Posts Tagged ‘chelsea flower show’

More space, more shopping at this year’s Chelsea

May 24th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Okra and Orlaya

Down at the Chelsea Flower Show this week, seed has been flying off the Mr Fothergill’s stand. I spoke to Mr F’s David Turner, who’s been talking to show goers and answering their questions.

“We’ve sold more seed this year than in the last two years,” David told me, “and we’ve had some storming afternoons. And usually at Chelsea sales of flower seeds outstrips the veg but veg has been on top this year and we’ve had a surprising number of enquiries for okra.” Okra features on the Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow garden for CAMFED (the Campaign For Female Education), an African charity backed by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

“The RHS range of Award of Garden Merit seeds has done especially well this year with people asking for Ammi and rose campion in particular. And Orlaya, another informal white flowered annual, has also been popular.

“We also had a visit from Pudsey supporting our two children’s varieties, Sunflower ‘Pudsey’ and Pumpkin ‘Pudsey’, that raise funds for BBC Children in Need and his visit featured in the TV coverage.”

The other product that has gone well is Seasol, the organic seaweed concentrate plant tonic that promotes healthy growth of plants, flowers, vegetables and even lawns. I use it on my outdoor tomatoes and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons they develop such huge root systems.

Personally, I think one of the reasons sales have gone well is that the show is less crowded, more spacious this year and so visitors feel more relaxed and happier about carrying their purchases around. So they’ve bought more.

You can catch up on the last of the TV coverage of the Show today from 7:30pm-8pm on BBC One then from 8:30pm-9:30pm on BBC Two and finally tomorrow night from 8pm-9pm on BBC Two. Enjoy the show – in person or on TV.

Our future invaders

May 17th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Gunnera tinctoria

Amongst the dazzling colours of the Great Pavilion at next week’s Chelsea Flower Show, there’s a quieter and more reflective area that can be missed by visitors and TV cameras alike.

The Discovery Zone is the area for new ideas and new research and new science, the fresh thinking that will soon be reflected in the rest of the Great Pavilion and in gardening more generally.

Invasive species pose a threat to our native plants in their wild habitats, and at the University of Reading Tomos Jones has been looking at garden plants that might escape from our gardens and become invasive in the future. One surprising example is the giant rhubarb, Gunnera tinctoria. His Chelsea exhibit Ornamental plants: our future invaders explains.

“Invasive ornamental plants are often beautiful but they can have a range of detrimental ecological impacts,” said Tomos. “For example, giant rhubarb can grow over 2m tall and has huge leaves. It can out-compete other plants for resources, with very few others surviving in its shadow.”

Introduced to gardens from South America in the nineteenth century, it was first found in the wild in 1908 but is now increasingly seen in wet places, especially in the south. One flower head can produce 250,000 seeds so the potential for spread is clear.

“Gardeners have an important role in preventing and managing invasive plants,” continued Tomos. “They can be the first to observe plants showing signs of invasive characteristics. The information we collect from gardeners will help us identify and control species before they become a problem.”

The plant I’ve noticed that seems to be moving out of gardens is the Mediterranean Euphorbia characias. It’s starting to colonise village roadsides in my area of Northamptonshire and is also established on a roundabout on the M25 near Heathrow airport (below)!

You can contribute to this research by reporting your own experience of potentially problematic ornamental plants.

Tomos Jones said: “Many ornamental plants favoured by gardeners for their beauty have the ability to escape beyond the garden fence and have a damaging effect on the environment.

“Invasive plants that are not managed or disposed of responsibly can spread quickly and dominate landscapes, to the detriment of native species. We are asking the public to help identify plants showing invasive characteristics.” So have a chat with Tomos at the Show, or complete this online survey.

And don’t forget to take a look at the Mr F Chelsea stand. Why not stop by and say hello on stand EA475 on Eastern Avenue.

Euphorbia characias near Heathrow airport


May Gardening Advice

May 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's May Gardening Advice 2019

This is the month of the Chelsea Flower Show, where we see gardens and gardeners come together and celebrate the horticulture industry. For over one hundred years, it has showcased new and exciting plants, designs and pioneering growing techniques. Whether you’re looking for something for the garden, something for the allotment or something that will make your green fingers twitch, you’ll find it at this glorious event.

May is also the time for the ‘Chelsea Chop’, when we can take our perennials (such as Phlox, Sedums and Heleniums), and prune, or reduce them by 50%. This helps create a bushier plant with more blooms. Also, if you have a border of perennials which you want to flower simultaneously, then the Chelsea Chop is often the answer as it can help delay flowering.

