T&M catalogues come alive with augmented reality

Always striving to provide gardeners with the very best customer experience, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer its customers a new interactive element to its catalogues. Working in conjunction with Layar, a global leader in augmented reality and interactive print, T&M’s products are coming alive in the pages of its plant catalogues this spring.

Easy to use and extremely user-friendly, Layar is the world’s most popular platform for augmented reality. The company aims to ‘bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds’ – meaning that their technology can make printed images ‘come alive’ on the screens of our smart phones and tablets.

Since launching the Layar facility in January of this year, Thompson & Morgan has noticed that an increasing number of its customers are using Layar to view pages in its spring catalogues and are enjoying the new interactive digital experience.

Once customers have downloaded the Layar app onto their smart phone or tablet, they can scan the pages in the T&M catalogue which display the Layar logo. The scanned page then comes to life! Users can tap their device’s screen to view ‘how to’ videos and photo galleries; to buy products; to contact Thompson & Morgan and to share content on social media.

If it all sounds a bit sci-fi and techy and like something from a film starring Tom Cruise, then go to www.thompson-morgan.com/layar for more information and tips on how to get the most out of this fantastic technology.

Thompson & Morgan’s marketing services manager, Clare Dixey said ‘We’re really excited to be offering an augmented reality experience to our customers. T&M is keen to stay abreast of developments in technology which can provide our customers with an enhanced experience. We’re aware that not all of our customers will use the facility, but we’re noticing a good number of customers are enjoying the added content and ease of browsing and ordering’.

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Spuds up? T&M’s are down!

charlotte potato

With spud prices set to soar for retailers and consumers, Thompson & Morgan brings down the price of seed potatoes and repeats its mantra to ‘grow your own’.

According to sources such as the Financial Times (Feb. 3 2017) and London-based data firm, Mintec (30 Jan. 2017), UK potato prices are up 30% year-on-year due to a decline in production.  Their figures show a reduction in UK potato output for 2016/17 of 5%, whilst yields for the 2016/17 season are estimated to be down 8% on last year due to adverse weather conditions seen throughout the growing season.  At 5.2 million tonnes, the total UK potato crop was the fourth smallest on records going back to the 1960s. (AHDB Potatoes analysis)

However, while retailers and consumers keep a keen eye on rising potato prices, horticultural mail order company, Thompson & Morgan has brought its seed potato prices DOWN for the 2017 season. As an example, the firm cites one of its most popular potato varieties, Lady Christl. Last year, a bag of 60 tubers of this favourite, creamy-fleshed, easy-to-grow variety was selling for £12.99; this year a 4kg bag containing 64-72 tubers is selling for £9.99 – that’s a per tuber drop in price of 23%!

potatoes being harvested“I really urge people – gardeners or not – to have a go at growing their own potatoes”, says Colin Randel, Thompson & Morgan’s resident potato expert. “Not only does it look likely that potato prices will go up in the shops, but you know what you’re eating when you grow your own. There’s no need to worry about the pesticides, the food miles, the months spent piled up in storage – you just dig up tasty, wholesome spuds from your garden or allotment”.

And you don’t even need a garden or an allotment; you can easily grow potatoes on your patio or balcony. There really is nothing like the satisfaction of tipping a crop of home-grown potatoes out of a handy grow bag just in time for supper.

 

 

 

For Thompson & Morgan’s full range of potatoes, go to http://www.thompson-morgan.com/potatoes-inspiration and for tips on growing potatoes at home, look at T&M’s handy guides How to grow potatoes in the ground, How to grow potatoes in bags and Potato Selector Guide.

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Nutritious knobbly tuber is surprise best-seller

oca tuber

An odd-looking tuber vegetable is proving to be a surprise best-seller for mail order horticultural firm, Thompson & Morgan.

ocaOca is a knobbly root vegetable that looks a bit like an artichoke. Don’t worry though; they don’t have the same windy after effect! The tubers have a tangy lemon taste which becomes deliciously nuttier when cooked. The red-skinned variety available from T&M have a crisp pale orange or creamy-coloured flesh – fans of ‘eating raw’ can simply wash and slice their oca tubers into salads or crunch them as a tasty and wholesome snack. Oca becomes more starchy when cooked and can be enjoyed similarly to potatoes – boiled, baked, mashed and fried – whilst the shoots and the attractive shamrock-shaped leaves can be added to salads for a tasty citrusy tang.

