Potatoes Win Gold at Chelsea

A Great Pavilion exhibit without a single decorative bloom on show has charmed judges into awarding a Chelsea Gold Medal to Scots potato aficionados Morrice and Ann Innes – the first gold to be awarded to a potato-only display in the show’s 150 year history.

The Potato Story, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, acts as a simple showcase, highlighting more than 140 varieties, and traces the history and origins of the potato while drawing attention to its diversity and versatility in the garden and kitchen. Morrice of Old Town, Aberdeen, claims to have the largest private collection of potato varieties, built up over 20 years, and has long championed his favourite vegetable.

potatoes win gold at chelsea

Many of the display’s varieties come from Morrice’s own collection of tubers, and include original South American species as well as historical European heritage varieties such as Karaparea, which was taken to New Zealand by Captain James Cook in the 1770s. The exhibit is completed with modern varieties grown from Thompson & Morgan seed potatoes, including blight resistant main crop Sarpo Axona and its latest introduction, high yielding salad potato Jazzy, currently the mail order supplier’s best seller.

The modest, yet impactful display offers information boards, telling the story of the potato and highlighting its global importance as a major food source and healthy eating option. Morrice said: “We’ve tried to tell the tale of the potato by highlighting a vast array of skin colours, shapes and sizes, while suggesting the best uses of each variety and the places where they come from. You won’t find many of the varieties for sale at the supermarket. Hopefully we’ll help inspire more people to grow potatoes and to try a some of the more unusual forms while they are at it.”

potatoes win gold at chelsea

The exhibit’s sponsor has supported Morrice and Ann in the past, scooping silver and bronze medals at previous RHS shows, and is delighted to finally see a Gold Medal awarded to the nation’s favourite vegetable. Thompson & Morgan Vegetable Product Manager, Colin Randel, worked with Morrice to set a world record for the largest display of potato varieties at the 2004 Shrewsbury Flower Show. He said: “Amongst all the glitz and glamour of the world’s most prestigious flower show, it’s great to see a modest, uncomplicated homage to the humble potato stand out from the crowd to scoop a Gold Medal. Morrice and Ann have put on a fantastic display, there’s pretty much every colour under the sun on show, from very old varieties right up to our very latest introduction, Potato Jazzy.”

To celebrate the win, the mail order seed and plant specialist has launched a special lucky dip offer on seed potatoes. In time for the main crop season Thompson & Morgan customers can add a 100 lucky dip tuber collection, made up of top performing customer favourites, for just £4.99. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com/lucky-dip-potatoes

Scouring Europe for Chelsea centrepiece fit for a Queen

When you know there’s a chance that Her Majesty The Queen might visit your Fresh garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the last thing you want is a gaping hole where your centrepiece plants should be on display. That was the situation faced by Fernando Gonzalez Garden Design, when UK

Thompson & Morgan's Digitalis Illumination Apricot

Thompson & Morgan’s Digitalis Illumination Apricot

stocks of Digitalis ‘Illumination Apricot’ failed to flower in time for display in the Pure Land
Foundation Garden, already being flagged as the most prestigious show gardens at this year’s event. With just four days to finish before the Queen’s annual visit to the world’s most prominent gardening event, a nationwide hunt for flowering plants threw up no leads. The plant’s creator, mail order seed and plant specialist Thompson & Morgan, stepped in to widen the search, calling on growers across Europe. Plants in perfect bloom were quickly tracked down at a nursery outside Barcelona, Spain, more than 1,500km from its Ipswich HQ!
New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry said: “Knowing our ‘Illumination Apricot’ was playing a major part in this cutting-edge show garden, we just had to help out.”At end of play Thursday it called on 250 staff, seeking a volunteer to make the mad-dash 3,000km round trip to get the plants on UK soil in time for Saturday’s big garden build. Up stepped marketing assistant Terri Overett, letting herself in for a 4am start and an 18-hour journey to get the plants to the UK in time.

