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Michael Perry's Gardening Blog

Michael Perry's Gardening Blog

Easy exotics, April 2012


Now, we must admit that we all like to show off, especially when it comes to gardening. It can be the most competitive hobby out there sometimes! Well, the best way to impress everyone is to grow something that looks wildly exotic, yet is a doddle to grow.

Fuchsia 'Splish Splash'

There are even a few everyday bedding, basket and container plants that are available in some really showy, exotic forms that fit the bill. Take fuchsia ‘Splish Splash’ for instance, as simple to grow as any fuchsia, yet the flowers are marbled and splashed with a cocktail of colours. They’re just gorgeous - when they’re growing in our trials I just can’t stop looking at them!

And one of the biggest secrets in bedding and patio plants: salpiglossis! This giant petunia relative has the most amazing, orchid-like blooms in almost every colour of the rainbow. They’ve been around for years, but are still little-known. Try them, every customer that has done so has enjoyed them every year since.

Of course, lilies are one of the those great, easy exotics. All the goodness is in the bulb so you just ‘drop and go’. Thompson & Morgan’s tree lilies have been a runaway success for their sheer ease. 6 feet of colour in the first year, for very little effort. Wide colour range, with single-flowered, richly fragrant ones as well as softer scented, porcelain-like doubles too.

Bottlebrush - Callistemon 'Captain Cook'

The Bottle Brush is a flamboyant shrub that looks like it wouldn’t grow here, but yes it will! The new-ish variety ‘Captain Cook’ performs fantastically in a warm, slightly sheltered position. And the blooms appear with some urgence too, bursting out in spring. Why not cut some for exotic indoor bouquets that would cost £10 or more in any florist?

Wattle - Acacia dealbata

The Wattle - Acacia dealbata is another early bloomer which defies ‘exotic logic’. Frothy, canary-yellow flowers from February onwards. Plant by a warm wall, perhaps even training against the wall in an upmarket espalier fashion.

Orchids? So many people are defeatist about orchids, but there are many that are actually really easy! One of the most fun to grow is the White Egret Orchid, habenaria radiata. The blooms are just the size of a 10p coin, with a pure white feathered appearance, just like an egret in flight. Pack 3 or 5 into a small terracotta dish pot and they’ll make a superb display. And I’ve tested different composts too - you don’t need an expensive orchid mix, just make sure it’s a good quality soil with some extra bark added in to keep it open.

I hope these whet your appetitite for now, I’ll be back in a few weeks. Maybe we’ll talk exotic veg next time!

Bye for now,

Michael Perry, New Product Development Manager, Thompson & Morgan

Salpiglossis - orchid-like blooms

Salpiglossis - orchid-like blooms

Tree lilies - easy to grow

Tree lilies - easy to grow

Habaneria radiata - the White Egret Orchid

Habaneria radiata - the White Egret Orchid

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