Posts Tagged ‘flower gardening’

Mr Fothergill’s July sweet pea competition is gaining lots of interest on social media

February 18th, 2015 | Competitions | 0 Comments

Sweet Pea Tiller GirlsNews of Mr Fothergill’s national sweet pea competition with £2,500 up for grabs has been causing quite a stir on social media, and especially among schools, which can receive a free packet of seeds to grow their plants for the event which takes place on Saturday 18 July 2015 at Capel Manor College in north London.  The company’s social media coordinator Debbie Porter says, “Lots of schools are signing up for their free packet of our new sweet pea Tiller Girls, while many people have been tweeting, having found the blog about the competition.  It’s creating quite an impact, and there is even a ‘just-for-fun’ category for gardening writers and broadcasters!”

Gardeners who fancy their chances of winning a slice of the £2,500 on offer in Mr Fothergill’s national sweet pea growing competition can still sow seed during February or early March to produce blooms for mid July.  Sow five or six seeds per 12cm pot of multipurpose compost at a depth of 1cm.  Water thoroughly, allow to drain and place pots on a windowsill, or in cold frame or greenhouse.  Do not water again until seedlings emerge, usually in seven to 14 days.  When two pairs of leaves have formed, pinch out the growing tip to encourage bushy growth.  Set out young plants individually 20cm apart, supporting them with a network of canes and netting.

Entrants may either post their blooms in a two-litre soft drinks bottle or come to the college on the day of the show to stage their flowers.  The company has devised a method of ensuring postal entries to arrive in good condition and details are available at the company’s website  There are six categories, first, second and third prizes for which are:

1     General Class £250/£150/£100.                        2     General Postal Class £250/£150/£100.

3     Individual Junior Class* £125/£75/£50.           4     Individual Junior Postal Class* £125/£75/£50.

5  School/Group Junior Class £250/£150/£100.     6 School/Group Junior Postal Class £250/£150/£100.

*These prizes will be given as Garden Centre Gift Vouchers.

You can view and order from our extensive range of sweet pea seeds from Mr Fothergill’s on the website, or by mail order from our catalogue.

Sunny Babe and Buttercream lead the way for Mr Fothergill’s Sunflower Year

February 17th, 2015 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Year of the Sunflower seed stand

Mr Fothergill’s is putting its weight behind a Europe-wide celebration of the once-humble, but now trendy sunflower by introducing nine new varieties, including brand new  Sunny Babe and Buttercream F1, to its range of these bright, bold annuals for 2015.

The initiative comes from the home gardening division of Fleuroselect, the organisation which assesses new flower varieties from around the world to determine their suitability for European conditions.  Mr Fothergill’s Tracy Collacott is the sole UK seed company representative on the Fleuroselect Home Gardening committee.  2015 has been declared the Year of the Sunflower by the organisation, which hopes to see them grown in gardens everywhere.  Easy to grow, great favourites with children and now available in so many different colours and plant forms, sunflowers are really versatile subjects for modern gardens.

Sunny Babe is a multi-stemmed variety, producing an abundance of golden orange 3-4in wide single heads on plants which grow up to 5ft.  Buttercream F1 has soft, butter-yellow heads which are pollen-free.  Again multi-stemmed and reaching around 5ft, its blooms are slightly larger at around 6in across.  Both varieties are great for garden display and for cutting.

Other F1 hybrid sunflowers being introduced by Mr Fothergill’s include Infrared in a range of rich bicolour shades, Summer Breeze with unusually green centres and Copper Queen, a superior ‘take’ on the traditional sunflower and pollen-free.

You can order Sunny Babe and Buttercream F1, or any other sunflower seeds from our extensive range from Mr Fothergill’s on the website, or by mail order from our catalogue.

Serenity and a Ripple new at Mr Fothergill’s: Osteospermum and Petunia new varieties added to the range

February 16th, 2015 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Osteospermum and Petunia“The best osteospermum available” is how Mr Fothergill’s plant manager Tom Stimpson describes the company’s brand new variety Osteopermum Serenity Blue Eyed Beauty.  “The Serenity series is famed for its naturally well branched, compact and rounded habit and long flowering season – from early June through to October, and this latest addition is a real stunner,” says Tom.  “It is easy to grow, with the minimum of attention required to keep plants looking good, and has superb garden performance, where it is ideal for patio containers in a bright, sunny spot.”

Serenity Blue Eyed Beauty is a unique colour in osteospermums, has the added advantage of remarkable floriferousness, and is already proving very popular with Mr Fothergill’s customers.  Plants reach a height of 35cm (14in).  A pack of five young plants cost £8.95, with despatch from mid to late April 2015.

