Size does matter: Thompson & Morgan sees shift in customer buying patterns

Busy gardeners looking for easy solutions boost Garden Ready plant sales for mail order giant

Sales of Thompson & Morgan Garden Ready plug plants have nearly tripled in the past season as gardeners look for time saving products alongside value for money. It seems gardeners still want the financial benefits of buying young plants instead of mature plants, but without the hassle of potting up and growing on before planting out.

T&M vs Competitiors Garden Ready

T&M vs Competitiors Garden Ready

 

The mail order seed and plant specialist supplied more than 4 million Garden Ready bedding plants to UK gardeners in 2015. When asked if they would be buying them again in a satisfaction survey powered by Typeform, 96 per cent said they would be back for more in spring 2016, giving the concept a 5 star rating for quality on arrival and performance in the garden.

 

The new plant sizing bridges the gap between traditional small mail order plug plants and larger retail pack bedding. Small enough to be produced and mailed as plug plants but big enough to rival and exceed pack plant performance, Garden Ready plants represent the perfect balance between convenience and value for money.

 

Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, says the over-sized Garden Ready plants bring many benefits in comparison to smaller plugs and larger pack plants: “Our Garden Ready bedding plants are selected and grown to give our customers the best possible performance in the garden, we send them direct from the nursery at the perfect time for planting, usually before blooms form, for quicker establishment, better root growth and flowering, and a longer, stronger display.”

Garden-Ready-Plant

Garden-Ready-Plant

 

Unlike smaller plug plant offerings sent early in the season, which remain popular with Thompson & Morgan customers who prefer a more hands on approach to their gardening, the Garden Ready plants are despatched from May onwards, already hardened off for immediate planting – just watch out for late frosts.

 

Launching the concept in 2014, the mail order specialist supplied 1.5million Garden Ready Plants to customers in the first year. That figure nearly trebled in 2015, with 4,020,000 plants sent out during the busy spring and autumn despatch windows. Expecting strong demand to continue in 2016, Thompson & Morgan is putting more varieties into Garden Ready production with 44 bestselling seasonal bedding varieties now in the range.

 

Petunia Easy Wave

Petunia’ Easy Wave’

Despite 94 per cent of customers rating garden ready as value for money, Thompson & Morgan is seeking to make these premium plugs even more economical in 2016 with a range of multi-buy deals. One 30-plant pack retails at £14.99 but three packs can be had for just £35. Customers buying three packs will also receive a £5 voucher for their next Thompson & Morgan purchase. Catering for gardeners working on bigger plots, bumper 120- and 360-plant collections have also been developed, which will take prices down to just 27p per plant for the 2016 season.

 

Gardeners can take part in Thompson & Morgan’s next big survey for a chance to win a 30 pack of Garden Ready plants, 2 x Easy Fill Hanging Baskets and 25 litres of incredicompost, together worth £45. Five lucky winners will be selected at random from entries received before 31 March 2016.

Visit www.thompson-morgan.com/hanging-basket-survey to take part

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Getting the most from your petunias

 

Extend your flowering season and keep your petunias in top condition with these simple tips from T&M gardening expert Kris Collins

Petunias are something I turn to every spring in order to get my garden ready for summer. I couldn’t be without them in my hanging baskets. Trailing types, covered in their mass of fragrant trumpet blooms, such as Petunia ‘Easy Wave Ultimate Mixed’, are perfect for getting that luxurious feel to your summer garden.

Petunia 'Easy Wave Ultimate Mixed'

Petunia ‘Easy Wave Ultimate Mixed’

Most commonly used in container displays, there are actually many varieties that lend well to border plantings too, creating a carpet of colour, while smothering soils to prevent weeds and trap moisture.

Petunias require very little specialist upkeep. As long as you are prepared to water regularly and remove spent flowers as they go over you’ll be in for a season of scent and colour right though to autumn.

