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 web@thompson-morgan.com.

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.

A look into the ‘fuchsia’

When you look at how many fuchsia varieties are available in the UK, in Europe, even worldwide, you would be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing left to discover or breed. But, you are wrong.

As a product developer, I have a mental wish list that covers pretty much every Genus… and for fuchsias it’s just as long a list than any other. My dreams cover: a true yellow fuchsia, a fuchsia with tasty berries, triphyllas for hanging baskets in every colour, more exciting coloured hardy fuchsias…. you get the idea!

fuchsiaWhilst some plant breeders may be beavering away on these projects behind closed doors, they could still be 20 years or more away. However, there’s some superb fuchsias right around the corner too.

We could soon be seeing fuchsias more suited to growing in sunny borders, which could change how they can be used in the garden or the patio. For many years, fuchsias have flagged in full sun, and far prefer dappled conditions. Their versatility will grow!

One of the most interesting breeding angles to emerge recently has been one that’s responding to European tastes; table top fuchsias. These small beauties, called the Bella Series, are covered in blossom, jutting out in every direction, not just dangling and hiding in the leaves!

And then, how could you have missed it? One of the biggest developments in fuchsias, the climbers!! Well, they’re not truly climbers, as they have no tendrils, but varieties such as new ‘Pink Fizz’ have upright growth, and reach 6 feet in just a few months too! Finally, an alternative to the predictable choice of clematis!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Year of the sunflower 2015

Sunflowers are one of the most versatile plants you can grow. They can be grown as cut flowers or for wildlife and they are the perfect introduction to encourage children into gardening. That is why we are joining Fleuroselect in the celebration of this much loved garden favourite.

Growing sunflowers is so simple;

1.Sunflower seeds should be direct sown outdoors from April to May.
2.Position in full sun on well drained soil.
3.Sow seeds thinly, at a depth of 1cm in drills spaced 45cm (18″) apart and cover seed with its own depth of soil to exclude light.
4.Water the ground regularly, especially during dry periods. Germination usually takes up to 21 days. When sunflower seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 30cm (12″) apart.

There are so many varieties but here are our top five for inspiration!

Great for garden bouquets the Sunflower ‘Helios Flame’ is a lovely tall stemmed variety that will make an eye catching addition to your vases.

sunflower pictures
‘Inca Gold’ is a trailing plant that will make an unusual yet exciting addition to your summer hanging baskets. This variety will also look incredible as ground cover in your borders.

sunflower pictures
Sunflower ‘Mongolian Giant’ is the perfect competition variety. They are fun to grow and will produce magnificent yellow blooms ready for the show bench.

Top tip – plant with chive to deter aphids!

sunflower pictures

Think outside the box with this unusual variety and grow deliciously creamy blooms! Sunflower ‘Italian White’ is a step away from the typical yellow and perfect for flower arranging.

sunflower pictures

Sunflower ‘Solar Flash’ is a dwarf variety for patio containers or grown as a cut flower.

sunflower pictures

Don’t forget, whether you are trying to grow the tallest sunflower or growing for fun, make sure you send your sunflower pictures in for your chance to win! Find out more here.

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.

NEWS: Thompson & Morgan trial grounds

Like Willy Wonka opening the gates to his chocolate factory, the chance to get a glimpse of the immaculate Thompson & Morgan trial grounds at our Suffolk HQ drew thousands of gardeners from far and wide each summer though the 90’s and 00’s. The annual open weekends were a highlight of the local horticultural calendar, with gardeners and gardening clubs attending from as far afield as France and Germany.

The annual event was drawn to a temporary close in 2011 when 5,000+ visitors attended over two days. Thompson & Morgan New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry, explained: “The success of our open days was part of their temporary demise; our site just couldn’t cope with the numbers coming to see our displays. Our catalogues and online listings show off the Thompson & Morgan range perfectly, but there’s nothing like the chance of seeing everything at its peak of summer growth before your eyes. We’ve been looking to bring the open days back in a format that works for us, our customers – and the local road network!”

thompson & morgan trials

Hanging basket trials 2014

Jimmy’s Farm, likewise based on the outskirts of Ipswich, is the perfect partner venue for reviving this popular event. Already established as a favourite Suffolk visitor attraction, it is able to cope with traffic, parking, coach parties and thousands of visitors. What’s more, it is open daily to the public, so what once had to be crammed into a single weekend on a working site can now be explored at leisure from 1st July right though to September.

A brand new Thompson & Morgan Garden has been built at the well-known attraction to showcase a snap shot of the company’s technical growing trials. Over 1,000 containers (including the company’s own Tower Pots™, Easy Fill Baskets and Flower Pouches™) will be put on display to showcase its seed and plant offering. Existing customer favourites will be set alongside soon-to-launch exclusives from its 2016 seed and plant range. Thompson & Morgan fruit and vegetables will be given special focus in a series of square metre growing beds. Expect to see particular emphasis given to fuchsias, sweet peas, cosmos and tomatoes. Visitors will also get an opportunity to see how the company’s new incredicompost® and incredirange® of fertilisers work in combination to bring the best ever results to all parts of the garden, especially patio containers and baskets.

thompson & morgan trials

Farm owner Jimmy Doherty said: “I’m so excited that Thompson & Morgan are bringing their show gardens to the farm.  Growing is a big part of what we do here and we hope it’ll inspire many gardeners to get green fingered.”

