Thompson & Morgan donates world’s most expensive pumpkin seed to Hyde Hall vegetable grower
Following a nationwide hunt to find a gardener brave enough to sow the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed, Thompson & Morgan has delivered a seed of the current world record-breaking pumpkin (2,323lb, grown by Beni Meier in 2014) to the vegetable garden at RHS Hyde Hall, Essex. The mail order seed and plant specialist paid a record £1,250 for the seed at auction at the World Pumpkin Commonwealth Conference earlier in the season, in a bid to boost UK pumpkin genetics and see a world record contender grown on UK shores for the first time.
Paul Hansord handing over the giant pumpkin seed to Matthew Oliver
Thompson & Morgan director Paul Hansord delivered the precious seed to RHS horticulturist, Matthew Oliver, on 13 April. Armed with a crib sheet of Thompson & Morgan’s tips for success he promptly set the seed into potting compost, eager to make a start on the giant undertaking. Adding to the pressure, all this was carried out in front of a film crew from BBC Inside Out East, who will be following his progress through the season. A full report will be aired on the BBC1 show in the build up to Halloween.
Fortunately Matthew already has some good experience under his belt. Hyde Hall has become renowned for its pumpkin patch in recent years. Around 60 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds are grown at the Chelmsford garden each year, with thousands of visitors attending events through autumn to see the produce on display.
Matthew said: “Our largest pumpkins always draw a crowd, so I have been concentrating more time and effort on growing giant specimens in recent years. In 2015 I produced a 530lb giant and I already had big plans for 2016. We’ve built a larger patch (150x40ft) giving me space to grow four giant plants. Soil conditions have been improved and so have the irrigation systems, wind shelter and feeding programmes have all been planned to encourage the heaviest fruits.”
Sanding down the seed coating for quicker germination
Growing outdoors, Matthew admits he is unlikely to break the world record, but has set a personal target around the 1,000lb mark, which would make his attempt the heaviest outdoor pumpkin ever grown in the UK. He also hopes his attempt will encourage others to try in the future. He said: “Outdoor growing is much more achievable for home gardeners, and once they see the results at Hyde Hall I hope others will take up the challenge in their own gardens and allotments. Pumpkins are such a rewarding hobby plant.”
Matthew now has until 8th October to grow the biggest possible specimen and get it to the UK official weigh in at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Southampton.
The pumpkin patch will be on show to all Hyde Hall garden visitors through the season.
Thompson & Morgan was swamped with requests to grow the seed. Impressed with the passion of many of the entrants, it has sent seeds from several other heavyweight pumpkins (1689-2008lb specimens) to five other interested growers: Joanne Jackson, Cheshire; Guy French, Essex; Anthony & Sally Pooley, Suffolk, George Richardson, County Durham, and Mr Hill, Cantubury
UK seed firm pays record amount for single giant pumpkin seed and offers it to home gardeners for free!
- Hopes pinned on £1,250 seed that could bring world record pumpkin weight to UK shores for the first time.
A bidding war at the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth World Conference has led to a record payout for a single pumpkin seed. British seed and young plant supplier Thompson & Morgan went head to head against the world’s pumpkin growing elite in a move to see the world record pumpkin weight brought to UK shores in 2016.
A standard packet of every-day pumpkin seed retails for as little as 99p for 10 seeds, but the chance to own potentially world record-breaking seed doesn’t come along often and attracts worldwide attention. More than 80 delegates from 11 countries attended the three day event (26-28Feb) at Pinetops Nurseries, Lymington, Hampshire – the first time the event has been held in the UK.
Giant pumpkin seed compared to normal size pumpkin seeds
The attendance list read as a who’s-who of the pumpkin world and included the five best international pumpkin growers (all record breakers) alongside the UK’s very own specialists – Ian and Stuart Paton. The Hampshire twins have consistently upped the UK record weight in 40 years of growing, and even briefly held the European Record in 2014 until the world record was smashed in Switzerland.