‘We think that people are buying oca in response to more information being available about it’, commented Paul Hansord, T&M’s commercial director. ‘Oca is easy-to-grow and nutritious and, thanks to some good press recently, it seems to be increasingly appealing to health-conscious gardeners and foodies alike’.

Oca – aka New Zealand yam (it is grown commercially in New Zealand, hence its alternative moniker) – is cultivated extensively in the Andes where it is second only to the potato in terms of the most widely-grown root vegetable. T&M’s trials showed that the perennial oca plant performed well in the UK climate and did not suffer from blight or any noticeable pests. Oca is known to tolerate poor soils and different climatic conditions, which makes it ideal for any British kitchen garden. Plants are attractive too, so gardeners can also cultivate their oca in containers on the patio or decking area.

new zealand yamThe nutritional and health-promoting benefits of oca make it well worth growing. It boasts a wide range of micro and macro nutrients including Vitamin C, iron, zinc, calcium, flavonoids, B vitamins and fibre. It is an excellent source of carbohydrates and phosphorus, as well as essential amino acids that promote the health and proper function of muscles, organs, nails, hair, skin and more. Oca is also notably low in calories.

Oca or New Zealand yam is available from Thompson & Morgan’s website www.thompson-morgan.com/oca . Due to the popularity of this nutritious, knobbly tuber and as T&M is only despatching oca until the end of March, customers are being offered 5 tubers for £4.50 and 10 tubers for £6.50 – half their original price. Gardeners will find full growing details for oca on the T&M website www.thompson-morgan.com//how-to-grow-oca-new-zealand-yam

Recipe idea
Rosemary roasted oca: Preheat oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Wash and then cut any larger oca into chunks so that they’re all roughly the same size. Toss in just enough olive or sunflower oil to coat and then sprinkle with fresh rosemary leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes for very small ones, 20-25 minutes or so for larger oca. They’re ready when they feel tender when pierced with a knife.

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Indoor plants – mental health, air quality and productivity!

Having heard Prime Minister, Teresa May, speaking earlier this week about her plans to ‘transform’ attitudes to mental health and to provide improved support to sufferers, I was remembering that someone told me once that spider plants were great to have around, at home and in the office, as they could help lift mood and alleviate depression. We’ve all heard about the therapeutic value of gardening and I even heard on the radio recently that some enlightened GPs are actually giving suitable patients prescriptions for mental health-promoting gardening projects.

I wondered if there was any scientific evidence that supports the idea that plants are good for mental health. Certainly, when I did an internet search for ‘mental health and plants’, it threw up a long list of articles, research and advice. The general consensus seems to be that having plants in your home and in your work space can really improve negatives such as anxiety, depression and tension, whilst improving productivity and reducing fatigue.

The areas in which plants can have a positive effect on our mood and productivity are many and varied according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). It appears that the benefits of living and working around indoor plants have been shown to include:
– Improved mood
– A reduction in stress
– Increased productivity
– Improvements in attention span and concentration

Physical health improvements have been shown to include:
– Reductions in breathing problems
– Reductions in blood pressure levels
– Reductions in levels of fatigue and headaches

And the fact that patients in hospital rooms with plants report better pain tolerance is a bit spooky, but brilliant! There’s science to prove this; research from Kansas State University in 2008 showed that hospital patients treated in rooms where plants were situated, needed lower levels of pain killers

It appears that the plants trap and filter air pollutants in the home – kitchen products, air fresheners, faulty boilers – and at work – bacteria, dust, cleaning products, creating better air quality. Apparently just one plant per 3 employees can improve air quality in an office and can reduce CO2, dust and bacteria. I even found a study by NASA no less, saying that they’d found that plants are able to absorb and break down even quite harmful chemicals in the air through their leaves, creating a healthier indoor eco-system.

It sounds like a no-brainer! If we’re going to be happier and healthier in the home or at work if we import a few plants, let’s do it! Obviously we don’t want to live and work in a semi-forest environment, but within reason, it’s not difficult or costly to bring a bit of greenery into your life.

It seems that the visual benefits – and hopefully the health benefits too – of bringing plants inside is being recognised by retail companies and restaurants. We’ve noticed that various eateries and shops seem to have jumped on the vertical garden trend bandwagon. Here’s a fabulous wall of greenery that we spotted in west elm on London’s Tottenham Court Road.