Get the best from your petunias, no matter the variety, with my top tips for success:

 

Choose the right variety for the right location

When it comes to getting the best from your petunias the first thing to consider is where you want to grow them. Grandiflora types such as Petunia ‘Titan Blue Velvet’ are best saved for basket and container displays – the large blooms are better shown off at height, and will be less prone to weather damage and mud splash. For a show stopping petunia bedding display, multiflora types including Petunia ‘Frenzy Mixed’ are the best option. They have smaller flowers and more of them, creating a carpet of colour that will shrug off a summer shower.

Petunia-'titan-blue-velvet'

petunia-‘titan-blue-velvet’

Water regularly
Watering is key – in height of summer you may need to water containers and baskets twice a day, but at least every other day in an average British summer. For those that work long hours  and have less time for watering, it’s a good idea to move  petunia hanging baskets and small containers to a shady spot during heatwave conditions, keeping them out of the afternoon sun until you can get home to give them a drink. Alternatively invest in an auto watering system to reduce your workload and keep your baskets evenly moist.

 

 

Deadhead faded blooms
Remove spent flowers as often as possible – don’t just clear away spent petals, make sure to remove the flower stalk otherwise seed pods will form, the plant will then think it has achieved its objective and flowering will start to reduce.

Petunia 'Frenzy Mixed'

Petunia ‘Frenzy Mixed’

Feeding
We’ve seen some excellent results with petunias in our technical trials for Incredibloom. Our one-off granular feed, applied at planting time to soils or composts, encourages up to 400% more blooms and provides everything your plants need for up to 7months – covering the whole growing season.

Early training
Pinch out during early stages of growth, do this two or three times before planting out to encourage side shooting. This will lead to much more compact plants with many more flowers throughout the season

Late training
By mid August, some petunia varieties may start to look a little tired and straggly. To encourage a second strong flush of blooms to last well into autumn, cut the whole display back by a third and offer a general purpose liquid feed. Within a week or so the plants will start to bush out again and fresh new flowers will soon follow. Within 2 weeks – just in time for your August Bank Holiday garden parties the display will again be in full bloom with no sign that it has been pruned.

Starting from seed
If growing from seed aim to sow plants 10-12 weeks ahead of safe planting. So if you are generally safe to start planting out bedding plants in your area from the 1st week of June, aim to sow your seeds in the first week of March. I’ll be looking at sowing petunias in more detail before then, so stay tuned.

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

10 Years in my Garden

It can be magical, inspiring or just plain stupid, to take photos from the same point in your garden over a 10-year period. I recently posted some on social media and had some amazing reactions from people saying they had been inspired to see the changes over the years. So, here is a snapshot across 10 years, taken by me around the pond looking up the back garden.

The first from 2004, the year we moved in, shows a very green be plain plot.

By 2005 I had begun to tidy the area, neatened the edges of the lawn and moved a few shrubs around as well as added a few containers. I started with many new shrubs in containers, giving me the flexibility to place them around the garden until such time as I had a final plan in my head. A new shed didn’t go amiss too as well as a greenhouse and a studio! Not a trained gardener, I simply did what I thought was right for the exposed seaside slope. I have done nothing to improve the chalky ground, not knowing any better. I started to use structures to help get some height as the salt laden winds blow with such force across the garden, doing much damage.

Having appointed a garden designer in 2007, I soon realised that maybe I was better cutting my losses and having-a-go myself. So, in the spring of that year a summer house and new patio went in at the top of the garden. This was much needed as the sloping garden needed a level area upon which to put a table and chairs. I had killed off the lawn and temporarily covered it with bark chip to help create a totally new look until I could afford to move to the next stage.

Geoff Garden 2004,2005 & 2007

A grape vine was put in to cover the shed. 2008 saw more work done around the pond, digging out old shrubs and putting in new. My ultimate aim was to have no exposed soil across the whole garden, requiring me to put as many plants in as I could!

By 2009 it was well stocked and opened up to the public for the very first time, which then inspired me to try and make it look a little different each year by moving plants around and changing the look of the garden rooms I was beginning to create.

