Geoff shows off his new plants

The summer is racing on at a pace, but the plants still think it’s spring! The garden here at Driftwood, is roughly 3 to 4 weeks behind where I would expect it to be at this time of year. We’ve already had 2 open days, raising money for the Mayor’s charities in Seaford and the first of 4 openings for the National Gardens Scheme this summer. Hot topics, as usual, are some of the plants from Thompson & Morgan.

Unnamed bidens & Petunia 'Night Sky'

Without doubt the top 2 so far are the stunning Petunia ‘Night Sky’, which look wonderful by the pond combined with other similar coloured plants. Right by the entrance to the back garden is a raised container with a brand new, as yet unnamed, bidens which has caused quite a stir too! It has some beautiful blooms that change in colour as the flowers develop. I look forward to hearing it’s new name announced later in the year! The comments on the petunia have  been a little mixed, with visitors saying it’s one of those “marmite” moments, you either love it or hate it! I’m pleased to say, on balance they love it.

Pennisetum 'Blackjack' & Calendula 'Power Daisy'

In the beach garden I planted out the new Pennisetum Blackjack’, which are only just starting to get going, but I’m sure they will look stunning once they are established. I had some problems with the delivery of the Calendula ‘Power Daisy’ this year and some plants were damaged. I managed to rescue three of them and they have done really well. They are just starting to bloom along the central path and are quite dazzling once they open out. A second delivery is awaited, so they should be putting on a great show later in the summer.

Hibiscus 'Luna' & fuchsia with no name!

The bare root Hibiscus ‘Luna’ was delivered back in April and has also just started to show signs of growth with new leaves bursting out. I look forward to seeing it’s large flowers as the summer goes on. I’ve been very luck this summer to have received 2 brand new plants, as yet unnamed.
The other is a fuchsia, which is also just beginning to develop it’s flower buds. It won’t be long before we can see the gorgeous flowers.

Tomato 'Sweet Aperitif'

Finally, the Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’ that came back in April are doing really well in the greenhouse and are already about 1 metre tall. It shouldn’t be too long before the delicious fruit appear! Later this month the garden will be part of a photo shoot, by the magazine Coast. Driftwood will be featured in it next Summer! We’ve got another 12 open days to go so plenty of opportunity for visitors to come and see the garden. If you want to read more on the garden go to

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

Size does matter: Thompson & Morgan sees shift in customer buying patterns

Busy gardeners looking for easy solutions boost Garden Ready plant sales for mail order giant

Sales of Thompson & Morgan Garden Ready plug plants have nearly tripled in the past season as gardeners look for time saving products alongside value for money. It seems gardeners still want the financial benefits of buying young plants instead of mature plants, but without the hassle of potting up and growing on before planting out.

T&M vs Competitiors Garden Ready

T&M vs Competitiors Garden Ready


The mail order seed and plant specialist supplied more than 4 million Garden Ready bedding plants to UK gardeners in 2015. When asked if they would be buying them again in a satisfaction survey powered by Typeform, 96 per cent said they would be back for more in spring 2016, giving the concept a 5 star rating for quality on arrival and performance in the garden.


The new plant sizing bridges the gap between traditional small mail order plug plants and larger retail pack bedding. Small enough to be produced and mailed as plug plants but big enough to rival and exceed pack plant performance, Garden Ready plants represent the perfect balance between convenience and value for money.


Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, says the over-sized Garden Ready plants bring many benefits in comparison to smaller plugs and larger pack plants: “Our Garden Ready bedding plants are selected and grown to give our customers the best possible performance in the garden, we send them direct from the nursery at the perfect time for planting, usually before blooms form, for quicker establishment, better root growth and flowering, and a longer, stronger display.”




Unlike smaller plug plant offerings sent early in the season, which remain popular with Thompson & Morgan customers who prefer a more hands on approach to their gardening, the Garden Ready plants are despatched from May onwards, already hardened off for immediate planting – just watch out for late frosts.


Launching the concept in 2014, the mail order specialist supplied 1.5million Garden Ready Plants to customers in the first year. That figure nearly trebled in 2015, with 4,020,000 plants sent out during the busy spring and autumn despatch windows. Expecting strong demand to continue in 2016, Thompson & Morgan is putting more varieties into Garden Ready production with 44 bestselling seasonal bedding varieties now in the range.


Petunia Easy Wave

Petunia’ Easy Wave’

Despite 94 per cent of customers rating garden ready as value for money, Thompson & Morgan is seeking to make these premium plugs even more economical in 2016 with a range of multi-buy deals. One 30-plant pack retails at £14.99 but three packs can be had for just £35. Customers buying three packs will also receive a £5 voucher for their next Thompson & Morgan purchase. Catering for gardeners working on bigger plots, bumper 120- and 360-plant collections have also been developed, which will take prices down to just 27p per plant for the 2016 season.


