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.
Richard Hope with his 24ft sunflowers growing in his Wigan garden. Photo: Wigan Evening Post
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.
Just 3 days left to enter the Thompson & Morgan tallest sunflower competition!
With 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?
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 www.thompson-morgan.com/competitions 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.
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’.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Kate Duckmanton – Buckingham
Robert Leeke – Crewe
John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick
Beds and borders competition
John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick
Unusual fruit and veg competition
Jenny Clancy – Chelmsford
Fruit and Veg competition
Helen Crewdson – Surbiton
Patio Garden competition
Kathleen Bethell – Nottingham
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.
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.