Matthew Oliver, of RHS Hyde Hall, rows hollowed-out UK record-breaking pumpkin in daring stunt
Had aliens landed in East Anglia this morning, they might have been forgiven for thinking that they’d stumbled upon some very strange goings on. Windy weather had caused traffic chaos on the A12 and A14 in the Ipswich area and grown men and women were rowing hollowed out pumpkins on a lake in Essex.
Matthew Oliver, horticulturist at RHS Hyde Hall, Chelmsford, not content with having successfully grown the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK, decided to turn his record-breaker into a boat and to attempt to row it across the lake at the RHS Essex site today.
Matt Oliver and his Giant Pumpkin Boat!
Not only did Matthew launch his 1,333.8lb (95 stone or 605kg) pumpkin, he also managed to persuade 3 others to get aboard other giant pumpkins which were huge, but hadn’t grown quite big enough to break any records. Taking part were Steve Usher of Motorboat & Yachting magazine, dressed as a pirate, and 2 intrepid ladies who work at RHS Hyde Hall and who had daringly volunteered to (wo)man two of the potentially un-lake-worthy ‘boats’.
Matt Oliver scooping the pumpkin out & Matt and Paul Hansord scooping the bottom!
Having hollowed out the giant pumpkins, the valiant sailors set off, using oars to propel the cumbersome craft across the designated course. Prior to the event, Matthew had voiced some concerns about the ‘floatability’ of the giant pumpkins and how he might extract the waterlogged pumpkin hulls from the lake should they sink.
Matt and Paul Hansord from Thomspon & Morgan scooping out the bottom
However, his fears were unfounded and, whilst one pumpkin foundered at the start of the course, the other 3 made it safely over the finishing line.
Sailing on the lake in a pumpkin boat!
The seeds from Matthew’s record-breaking pumpkin will be available for purchase from Thompson & Morgan ready for next year’s growing season.
Anyone who would like to try their hand at growing a record-breaking giant pumpkin, can find Thompson & Morgan’s top tips at www.thompson-morgan.com/giantpumpkins
Matt Oliver wins again!
Pumpkin Facts & Figures
The pumpkin seed was bought for £1,250 at auction by Paul Hansord from Ipswich-based plant and seed merchant, Thompson & Morgan. The seed came from the then heaviest pumpkin in the world, which weighed 2,323 lb (166 stone) grown by Beni Meier from Switzerland in 2014.
The seed was entrusted to RHS horticulturist, Matthew Oliver back in April. Matthew then spent seven months nurturing the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed in the hope of breaking a new world record.
At the official weigh-in at Southampton on 8 October, the Pumpkin Commonwealth confirmed that Matthew’s pumpkin was the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK at 1,333.8 lbs
After the official weigh-in the pumpkin returned to Hyde Hall and took centre stage in a Halloween-themed pumpkin display.
The seeds will be harvested from the UK giant pumpkin with the intention that they will be available to purchase from Thompson & Morgan in time for next year’s growing season.
Thompson & Morgan, after giving a call out to pumpkin growers in the UK finally entrusted the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed, to experts at the Royal Horticultural Society. The pumpkin seed was bought for a whopping £1,250, and has built-in genetics to increase the chance of breaking the world record for the largest pumpkin grown. The RHS then delegated this awesome task to Matthew Oliver, their horticulturalist, at RHS Hyde Hall. He has grown the pumpkin through the summer, with a view to breaking the world record for Thompson & Morgan and the RHS.
There is lots of excitement surrounding this venture, both at Thompson & Morgan and the RHS, and today is the day Thompson & Morgan’s enormous pumpkin will be travelling to Southampton on the back of a lorry. The lorry has been designed to hold this type of unusual load, so the pumpkin will be secure, with no likelihood of it rolling overboard on the journey.
This journey will take all day and the pumpkin, and its carers, will arrive in Southampton tonight, where the pumpkin will have its own security guard who will be keeping a close eye on it. The Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival is on the 8th October 2016, where the weigh in is performed. At the festival there is competition from all over the UK for this fantastic accolade. Everyone at Thompson & Morgan is on tender hooks hoping that Matthew will bring home the UK crown. No-one more so than the Managing Director Paul Hansord, who was the original purchaser of the expensive pumpkin seed way back in February 2016. Good luck Matthew Oliver and Paul Hansord.
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
- 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.
Ian and Stuart Paton have broken the UK record for a giant pumpkin for the 9th time! They reclaim throne with their 1,884 lbs beauty after it was stolen from them last year.
The gargantuan gourd measured more than 17ft in circumference and during its peak period of growth piled on a staggering 35lb a day. To match its rate of growth the vigilant horticultural siblings, who run Pine Tops Nursery in Hants, lovingly supplied close to 100 gallons of water a day, plus a nutrient-rich fertiliser. Its final weight was just 218lb off the world record. With the right care you can grow your very own giant pumpkin, with seeds from this very pumpkin. The seeds are known as Pumpkin ‘Paton Twins Giant’, so why not give it a go and see if you can grow a giant.
Stuart said: “We’ve always been confident of getting the world title eventually and it’s brilliant to installing a new greenhouse for 2015 on better soil with better drainage and twice the amount of growing space. We should be all set to take on the Americans and the Swiss.”
Our Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord said: “It used to be said that the world record would never leave the US, but if the Swiss can do it, we can do it. Our seed quality just keeps getting better thanks to the Patons’ selective pollination, and UK growers are upping the game every year. I’ve every confidence the Paton boys can bring the title to UK shores in the near future.”
Having just handed over the £1,000 prize cheque and with a promise to pay £10,000 for a UK world beater, he could be regretting that confidence in coming years!
Before collecting the seed, we have invited the very talented Janie Pirie to carve the giant for display and Jimmy’s Farm Halloween Half Term and then the Spooky-themed Ipswich Firework Display at Christchurch Park on the 1st November.
Click here to buy your Giant Pumpkin seeds.