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.
We are delighted to announce that Thrive has been chosen as our charity of the year for 2016!
Thrive is the UK’s leading charity using gardening to help bring positivity to the lives of those who have a physical or mental disability. Thrives dedicated staff and volunteers provide much needed support and respite for those that need it most. Gardening as therapy can help individuals accomplish many things that before seemed near most impossible. It can help to regain strength, confidence, and perseverance and can provide a purposeful activity for someone coping with a difficult time in their life.
Case study: Two years ago when Melanie came to Thrive just after her father died, she was, in her own words, a different person. Losing both parents (her mother had died some years before) had left her feeling upset and withdrawn and for Melanie, who has learning and mobility difficulties, it also meant leaving her childhood home in Norfolk to move in with her sister in Berkshire.
At this challenging time, Melanie’s love of gardening brought her to Thrive. She attended the charity’s Growing for Life project which became the starting point towards a new life for her.
“Speaking to people has done me the power of good. Thrive is a wonderful place. If I am ever on a downer, they will listen,” said Melanie.
We were so overwhelmed with the work that Thrive do, we wanted to give something back. We have launched Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ for 2016, with sales going towards Thrive training programs at the charity’s four regional centres and local community venue. Thrives supporters named this Sweet Pea to commemorate the late wife of the founder of Thrive, the late Rev. Dr Geoffrey Udall and we couldn’t have thought of a name better suited.
Thrive chief executive Kathryn Rossiter said: “We would like to thank Thompson & Morgan for choosing Thrive as their Charity of the Year. What a wonderful name for this very pretty sweet pea, and such a fitting tribute. I hope our supporters will buy lots of packets of Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ and we look forward to seeing pictures of the sweet peas in bloom. We will be selling packets of the sweet peas at Thrive via our website and through our various outlets with 100 per cent profits coming back to us. Please do buy as many packets as you can.”
We will be selling Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ in our 2016 seed catalogue and website, with 50 per cent of proceeds from these sales going to the charity.
We would be truly grateful to see Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ growing in your gardens, and we will even be running a competition for you to win a wonderful prize to say thank you. So watch this space!
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.
- Paton twins grow UK’s largest pumpkin but fail to beat record they set in 2014
- Winning 1,861lb pumpkin to be carved for World Vision’s ‘Carve a Heart’ campaign to raise awareness of children living in the world’s hardest places
- Seeds from the Paton Giant to go on sale at www.thompson-morgan.com for the 2016 growing season.
Hampshire brothers Ian and Stuart Paton picked up another giant cheque from Thompson & Morgan at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival, Netley, Southampton, on Saturday 10th October.
The annual event draws pumpkin growers from across the country, all aiming to take home the prize for the UK’s largest pumpkin. The Paton twins, who run Pine Tops Nursery in Hants, have broken the UK record for a giant pumpkin at the event an impressive nine times.
Having entered a 1,884lb beast in 2014 (their heaviest yet) and invested in a new glass house set up for their 2015 attempt, they had hopes of smashing the world record this season. Their dreams were sadly dashed when the three largest pumpkins in their greenhouse split as they piled on 35lb per day at their peak.
Show rules state that all entries must be in tact with no splits or breaks. This left the Paton’s with one last shot, and while it didn’t break any records, the 1861lb giant was still the biggest entered on the day. Their ‘small fruit’ weighed in 543lb heavier than the next best entry; a 1319lb beauty grown by Dorset dairy farmer Mark Baggs.
Giant pumpkins aren’t the nicest looking specimens so a separate award for prettiest fruit was awarded to Welsh grower Mark Josey for his 878.9lb entry. Other highlights at the show included a 59.4lb water melon, 196lb squash and 82.5lb marrow.
Show sponsor, Thompson & Morgan horticultural director Paul Hansord, hauls the winning fruit home to the seed and plant specialists Ipswich HQ every October in order to harvest the seeds for sale. He said: “The interest these giant pumpkins generate is incredible. I lost count of the photos being taken of the truck as I drove back to Suffolk with the winner on board. At every stop on my journey I was swarmed by onlookers keen to get a photo and ask a question or two – are they real, can you eat them, what will you do with them?”
