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This is the time of year when plant breeders and growers show off their new varieties ahead of the autumn catalogues and this summer, while challenging in terms of watering, has provided the warmth and sunshine needed to show the plants off at their very best.

Seed and young plant suppliers, Thompson & Morgan of Ipswich, have staged their display at the RHS Hyde Hall garden in Essex for the first time. It is open to the visiting public and everyone is welcome to walk round, see, photograph and sniff the plants to see how they look growing in the open. Catalogues are excellent, but the colours are sometimes a little “off” and seeing the flowers in natural light is the only way to appreciate the true colour. If you are near Hyde Hall, this display is well worth a visit.

T&M are introducing several plants that can be grown in their tower pots to give height, even within a container display at home. They have bred both Alstroemeria and Pelargoniums (geraniums) that will easily reach a metre tall. Their Sunbelievable ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ is a bushy sunflower that will flower into November in a sheltered spot and is capable (they say) of producing 1000 flowers in a season if it is kept fed and watered. It took third place in the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year and is now winning international awards.

There is a trend amongst producers of young plants towards making gardening easier for the beginner. Too many people are put off by failures when they inadvertently use poor compost or aren’t clear on the care a plant needs. So, next spring you may see pots and recommended compost alongside trays of bedding plants in the catalogue or garden centre. The plants themselves may be put together in complementary colour schemes to make selection easier, or in groups to create a theme, such as urban jungle, refresh or heat wave.

All this breeding, thought and planning is seldom evident when you are choosing plants to buy, but without it we would still be trying to grow outdated varieties that succumb to disease half way through the season. Pest and disease resistance and weather tolerance are improving all the time, but you would be well advised to grow according to the conditions in your own growing area. If you have deep shade, you will never succeed with sun-lovers and if your garden becomes bone-dry most summers, avoid plants like Hydrangea (the clue’s in the name, HYDRA = water).

So, be creative, be dramatic, paint with your plants, but most of all keep planting. Whether you have a large garden or a collection of pots on a balcony, you can create a wonderful effect that will give you your own little oasis next summer, whatever the weather throws at us.

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