Gardeners can take part in Thompson & Morgan’s next big survey for a chance to win a 30 pack of Garden Ready plants, 2 x Easy Fill Hanging Baskets and 25 litres of incredicompost, together worth £45. Five lucky winners will be selected at random from entries received before 31 March 2016.

Visit to take part

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Thompson & Morgan awards record-breaking £1,000 for tallest sunflower

Thompson & Morgan awards record-breaking prize money to gardener with 24ft sunflower. A gardener with a lifelong passion for sunflowers has won £1,000 following a nationwide hunt for the UK’s tallest specimen. Seed and plant specialist Thompson & Morgan announced the biggest ever cash prize for a tallest sunflower competition back in spring, in a bid to see the world record brought to UK shores.

Tallest Sunflower Thompson & Morgan

Richard Hope with his 24ft sunflowers growing in his Wigan garden. Photo: Wigan Evening Post

Tallest Sunflower Thompson & Morgan

Richard Hope with his 24ft sunflowers growing in his Wigan garden.

The bumper prize attracted entrants from around the UK, from gardeners young and old. There were some stand out specimens sitting between 12-14ft (3.7-4.3m), but the clear winner – at a staggering 24ft (7.2m) – was grown by Richard Hope. The Wigan gardener is well-known on the giant veg growing circuit, having held previous world records for the biggest swede, heaviest leek and longest parsnip. Grown against a sunny wall of his house, his giant plants reach the apex of the roof three storeys up!

Sadly, his giant entry was shy of the world record by 4ft 8in (1.4m), but Mr Hope still has his sights on beating the 8.75m (28ft 8in) sunflower grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer of Kaarst-Vorst, Germany in 2013. For the past 35 years Mr Hope has been hand pollinating his plants, saving seeds from the tallest and sowing them the following year, over time building a superior sunflower strain.Most impressive is that he grows his plants in make shift containers rather than in the soil, with no specialist feeding formula. “I use salmon boxes with large bottomless pots set over them, similar to tomato ring culture method. It gives the plants about two and half feet of compost to grow in,” he says. “There are no real tricks to feeding my plants either, I use whatever I happen have in the shed.”

You might assume Richard starts his plants off early indoors under heat and lights to get such results, but there is no such trickery. “I sow my seeds in the first week of April every year. Along with height, my seed strain has evolved a really long season of growth, so the plants keep on climbing right through to October.” In fact, due to mild autumn weather, Mr Hope’s plants piled on a further 1ft (30cm) in between entering in early October and verification at the end of the month.

Despite there being no world record breaker, the gardening experts at Thompson & Morgan were more than impressed with the winning entry, and the runners up. Horticultural Director Paul Hansord said: “We’ve not had much sunshine this year, but sunflowers have certainly done well in UK gardens. We were excited to see entries of 12,13, 14ft coming in – impressive heights by any means. When Mr Hope’s entry hit our inbox we couldn’t believe it. We sent our closest area sales manager to verify things, who quickly called to say we should get the company cheque book ready!”

Thompson & Morgan is upping the stakes for 2016 and will again be offering £1,000 for the tallest UK sunflower, but if it breaks the world record the prize money will be upped to £2,000. And if a gardener breaks the record using the mail order specialist’s incredibloom® fertiliser, the prize pot will be doubled again to a staggering £4,000. Mr Hansord added: “We’re so confident of the plant boosting abilities of our fertiliser range that we’re willing to heavily reward anyone who can grow a world record sunflower with it in 2016.”

Thompson and Morgan offers 37 different sun flower varieties from giants like ‘Tall Timbers’ F1 to multiflowering types like ‘Helios Flame’ F1, and dwarf varieties including 2ft (60cm) tall ‘Little Dorrit’ F1.

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

Wanted dead or alive – UK’s tallest sunflower – £1,000 reward

Just 3 days left to enter the Thompson & Morgan tallest sunflower competition!

tallest sunflowerWith just three days left, photo entries are coming in thick and fast from gardeners hoping to grab a grand simply for growing one of the easiest and most loved garden flowers.

Thompson & Morgan would love to see a record-breaking sunflower entered into the competition, but promises to pay out the massive sum, whether the winner sets a new standard or not!

To give gardeners the longest season to produce a winner, the competition is open until the end of Friday 23rd October. Any plant photographed and entered into the competition must be kept in situ where they are grown in order for winning entries to be verified – even if the plant has dried out and died. Finalists will be notified and a member of Thompson & Morgan staff will visit to measure and authenticate the entries.