Sadly pumpkins of this size lose their flavour and texture so are no good for cooking, but they do generate other opportunities. This year Thompson & Morgan is donating the giant pumpkin to charity World Vision, the world’s largest international children’s aid charity. It plans to use the pumpkin as part of its annual Carve a Heart campaign. Now in its third year, the event uses Halloween as a hook to highlight children living in fear across the world.
The campaign calls on consumers to turn a night of fear into a night of hope by carving hearts into their pumpkins in place of a scary face, offering a lantern of hope for vulnerable Children who live in fear every night of the year.
This Halloween you can turn a night of fear into a night of hope.
Carve a heart. Be there for children living in fear. Text HEART to 70060 to donate £5 to World Vision.
The easy way to add a taste of Japan to sushi, salads and sandwiches
We’ve brought a new distinctive taste to a salad favourite. Traditional rocket types offer a hot peppery flavour, our exclusive Wasabi Rocket adds a taste of Japan with the unique warm flavour of the wasabi root in quick and easy to grow salad leaf form. A small wasabi root can cost upwards of £10, takes two years to reach maturity, and is very particular about the conditions in which it grows – it hates hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters.
Our Wasabi Rocket can be harvested as a baby leaf within weeks of sowing or left to mature into a full leaf alongside your cut and come again salad varieties – either way the flavour is just as distinctive. Sow every couple of weeks through the season, and grow on the windowsill through autumn and winter for a cheap year round supply. Previously only available in select supermarket salad bags, be the first to grow this wonderful new salad addition in the UK – top chefs are already raving about it!
Add a kick to salads, sandwiches and sushi, or use it with any dish that requires horseradish or wasabi paste. You’ll be amazed at how much flavour is packed into each leaf.
Read more and buy your wasabi rocket seeds.
Fully resistant strain for blight-free tomato growing in 2016
When it comes to blight-free tomato growing, Thompson & Morgan has it covered. Having promoted the world’s first late blight resistant outdoor cherry plum as Vegetable of the Year 2015, the mail order specialist has named fully blight resistant Tomato Mountain Magic F1 as its Vegetable of the Year for 2016.
Blight is a rising problem for UK growers, especially for plants raised outdoors, due to increasingly wet and humid summer weather – conditions the fungal disease thrives under. Mountain Magic F1 has been developed with outdoor growers in mind, meaning gardeners don’t have to invest in costly greenhouses to carry on growing the nation’s favourite grow-your-own vegetable.
Mountain Magic F1 is a cordon-trained variety ideal for sunny veg patches and borders, as well as grow bags and patio containers. Combining the rich flavour of heritage varieties with modern F1 hybrid disease resistance, this tasty tom has everything going for it! Not only does it have good resistance to early blight, it carries the late blight-busting Ph-2 and Ph-3 genes, giving it protection against all current British strains including Pink6 and Blue13, the most virulent to hit UK crops. It also has in-built genetic resistance to both verticillium and fusarium wilt as well as skin cracking.
The variety joins last year’s introduction, Romello F1, a compact, blight resistant baby plum variety. Fruits weigh 16-18g and grow towards the outside of the plant for easy picking. Romello F1, makes the ideal cherry tomato for salads or picking straight from the vine, alternatively treat it as a mini plum for the perfect pasta sauce. Romello F1 retails at £3.99 for six seeds.
Mountain Magic F1 is truly all-purpose – eat it from the vine, slice for salads, salsas and sandwiches, or use as a cooker or sauce base. Mountain Magic F1 retails at £3.99 for five seeds.
Both blight resistant varieties are ideal for an April sowing under cover, for planting outside in early June.
Thompson & Morgan Vegetable Product Manager Colin Randel said: “These two tasty toughies cover a range of kitchen uses as well as offering the antidote to blight problems on the veg patch. There isn’t a better duo for risk-free outdoor growing. Mountain Magic certainly deserves its title of Vegetable of the Year for 2016.”
Find out more about Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ F1 Hybrid by clicking here