It’s a busy time for us at Thompson & Morgan, here’s a taster of a typical week at work for me!
After a few days off, it’s back in fresh and early for a varied week of meetings, product research and catalogue preparations.
Today I meet with Sarah, our trials manager, to discuss how we can enhance our customer trials programme. This is a project we’ve been running for 3 years now, and it involves sending our products to a selected group of customers and asking them what they think of them. We get some very good, honest comments and some photography which is almost as good as our own!
Sarah and I also chat through which plants we’re going to grow to enter for Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show. This is a very tricky project as the plants have to be grown out of season, which means they’ll need extra warmth and lights. We draw up a shortlist which we’ll then run past Paul Hansord, our horticultural director, as soon as we can, as we’ll soon need to start taking cuttings! In 2012, we WON Plant of the Year for our innovative Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’. Bred by our amazing plant breeder, Charles Valin, this is a ‘futuristic foxglove’, which flowers much longer than older types and is in exotic colours never, ever seen before!
It’s the week of Halloween, so today I make sure we’ve given our ‘count the seeds in the pumpkin’ competition the push it needs, which means updating and scheduling my social media accounts, and also setting the dates of the seed count into my diary, just so we don’t forget! I also notice that the Great British Garden Revival information is starting to leak through social media. This is a programme that was filmed at our trials site during the summer, and I should be featuring in the ‘bedding’ episode. It’s a new series, designed to make gardening a bit trendy again. We don’t have definite broadcast dates yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do.
This week is one of the last weeks before the big spring plant catalogue goes to the printers, so I’m working closely with the catalogue team to make sure they have everything they need from me for the new products. There are about 70 products, so this has been a lot of work over the last few months; speaking to suppliers, assessing trials, instructing photography (with our new photographer, Helen Freeman), writing copy notes, working out the main selling points and so on. We have some EXCELLENT new products – I won’t give too much away, but imagine a ‘blue’ carnation and an azalea-flowered geranium for starters…
Lots of catching up on e-mails today, there’s always so much going on, product development never seems to stop, and sometimes I could be talking to suppliers about products that might be 15 or 20 years away! It took us 15 years to develop the TomTato®, which you may have seen recently, it’s a plant which produces tomatoes AND potatoes. The plants are simply grafted together – it’s not a new concept, but we are the first company to make a large amount of plants and to marry up a high quality, sweet tomato with a good cropping white potato.
Some of today is spent preparing for Saturday’s QVC show. We regularly sell our plants through this shopping channel on TV, and I’m a brand ambassador for Thompson & Morgan on the show. This week it’s a gift show and we’re selling a Christmas tree! I make sure we get some good photos of me lifting it (it was heavy!), and working with Sarah Dodsworth from the QVC team, we agree on the main selling points, and also source some photos of bad Christmas trees. This will all help make the sell stronger; our Christmas tree is the no-drop, no-flop tree, one of the highest quality money can buy. I try to get to bed early, so I can get up at 5am (yuk) to travel down to Chiswick for the show.