This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Suttons Seeds Bicentenary, Pot Hydrangeas, Pond in a Tub

Suttons Seeds in 1837

This year one of the finest seed houses in the UK celebrates its bicentenary. Suttons Seeds is a household name across much of Europe. Founded in 1806 by John Sutton as a corn chandlers, it has grown to become one of the most influential seed businesses in the UK. Suttons received Royal patronage in 1858, when Queen Victoria requested Martin Hope Sutton to supply seeds to the Royal household; the honour of the Royal Warrant has been bestowed on the firm ever since. Nowadays Suttons is part of the international company Vilmorin who are the largest packet seed distributors in the world. Today the News section of this blog is given to showing some of the Sutton bred and introduced cultivars of 2006.

Hydrangeas for garden and house

The other day I mentioned hydrangeas as being excellent seaside plants. Jane from the west coat of Scotland has them in her garden and asked about those that are commonly seen sold as pot plants in florist’s shops. Are they the same ones as in her garden as they look very similar? Yes they are, at least the ones popularly known as hortensia hydrangeas are the same. There are, of course, many other Hydrangea species that are excellent for the garden, but which would not make good pot plants. Those cultivars that are produced as houseplants are very adaptable and easy-going, although their management is completely different from when growing freely in the garden.

When received from the florist or garden centre they are usually in full flower and much shorter than the hydrangeas of the garden. Commercially hydrangeas are produced with cultural techniques that result in beautiful, but not wholly natural dwarfed plants. A pot grown Hydrangea is likely to flower for 8 weeks or so. An occasional feed of high potash liquid fertilizer, such as that recommended for tomatoes, during that time is beneficial. Ensure that it has plenty of light and is kept moist. Generally hydrangeas are grown in an acid potting compost. This ensures that they retain good colour. If subjected to alkaline conditions, many blue hydrangeas turn pink. That is not to say that pink-flowering cultivars can be turned blue by acid compost, for the majority are genetically pink and remain so whatever the compost. However, if a blue-flowered plant is starting to turn pink, it is possible to get a hydrangea colourant that is watered on to the compost and will ensure that the flowers remain true blue.

Once flowering is over the plant can be planted out into the garden where it should develop into a wonderful large free-flowering bush. Do not put a plant with soft growth which has resulted from indoor cultivation directly out into the garden without hardening it off to the conditions that prevail outdoors. Otherwise it may die back and will then take some weeks to recover. It is possible to continue growing a hydrangea indoors in a pot, but the result will not compare with that produced commercially. Hydrangeas are easily increased from short stem cuttings taken during the summer and rooted in an equal parts mixture of peat and sharp sand on the window ledge or in a cold frame.

Victoria amazonica

Each week I update the sister blog to this one. It is called PondMessenger and reflects my interest and passion for water gardening, as well as providing a useful link to the PondMessenger group. This week I have gone slightly off-track in that I have recently discovered a Brazilian folk tale relating to the origins of the giant Victoria waterlily. Being a romantic at heart I could not resist sharing it. However, I have retained a practical note with information from the Wuhan Botanical Garden in China about growing Sacred Lotus, both in the open pond and tubs.

For those who would like to enjoy the pleasures of water gardening, but have limited space, a tub or container water feature is ideal. This may be a container in which a pygmy waterlily and a dwarf Japanese bulrush are grown, or else a plant-less arrangement with cobbles and a bubbling feature. Between there are a whole range of attractive opportunities, some self-contrived, but others already prepared which just need plants and water adding or the pump to be switched on so that they can be enjoyed.

Pygmy waterlilies are ideal

The miniaturised water garden can easily be created in a tub or sink. However, because of the small volume of water it is not possible to create a natural balance which will ensure crystal clear water all summer long. Such a small amount of water evaporates quickly and the container requires constant topping up. It is also a fact that insufficient of the right plants can be accommodated in such a confined space. Unlike a pond where plants are usually grown in baskets and then stood in the water, with a contained water feature it is more practical to put compost on the floor of the container and to plant the pygmy waterlily and other plants into it directly.

Each spring the plants will need lifting and either rationalising or dividing. The compost will also be exhausted and require replacing. As a precaution against mosquito larvae add a small goldfish each spring. As it may not survive the winter in such a small volume of water give it to a friendly pond owner and start again the next year. Contained water features that do not aim to reproduce a miniaturised pond generally utilise moving water. Nowadays with safe modern submersible pumps there are a wide range of options available, from self-contained wall fountains to bubbling millstones.


Cosmea ‘Double Click’
An annual with unique semi-double flowers. Grows 100-110cm (40-43ins) and is ideal for the back of a border in a sunny spot.

Coreopsis ‘Illico’
An excellent dwarf-growing plant for border, pots or a container. Prefers a sunny position. Grows 20cm (8ins) tall and flowers all summer long.

Tomato F1 ‘Fantasio’
This tomato is recommended for outdoor cultivation or the unheated greenhouse. It has good blight tolerance and shows resistance to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts, as well as to Tobacco Mosaic Virus.

To visit the Suttons online catalogue and learn more click on the button.


2006 Newport Flower Show
The Pleasures of Summer
June 23rd-25th
548 Bellevue Avenue,
Newport, RI
Details: click here.

Ayr Flower Show 2006
4th,5th and 6th August
Ayr Flower Show Office,
60 Dalblair Road,
Tel: +44 (0) 1292 618395
Details: click here.

One of Scotland’s favourite flower shows is held in the beautiful setting of Rozelle Estate, Monument Road, Ayr, with its feature trees, ponds and woodland walks and the glorious Rozelle Mansion House and Galleries, the event draws thousands of visitors from all over Scotland and beyond every year. This spectacular event is only a few minutes walk from the world famous Burn's Cottage in Alloway where Robert Burns, Scotland's greatest poet was born, and who told us that his love was like a "red, red rose".

Happy Gardening



Suttons Shop: Suttons Seeds
Hydrangea: Wikipedia
New Introductions: Suttons Seeds

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To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
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