Leigh Hunt, one of the authors of the RHS paper which discussed the benefits of bringing plants inside, said that you don’t need to surround yourself with exotic or expensive plants, ‘a spider plant is a good choice, or even common English ivy’. I can’t say I’d want ivy growing in my house – I’m in a long-running battle with ivy growing over our shed – but it was good to read that Mr Hunt has confirmed my long-held, but unsubstantiated view that the humble spider plant was thought to be a good mood-enhancing house plant to grow.

Prime Minister, Teresa May’s speech also emphasised the need to provide more help and support for young people with mental health issues. Having read about research showing that plants and greenery can help to reduce stress and blood pressure in students and young people whilst encouraging their concentration, I plan to continue with my practice of giving my children and their friends a home-grown spider plant as a ‘going off to university’ gift.

I love spider plants. Not only do they have a kind of ‘70s kitsch thing about them, which adds a bit of nostalgic fun, but they are incredibly easy to grow and seem to be virtually immune to neglect. And I should know! I don’t remember to water mine as often as I should, but they still seem to sprout their ‘babies’ at the ends of their long tendrils. They look great perched on a shelf at home or at work, and if you need a new one (for aforementioned students or others in need of a mood lift) you can just snip off one of the ‘babies’ and stick it in some compost in a pot, water it when you remember and hey presto! a new spider plant grows.

Other plants that are suitable for indoor growing, and which would suit an office environment too, are aloe, cacti, succulents, ivy, rubber plants and peace lilies. These are generally fairly low maintenance and should support conditions produced by air conditioning and possible neglect during times when the office might be empty.

I’ve got a spider plant positioned on top of my in-tray on my desk at work now, so I’ll have to let you know if I notice marked improvements in my productivity and general cheeriness!

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Christmas is fast approaching!

Over the past few weeks I have been tidying the garden, putting the containers away upside down so they don`t fill with water.  Also have been putting away ornaments which were in the garden so they don`t get spoilt with the salt spray/wind that gets carried here in Bournemouth from the sea front. Sprayed them with a well known oil spray to stop them going rusty and wrapped them in fleece, putting three of them together in a black bag. Covered some of the more tender plants with fleece and waiting for my fleece bags to arrive  – with thanks to Geoff Stonebanks letting me know where I could buy them.

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia 'Apricot Shades'

Unnamed trailing antirrhinum trialled & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’

I have also finished planting up some tulip bulbs, unfortunately they were being dug up as fast as I planted them. Whilst talking to friends at our coffee club who said she had a large holly bush if I would like some. I put quite a few sprigs into each container and so far this has stopped my bulbs being dug up – we shall see how long this lasts!
My patio Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ which were planted on the edge of a narrow border have just finished flowering. I have had them growing with Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ which really filled the small border right up to the middle of November. I have cleaned off all the begonia corms that were dried off and put them away in newspaper and then wrapped in brown paper until around February when I hope to get them started for Summer 2017.

 

Rose 'Golden Wedding' & unnamed fuchsia trialled

Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ & unnamed fuchsia trialled

My smaller acer trees have looked  wonderful this autumn, the colours seem to change day by day, also the Rose ‘Golden Wedding’ was still managing to flower up until middle of November with slightly smaller flowers.  The Fuchsia FUCHSIABERRY has lost all its leaves and almost all the fruit but there are a few fuchsia flowers still appearing. The trial of the un-named white trailing bidens is still flowering even though I have cut it back, from the same trial an un-named peachy pink antirrhinum was still flowering and as there was a frost forecast I decided to gently take it out of the basket and pot it up for the kitchen window sill, where it is continuing to thrive and grow – fingers crossed!!

Acer trees

Acer trees

We have just had the first storm of the season – Storm Angus! Trees down, roads blocked, underpasses flooded and the poor garden knocked about. That really was the end of the leaves on my acers, such a shame, now they just look like twigs. At the top of the garden I found the top part of one of my containers (which is usually fixed on its own stand) just sitting on the ground and couldn`t find the stand anywhere. Eventually found it under a fuchsia bush at the bottom of the garden, at least it didn`t tip the plants out that were still flowering. I was thrilled to bits that both my Calla Lilies (as mentioned in my previous Blog) are still flowering – end of November. I also have two cactus indoors which are flowering profusely and have been for almost a month now.