With the ground warming up, we can begin thinking about both sowing and planting out directly into the soil. The plants you’ve been nurturing in the greenhouse can be hardened-off and planted into their final growing positions. Seed-grown vegetables can be brought out from the polytunnel, planted into their final positions, and then protected with either fleece or netting. But May can be a fickle month. Your garden can be basking in sunshine one moment, and drenched in a heavy downpour the next. So, keep your eye on the weather forecast, keep horticultural fleece handy, and be prepared to act if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

May is a great month to be a gardener. So, enjoy the warmer days, lighter evenings, and get out there and create something special.

In the flower garden

Spring bulbs

Now that they’ve flowered and the foliage has died back, this is the time to lift and divide your spring bulbs. Before your summer plants dominate the flowerbeds, think about where you want to see your spring bulbs to appear next year, and get them into the ground.

Summer bedding

Give your plants regular water and liquid feed to encourage large, long-lasting bloomsWith the chance of frost now waning, towards the end of the month you should think about getting your summer bedding plants into the ground, hanging baskets, pots or containers. Once planted, ensure you give them a regular water and a regular liquid feed to encourage large, long-lasting blooms. If you’re using containers, or hanging baskets, consider planting them up with water-retaining granules. If you already have established plant pots, then give them a top dressing, or re-pot with fresh compost and soil.


The dahlia tubers potted on back in early spring should now be producing sufficient foliage for them to be hardened off, and planted into their final growing positions. If you’ve just bought tubers, the ground should be warm enough for them to be directly planted into the soil. Remember, plants are now growing quickly, so highlight where you planted them with a label or bamboo cane.


Grass will be thriving, so mow your lawn weekly. Also, trim edging and remove any weeds. If you do decide to use chemicals, always consider who uses the lawn, and where the liquid runs off to. You wouldn’t want to damage a flower bed, and you definitely wouldn’t want to harm a family member or pet.


Pests, such as the lily beetle and greenfly, will be making an appearance. Check all plant foliage regularly, and dispose of any unwanted visitors. A good time to spot slugs and snails is first thing in the morning, around dusk, or after any rainfall.


The garden is putting on growth daily. However, with the risk of a late frost, it’s good to keep horticultural fleece handy. For your climbers, such as sweet peas, roses and perennials, ensure they are staked and tied into a support. You wouldn’t want all your months of hard work to be damaged by As temperatures continue to rise, be sure to get into a regular watering regime with all plantsa single bout of bad weather. Keep an eye out for blackspot on roses. Remove any affected foliage from sight, or treat with a fungicide.

Weeds will be competing with your plants for both water and nutrients. Remove immediately, or they could strangle and starve your plants.

Over the next few months, temperatures will continue to rise, so get into a regular watering regime with all plants, especially ones grown in pots, containers and hanging baskets. A regular liquid feed is also advisable.

On the veg patch


Strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries and currants will now be developing fruit. Water regularly, and keep free of weeds. Check plants regularly for pests, such as sawfly and aphids, dispose of them and net plants. If you’ve been growing strawberries on open plots, or raised beds, then place dry straw around the plants to protect fruit from rotting, and help suppress weeds. Ensure you water at the base of the plant only, not overhead, as this will encourage mildew.

Continue to pick rhubarb, but take no more than half from the plant. Ensure you hold the stem at the base, then pull it away from the plant. Otherwise, you could damage the crown.

Broad beans

Stake broad beans with canes and lengths of string, as this will take the weight of developing pods, and prevent wind damage. Keep an eye out for blackfly, and spray any affected plants with diluted soapy water, or remove by hand. Once pods start growing upwards from the lower part of the plant, pinch out the growing tips at the top. Not only will this help reduce blackfly, it will encourage healthy pods.

Planting out

Ensure brassicas, french beans and runner beans are planted in well, watered and mulchedChances are, you’ve grown vegetables from seed earlier this year. By now, they’ve hopefully grown into strong plants and are ready to go out. Brassicas, French beans and runner beans can be planted out. Ensure they are planted in well, watered and mulched. As the temperature rises, they will need all the moisture they can get. If cabbage root fly is a problem on your plot, think about fitting your brassicas with collars at the base of the plant. This will prevent the flies laying eggs, which will hatch into hungry larvae.

Depending where you are in the country, pumpkins, squashes and courgettes may need to be delayed until warmer temperatures. Otherwise, plant out into rich soil, or compost. These are hungry plants, and will need plenty of watering, and nutrients for them to help set fruit.


