Well, what a year it has been for us at Thompson & Morgan. Each year is never complete without its ups and downs, and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Spring in particular is our busiest time of year, but it is also the most valuable for us as a business. We learn about areas which we need to improve on and your feedback is incredibly valuable to us, good or bad. You, our valued customers, help us to offer you a fantastic service. That aside, I just wanted to go back to a few funny, emotional, hard, but most importantly memorable times we have had over the past year.
2015 was the year of the fuchsia where we celebrated this much loved garden favourite with the Fuchsia Festival. We had a calendar of online activities including top growing advice from our experts, exciting blogs from customers and staff and on top of that, we added a further 20 new fuchsia varieties to our online range.
Chelsea centrepiece fit for a Queen
Did you read about this in the news? This year, there was a chance that Her Majesty The Queen was going to visit the Fresh gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but there was a gaping hole where the centre piece was meant to be. The team at Fernando Gonzalez Garden Design was missing its’ star plant when UK stocks of our Digitalis ‘Illumination Apricot’ failed to flower in time for display in the Pure Land Foundation Garden.
We stepped in to widen the search, calling on growers across Europe. Plants in perfect bloom were quickly tracked down at a nursery outside Barcelona, Spain, more than 1,500km from us. Without hesitation, I embarked on a 3,000km round trip to collect the plants and ensure they were safely in the garden at the time of build. For more info take a read about my mad dash (includes security checks with a large box of plants, broken fixtures on the plane and plant selfies!)
Not forgetting the potato exhibit we sponsored at Chelsea that won gold – the first ever potato display to win gold at Chelsea in the shows 150 year history.
Brightening up Suffolk Stations
Aiming to brighten the daily commute for Ipswich locals, we decorated train stations around Suffolk with 24 large hanging baskets filled with our customer favourite Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’.
We teamed up with Activgardens to get the baskets ready for their display back in June, donating all the plants, baskets, compost and feed needed to get the job done. The local charity, part of ActivLives, operates in the walled garden at Chantry Park, stepped up to the mark and grew magnificent baskets. We had tweets coming in from all around Suffolk, showing us the view of our baskets during their commute.
A fool too far?
Every year we try to come up with our best fool yet, and this year I think we managed just that! We created the Bridge in Bloom, 160 hanging baskets were set along each side of the Orwell Bridge in Ipswich, creating two 1,237m swathes of spring colour above the River Orwell.
One customer said;
We all wished it was real, what a magnificent sight that would be!
Thompson & Morgan trials at Jimmys Farm
In previous years, our Thompson & Morgan open day drew thousands of keen gardeners to our trial grounds here in Ipswich. Unfortunately, due to the large number of attendants and health & safety, we could no longer hold them on site. This year, we were able to team up with Jimmy’s Farm to showcase our magnificent trials to customers once again.
Over a thousand containers and many large flower beds injected colour to the activities at the farm, and the garden was open for free for customers to enjoy all week throughout summer. When it was time for Jimmy’s annual beer and sausage festival, we didn’t want to close the garden. So up stepped numerous T&M employees to man the garden to make sure those happy festival gooers could enjoy the display safely.
Expanded our range of garden supplies
2015 saw the launch of our range of gardening equipment, furniture and accessories. Look out for this range to expand in 2016! From garden furniture and greenhouses to pest control and garden tools, our range includes everything you need to grow, maintain and enjoy your garden. Can’t find what you are looking for? Then let us know and we will try our best to stock it!
Thrive listed as charity of the year
We were so delighted to announce this year that Thrive are our charity of the year. Thrive is the UK’s leading charity using gardening to help bring positivity to the lives of those who have a physical or mental disability. The dedicated staff and volunteers at Thrive, provide much needed support and respite for those that need it most.
Thrive Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ has been launched to raise money for this incredible charity. Thrives supporters named this Sweet Pea to commemorate the late wife of the founder of Thrive, the late Rev. Dr Geoffrey Udall and we couldn’t have thought of a name better suited.
So please, get buying and sowing and not only will you be supporting this amazing charity, but you will be creating incredible displays in your garden for all to enjoy.
