Friday, 14 August 2015

New on the Menu for Bees in 2016 from Thompson & Morgan

When faced with a smörgåsbord of floral delights, which flowers are the favourites of our pollinating friends? This is something I constantly observe when visiting gardens and nurseries as it helps me to decide which plants will best broaden the nectar sources available in my own borders. I am always on the lookout for new plants, so I was delighted to visit Thompson & Morgan’s Open Garden at Jimmy’s Farm in Suffolk to take a look at some new introductions.

Thompson & Morgan's Open Garden at Jimmy's Farm
Scabious are excellent bee plants and Scabiosa 'Kudos' is no exception. This new pink cultivar, described as virus free (presumably from cucumber mosaic virus, which can be a problem for scabious), looked delightful in a pot at the open garden, although I would gladly give this gorgeous plant plenty of border space.


2016 will be the Fleuroselect Year of the Cosmos and the party has started early at Thompson & Morgan's Open Garden. I posted photos of lovely pink Cosmos bipinnatus 'Cupcakes' last August and this year 'Cupcakes White' really grabbed my attention. I am clearly not the only fan of these beauties. Stocks of 'Cupcakes' sold out before the end of the spring sowing season this year and it is thought that only small quantities of seed will be released for the 2016 season, since bulking up stocks of new varieties takes time. If you are fortunate enough to grow this plant, it will be worth saving some seed for next year.


In this Cosmos celebration, Cosmos rubiata made an attractive and popular addition to the bee's buffet with its maroon blooms fading to pink, giving different shades of flowers on the same plant. 


I am a fan of foxgloves, so I was interested to see Digitalis hybrida 'Polkadot Petra', which is a hybrid perennial foxglove from Thompson & Morgan's breeding program. It is a shrubby plant which flowers over a long period and I am told that it is more hardy than 'Illumination'. 


I cannot remember having ever grown Zinnia. I have admired the flowers in other people's gardens for years, but was finally persuaded to add them to my seed list for 2016 when I saw Zinnia elegans 'Cupids Mix' strutting its stuff. This 50cm (20") tall plant was proving to be a spectacular bee magnet, and all for the price of a packet of seeds. 


In the UK we have surprisingly few native plants. Happily, we are able to grow hybrids and a vast variety of plants from around the globe which offer food and shelter to wildlife. As I sit at my desk, looking out over a lavender border brimming with butterflies and bees, I cannot imagine being without non-native plants and hybrids. Of course I grow native plants, but I wouldn't want a garden where I couldn't try out new introductions and expand the nectar sources available to pollinators. I am always grateful to those who breed good garden plants, for their success breathes new life into my borders. 



32 comments:

  1. I grew two types of cosmos this year - well tried to - Ruby Red and Purity. The red was treated in exactly the same way as the white but germination was very poor - very disappointing.

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    1. It's a shame about Ruby Red. I am a big fan of Purity - it's beautiful and reliable. In fact, it self seeds in our garden. The self seeders don't tend to get to the size of those I sow myself, but they still make a good display.

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  2. What a lovely place to visit. I always look for plants that have bees and other insects/butterflies on them at garden centres as having something pretty in the garden is a real disappointment if it doesn't attract them.

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    1. I agree. I love to see plants alive with pollinators.

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  3. I came visiting from Rusty Duck as I was amused by your comment - may I join the party too?
    I have never grown Zinnias either but have admired their brilliant colours elsewhere.

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    1. You are most welcome to join the party, Rosemary, although I fear her internet connection might be back by now, so we may all have to be on our best behaviour again!

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  4. Digitalis hybrida 'Polkadot Petra' looks interesting. I cannot grow the regular foxgloves (D. purpurea) but all the ones that like it dryer (D. ferruginae, D. lanata) do well here. This looks like an hybrid between the two tyes.

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    1. Hi Alain, It is a triploid, but T & M are understandably reluctant to reveal the parentage.

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  5. Love seeing photos of your beautiful gardens. My daughter and son in law live in Atlanta, Georgia and have two bee hives. They just harvested 60 pounds of honey from one hive. It has such an interesting flavor due to the urban area they are in and all of the neighboring gardens. xo Laura

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    1. How fantastic! Urban bees can have access to such a wide variety of plants.

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  6. I found your wonderful blog via the group The Over 40 Blogging world . Your gardens are lovely as are your photos . I am now following . Looking forward to seeing more from your neck of the woods ! Have a good weekend !

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  7. Hello Sarah, I agree with you on the natives (and the lack of them) and our climate that allows us to grow most of the planet's selection of plants (even if some do need winter protection). I think a garden full of a wide variety of plants of all different shapes, sizes, colours, flowering periods etc. lends itself well to hosting a wide variety of wildlife to live in it.

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    1. I agree - and the RHS have been looking into this...

      http://press.rhs.org.uk/RHS-Science-and-Advice/Press-releases/Native-Plants-Alone-May-Not-be-the-Best-Option-for.aspx

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  8. I absolutely love the Cosmos 'Cupcakes White', can't wait to get my hands on some. It is a beauty for the shape of the flower alone. I am growing Cosmos rubiata this year and it blooms like crazy.

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    1. Oh that is good news about rubiata. It's always good to hear a gardener backing up what can be seen in a trial/show garden!

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  9. You are ahead of the game with this blog Sarah, they covered extending the season for pollinators on GW last night. I think Cosmos make a wonderful contribution to the late summer garden.

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    1. Did they? Gosh - I must try to catch a copy of that.

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  10. I love foxgloves Ii'd hate to have a garden without them. I like Zinnias too so will look out for the new mix x

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  11. I agree with your selection of favourites, Sarah, and I loved all the Cosmos. Shame about the scarcity of seed, as I would have liked to have tries 'Cupcake' next season.

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    1. Hopefully the market will be flooded with them in 2017!

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  12. Oh, those Cosmos rubiata look absolutely lovely, I have just put them on my list for next year! We are indeed lucky here in UK that we can grow plants from all over the world and as another blogger commented here, on Gardeners’ World they reported that though native plants are important for pollinators, the plants from other parts of the world are helping to extend the season and are just as important. I would not like to be without my ‘plants from around the world’ – they bring such vast variety and interest all year round.

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    1. They do - and RHS researchers have found that a mix of native and non native plants provides the best resources for our pollinators. Indeed, they found that pollinators in the UK do not always prefer native plants.

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  13. I visited Jimmy's Farm a few years ago, interesting to hear that Thompson and Morgan have a garden there now. It looks like they've got some great new introductions.

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    1. They have some really interesting ones. They brought some veggies and fruits for us to try as they haven't the space to grow them there. It would have been great to see their veggies growing - it's all very well being told that a plant shows resistance to a certain garden peril, but seeing its resistance and comparing it with other varieties really brings the level of resistance home.

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  14. Many lovely plants there Sarah. I am growing Cosmos for the first time this year and am quite impressed by them. I will make a note of these for next year, I'd like to try more.

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    1. They are fab plants - and so popular with pollinators!

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  15. Zinnias are the best flowers ever!! I grow them every year. Meanwhile the comos were underwhelming in my garden. I think the soil is too rich and heavy for them. But there's always something else to try. :)

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    1. I will join you in an annual Zinniafest from 2016 onwards. I actually can't wait to grow some!

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  16. How fun to see all the new introductions! I always grow Cosmos as they are so pretty and easy to grow from seed, and they usually reseed for the next year, too. They are magnets for bees, butterflies, finches, and even the occasional hummingbird in my garden!

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    1. I didn't realise hummingbirds loved them too. They are really top plants!

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