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.

Gardening Competitions

Summer is the prime time for your plants as they will be looking their very best. Beautiful blooms of Buddleja Buzz™, turbo-charged trailing fuchsias and shimmering metallic Begonia ‘Garden Angels’ will be catching everyone’s eyes. Our gardening competitions give you the opportunity to share your beloved garden with us and other gardeners, with the added bonus of winning a prize! What is there to lose?

Your beds and borders

gardening competitions
Do you have a stunning display in your beds or borders? Send in a photo of your beds and borders in all their glory and you could win £250 in Thompson & Morgan vouchers.

Your patio garden

gardening competitions

How does your patio garden grow? Do you have stunning patio garden worthy of winning our competition? Send in your photo and you could be in the running to win £250 of Thompson & Morgan vouchers.

Fruit and vegetables

gardening competitions
There is nothing like eating your home grown fruit and vegetables. If you are growing your own, why not send us a picture and you could win £250 of Thompson & Morgan vouchers. When you harvest your fruit and vegetables if they turn out funny shapes or sizes then you could enter our unusual fruit and vegetable competition to win a prize also.


gardening competitions
Incredibloom® is a ground-breaking innovation in premium fertilisers. It guarantees that your plants will be fed the correct nutrients as and when they need them. We are so sure that you will notice the difference that we are giving you the opportunity to win £100 for your increditransformations. Just upload your blooming flowers and if we use your picture you will win £100 e-voucher!

View all our competitions here and see what prizes you could win.

Closing date for all competitions is 30th September 2014. Please make sure you read our terms and conditions before entering. Good Luck!

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.

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Win a place on a course at the Kitchen Garden School. See below for details

Last month a branch with a very early blossom on it broke off one of the ornamental cherry trees in the main garden I watched my husband from the warmth of the house take a pair of secateurs and cut the lonely fallen branch into long elegant stems.  He arranged them in an old French blue and white jug.  As he walked back into the house with my nine year old son running behind him, clutching the last of the stems, I had the equivalent reaction that women across the land had in 1995 in that moment Colin Firth walked out of the lake with his wet shirt in Pride and Prejudice.  He simply took my breath away. It was utterly sexy and beyond romantic.  Gone are the days when only pansies picked posies. Home-grown flowers are not only a statement of a man’s ethics and view of the world, they are also an intense and deeply personal gift to give, and even more so if he has picked or grown his own.

For me a truly romantic man grows his own flowers.  A man who wants to impress his wife, girlfriend, or dare I say mistress, could easily grow her a bunch of tulips with very little time effort or expense. There’s so much more love and sentiment in something you’ve grown yourself. What could be more beautiful than a big bunch of tulips sitting on the kitchen table, grown by your man? It would beat a shop-bought bunch of imported half dead flowers hands down.

It’s not difficult to plant tulips – it requires about 20 minutes of labour and a bit of planning. There are so many choices of flowers to grow as cut flowers, but a simple example say if your partners birthday is in July, would be to plant a beautiful hydrangea like ‘Annabelle’, and every year for years and years to come you could stroll in from the garden with a bunch of flowers for your loved one on their special day.  That is, as they say, priceless.

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Win a place on a ‘Grow your own cut flowers’ course at the Kitchen Garden School

I really love those kinds of gestures.  They don’t involve spending much, they help the environment and they make an occasion even more special. Anyone can go down and buy a bunch of flowers from the supermarket – they are generic produce in most instances. It’s a bunch we forget. You simply don’t forget home-grown flowers.  They are both unique and long remembered.

On the subject of supermarket flowers, unless you are buying British or Fairtrade, the terrible truth is that you quite literally have no idea when you put that bunch on the table, what you are buying into. You know nothing of the flowers’ provenance. You know nothing of the land they are grown on (recently destroyed rainforest?) the chemicals used, the conditions of the workers involved. More often than not flowers flown in thousands of miles are grown by large corporate fims who have very few ethical practices, or consideration for the environmental consequences of mass production of flowers on either the local population or the wildlife. I personally believe that caring about the person you are giving flowers to extends to caring about the environment we all live in.

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

A selection of the flowers you’ll be able to arrange on the ‘Grow your own cut flowers’ course

On the other hand growing your own cut flowers is utterly romantic. The bees buzz about making honey, the insects feed the birds, the birds sing and there is harmony. It’s beautiful, and there is nostalgia as many people associate certain flowers with the people long gone. I for one can’t smell a rose or peach blossom without being reminded of my grandmother. The scent of freshly picked flowers can quite literally capture a moment. A wedding, a promise, a first kiss, a mother’s love. In that moment is a memory, a glimpse of the past, or the promise of the future. Imported supermarket flowers rarely have a scent, and your lady is quite likely to be sticking her nose in something that has been covered in pesticides.

