’ and ‘Our Harry’ might well sell out so they should be high on the list to order and sow now. There’s also one you should never be without, ‘Gwendoline’ (bottom left), for its beautiful colouring and powerful fragrance.

I’d also remind you about three varieties in unusual colourings that I recommend. ‘Blue Shift’ (top left) changes colour from reddish mauve to true blue, ‘Spanish Dancer’ in cream (almost yellow) and rich and rosy reddish pink and finally ‘Erewhon’, a reverse bicolour with purplish blue lower petals and pink upper petals.

All are well scented and won’t disappoint. Just be sure to keep the slugs and snails off.