In 2010 the exit area from the pond was sealed off with a low wall and created the pond room which has become one of my favourite areas of the garden, a visitor this year, Eileen Wottsford, said “absolutely magical garden, full of original ideas and inspirations.” More plants had gone in around the pond 2 pairs of tall rusted metal arches had helped create some more height and I was beginning to achieve the overall look I was seeking. Every year I just did what felt right, there was never any grand plan, each garden room developed as I went along.

Geoff Garden 2008, 2009 & 2010

In 2011 the area by the shed and beyond the bench were crammed full of plants finally creating the illusion of a garden room. The rapid growth of the grape vine across the shed helped too. This was the year I was accepted into the Yellow Book by the NGS.

By the summer of 2012 the overall garden was really becoming quite special and looking very lush! This year it became one of the 4 finalists in the Daily Mail National Garden Competition as well as the overall winner of the Garden News Best Small Garden in the UK.

Needless to say I was thrilled. Hamish Webb from the Mail said “I’ve seen hundreds of gardens over the 21 years of judging the Daily Mail Competition and believe me, you are up there with the best of them.” Head judge Tim Sharples said “This bright, beach-inspired plot embraces its location with imaginative planting.” I could not believe that my small seaside garden had succeeded in reaching the final of a national competition from over 1500 entries, let alone win outright the Garden News competition. It just goes to show that you can do whatever you put your mind to, despite the challenging elements and lack of knowledge!

Geoff Garden 2011, 2012 & 2013

By 2013 I’d really become little more confident about what I was doing and was keen to show that anything is possible and the garden was featured in the Mail on Sunday too. The range of plants had increased significantly too, with over 500 on show.

2014 was a truly amazing year for the garden, it featured in a French national gardening magazine, 100 Idees Jardin in February, Garden Answers Magazine in May and on Good Morning Britain in July.

 

Geoff Garden 2014

2015 was equally successful with features in the Sunday Telegraph in August and Daily Mail Weekend Magazine in June. You can see above how amazing the garden is looking each summer now. I never fail to be amazed by what visitors say and post on TripAdvisor. It makes me incredibly proud, so never doubt your own ablility to create something special, and just go for it!

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 £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 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.

Petunias Take Centre Stage

2016 – Thompson & Morgan Petunia Parade is here to celebrate a national favourite

Thompson & Morgan is kick starting a 2016 Petunia Parade with the launch of several hot new petunias in its spring catalogue. We are aiming to inspire UK gardeners and change some out-dated attitudes to an unsung garden hero.

Petunia Frills & Spills

Announcing the initiative, Thompson & Morgan Communications Officer, Kris Collins said: “There’s a certain amount of snobbery in some circles when it comes to Petunias. Some gardeners turn their noses up, but these showy summer performers remain popular for a reason. No other plant offers such diversity in terms of garden use, colour scheme, growth habit and ease of growing. There’s something for everyone in our 2016 Petunia selection – colour, shape, style and even scent. If you grow our latest introduction, people will be turning their noses up for a very different reason!”

The seed and young plant mail order specialist is bringing high scent to the genus with new Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’. Double flowers mean MORE petals and MORE fragrance. Just one pot of this climbing beauty will fill the garden with scent all summer. All introductions for 2016 have been selected for their performance under UK growing conditions, blooming right up to the first frosts of autumn – expect to see giant flower forms that will bounce back after summer showers.

The Petunia Parade is not just about showing off the fantastic range of Thompson & Morgan Petunias – including its star performer ‘Night Sky’, a truly unique variety and a world first in flower patterning. The Parade will be fully backed via www.thompson-morgan.com/petunia-parade

Customers will be able to log on for top growing advice, planting and training ideas, petunia growing blogs and stunning images and easy how-to videos – all supplied by Thompson & Morgan’s team of experts.

