GBBD: Flower Trials 2016

Petunia 'Night Sky' outside our front door
There are 5 plants in my hanging basket by our front door 

I'm pleased with the performance of the Petunia 'Night Sky' plants I've trialled this year. It was my pick of the bunch when I visited Thompson & Morgan in 2015, and that early promise hasn't disappointed up close and personal back at home.

Plants were quick to bloom and they've come back from some gross neglect on my part as I left them to flounder in 9cm pots for far too long. I finally got round to planting up my hanging basket in mid July, cutting back my stringy, yellowing plants to the first leaf (some of which were extremely scrappy) and as you can see, they've revived spectacularly.

Some experts I've spoken to have questioned stability as the flowers are so variable. Graham Rice has tackled this with aplomb in his article linked to above. Apparently temperature is a factor which determines the form the flowers take, and if you look carefully in the above picture I have evidence of the high temperatures he talks about, which turns flowers completely purple.

Petunias are notorious for not liking wet weather. I've found 'Night Sky' is much better than most, shrugging off the periods of heavy rain we've had a few times over the summer. The most noticeable - and quite pleasing effect in my view - is any settled rain or dew drops seem to expand the flower's white patches into more of a splash than a pin point. Flowers are easy to dead head and we've enjoyed a fragrant welcome home over the past few weeks.

Cosmos 'Xanthos'
Sadly I can't say the same of the Cosmos 'Xanthos' I've trialled for a potted display. It's the first time I've grown cosmos and they looked persuasively great at Jimmy's Farm last year.

As you can see they flower prolifically, but I've found this variety disappointing to look after as the flowers go over very quickly. Sadly many of the spent flowers are not separate enough from the buds, so I end up removing both when I dead head the display.

I've also found the yellow colouring is short lived and flowers quickly fade to white. This might be temperature related again, as most of the pots are on our south facing patio, though Graham Rice doesn't mention it in his article for this plant. Sally over at the The Constant Gardener thought they looked good at the RHS trials field recently, and I await their results with interest.

Update: Flighty left a comment to say he's grown 'Xanthos' before and is planning to grow it next year. A classic case of what doesn't work for me, does for others :)

And in the fruit corner (ahem)...

I know they're not flowers, but seeing I'm talking about this year's trials I'm going to say something about my tomatoes and my first ever aubergine *proud moment*. Besides, both need flowers before they fruit ;)

I'm impressed with the 'Mountain Magic' tomatoes I've grown in pots outdoors this year. They've shrugged off the cold June we had, and so far are not showing any signs of blight, despite the alarming Blightwatch emails I've had from time to time. They started to crop mid August and I'm sure they'd be much earlier for those of you who can grow them under glass.

This is a blight resistant tomato, bred as part of *nominative determinism alert* Dr Randolph Gardner's Multiple Disease Resistance programme at North Carolina State University. I've not been that impressed with F1 blight resistant tomatoes like Ferline before; what they gain in resistance seems to be lost in flavour.

'Mountain Magic' is the exception I've found so far, though to be fair I've not tried them all. I've got a decent crop of sweet orange-red medium sized fruit, which even NAH remarked upon as 'good' without prompting when I presented them in a salad. An added bonus is the lack of split fruit.

If you're looking to grow blight resistant tomatoes yourself, (the only way for me to get a decent crop as I can only grow outdoors) then this useful summary from Grow Veg is a good place to start for both F1 and heirloom possibilities. I've grown 'Matt's Wild Cherry' previously - prolific, lovely flavoured teeny tiny toms - and I like the sound of 'Lemon Drop'.

I gave Thompson & Morgan's Michael Perry a hard time over the ethos behind the new 'Egg & Chips' grafted plant earlier this year, but being the garden tart I am, I couldn't resist the offer of one to trial.

I've never succeeded growing an aubergine outdoors, so you can imagine my excitement when I first saw flowers, followed by one fruit. It's still flowering, though I'm sure these will wither and die like most of the others have. I think the temperature fluctuations we've had this summer haven't helped with pollination.

Whether the 'chip' part of the partnership is successful has yet to be seen. I was sent a shockingly bad plant (dealt with amicably behind the scenes and I didn't take the offered replacement), so anything from this trial is set to be a bonus.