Finalist for website of the year
The Garden Media Guild awards are a much anticipated awards ceremony for any keen gardener and the horticultural trade. Sporting their suits and ties, our horticulturists Kris Collins and Michael Perry attended the event held in London, which also provided the opportunity to meet with some of the Thrive team.
This year, we were a finalist for Website of the Year, which is just amazing. We work endlessly to improve our website to provide you with top quality plants and a great experience, and I cannot tell you how much this means to us! Maybe next year, just maybe, we will be top!
Egg & Chips™
Following the success of our 2-in-1 Tomtato ®, we excitingly launched Egg & Chips ™. This grafted plant provides Aubergines AND potatoes from the same plant, perfect for patio and balcony pots. The best part, the grafting process makes it easier to grow aubergines in the UK climate. The hardy, vigorous potato plant supports the more delicate aubergine far better than its own root system can in British soil, enabling optimum fruit production. You won’t even need a greenhouse to grow Egg & Chips™ !
There have been so many memories that I could share with you but this blog would become more of a report! Today is my last day Thompson & Morgan, it has been great to be able to reminisce on the past year and it has been a joy to be a part of. Wishing you all the very best for 2016.
It’s that time of year where we start to make commitments to join the gym, stop smoking, or to tick something else off our bucket list. But, what we want to know are your gardening New Year resolutions 2016. Is there anything you did wrong last year that you will not repeat this year? Do you want to try growing something in particular or do you want to become more self-sufficient and grow your own produce?
We asked the Thompson & Morgan staff theirs;
‘I want to grow some rainbow vegetables, and check out some new flavours and maybe even devise some new recipes.. Imagine purple carrot cake!!’ – Michael Perry
‘My new year’s resolution is to grow more vegetables! Last year I only grew tomatoes, but next year I want to grow cucumbers, salad leaves, and maybe even some chilli peppers in containers on my balcony.’ – Andrew Morley – Online Merchandising Manager
‘I really must revamp my pond in 2016. The frogs love it but the Water Iris (Iris pseudoacorus) has taken over and now you can barely see the pond! I just need to time it right in order to minimise the disturbance to my frogs – late summer might be best. I’m also planning to lift and divide the tired perennials in my borders and give them a really good mulch in the spring’ – Sue Sanderson, Horticulturist
‘My resolution is to add some wildlife friendly plants in my garden. I love seeing bees and butterflies, so adding some bee and butterfly friendly plants into my garden such as Buddleja ‘Buzz’™, lavender and verbena would be perfect’ – Holly, Online Development Manager.
‘Trying not to kill anything this year… I would love to be more self-sufficient and be able to cook a whole meal from all things grown by myself. Maybe a Vegetable Ragu with home-made dough bread’ – Natalie, Customer Care
Do you have any?
Some may think that as the months get cooler there really isn’t much that can be done in the garden. The ground becomes frozen and unworkable, so nothing can be sown, and without Arctic clothing you really don’t want to spend too much time in the garden. You’d be surprised as to how much you can actually do in the winter months, even from the comfort of your chair. So here is my round up;
What to plant in December
Our seasonal list of flowers, fruit, vegetables and seeds can be ordered now for sowing, growing and harvesting over the coming months!
Laurentia ‘Avant-Garde Blue’ F1 Hybrid
Firstly, if you have a cool greenhouse, I am envious! It is actually quite difficult to over winter and get started on spring sowings when you don’t have a greenhouse, so make the most of it. Start sowing Antirrhinums (also known as snapdragons) and Laurentia now for early flowering in the summer. They will look stunning in borders and containers. You can also sow winter hardy salad leaves such as lettuce ‘Winter Gem’ under cover. If you are growing in the greenhouse keep your eyes peeled for aphids over-wintering on your plants, if you spot any simply remove them by hand.
December is also the ideal time to plant your bare root fruit trees. Raspberry canes and Blackberries can be planted any time between now and the spring, but for a delicious strawberry crop in summer, strawberry plants need to be planted now
Broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’
For an early harvest next spring, direct sow Broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’, as long as the ground is not frozen. This RHS Award of Garden Merit, customer favourite variety is the best broad bean for autumn sowing and overwintering on the plot outside.
For winter interest plant winter flowering shrubs such as Sarcoccoca confusa to add both colour and fragrance to your garden at this time of year.
