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An English Garden Blooms in Connecticut

British Gardener Takes Advantage of American Innovation

Sandra Johnson
Sandra Johnson swears by the Tomato Success Kit. "The plants grow sturdier and produce more fruit," she says. "The cages keep the fruit off the ground, which is important with the tall-growing heirlooms I grow."
Sandra Johnson has gardening in her blood. She grew up in England, with parents and grandparents who were all avid gardeners. Wherever she has lived in the United States, she has brought a little bit of England along with her.

Sandra's current garden is located in Wallingford, Ct. She moved into this house recently after selling a horse farm in Connecticut where she had lived for 18 years. "When we moved to the new house the realtor showed us the 'garden'", she says. "I was amazed! It was all lawn." Sandra soon set about transforming this half-acre lawn into an English garden with a distinctively American touch.

Her cottage garden is assembled into two island beds, and is loaded with classic perennial flowers, such as delphiniums, English daisies, dahlias, asters and hostas. Of course there are plenty of roses in there as well. Her favorites are the David Austin English roses, such as 'Mary Rose' and Abraham Darby'. Sandra often includes plants in her gardens that evoke special memories of her childhood and family. "Wherever I live I plant the English primroses my mother used to grow and the English mint my grandmother used to grow," she says.

When you walk through Sandra's new garden, you are surrounded by wisteria spilling over arbors and clematis and roses clambering up arches. It would be easy to miss the vegetable garden. But what this small, 6-by-8-foot bed lacks in size, it makes up for in variety. Sandra likes growing potatoes, onions, beans, beets and especially tomatoes. "I love the American heirloom tomato varieties, such as 'Brandywine,' Mortgage Lifter' and 'Cherokee Purple," she says. "They are much sweeter and have a better flavor than the hybrid varieties. When friends and family come to visit from England they rave about these tomatoes and take seeds home to grow their own."

It's one thing to grow tomatoes, but quite another to grow them well. This is where a little American ingenuity has worn off on Sandra. She grows her internationally famous tomatoes in Tomato Success Kits. "I've used the Self-watering container, red mulch, and cages for five years," she says. She originally bought them because she didn't have enough room in her raised vegetable beds for her tomatoes. Now Sandra swears by them. "The plants grow sturdier and produce more fruit," she says. "The cages keep the fruit off the ground, which is important with the tall-growing heirlooms I grow," says Sandra. "The red mulch seems to hold the heat better than black plastic. The result is a great tomato harvest with little work in a small space," she claims. "I must have helped sell seven or eight of these kits just by inviting neighbors over to see how well they work," she says. "My English friends are amazed because there's nothing like these kits in Britain," she claims.

Sandra also likes the Self-Watering Windowboxes. "I grow coleus, verbena, sweet potato vine, and geraniums in my boxes. During the heat of summer I may have to fill the reservoir with water every other day, but normally I can go four days between waterings," she says.

To ensure all her vegetables and flowers get off to a good start Sandra swears by the Germinating Mix, Transplanting Mix, and Container Mix. "I start many of my own seeds indoors using the Germinating Mix. I transplant them into larger containers using the Transplanting Mix, and then into their final pot filled with the Container Mix," she says. "These soils work superbly."

Sandra's roses also benefit from Gardener's Supply products. "I use Aqua Cones to water my vegetables and roses," she says. "I mix some fertilizer in with the water and the roses love it." Sandra also uses some home recipes in her garden. "I feed each rose bush one banana peel every few weeks. They love the potassium and you should see the flowers I get," she exclaims. She also makes her own pest spray mixing 1 teaspoon white vinegar, a half teaspoon Dawn liquid dish soap, in 1 quart of water to control aphids and whiteflies.

With English roots and a little American innovation, Sandra has combined the best of both worlds in her beautiful and productive gardens.

Last updated: 10/24/15