Posts Tagged ‘mr fothergills’

Still time to sow sunflowers!

June 1st, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

'Teddy Bear' sunflowers

“It’s June, and you’re suggesting I sow sunflowers?” You know what, I’ve even had them flowering well from sowing in July. OK, it was July 2, but still.

But there’s two things to keep in mind. Firstly, don’t put your faith in a June sowing of ‘Titan’, which can reach 3m, or ‘Kong’, which can grow even taller. These need an early sowing. Secondly, give them a good start, keep them growing strongly and never allow them to get dry. And there are also two approaches getting them going.

You can sow them outside, in the border or even in a container, where they’re going to flower. The advantages are that you don’t need any special equipment and they never suffer any root disturbance so grow steadily. The disadvantages are that you may have to plant them between other plants which soon overshadow them and that they feed the slugs.

I favour sowing individual seeds in 7.5cm pots of fresh new compost and keeping them in a cold greenhouse with the tomatoes – full ventilation. Or in a sunny and cosy place outside. Be sure to set mousetraps, I’ve already learned the hard way this season that mouse traps are essential.

When the the roots are emerging from the pot, plant them outside, stake them with a slender cane and water them in well with tomato feed in the water.

Whatever your approach, water them every week with tomato food and watch them grow – and then watch them flower. And the varieties to try? I tried it with ‘Solar Flash’ and ‘Teddy Bear’ but I’d say that ‘Choco Sun’, ‘Little Leo’,‘Santa Lucia’, and perhaps even ‘Garden Statement’ would be worth a try.

Take a look at all the Mr F sunflowers, and choose for yourself.

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 mr-fothergills.co.uk.

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.

RHS Award Winner: Lovely Lavatera

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

Lavatera 'Silver Cup'

Back in 1978 the very first Silver Medal was awarded by Fleuroselect, the across-Europe flower seed awards organisation that trials new varieties in 20+ countries and gives awards to the very best. It went to Lavatera ‘Silver Cup’ (it wasn’t until 1989 that the first Gold Medals were awarded).

But here’s the thing. Forty years after it received its Fleuroselect Silver Medal, ‘Silver Cup’ is still going strong. Not only is it still around, but it received the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1996 and still retains both that and its Fleuroselect award. And it’s a star of the new RHS range of award-winning flowers from Mr F.

I rated it so highly that I put ‘Silver Cup’ on the front cover of my first book about annuals back in 1986. Here’s what I said then:
“It is a hardy annual to sow in spring or autumn which grows to about 2ft (60cm) making bushy plants branching from low down if thinned to about 15in (38cm).

“The flowers are stunning. Big, soft pink, open bells up to 2in (5cm) across with dark veins, they appear from mid-June to the autumn. Lavateras like sunshine and any soil which is reasonably fertile and well-drained. The only problem is that in hot dry summers they tend to give up flowering rather early in the season leaving a singularly unattractive clump of dead twigs. So soil that retains a little moisture helps. Ruthless thinning at the seedling stage will encourage branching low down to give a succession of flowers.”

And then I wrote: “‘Silver Cup’ is ideal in the favourite pink, blue and silver schemes with tall or short ageratum, silver foliage cinerarias and pyrethrums, and maybe white petunias and Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’.”

The advice still stands. Even after all these years Lavatera ‘Silver Cup’ is still a star.

  • Please take a look at my article on RHS award-winning dogwoods for winter twigs in this week’s Amateur Gardening magazine – print edition only.

Still Discovering Annuals

December 23rd, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Iberis umbellata (candytuft) 'Pink Flash' and Viscaria 'Rose Angel'

Back in the year 2000, I was on the front cover of the Mr F catalogue. My book, Discovering Annuals, had just come out and planting ideas that I’d developed in my garden and which were featured in the book were included in the catalogue. You could even ask for free planting plans and the cover showed one of my annual plantings.

Mr Fothergill's catalogue for 2000The idea of the book was to show how colourful and interesting planting schemes using hardy and half-hardy annuals can be, like bringing together the two easy annuals above, Iberis umbellata (candytuft) ‘Pink Flash’ and Viscaria ‘Rose Angel’. I also wanted to steer gardeners away from the pitfalls of unpredictable mixtures and to focus on choice varieties in individual colours.

Well, in some ways I think I succeeded and in others, not so much. These days, everyone certainly focuses more on individual colours and on grouping different plants together to create a harmonious display. This is especially true when we plant tubs and baskets. But varieties of seed raised annuals in individual colours are being supplanted by patio and container plants raised from cuttings, such as the Surfinia petunia and Temari verbena in similar harmonising colours to the annuals, below.

One reason for this is that there is more profit for the grower in cuttings-raised plants that can be patented than there is in seed of annuals. Mr F, of course, brings you the carefully chosen best of both. And there are still some superb seed-raised annuals being released and next week I’ll be picking my top three seed raised annuals – new and old – from the last year.

Discovering Annuals is still available in hardback from amazon.co.uk
Discovering Annuals is also still available in paperback from amazon.co.uk

And click here to request your free 2017 Mr Fothergill catalogue

Surfinia petunia and Temari verbena