Indoor cactus plants

Indoor cactus plants

As we approach the end of November and in my case there is less to do in the garden, everything is turning towards the Big Man in his Sleigh and with over 30 members of our family ranging from a four year old great granddaughter to Alan who is 79 we have to start early with presents etc. and cards, I usually make all my own cards.
Here`s hoping that you all have an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas with lots of `garden` presents and a great gardening year for 2017.
…..Happy Christmas Everyone…..

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Gardening gifts for Christmas

1. Scented Celebration Rose ‘Warm Wishes’

Scented Celebration Rose 'Warm Wishes' - Christmas Gift

Christmas rose seems to be a very popular choice among our customers; and with good reason. This beautiful rose exudes love and Christmas spirit. Anyone who receives this will I am sure, feel blessed.

 

 

 

2. Rosa Chinensis Gardening Tools – KneelerRosa Chinensis Gardening Tools - Gift

This set can be bought individually, the kneeler is the ideal gift for those that have lots of beds and borders and are always getting dirty knees! This gift will be much appreciated and enjoyed all year round.

 

3. Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus are very colourful and reminds me of a Christmas tree with lights blazing. Cactus can last up to 20 years so make sure your recipient is prepared to enjoy this gift for a long period of time!

 

 

4. Gardener’s Gubbins Pot Set Gardener's Gubbins Pot Set

With a name like Gubbins who can resist this attractive Burgon & Ball set? Gardener’s, myself included, seem to aquire lots of bits and pieces, which we like to keep on us when we are in the garden. There is always a label or snips required which are back in the shed!

 

 

5. Cut Flower Seed & Bottle Gift Set

Cut flower seed & bottle gift setThis is a really pretty set for those of us who like to have something to do over the Christmas holidays. Gifts that need a little bit of time and attention are ideal for gardeners, who may be stuck in doors, due to awful weather or family commitments. This gift allows them to sit and be sociable and do a bit of gardening too.

 

 

6. Hyacinth 'Scented Pink Pearl' Hyacinth ‘Scented Pink Pearl’

This is one of the most popular gifts from the Christmas gift range. Smelling wonderful, looking fabulous, I have bought this one for my mother. When hyacinths have finished flowering during the festive period, they can be planted in the garden to flower again during springtime.

 

7. Crockery Teacup & Saucer Bird Feeder

Crockery Teacup & Saucer Bird FeederFor bird and wildlife lovers, this is ideal. Hang it anywhere, from a tree or on the fence, pop some bird seed on it and watch those birds flock in to have a feed. By choosing different bird seed you can attract different birds, so investigate and perhaps invest in the bird seed too.

 

 

 

8. Succulent BasketSucculent Basket

A trendy gift which will be enjoyed by any age. A minature succulent garden in a basket, has become a fashion item! Succulents seem to thrive on neglect so this is the perfect gift for those who are rubbish at watering their plants.

 

9. Seed Starter Kit

Seed Starter Kit

I first got this for myself when I began gardening. It proved to be a worthwhile investment, as I still use the propogator today. Although the  seeds have all been sown and the labels are now on their third year of being used. A seed starter kit can be the reason someone gets into gardening, which can become a lifelong passion.

 

 

10. Ladies Parisienne & Men’s Tweed Garden Gloves

Ladies' Parisienne Garden Gloves & Men's Tweed Garden GlovesLadies' Parisienne Garden Gloves & Men's Tweed Garden GlovesBoth pairs are made by Burgon & Ball, a company known for its high quality. These soft, functional gloves will be a welcome gift for any gardener. Gloves are used all year round, saving hands from thorns and blisters. With the trendy name on the outer cuff,  your gardener will feel very refined!

 

 

One for the animals? Pet Candles

Pet Candles Christmas GiftI don’t expect the dogs and cats of the world will be thrilled with this gift, but the owners will! Neutralising nasty niffs, these candles will make the house smell lovely for Christmas parties and get-togethers.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions, but if you have something that you think I should have included let me know on the comments box below. Happy Christmas readers!

Wendie Alexander
I have worked for Thompson & Morgan for nearly four years. In that time I have learnt lots about gardening, but consider myself very much a novice. I have started growing veg on a colleague’s allotment and also growing windowsill seeds such as Salad Leaves and Rocket. I love gaining more knowledge about horticulture and am lucky enough to work here.

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