The mail order horticultural specialist expects good uptake, having sold 15,899 packets of sunflower seed in 2015 across 30 varieties. Further widening scope, the winning entry doesn’t even have to be grown from a Thompson & Morgan seed. Any variety from any supplier can be entered, but the seed expert expects to see its latest introduction, ‘Tall Timbers’ F1, feature among the finalists. This hybrid form of ‘Russian Giant’ offers improved vigour and more chance of growing a record breaker than its parent line, reaching 4m (13ft) with no special care. ‘Russian Giant’ and the seed firm’s other towering specimen, ‘Mongolian Giant’ are also expected to make an appearance among the final shortlist.

Can anyone beat the 11ft 2in ‘Russian Giant’ sent in by Malcolm Bacon of Colchester, Essex?

tallest sunflower

To qualify, photo entries must include the whole plant from soil level to the top of the flower and you must pose alongside your plant to give an idea of scale – you’ll need to state your height and the height of your plant when submitting your entry. Visit for full terms and conditions.

Depending on location of the finalists, Thompson & Morgan expects to have a winner announced by 15th November, with the cash prize awarded in time to make Christmas really special for one lucky winner and their family.

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

Reward launched for UK’s tallest sunflower

We are offering a £1,000 cash prize to find the nation’s tallest sunflower.

With Sunflowers high on everyone’s sowing list thanks to an industry-wide Year of the Sunflower Campaign, we are hoping to see the World Record for the tallest sunflower brought to UK shores, and are encouraging the nation’s gardeners to take part with the launch of a £1,000 cash prize for the tallest UK specimen grown in 2015 whether it sets a new record or not! The current Guinness World Record, a whopping 8.75m (28ft 8in) giant grown in 2013, was raised by Hans-Peter Schiffer of Kaarst-Vorst,Germany.

Gardeners looking to get their hands on the UK prize can grow any variety from any seed firm. At the end of the season, when plants are at their peak and upward growth has stopped, all you need do is take a photo of your plant and upload it to the competition page here.

Photo entries must include the whole plant from soil level to the top of the flower and you must pose alongside your plant to give an idea of scale, you’ll need to state your height and the height of your plant when submitting your entry.

We now offer more than 30 sunflower seed varieties,  including new ‘Tall Timbers’, a hybrid form of ‘Russian Giant’ offering improved vigour and more chance of growing a record breaker. Reaching 4m (13ft) with no special care, ‘Tall Timbers’ also produces impressive flowers and rivals other two towering specimens ‘Russian Giant’ and ‘Mongolian Giant’.

sunflower pictures

Mongolian Giant

Horticultural Director Paul Hansord said: Our Sunflower Competition is open to everyone. This is something the whole family can take part in, why not set up a little family rivalry and grow one plant per member of the household and see who fares best? Failing that, challenge your friends, neighbours or allotment buddies with a bit of friendly rivalry. If you are growing sunflowers this summer, this is the only competition you’ll want to take part in – £1,000 for raising a single plant from seed – that really is a cash crop worth tending to!

We will also reward the most creative use of sunflowers in a second photography competition. If towering giants aren’t your thing, why not work with smaller varieties this summer, such as ‘Helios Flame’ and the unusual basket variety ‘Inca Gold’, there will be a £50 Thompson & Morgan voucher available for the two most creative entries supplied by the end of Friday 30th October.

sunflower pictures

Helios Flame

Thinking about taking part? Why not blog about your record attempt? If you’d like to spread the word about your efforts and show off your progress through the season, please get in touch at

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

Photo competition winners 2014

This is our favourite time of year, when we get to judge all the stunning entries to our competitions. However, this year we decided to do things a little differently and we asked you to help us pick the winning photos.

Michael Perry short listed each category down to his six favourites of which we then posted onto facebook. You then chose your favourite photo by hitting the like button, the one with most likes won. Simples!

Thank you to everyone who entered and big congratulations to all of our winners.

So here are you winning entries for our 2014 categories;

Indredibloom® competition  (selected by Thompson & Morgan)

Lindsey Cooper – Harrogate

Lindsey used basil seeds from the same pack, same bag of compost, same size pots. However, used the Incredibloom® fertiliser in one pot. This is a wonderful reflection of our ground breaking plant feed.


Plant a portrait

Barbara Thomas – Blackpool



Wildlife competition

Kate Duckmanton – Buckingham

photo competition


Begonia competition

Robert Leeke  – Crewe

photo competition

Basket Challenge

John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick

photo competition


Beds and borders competition

John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick

photo competition

Unusual fruit and veg competition

Jenny Clancy – Chelmsford

photo competition

Fruit and Veg competition

Helen Crewdson – Surbiton

photo competition

Patio Garden competition

Kathleen Bethell – Nottingham

photo competition

Thank you to everyone who voted for their favourite photo. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for next years photo competition for a chance to win great prizes. You dont always have to wait for our competitions, we love to see your photos everyday so please feel free to post them on our facebook and twitter pages. 🙂

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

Pin It on Pinterest