I'm encouraged to research aubergine varieties suitable for outdoor growing without a potato partner. NAH's impressed too, so suggestions are welcome for potential varieties to consider, plus a suitably swish aubergine recipe to celebrate our first ever home grown one. This baby deserves more than the usual Moussaka treatment.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Update: I had no potatoes in my pot, so similar results to last year's 'Tomtato' trial, where I obtained tomatoes but no spuds.


  1. Interesting post. I grew cosmos Xanthos last year which did well and I liked them. I didn't grow them this year but will be again next year. Flighty xx

    1. Hi Flighty - good to know 'Xanthos' has done well for you, which strengthens my suspicion most of my problems are down to where I've planted them. Did you observe the same problem with dead heading? I'm going to try the deeper magenta coloured ones next year - looking at the plots up at the allotment, those in particular have done well and don't appear to have the dead heading problem I've had this year.

  2. Love home-grown vegetables
    That is the most amazing Petunia I have ever seen!
    Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

    1. That's exactly what I think about that petunia and I'm not alone :)

      I've just found out it also won the top award at Ball Colegrave's open days this year. I expect it'll be heading your way soon.

  3. I saw that petunia in the California spring trials in 2015, and thought it was something really special. Surprisingly, when I posted an Instagram picture of it most commenters were horrified. In real life, I think it's more impressive, but your picture does it justice. Happy Blooms Day. I should really write a post.

    1. Hi Helen - it's a bit of a marmite plant over here. I know some people who loathe just as much as I love it. However, judging by the Ball Colegrave result I mentioned in my reply to Lea, it looks like most of the trade think it's rather special too :)

  4. I've found cosmos 'Xanthos' disappointing too with some flowers having a decidedly white edge to them. I've also grown cosmos 'Cranberry Click' this year which has been fabulous. Well done on that aubergine!

    1. Thanks Anna - I'll keep 'Cranberry Click' in mind for next year :)

  5. Congrats on your first Aubergine. I've given up on them at the moment as they require too much attention and you aren't guaranteed fruit if the weather goddesses are obliging.

    For a simple recipe, how about using it with your tomatoes in a pasta dish? Slice the aubergines up and put them on a plate, sprinkle some salt over them, which helps draw out the moisture. When it comes to cooking, olive oil, a generous amount of garlic, fry the tomatoes (you can use tinned toms too) and aubergine, add in some oregano too, then serve with pasta. Simple and a yummy way to enjoy aubergine not in moussaka.

    1. Thanks Gwenfar - that's why I've been reluctant to grow aubergines in the past as they'd do better in the greenhouse I haven't got! However, I now have the names of a couple of faster maturing varieties which look promising for my sunny patio :)

    2. Thanks Gwenfar - that's why I've been reluctant to grow aubergines in the past as they'd do better in the greenhouse I haven't got! However, I now have the names of a couple of faster maturing varieties which look promising for my sunny patio :)

  6. That is a gorgeous and unique petunia! We get some new plants to trial at our Idea Garden, and it's always fun to see what the growers are coming up with. But I have my "old stand-bys" that I know will do well for me and buy them every year. Most of my petunias are looking pretty pathetic right now, though. I thought it was all the hot weather we had, but perhaps some of the heavy rains we had are also responsible. But they looked great until about a month ago, so I can't complain.

    1. I know what you mean "old stand bys" Rose. Tumbelina 'Priscilla' was my go-to plant for this hanging basket until this year. Next year will probably be different depending on the ava'lability of 'Night Sky'. Both cultivars have to be grown from cuttings, so let's see...

    2. I know what you mean "old stand bys" Rose. Tumbelina 'Priscilla' was my go-to plant for this hanging basket until this year. Next year will probably be different depending on the ava'lability of 'Night Sky'. Both cultivars have to be grown from cuttings, so let's see...

  7. Any update on your potato harvest, Michelle? I've just posted my results for Egg and Chips and wondered how you'd fared below ground.

    1. I haven't dared look Helen and no doubt last week's frosts mean that the potatoes (if any) will be inedible. I see you had the princely total of just one small spud!


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