Customers will be encouraged to join in the parade, sharing their passion for Petunias and posting their progress through the season. The seed and young plant specialist is also looking for the best British petunia display – be it a small container display or a mass bedding scheme. Gardeners can send in their photos through the season for a chance to win £100 of Thompson & Morgan vouchers. Ten runners up will each receive a £10 voucher. Competition closes 30th September. Visit Thompson & Morgan Competitions for details.

Thompson & Morgan Petunia Highlights 2016

 

Petunia Purple RocketPetunia ‘Purple Rocket’
An exclusive double flowering Petunia from the Thompson & Morgan breeding programme.
Rapid growth and early flowering produces the ultimate column of colour when trained on a frame. Just three plants set into a Thompson & Morgan Tower Pot™ will create a winning summer patio or balcony display. Bred in the UK to cope with British weather, long stems quickly reach up to 1.8m (6ft) in height come rain or shine.
View Petunia ‘Purple Rocket’ Here

Petunia Night SkyPetunia ‘Night Sky’
This new Fleuroselect Gold winner brings unique flower markings to the petunia market. Compact semi-trailing plants are covered in starry blooms. There’s no need for a telescope to star gaze, you’ll find a constellation in every flower!
View Petunia ‘Night Sky’ Here

Petunia Easy WavePetunia ‘Easy Wave™ Ultimate Mixed’
This customer favourite just keeps on getting better! Rapid growth, a unique prostrate habit and prolific blooms make Petunia ‘Easy Wave™’ adaptable to almost any garden situation – it even makes an excellent ground cover plant! New for 2016, the mix now has 18 vibrant colours, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy from this best seller.
View Petunia ‘Easy Wave™ Ultimate Mixed’ Here

For more new petunia varieties visit: www.thompson-morgan.com/petunia-parade

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Gardening news – Fraxinus game, bees, travelling plants

It’s been quite a week for gardening news, read our update here…

Gardening news - Fraxinus game, bees, travelling plants

New Facebook game aims to get to the bottom of ash dieback

New Facebook game aims to protect ash trees from ash dieback

A new Facebook game  has just been launched, in which players have to match coloured leaves that represent genetic ‘letters’. Scientists are hoping that by using the power of social media, Fraxinus will help them to understand more about ash dieback and the genetics of the fungus, enabling them to identify resistant ash trees to grow in the future.

Gardening news - Fraxinus game, bees, travelling plants

Provide food for bees

Keeping bees? Make sure there’s a good food supply

The plight of the UK’s bee populations is almost constantly in the news at the moment and with good reason. Nearly 34% of Britain’s honeybee colonies have been lost because of last year’s bad weather. Many homeowners and businesses have turned to beekeeping to help restore populations, but new research shows that there isn’t enough food to support the new colonies. Growing wildflowers helps and the advice is, if you have space, to grow bee-friendly flowers such as borage, lavender, cornflowers and catmint to provide forage for bees.

Gardening news - Fraxinus game, bees, travelling plants

The furthest travelled T&M plants?

Furthest travelled T&M plants?

We occasionally hear stories of postcards and letters making their way around the world and being delivered years later. But what about plants? Some time ago we received a letter from a customer in Perth, Scotland advising us that her plants were in a terrible condition. The 36 begonia postiplugs she had ordered were very dry and she didn’t expect them to survive.

However, she then noticed that there was a letter attached to the parcel – from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Western Australia! The plants had somehow been delivered to Perth, Australia and the DAFF was returning them to her. Considering the long journey the plants went on, our customer thought it was marvellous that 26 survived and grew on!

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Gardening news - Fraxinus game, bees, travelling plants

Bumper berry crops expected

Bumper harvest for berry plants

If you’re growing blackberries and are wondering if they’ll ever bear fruit, then fear not! The late start to spring is likely to cause a delay in fruiting, but the recent heatwaves should mean that a bumper crop is just around the corner! This is great news, not just for those of us looking forward to freezers full of tasty berries, but to wildlife too. 2012 saw a dismal crop, but this year fruit-eating mammals and birds will be able to enjoy an autumn feast.

Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

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