In some parts of the country, the soil will be warm enough for direct sowing. As well as beetroot, peas and carrots, sow successional lettuce, spinach and radishes. As these seedlings develop, thin out accordingly, water well, and keep weed free.


With all the seedlings you have growing in the greenhouse, remember to prick out and pot on. If you don’t, they will be starved of nutrients, or grow too big for their plug/tray and die. However, there will be plants that are ready to be taken out. Some may need hardening off, but they will be ready for their final growing positions.

Keep on top of your greenhouse this monthAs space becomes available in both the greenhouse and polytunnel, think about potting up your summer greenhouse plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies, and melons. Place these into their final greenhouse positions, and establish a regular water and feeding regime. As these plants develop, they will need staking.

With temperatures rising, consider providing shade in your greenhouse, to prevent plants being scorched. On warm days, damp down the floor to increase humidity and help prevent red spider mite. If your structure has vents, use them.

Other jobs

If temperatures are rising outside, they’ll also be rising inside, so consider the best place for your indoor plants. A south-facing window may be too harsh for some plants, so consider moving them to a shadier spot.

Remove duckweed from ponds. Lay debris to side of pond overnight. Giving a chance for any caught wildlife to return to the water. Next day, remove waste from site.

Some plants will need extra watering and feeding to cope with the warmer conditions, and some plants will need less, so consider their needs and avoid stressing them.

If you have a tropical plant, make sure you give it a daily misting. Dust plant foliage regularly, and check for infections and pests.

What’s selling at Chelsea?

May 26th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Borage - much in demand at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show

On the last day of the Chelsea Flower Show, let’s look back through the eyes of David Turner, Mr F’s Product Manager, who’s been on the stand at the show all week: talking to visitors, finding out what they’re interested in and selling seeds. Yesterday afternoon I asked him what visitors have been looking for.

Borage has been asked for a lot,” he told me, “it features on a number of the show gardens and that reminds people what a good plant it is – both useful and attractive. But, apart from coriander, there’s been less demand for herbs than usual.

“Any individual varieties with yellow flowers have sold well as they also feature on a number of show gardens – if only we sold yellow lupins! And we’ve sold out of the simple scarlet field poppy, with the centenary of the armistice coming up poppies are on people’s minds.

Peas and beans always sell well, and that has continued this year in spite of the fact that there’s hardly a pea or bean plant to be seen at the show.

“Our new Optigrow range of primed vegetable seeds has done very well after it won the Chelsea Garden Product of The Year award. Parsnip and parsley, seeds that especially benefit from the treatment, are doing especially well.

“And we’ve recently partnered with the RHS in introducing a range of Award of Garden Merit flower seeds and Award of Garden Merit vegetable seeds and this has also proved popular.”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that visitors’ enthusiasms are sparked both by what they’ve seen at the Show and what they already have in mind. And after the Show, it’s all available on the Mr F website at

This year’s Chelsea colour

May 24th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Lupins and salvias in these rich colours were this year's fashionable Chelsea plants

This year, it’s dark blue, it’s purple, it’s lupins and it’s perennial salvias.

Every year at Chelsea there’s a colour or a plant – sometimes a very specific variety and sometimes a more general theme – that turns up all over the Show Gardens and all over the Great Pavilion. Informal, naturalistic planting now totally dominates but the key plants vary from year to year.

For a few years it was alliums, one year it was coppery-leaved sedges. It’s even been cow parsley – cow parsley! I never thought I’d hear people asking at the Mr F seed stand for packets of cow parsley seed!

This year I lost count of the number of show gardens using purple lupins in their plantings and using blue-purple perennial salvias. The Urban Flow Garden (above), designed by Tony Woods, is one of a number using both and placing them together very effectively right at the front of the display.

On the Gaze Burvill display dark salvias jostle with alliums and lavender, on the Spirit of Cornwall garden, designed by Stuart Charles Towner, salvias mingle with vivid blue anchusas, purple flowered chives, and borage. Although similar in tone, grouping these plants together well can be a challenge, the idea is for the whole display to be more than the sum of its parts but, sometimes, the parts is all it is.

Not so on the LG Eco-City Garden, designed by Hay-Joung Hwang, where salvias are artfully grouped with anchusas, cerinthe, alliums and purple-leaved fennel.

A noticeable second favourite plant this year is Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’. Used on show gardens to intermingle with the salvias or with sparky blue anchusas, it was also seen in bold groups in the Great Pavilion.

So… With little sign of cow parsley at the Show this year (but plenty along roadsides across the country, where it belongs), the Show’s signature plants really are worth growing. The trouble is, they sell out so fast.