Thompson & Morgan has long been the sponsor for the official UK Giant Pumpkin weigh in, held each October at The Autumn Pumpkin Festival, Netley Park, Southampton. Over the years it has paid out thousands of pounds for UK and European record breakers, but has never had to hand out the top £10,000 prize for a world record breaker.
The world’s most expensive pumpkin seed comes packed with inbuilt genetics from the current world record holder – a mammoth 2,323 lb (1054kg) specimen produced by Swiss grower Beni Meier in 2014. At its peak of growth the giant piled on a staggering 44lbs of weight per day – stand and look for long enough and you could see it swelling with your own eyes. To keep up with the growth rate, the plant needed 150 gallons of fertilised water every day – equivalent to five average capacity household baths.
Bidding for the giant seed remained frantic until the £700 mark, it then fell down to just two interested parties; Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director Paul Hansord and Eddie Zaychkowski a phone bidder, calling in from Edmonton, Canada. The £1,250 selling price surpasses the previous £1,171 record price set in 2010.
Paul Hansord with giant pumpkin seeds
Paul Hansord said: “The UK is home to some of the most passionate and dedicated pumpkin growers. Sadly none have been lucky enough to break the world record. To do that you need to start out with the best quality seed. Our pay out for the Swiss seed may seem a high price to pay, but it will boost the genetics of UK plants moving forward and give us the best chance of seeing the world title brought to the UK for the first time.”
You’d think that the seed specialist would want to keep a close eye on the growing of the pumpkin, but Mr Hansord is now seeking interest from UK veg growers willing to take on the seed and attempt to break the world record in their own gardens this summer.
He said: “We’re looking for someone with the passion, dedication and time to produce a giant specimen. The main season of care falls when we are all hands on deck with our mail order plant despatches. While we don’t have the time to look after the plant ourselves, we have all the tips and specialist knowledge to pass on to the chosen grower to give them the best success with the seed”.
To register your interest write to Paul, detailing where the plant will be grown and why you should be chosen to grow the seed:
Giant Pumpkin Seed
Thompson & Morgan
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The resulting pumpkin will need to be entered for the weigh-in at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival, Netley Park, Southampton, 8th October [2016 dates not advertised online, PH to confirm]
- 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 pressure is on as we are set for another world record breaker! Each year we have the pleasure of sponsoring Autumn Pumpkin Festival taking place in Southampton on 11th October 2014. If the UK world record is broken, we offer the winning grower a £1,000 award! But, if they break a World record, they are awarded with a grand prize of £10,000! Who wouldn’t want to give it a go?
Event organisers, Ian and Stuart Paton, hold numerous records for the biggest pumpkin. Unfortunately their reign was stolen last year by Mark Baggs with a winning pumpkin weighing an astonishing 1,520lbs.
2013, 1,520lb prize-winning pumpkin.
However, not to be beaten Ian and Stuart have put all their efforts into growing another mammoth pumpkin. At its peak this pumpkin is growing 39lb each day! With only one week to go the pressure is on, will they break the world record? You will have to wait and
Watering in the freshly sown seed
On Monday, our New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry helped to sow Thompson & Morgan’s €200.00 giant pumpkin seed.
This seed comes from a new world record pumpkin, which was weighed in last autumn (2012) at 2009lbs. The pumpkin was a hybrid raised by Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island and was weighed in at the Topsfield Fair in the USA.
For more information on the seed and how Thompson & Morgan acquired it, see our earlier world record breaking pumpkin seed post.
With the help of a range of experts, Thompson & Morgan hope to challenge the UK record, which stands at 1504lbs.
Our hopes for a record breaking pumpkin
You can keep up to date with progress on how the T&M giant pumpkin seed is developing on Twitter following @TMGiantPumpkin and joining in the conversation using #giantpumpkin.
Don’t forget our Competition
Do you think you can grow a record-breaking pumpkin? You’ll be in with a chance of winning £10,000 if you break the world record! To enter into the competition, you will need to present your giant pumpkin at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival in Southampton on Saturday 12th October 2013. See the Pumpkin competition terms and conditions.