Another brand new introduction for the 2015 season is the Cambridgeshire-bred Petunia Ripple – pictured here is Tumbelina Damson Ripple.  The Tumbelina series is well known to Mr Fothergill’s customers, who appreciate its reliable nature and abundance of fully double blooms.  Tom says what sets this new colour apart from many of its competitors is the reliable nature of the colour combination; blooms do not revert to one single colour, but keep their unique white and rich damson format all through summer, from June to October.  Tumbelina Damson Ripple is an outstanding subject for hanging baskets and other containers, where it trails to around 45cm (18in).  Again, a pack of five young plants cost £8.95, with despatch from mid to late April 2015.

You can order Osteopermum Serenity and Petunia Ripple from Mr Fothergill’s on the website, or by mail order from our catalogue.

What to do in the garden in December

November 28th, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Winter finally arrived in this corner of Suffolk with a few hard frosts at the end of November, preceded immediately by a prolonged period of heavy rain.  We do not normally experience too many pre-Christmas frosts nowadays, but it will be interesting to see what December has in store for our trial ground.  Next summer seems a long way off at present, but it will not be many weeks before our trials team makes the first seed sowings in readiness for next year’s displays and crops.  We hope you will be doing the same for your garden.

GroBox line-up

With Christmas also looming on the horizon, we have pulled together a few ideas on inexpensive gifts for gardening friends.   There are lots of things you can buy a gardener, and something else is always needed whether it is a new plant, new tools or something as extravagant as a bumblebee lodge or a polytunnel.  So take a look at our ideas and find something to suit your budget.

RSPB Give Nature a Home

Newly introduced for 2015 and especially for those who are relatively new to ‘growing their own’ we have introduced a range of Grobox and Gromats pictured above.  You should also take a look at the RSPB range of seeds we’ve developed specially chosen to help our birds, butterflies and bees.   There are three seed collections and three shaker boxes of seed blends which will both help our native birds and pollinators, but also make great stocking fillers this Christmas too.

But before we send you out to your labours in the garden this month, may we just take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Christmas and a fantastic year in the garden throughout 2015.


Jobs in the flower garden in December

Pansy seedsDecember is generally one of the quietest months in the garden, but why not plant up a patio pot or two with pansies,  primroses and polyanthus to bring some welcome colour in the weeks ahead?

If you have an unheated greenhouse with space at the moment, plant some bowls with crocus or hyacinths.  With the protection the greenhouse gives, they will probably flower ahead of those planted outside and can be brought into the house in early spring to cheer up the home.  There is also just about time to plant tulip bulbs outside;  they are still on offer in our local garden centres.


On the subject of early seed sowings, summer bedding favourites such as geranium (Pelargonium zonale) and fibrous-rooted begonia (Begonia semperflorens) can be sown  from January onwards, either in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill.  If you are looking for the classic red geranium, always a great favourite with our customers, look no further than our Moulin Rouge F1, which boasts an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, which means it should perform really well in your containers, beds and borders.  This one really looks superb in traditional terracotta pots on a terrace or patio.

Fibrous-rooted begonias are unbeatable for edging beds and borders, and they never seem to know when to stop flowering.  They remain neat, compact and full of flower from early June onwards.  This year, some of ours at home were still in bloom until the middle of November, which just goes to show what great value they are.  Begonia Mr F’s Special Mixed F1 includes both green- and bronzed-leaved types and is a real star performer.  Remember that both begonias and geraniums will need frost protection as they develop next spring before being planted out to their flowering positions in late MaBegoniasy.

Seed of sweet peas can also be sown in January, so now is the ideal time to place an order for our seed.  Sowings can be made in pots of good quality compost in an unheated greenhouse.  Although sweet peas are hardy annuals, it is a good idea to protect the emerging seedlings and young plants with some fleece when hard frosts threaten, but they need very little pampering.

We are rather proud of our range of sweet peas, which includes lots of individual varieties, plus many blends and mixtures.  As you browse our selection, you will see that several of our sweet pea varieties are labelled as ‘Bred by Dr Keith Hammett’, who is the world’s leading breeder of these beautiful flowers.

Sweet Pea Jimelda

We have become great friends with Keith and have the highest regard for his work – that’s why we like to single out his varieties for you as being something rather special.  For example, Keith is responsible for our latest exclusive introduction Jimelda, which we have named in honour of husband and wife actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton.  We really love this crimson and cerise bicolour, and it will certainly stand out in your garden.

Roses, especially taller ones, can be pruned back to about half their height ahead of more severe pruning early next spring.  Remove all rose leaves on the soil’s surface to prevent the build-up of disease through the winter months.

If you notice any hellebore leaves with brown patches (leaf spot), remove these by cutting the whole leaf stem off at the base.  Taking off these diseased leaves also makes it easier to see the flowers when the appear.  Follow this with a mulch of well-rotted organic matter such as leafmould to give the plants a boost.

