Slow and steady wins the race for Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners – how to grow bare root perennials

Nation of Gardeners across the UK for Mr Fothergill's growing trialsWhen it comes to planting bare root perennials, Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners has found that over wintering in pots in cold frames and then planting out in spring make stronger plants in the long run.

The group of amateur gardeners based in various locations around the country received ten bare root perennials in November 2013 and were asked to report back on how they fared over winter.

They received five varieties (Astrantia Moulin Rouge, Cimicifuga James Compton, Eryngium Super Nova Starlight, Papaver Place Pigalle and Sedum Xenox), with two of each plant supplied; one for planting in a pot and one to go directly in to the open ground. The gardeners found that whilst those in the open ground, on the whole, survived the winter, those in pots were stronger and produced more flowers. Those planted in open ground may have had a quick start, with the potted version being much slower, but by April the pots were catching up with their counterparts in the ground around the country and were much stronger.

Sedum Xenox growing in Renfrewshire for Nation of Gardeners

Many of the gardeners’ bare root perennials did not bloom but they still saw new growth and Mr Fothergill’s is confident they will bloom more consistently in year two. This was most common of the plants in pots.

The most prolific bloomers were the Sedum Xenox and the Papaver Place Pigalle which were reported to be strong plants with lots of flowers, which for some of the Sedum Xenox, extended until October 2014.

Commercial director of Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, Tim Jeffries, commented, “We wanted to see how our gardeners got on with the perennial across the country throughout winter. Undoubtedly, planting in pots seemed to be the way forward to boost the plant’s strength in spring and bloom as summer approached. The results we are seeing from the Nation of Gardeners are proving very useful and will no doubt be beneficial to us in long run for giving advice on how and when best to grow our products.”

Papaver Place Pigalle in bloom in DevonThe gardeners also found that planting in pots was not just beneficial to the plants’ bloom and strength, but the pots also provided protection from slugs who found Mr Fothergill’s bare root perennials rather tasty! Whilst the pots protected the plants and boosted their survival chances, the gardeners sought other options for their open ground varieties with the Derbyshire representative seeing good results from a vigilante approach and a coffee based mulch that helped her ground grown plants become strong, tall and bushy. One county away, in Staffordshire, the rabbits feasted healthily on the open grounds.

From the 16 areas that the gardeners represent, the Surrey and the Cheshire representatives had the best results for their perennials – both seeing six of their perennials bloom in their first year. The Surrey gardener had three of her potted plants bloom, as well as three of her open grounds varieties. Whereas the Cheshire gardener had four pots flower as well as two in the ground.

For more about Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners visit their blog at or follow #NationofGardeners on Twitter.

Astrantia in bloom in Pontypridd, South Wales

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