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Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Thompson and Morgan, the Suf folk-based seed merchants, are well known for their new plant introductions and this year is no exception so I thought that it might be a good idea to share a few of their latest offerings with you.Buddleias are popular bee and butterfly plants but, for those with smaller gardens they can take up rather too much space.
T&M have come to the rescue for in 2009 they introduced a variety called ‘Buzz’ from their own breeding programme which has earned enormous praise. The original range of colours, lavender, magenta, ivory and sky blue is now joined by red which means that we can all now grow buddleias that produce full size flowers but, on dwarf growing plants.
Normally I am not a lover of plants that have been dwarfed however, in this case there is something to be said in favour of this for if we could manage to dead-head our buddleias, we could all experience a second, or even a third flowering. On a dwarf growing plant this is now possible thereby extending their season of interest.
Keeping bees happy is something that all responsible gardeners would wish to do and T&M have come to our aid with their new Wildflower ‘Honey Bee Flower Mix’. With the decline in our bee population this could go some way to improving their lot for it consists of some 19 different varieties ranging from wallflowers and forget-me-nots to cosmos, gallardias, corn poppies and echinaceas. This is a nectar and pollen-rich mix of plants that will provide bees with somewhere to forage for a very long season, remember that we depend far more on bees that they depend on us and from what I understand, today they are relying on gardens and gardeners more than ever for their food source.
We have two hives in the garden here and they fascinate all our visitors, I just hope that they will encourage a few people to do likewise, anyone interested in keeping bees should contact the Norfolk Bee Keepers’ Association via their website www.norfolkbeekeepers.co.uk Also new for 2012 is a Nasturtium with the most amazingly jaggedly-cut petals, called Flame Thrower. This variety is sure to be a winner for those of us that like to have something a little bit different. It is a climbing variety that can be used in all manner of ways in the garden and in containers and comes in many different colour ways.
I have nothing against colour mixtures but it did occur to me that it might be a rather fetching idea to have a planting of this nasturtium in a single colour. The best way to achieve would be to sow the seed early and to take cuttings from your selected plants as soon as they produce flowers.
Nasturtiums strike easily from cuttings and could be had ready for planting in the garden within five or six weeks, grown as a single coloured variety would add enormously to their allure as a garden plant.
T&M also point out that as an added bonus, they are scented. Well, anyone who has picked a bunch of these jolly little flowers will already know this, I often pick a posy of these for the bedside table but, you can also add them to salads for they are edible as well as decorative!
One fact that you should be aware of is that Nasturtiums can become martyrs to caterpillar damage from both Large and Small white butterflies which lay their eggs in clusters on the undersides of their leaves. When these hatch the caterpillars with their voracious appetites can quickly decimate your plants unless action is taken.
Sometimes we can be totally surprised by a new plant and this is something that has happened with a brand new foxglove called Digitalis ‘Illumination’. The surprise is because T&M’s plant breeder, Charles Valin took on the challenge in 2006 of crossing an ordinary Digitalis Purpurea with an exotic relative from the Canary Islands called Digitalis isoplexis. All the botanists said that this cross would not work but it did, although this cross produced less seeds than expected. However, the intergeneric hybrid that was raised is sterile meaning that it does not waste energy producing seed of its own, therefore putting all its energy into the production of flowers to the benefit of the gardener, for it flowers throughout the summer.
To make sure that there would be enough plants for all of us to enjoy, T&M tissue cultured it thus ensuring rapid multiplication of its numbers, the flowers are truly stunning combining the rich purple-pinks of our own wild foxglove with the warm, orangey shades of the Isoplexis, resulting in a really fabulous plant that has an incredibly long flowering period that grows to a height of around 60 to 90 cms (24 to 36 inches) tall and is hardy.
I think that it should be a huge success and I shall be among the first to give it a try for I already grow both of its parents, our wild foxglove that needs no introduction and the exotic Digitalis Isoplexus which is alas, tender and must be overwintered under frost-free conditions but nonetheless, it rewards us with its burnt orange flowers throughout the summer.
•This article was first published on September 10, 2011.