Azaleas are popular house plants at this time of year, and they benefit from correct watering.  Keep the pot in a saucer and poor just a little water at a time into the saucer when you notice the surface of the compost is dry.  Rain water is best for this purpose, but boiled (not boiling!) water is a reasonable alternative as it has less alkalinity than water straight from top.  Always ensure the water you use is at room temperature.  Tap water tends to make the foliage turn yellow.


Jobs in the vegetable garden in December

Brussels sprouts

Out in the vegetable garden or on the allotment, seed of broad beans Aguadulce and Superaguadulce can be sown direct in their cropping positions when soil and weather conditions permit.  The plants are usually as tough as the proverbial old boots, but the beans they produce early next summer are deliciously sweet and tender.

Taller varieties of Brussels sprouts can sometimes work loose in the soil due to high winds.  It is worth checking plants and firming the soil in with your heel around any which look a little wobbly.  On exposed sites it may even be worth staking them for extra stability.

While parsnips are often ready by October, the flavour always seems to improve once the roots have experienced a frost or two.  We believe the frost makes them sweeter and tastier – and a lot of gardeners believe the same is true of Brussels sprouts.

parsnipsWhile conditions allow it is a good idea to continue digging over any bare patches of the vegetable garden or allotment.  If you have well-rotted farmyard manure or other bulky organic matter to incorporate as you dig, so much the better.

December is a good month to start making plans for next year’s vegetable garden and ordering seed of favourite varieties. So put on a pot of tea and sit back in a comfy chair to peruse your catalogue or browse through the website’s vegetable seed offerings.

If you like the idea of growing some large onions from seed (and incidentally the largest bulbs are always produced from seed rather than from sets), you must try The Kelsae, which is capable of yielding large, heavy bulbs even with the minimum of attention.  It remains one of the finest strains for producing large, heavyweight bulbs and is a showbench classic.

The Kelsae

Serious onion growers sow their seed in gentle warmth in late December or in January to give the plants as long a growing season as possible.  Growing large onions is one of the most satisfying aspects of vegetable gardening.  For the best results and heaviest bulbs, sow seed of The Kelsae from December onwards in gentle warmth – and even if you don’t win first prize at your local horticultural show, the bulbs make excellent eating, with a lovely mild flavour.

Aubergine MoneyMaker f1Aubergines need a fairly long growing season, although they are not difficult.  Their seeds can also be sown in gentle warmth from January onwards – the earlier you start it, the better.  Our Moneymaker F1 is many people’s idea of the best of the purple-skinned varieties, being heavy yielding and well suited to our climate, but if you are looking for something rather different and very colourful, take a look at our aubergine Mixed, which includes long thin fruits, red and green Asian types, plus small red ones and both large white and purple types from the Mediterranean area.

Many of our customers also grow potatoes, and as we begin delivery of our seed potatoes in January, it is certainly not too early to take your pick from our extensive collection.

We have a superb offer, which combines great old favourites, such as Epicure, King Edward and Desiree, with the best of modern breeding, such as Vivaldi, Picasso and Apache.  Few crops are as rewarding or satisfying to grow as potatoes.  Even seasoned gardeners still get a thrill when they put their fork into the soil to reveal the first new potatoes of the summer.  By the way, all our seed potatoes are certified ‘Safe Haven’ or equivalent status, so you can be assured they are of the finest, healthiest quality and will give you superb results.  All our seed potatoes are also grown in mainland Britain.  To grow the best, you must plant the best.


Jobs in the fruit garden in December

Apple trees

Apple and pear trees can be pruned during December.  Take a look at the tree and first remove any damaged, broken or crossed branches, especially those which are growing into the centre of the tree.  Nowadays spur- and tip-bearing fruit trees tend to pruned similarly.  Cut back this year’s growth on main branches by around a third.  Do not prune side-shoots (laterals), as these will develop fruit buds in their second year.

Autumn fruiting raspberry canes can also be pruned back in December.  Cut back all canes to within 2-3in of the soil surface, as next year’s crop will be borne on stems produced next summer.  With the canes gone, cut out any suckers, remove all nearby weeds and finish off by giving your canes a good mulch with well-rotted organic matter to give them a great start to their new growth next year.

On less wintry days in December, it is possible to get out there and plant fruit trees during this month.  Although fruit trees are all dormant now it is the perfect time to ensure the root balls establish well as next year gets underway.

Take a look at our range of fruit trees on offer and consider planting a mini orchard in your garden this season!


Nation Of Gardeners October Planting Update: the last of the blooms and the protection of overwintered peas

November 18th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

We were only a few days into the month of October and the warmth we had enjoyed across the UK during September was consigned to memory only.  The month started with wind, very heavy rains and frosts in some areas of the UK which had us wondering if this was a foretaste of what is to come this winter.  The month continued to be very wet and windy with a miserable grey murky sky becoming a regular feature.

