Planning ahead for the garden + WIN £50 in Thompson & Morgan vouchers

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IT always pays to think ahead in gardening and with vouchers from Thompson & Morgan, you can’t go wrong.

Whether it’s autumn-planted garlic, plug plants for next spring, or bulbs, you’ll find a wide choice on its website (www.thompson-morgan.com) and in the autumn catalogue.

The firm has joined forces with Dutch Gardens, one of Holland’s leading specialist bulb suppliers. The daffodil Butterfly Super Mixture (£19.99 for 15 bulbs will certainly turn heads).

I’ve got £30 in vouchers to win, plus two runners-up prizes of £10. All you have to do is answer this question: Which country is Dutch Gardens based in?

>>Send your answers on a postcard to T&M Competition, Mandy Watson, Sunderland Echo, Echo House, Pennywell, Sunderland SR4 9ER, or email mandy.sundin@northeast-press.co.uk.

Please include your name, address and telephone number. Closing date is Friday, August 31.

l The flower garden’s taken on a real end-of-summer feel with the prairie plants blooming.

I’m delighted with the echinacea, gaillardia and rudbeckia. They cost 49p a packet in a sale two years ago. True, it’s taken time for them to form substantial plants that have put on a show, but the rudbeckia in particular is gorgeous.

It’s a blend called All Sorts Mixed and mine are mostly old gold-coloured, with brown centres (pictured).

The gaillardias are Arizona Collection, with bright red and yellow daisy flowers (pictured).

The Echinacea Lustre Hybrids haven’t bloomed yet, but I’m hoping they will be just as stunning.

They look great planted with ornamental grasses, smothering weeds and they’ll perform year after year.

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Acanthus mollis, or bear’s breeches, is a handsome herbaceous perennial with dark green, shiny stiff leaves with spikes of purple and white flowers which last for weeks.

The leaves are supposedly the inspiration for the decoration on Greek Corinthian columns.

Make sure you do want it though - in my experience, it’s fussy to establish and flower, but when it does, it’s virtually impossible to move.

It has deep, fleshy roots and if you leave even a tiny bit of root, a new plant will grow.

I did go through a battle with one clump in the front garden, only to find the centre of it was completely rotten... when my hands went straight through the mush!

I had let it do its own thing for 15 years - I suggest you divide yours much more often.

There is another variety, Acanthus spinosa. As its name suggests, the leaves are spiny, so be careful.