It’s a busy time for us at Thompson & Morgan, here’s a taster of a typical week at work for me!
After a few days off, it’s back in fresh and early for a varied week of meetings, product research and catalogue preparations.
Today I meet with Sarah, our trials manager, to discuss how we can enhance our customer trials programme. This is a project we’ve been running for 3 years now, and it involves sending our products to a selected group of customers and asking them what they think of them. We get some very good, honest comments and some photography which is almost as good as our own!
Sarah and I also chat through which plants we’re going to grow to enter for Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show. This is a very tricky project as the plants have to be grown out of season, which means they’ll need extra warmth and lights. We draw up a shortlist which we’ll then run past Paul Hansord, our horticultural director, as soon as we can, as we’ll soon need to start taking cuttings! In 2012, we WON Plant of the Year for our innovative Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’. Bred by our amazing plant breeder, Charles Valin, this is a ‘futuristic foxglove’, which flowers much longer than older types and is in exotic colours never, ever seen before!
The monster pumpkin – can you guess how many seeds are in it?
It’s the week of Halloween, so today I make sure we’ve given our ‘count the seeds in the pumpkin’ competition the push it needs, which means updating and scheduling my social media accounts, and also setting the dates of the seed count into my diary, just so we don’t forget! I also notice that the Great British Garden Revival information is starting to leak through social media. This is a programme that was filmed at our trials site during the summer, and I should be featuring in the ‘bedding’ episode. It’s a new series, designed to make gardening a bit trendy again. We don’t have definite broadcast dates yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do.
Filming at our trials site
This week is one of the last weeks before the big spring plant catalogue goes to the printers, so I’m working closely with the catalogue team to make sure they have everything they need from me for the new products. There are about 70 products, so this has been a lot of work over the last few months; speaking to suppliers, assessing trials, instructing photography (with our new photographer, Helen Freeman), writing copy notes, working out the main selling points and so on. We have some EXCELLENT new products – I won’t give too much away, but imagine a ‘blue’ carnation and an azalea-flowered geranium for starters…
Lots of catching up on e-mails today, there’s always so much going on, product development never seems to stop, and sometimes I could be talking to suppliers about products that might be 15 or 20 years away! It took us 15 years to develop the TomTato®, which you may have seen recently, it’s a plant which produces tomatoes AND potatoes. The plants are simply grafted together – it’s not a new concept, but we are the first company to make a large amount of plants and to marry up a high quality, sweet tomato with a good cropping white potato.
Some of today is spent preparing for Saturday’s QVC show. We regularly sell our plants through this shopping channel on TV, and I’m a brand ambassador for Thompson & Morgan on the show. This week it’s a gift show and we’re selling a Christmas tree! I make sure we get some good photos of me lifting it (it was heavy!), and working with Sarah Dodsworth from the QVC team, we agree on the main selling points, and also source some photos of bad Christmas trees. This will all help make the sell stronger; our Christmas tree is the no-drop, no-flop tree, one of the highest quality money can buy. I try to get to bed early, so I can get up at 5am (yuk) to travel down to Chiswick for the show.
It’s really heavy!
A day’s filming with Richard Jackson
I live in Bournemouth which is quite a mild gardening climate, although of course we have had some really bad winters over the last three years with well below temperatures and snow – not usually associated with the south of England. I am just celebrating my 75th birthday and have been gardening for 65 years, first as a child on my Dad’s allotment in Norfolk and then I gradually took over from my Mum in the garden where we lived. For the past year have been recovering from a broken hip, with a lot of help from my husband Alan. Since I retired have spent a lot more time gardening.
I usually use multi-purpose compost and have fed all my plants with Richard Jackson’s Flower Power over the last few years, of course unless ericaeous compost is needed. I live in the middle of three terrace houses with a front and back garden. The front now has decking because the space was originally needed for a caravan and I always use different sized containers, some low, others on a stand. Last year I am thrilled to say I won the Gold Award for the Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. Several years ago Thompson & Morgan had a garden photo competition, so I sent a photo in of my container garden and was rewarded with some vouchers and also asked if I would like to trial some Thompson & Morgan plants, which I have been doing ever since.
Richard Jackson has been showing some of my garden photos on QVC gardening for a few years and has been in contact. In January 2013 I was visiting my sister in San Diego, California when I received an email from Richard saying they had been discussing my garden and were talking about coming down to film it if I was agreeable. On the spur of the moment I agreed and then wondered if my garden would be what they were looking for.
Rob the producer contacted me with possible dates, but as the spring was so cold decided that it might be better to delay it until 3rd September. Then of course, we had some hot weather and everything just about caught up. The only preparation I really did was to make sure the plants were deadheaded and the decking kept clear of dropped flower heads and prayed that we didn’t get torrential rain or a gale!!!
Rob and his crew arrived on the afternoon of Monday 2nd September to have a look at the gardens and see where they could set up the camera. At 8 am on 3rd September, a gloriously sunny morning (thank goodness), the crew turned up and set up their camera in the front garden. Richard came in and introduced himself, Alan made them all a cup of tea while everything was sorted. Alan also took lots of photos through the day so I could look back on them later. I have now made the photos into a photobook.
The day involved filming Richard interviewing me about the garden and the flowers I had planted, how they were planted, which were my favourites etc. I can`t say I was nervous, which is unlike me, but I think they all put me at ease and nothing was too much trouble. Not even when a neighbour decided to get the hose out and wash his van, which of course was picked up by the sound engineer but taken in good humour. It was being filmed for a new QVC gardening programme with Richard Jackson called Gardening Inspirations, which is due to go out in May 2014.
Rob went to buy sandwiches, cream cakes, ice creams and drinks for lunch and as it had turned out a very hot day we all ate lunch in the lounge where it was cooler.
During the afternoon we were filmed on a bench in the back garden talking about hints and tips and they filmed me deadheading a hanging basket and feeding another, also Richard and me walking down the path.
Richard and the crew left around 2:30 pm after what I can honestly say was a great experience… and lots of laughs which certainly made for a different sort of a day.
Want to take a peek behind the scenes at QVC Italy? Now you can!
A few weeks ago, we treated Italian customers to an amazing offer on our professional grade, xxl strawberry plants… it’s quite an epic trip to Italy, as we need to drive all the product across in our trusty white van!
Track our journey and the launch of the shows here:
Driving through the alps
Massive selection of Swiss chocolates
Where are we?
Planting up the strawberry containers
Tasty strawberry dishes ready for the sell
Getting the products ready
The strawberry set is complete
Can I eat some now?
Strawberry launch with presenter Sara
Looking good enough to eat!
If you’re a fan of the shopping channel QVC, you may have already spotted some Thompson & Morgan products on the show. Working with QVC, we always make sure the most unique plants are on offer, often at some unbeatable deals.
And now you get to see a bit more behind the scenes!
Here’s what happened when I was at QVC with Shows Assistant, Sarah Dodsworth for a show at the weekend.
Watch from midnight tonight to see our newest offer – some extra special strawberry plants!
You can tune in to QVC on:
- Sky Digital – channel 640
- Freeview – channel 16
- Virgin TV – channel 740
- Freesat – channel 800
The QVC buildings in west London
They let us in!
Our flash new T&M set
A hearty breakfast
Getting ready for the show
Ready for action…
Me on set with Matthew Biggs
After the show…
Chilling in the dressing room