Here we grow Thompson & Morgan flowers in all the borders; cornflower, Californian poppy, cosmos, ammi, scabious, nigella, gypsophila. We also use the vegetable patch, plant to get two crops from one bed.  I have hundreds of tulip ‘Queen of Night’ planted in with the rhubarb. Up come the tulips then up comes the rhubarb: you can double up even when you are short on space.

If you add up the cost of buying six or seven packets of seeds, it is a relatively low outlay and you have flowers on the table right through the growing season. The price of about 12 bouquets over 3 months means that they cost as little as 45p a bunch.

With the Kitchen Garden School cutting garden we have two 9 feet wide, 40 feet borders dedicated to cut flowers, in the cool colour spectrum: deep burgundies, blues and whites.  The only other requirement for a place in this garden for a plant to belong is that it can be cut. We have 20 varieties of rose, which are under planted with hardy geranium. We have rosemary and sage, which looks wonderful as foliage in a bouquet (particularly with roses) and we have agapanthus. There is something wonderfully exotic about agapanthus in a bunch. We also use the wisteria growing up the side of the house and pop the flowers into fishbowl shape vases and let them drape over the table.

The thing to bear in mind when you are first starting out growing flowers for your love is that a home-grown bouquet does not need to be structured. It can be whimsical and romantic, like a vintage tea dress. You can put anything you like in there. If you are putting together flowers for someone who particularly likes their food, consider planting an edible bouquet with roses, lavender, rosemary and other garden herbs or if your partner has just had baby boy then pick a blue posy.

Genuinely romantic men grow their own cut flowers

Rocky Coles, tutor and head gardener at the Kitchen Garden School

It’s not hard to put together a beautiful arrangement. Use a sharp pair of scissors and have a bucket of water to ready to pop the blooms in as you pick to keep them fresh. Tie flowers loosely or pop them straight into a jam jar. For me, a garden grown bouquet shouldn’t be precise or perfect; after all we don’t live in a perfect world. Relax, get creative and forget trying to produce the perfect bunch: the flowers themselves are perfect, and giving your true love a home-grown posy of flowers is quite possibly one of the most romantic things that a chap can do.

WIN a place on Vanessa’s ‘Grow your own cut flowers’ course in the Big Spring Giveaway! With expert guidance from head gardener Rocky Coles, you’ll learn how to grow beautiful cut flowers all the year round, get advice on how to look after the flowers once you’ve picked them, tips on weeding, deadheading, organic pest control, organic feeding and flower arranging.

Vanessa Kimbell
Vanessa Kimbell, an author and blogger, runs cookery classes at her home in Northamptonshire using either home-grown or locally produced goods and is a firm believer in sustainable, ethical food.

Win prizes in our Big Spring Giveaway

Win prizes in our Big Spring Giveaway

Every day in February we’re offering you the chance to win some fabulous prizes in the Big Spring Giveaway!

Prizes include a backstage experience at Gardeners’ Question Time, membership to the RHS for a year, a place on a ‘Grow your own cut flowers course’ and many more.

For your chance to win these great prizes, simply visit the Big Spring Giveaway page every day this month. You can enter as many competitions as you like, but do please note that we will only accept one entry per person per day.


Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

Giant pumpkin competition winner announced

The giant pumpkin, which in October broke the UK record for the heaviest pumpkin, has today been cut open so that the seeds inside can be counted. The pumpkin was transported to Thompson & Morgan’s Suffolk headquarters after it tipped the scales at an impressive 1,520lbs at the annual Autumn Pumpkin Festival in Southampton.

The monster pumpkin has been gracing the entrance to our reception area for most of November while it was decided what to do with it. Various ideas were put forward. Should we make a giant pumpkin pie? Should we carve it into a ghoulish face for Halloween? Sadly the pie idea was discounted – our canteen oven wasn’t big enough by far! In the end, we announced an online competition to guess the number of seeds inside this behemoth of a squash.

As the date of the seed count approached, our hard-working groundsmen, Dave Rich and Eddie Margetson were dispatched with appropriate tools to break open the pumpkin (what do you use to crack open a 1,520lb pumpkin?) and extract the seeds. It was a tough job, but they managed to open it up to reveal the cavernous interior and a large number of seeds.

The seeds have now been counted and the giant pumpkin contained 539 seeds! The lucky winner from the 337 competition entrants is Mrs Sophie Dave, who guessed 541 seeds. Mrs Dave will receive £250 worth of Thompson & Morgan vouchers and 5 of the seeds from this record-breaking pumpkin so that she can try her hand at growing a huge exhibit for next year’s competition!

Did you know? Pumpkins get a bit confused as to whether they are a fruit or a vegetable, but like the cucumber and the tomato, they are actually fruit. The pumpkin is a squash, also related to gourds, and is in the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae.

Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

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