At our meeting on 18th February the speaker was Michael Perry, New Product Development Manager at Thompson and Morgan the well known seed and plant suppliers. Thompson and Morgan were established in 1855 and all their activities are based on a site with extensive trial grounds on the outskirts of Ipswich.
In a rapid and lively presentation Michael gave us a huge amount of information in a remarkably short time. I managed to make a note of most of the names of plant varieties that Michael described so, if you missed the name of something that you would like to try I might be able to help …
The sad removal of busy lizzies from the gardening scene featured quite prominently during the evening and Michael promoted the virtues of begonias as an alternative. They are good at coping with the unreliable British weather and will flourish in sun or shade. A recent introduction is a fragrant cascading begonia. The New Guinea variety of busy lizzie is still available and virus resistant but this is a larger plant than the bedding busy lizzie and more suitable for containers.
Another plant that featured as a recent introduction is a climbing fuschia ‘Lady in Black’ that grows to 2 metres and is a good alternative to clematis. Michael also devoted a section of his talk to some of the plant introductions for which Thompson and Morgan have been responsible. Notable amongst these is the orange tomato ‘Sungold’, which has an exceedingly high sugar content.
Also described were Begonia ‘Apricot shades’, Lily ‘Colour carpet’, dianthus ‘Ipswich Pinks’, gerbera ‘landscape mixed, the charmingly named ’Phlox of sheep’ a ground covering phlox and ‘Verbascum ‘Copper Rose’.
Novelties introduced by Thompson and Morgan for displaying plants are plant pouches and flower balls which have a purpose built stand and can be used in borders as an alternative to an obelisk.
Some particularly unusual plants that Michael told us about were black and green flowered varieties. The blackest hyacinth on the market is ‘Midnight Mystique’ with a spicy fragrance.
Others described were Dianthus barbatus ‘Green Trick,’ Petunia ‘Phantom’ with yellow flowers against black foliage, Zinnias ‘Queen Lime’ and ‘Queen Lime Red’ and Antirrhinum ‘Bronze Dragon’. For some gardeners big is beautiful and Michael whetted their appetites with some ‘super sized’plants ; ‘Sunpatiens mixed’, Begonia ‘Lotto mixed’, Dahlia XXXL series, giant geraniums and tree lilies.
For the vegetable garden Michael described a wide variety of unusual vegetables including purple mange tout peas and yellow courgettes, which are easy to spot so you don’t let them grow into marrows. We were also encouraged to think about vegetable gardening on the patio in a variety of containers.
Michael concluded with a couple of cash incentives. If you can spot a new plant variety from an old one Thompson and Morgan will give you £500 if you introduce them to a new commercially viable plant. They offer substantial discounts to garden clubs for seeds, plants and other products so if there is anyone prepared to do the work involved please let me know!
Our next meeting will be on 18th March when Steve Hickman will talk about the cultivation and propagation of Agapanthus.