The garden joins a host of free attractions at the farm including rare breed animals, top class restaurant and butchery, as well as craft and gift stores. The gardens will be closed to the public during Jimmy’s Sausage & Beer Festival weekend (25-26 July).

For opening times and directions see www.jimmysfarm.com

Follow Thompson & Morgan on Facebook and Twitter (#TMopengarden) to stay informed on the latest happenings with the Thompson & Morgan Garden at Jimmy’s Farm.

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.

Driftwood Garden and Thompson & Morgan 2015 Trials!

The year is moving on at a pace and there are only a few weeks to go until the garden gate is opened again for a summer season of fundraising for a number of charities. This year we will open for the National Gardens Scheme, the RNLI, PSPA and Macmillan Cancer Support, a total of 16 public days as well as the visits by appointment too!

For the 3rd year running we will have many Thompson & Morgan plants on show in the garden! The 2 trees we trialled in the first year, the Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Plum Claude Reine have grown a great deal and are full of blossom at the moment. Under the plum tree is one of my new features for 2015, a vintage children’s horse, mounted on a frame to look as though it is vaulting the hedge!

Thompson and Morgan trials

Other plants from the first year’s trial are the Viola Unique Collection which are starting to flower again! Some stunning tulips from 2014 were Silver Parrot which has come back up again this month too. They look quite amazing around the pond area. Late last year I received a lovely Camellia Cupido and it has now flowered with it’s delicate pink flowers. The Clematis New Love also delivered last autumn has found a new home with a lovely wire frame to grow up though and is now positioned beside the pond. I am waiting for the rose sweet calypso to flower, the plant is looking quite healthy.

Thompson and Morgan trials

The new plants for 2015 that have been arriving in recent weeks are sure to get the visitors talking this summer, Last year we saw over 2200 visitors and raised over £16000 for charity and hope to see the same again in 2015. The new arrivals they will be able to see are Osteospermum Blue Eyed Beauty, which although not yet planted out, has started to flower in the greenhouse! The 2 garden ready Lavender Hidcote I received last month are already looking very healthy with new growth too.

Thompson and Morgan trials

The more recent arrivals have yet to show their true colours but are already well established and waiting to be planted out in the coming weeks! Verbena Lollipop, Fuchsia Pink Fizz and Alstromeria Indian Summer. The piece de resistance in the garden this summer, after the vintage horse that is, will be the begonia burning embers which will have pride of place in a new feature at the top of the garden of an old fireplace with mirror above and a rusted grate in which the plants will be put to resemble the glowing fire!

Thompson and Morgan trials

So all in all a great year in prospect! If you want to read more about the garden go to www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

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 £47000 for various charities in 4 years, £23300 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. Every 4 weeks he writes an article about his garden for Garden News Magazine.

Plants for hanging baskets

There are so many beautiful plants for hanging baskets out there, from trailing plants to your annuals and evergreens. But how do you pick the right ones?

For me, it depends on what kind of ‘look’ I am going for. In spring I tend to go for a big, bright and bold display so I fill my baskets with Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’. And in winter, I still put my baskets to good use and select a more hardy variety such as viola most scented mix to cheer up my garden in the duller months (I don’t want to wish away summer but for more information on planting winter hanging baskets click here) Some people even consider colour scheme and companion planting, but essentially choosing the right hanging basket plants really is personal preference.

plants for hanging baskets

Winner of staff Begonia Competition

Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ are my favourite hanging basket plants. They have a trailing habit which makes them ideal for hanging baskets, as well as window boxes and flower pouches. Their large cascading blooms are undoubtedly the most eye catching plants in my garden from July to October.

plants for hanging baskets

Bacopa ‘Snowtopia’

For a more subtle look, Bacopa ‘Snowtopia’ is the perfect filler! Another tumbling variety that bears snow white flowers throughout summer, but will also have your baskets looking full of colour for longer.

plants for hanging baskets

Sunflower ‘Inca Gold’

Why not have some fun with your hanging baskets and fill them with a more unusual choice, Sunflower ‘Inca Gold’. This cheery little helianthus has lax, trailing stems and a multi-branching habit that billow from hanging baskets in a mass of small sunflower blooms. An excellent choice for Year of the Sunflower 2015!

Choosing the right hanging basket plants is the easy part! I find some hanging basket containers are really difficult to use. Some require a mesh lining to hold in both compost and the plants, and I always manage to get compost all over the place.  This year I found the perfect one, the easy fill hanging basket. Which are exactly that, easy! No liner is required and with removable gates planting has never been so easy!

plants for hanging baskets

I would love to see your hanging basket displays if you have any :)

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.

Pin It on Pinterest