December garden maintenance
There is always something to do throughout the year to keep your garden in great shape. From pruning to tidying, every little helps to keep your displays look wonderful all year round. Start pruning wisteria, climbing roses and Acers if needed, and remove and diseased or damaged growth to encourage new shoots. Don’t be tempted to prune your hydrangeas just yet as they will provide frost protection for new buds further down, prune in spring.
Perfect for staying warm, there are plenty of tasks to do from the comfort of your chair such as preparing your vegetable garden for next year. This will ensure a good crop rotation and avoid any gluts. Begin thinking about this year’s garden and what worked well for you. You can start preparing an order list for next year, and these might also provide Christmas gift ideas.
Finally, order your apple trees now for planting in early spring. If space is limited in your garden try growing dwarf fruit trees.
We ran an allotment completion this year so that we could see what you make of your allotments and why they mean so much to you. Our winning entry was from Caroline Lawson from Veg in the Park, who told us all about their community growing up;
V.I.P ( Veg In the Park ) is a community growing hub for all residents across East Oldham, we don’t say allotments as this indicates it’s their own, and everything we grow we share, sell and all money will be reinvested back into V.I.P
We are a very new growing hub as we only opened in July of this year, our age range is from 3 to 95, and we all benefit from each other.
The growing hub was an idea that me and a friend came up with as we realised not all kids knew where veg came from and had never even touched or tasted some vegetables. The hub site was funded by public health and our local councillors, but we opened with no money in the bank and limited tool. With friends, we grew some of the veg in our own gardens throughout the year so when the hub was opened we could transplant what we had grown. We have 3 local primary schools wanting to have their garden clubs with us now, and we have given each school a flat bed that they can grow and produce whatever they want , they will be taking over their beds soon.
We also want to help the older folk as well as most are in bad health and even though they have gardening skills, they can no longer manage their allotments, but can come and help us. We have 18 raised beds of various heights so no bending down to ground levels, and we get expert advice from people who have gardening skills.
We also have a 50 foot polytunnel, so we are not lacking in space! Our site is all about growing from seed to plate, and we tell everyone the one rule we have is to have fun, It also helps with health & well being.
A very worthy winner!
What would our gardens be without garden furniture? Now, I can already pre-empt your response and it would still be a truly stunning place to admire. Winter pansies flourishing in window boxes, hardy shrubs such as Viburnum ‘Winter Beauty’ will be adding winter interest to your garden borders and not forgetting rummaging hedgehogs looking for a warm and dry place to rest. Delightful!
But, (there is always a but) garden furniture adds a real focal point in any garden, big or small. And whilst you are right in thinking of summer bbqs, water feature, gazebos and lawnmowers, there are many alternative pieces that you can use in your garden to enjoy over winter too.
Chimeneas – Garden chimeneas come in handy when entertaining friends and family in the cold and crisp evenings. Our online range are also easy on the eye, no one wants an eye-sore in their garden!
Patio heaters – It really would be a shame if you could only enjoy your gardens in the summer months. After months of planting, sowing and pruning you should be able to enjoy your garden all year round. For when the evenings are a little cooler and frosty, a patio heater will help take the chill off so you can enjoy those evenings in your garden a little longer.
Fire pits – Fire pits and braziers are not only modern and idyllic focal points, they will take the chill off winter evenings so you are able to enjoy your gardens at anytime!
Bird tables – Attract birds and wildlife to your garden with one of our beautiful bird baths and bird feeder. Make sure you position your bird bath in a safe location and in sight so it can easily be found.
Garden arbour seats – A stunning piece of garden furniture for withstanding the elements of British weather. Arbour seats create an idyllic place to rest in evenings, or daytime, with a good book in hand and perfectly brewed cup of tea (Now, where do I buy one!)
Benches – Garden benches are a convenient and stylish way to add seating to your garden or patio. The Royal Garden Stacking Bench will be just what you need for whiling away the hours in outdoor comfort. Made from Steel, this bench will also resist the affects of winter weather.
Awnings – Garden awnings are a great way to extend your home into the garden, whatever the weather. Easy to assemble and fit, they are perfect for providing shade or cover for the odd summer shower.