The winter of 2013 to 2014 was warm, with some areas of the UK not seeing any frosts at all, and many areas that ordinarily would have snow seeing hardly more than a scattering.  We cannot depend on this being  a new theme for the upcoming winter of 2014/15 though.  It seems fitting therefore that we test out an overwinter plant for its winter hardiness, which is what our October parcel asked our gardeners to do.

We selected a plant that is particularly well suited to surviving the winter, but we wanted to see exactly how these plants perform in the UK’s very diverse range of winters.  Winter in the South is not the same as winter in the North as many people across the UK will be able to testify.


A round up of October’s planting tasks

Pea Meteor freshly plantedPicking the first crop of peas has to be one of the highlights of the vegetable growing year with a taste that is so delicious and sweet when picked straight from the plant and popped into your mouth whilst still out in the garden.  And so being able to pick them a month or so earlier must be a temptation that is almost impossible to resist.

In October we sent out Pea Meteor plants that had been module raised in the Mr Fothergill’s nursery and that already had a well-developed root system.  Pea Meteor is a strong and robust performer and if sown in October from seed and planted out in the garden by the end of the month, will crop from as early as May.  At least this is the theory and we wanted to see if this was true across the UK. We suspect that our more Southerly based gardeners would find this claim to be true, but farther North there may be some trouble getting these plants to perform.

In order to put these pea plants through their paces, we asked our gardeners to plant out in the open ground rather than keep them protected under a coldframe or in a greenhouse.  We suggested that a little cloche protection to prevent heavy snow destroying the plants would be ok, but that otherwise, we wanted these plants to fight for themselves.

By the end of the month, most gardeners had lost some of their plants and some gardeners had lost all their pea plants altogether – such as in the Peak District and Hemel Hempstead.  By mid-November as the picture below shows we have flowers forming in Suffolk, Cheshire and Pontypridd, and there is a pea pod forming on the plant to the right in Devon.  Our gardener in Bristol also has flowers and our gardener in Buckinghamshire also reported a pea pod forming on her plant there too showing that the pollinators haven’t gone into hibernation just yet.

Meteor Peas



October 2013 through to September 2014 updates

The focus for many of our group during October was to finish off harvesting flowers and vegetables, but also to get down to the pernickety business of pricking out seedlings and preparing winter pansies for planting out in beds.  Our gardener in Bristol is much enamoured with her pansies already and sent us these wonderful portraits of the different ‘personalities’ blooming forth from her pots and beds around the garden.

Bristol pansies

As this picture from our gardener in Suffolk below shows, we have some very neat and tidy gardeners in our midst!  Thus far into late autumn and early winter, late sown perennials and the planted out winter pansies are all doing very well for our gardeners.  How the late sown perennials will survive the winter months as it gets colder remains to be seen though.  They are very young plants and so will have to fight for survival, along with a little careful protection from our gardeners, as the winter really starts to bite.

Late sown perennials pricked out in Suffolk

joanne_radish_26Oct2014Our Suffolk gardener also posted us this wonderful picture of her first crop of radishes on 25 October.  This was a variety in a group of late sown salad crops that we asked our gardeners to put in the open ground in September.  While for some, the salads have been slow to develop, our more southerly located participants have been enjoying tasty crops of crunchy salads for weeks now.

These salads have been perfectly complimenting the remainder harvests of Snackbite and King of the North peppers.

Cheshire Snackbite peppers

Shown here is our Cheshire gardener’s crop of Snackbite peppers, and she also reported that her cucamelon still had tiny fruits forming on the plant that was still green and healthy by the close of October.

It seems that some valuable learning has come out of the Nation of Gardeners trials for our participants.  Many of our gardeners have elected to autumn sow broad beans following the success of their experience doing this in the autumn versus spring trial conducted as part of the project in the last 12 months.

During October a lot of our gardeners were also harvesting their ‘Christmas’ Potatoes!  A full two months early, we can safely conclude that this experiment didn’t fare too well.

The warmth of the summer and early autumn resulted in many of the plants developing very quickly and going over far too soon.  The yield was also disappointing for some, with 5 tubers producing a couple of pounds on average.  Good for a meal or two, but not the bumper crop we might otherwise have anticipated.  Shown below from left to right is the potato crops of our gardeners in Renfrewshire on 9 November, Suffolk on 17 October and in Cheshire on 14 October.

Christmas potatoes


The late sown annuals – sown later than recommended at the end of June – have continued to reward our gardeners with some wonderful colour at the time of year where colour is rapidly failing.  Throughout October and into the start of November there are still many flower heads to be seen on these plants, though by mid-November their days are numbered.

Annuals October