First a plane ride to Barcelona El Prat, a taxi to the nursery an hour east of the city, then back to the airport to face the worry of getting them safely back to the UK in a cold cargo hold.

Terri Overett arriving at Stansted relieved to find plants had stayed in perfect condition during the flight from Barcelona.

Terri Overett arriving at Stansted relieved to find plants had stayed in perfect condition during the flight from Barcelona.

A very relieved chaperone found the plants in good condition once through customs, where colleagues were on hand to rush the plants into London in time to put finishing touches to the Pure Land Foundation Garden on Royal Hospital Way.

Michael Perry delivering the precious cargo to the Gonzalez Garden Design garden

Michael Perry delivering the precious cargo to the Gonzalez Garden Design garden

The design team’s Director, Thang Vo-Ta said: “Fernando and I are so grateful for all the effort put in by the team – they definitely thought outside the box to help get the plants in place on time. It was the company’s Chelsea Flower of the Year Award for Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’ in 2012, that inspired us to use the new sister line “Illumination Apricot” in our garden. We can’t wait for the public to see the finished design in its full glory with stunning apricot foxgloves as a planting focal point of our Pure Land Foundation garden. Fingers crossed Her Majesty The Queen just might honour us with a visit and enjoy everyone’s efforts.”

The Chelsea Roundup

After all the buzz of setting up, last minute polishing and- for some- the clinking of champagne glasses, Chelsea Flower Show exhibitors can now sit back and rest… well almost! Let’s hope the plants can last another day; the unprecedented hot weather this week has given many exhibitors sleepless nights, as they struggle to keep their displays in dazzling form! So here is The Chelsea Roundup.

The Chelsea Roundup

Newsfeeds were going crazy earlier this week; which celebs are at the show? What are the trends? Who’s going to win best in show? How expensive are those sandwiches…?? You simply can’t deny that Chelsea Flower Show is the most talked about horticultural event of the year, and I love how non-gardeners get on board with it too by being glued to the daily shows on BBC2.

The Chelsea Roundup

Who cares if some of the gardens are outlandish, isn’t that what this show is about? It’s a showpiece to show the best skills in garden design and horticulture. I’m convinced you can always take elements of any garden and use them in your own; planting partners, styles of planting, sculptures, create your own mini Chelsea show garden! One of my favourite gardens was the Help for Heroes garden, designed by Matt Keightley. I loved the planting, interspersed by blocks- for me; it was the perfect fusion of tradition al cottage garden and modernist!

The Chelsea Roundup

Help for Heroes garden, by Matt Keightley

I also liked the artisan garden section, mainly because it was in the shade on such a sweltering day! I loved the Virgin Roof Gardens entry, which featured red Geraniums and dwarf Marigolds from Thompson & Morgan. It was an explosion of colour, yet still cool and relaxing!

The Chelsea Roundup

Virgin Roof Gardens

Every year at Chelsea, my main focus is the floral marquee, where I do a spot of indoor plant-hunting! Here, specialist nurseries show off their skills and variety range. You can come here to see everything from gladioli to passion flowers, bonsai to sweet peas. I must admit I can’t help but feel some of the stands have looked the same for 50 years, but there were some fresh looks. How about hanging amaryllis for example??

The Chelsea Roundup

The Plant of the Year stand is in the floral marquee, where any nursery from the UK can enter. Those plants are whittled down to 20 finalists, but there can only be 1 winner. As soon as I walked up to the display, I knew that Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’ had the leading edge, even over plants I had entered! Well, I should have visited a betting shop, as my prediction was right, and this picotee, two-tiered Hydrangea was named Plant of the Year 2014!

The Chelsea Roundup

Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’

Then, tomorrow, it’s the BIG SELL OFF! When the stands are dismantled, and the contents auctioned off. This is an absolutely crazy few hours, and it culminates in the London Underground being filled with people hugging delphiniums…! Phew! Another great show!

The Chelsea Roundup

Horticultural Guilty Habit

The RHS has revealed a horticultural guilty habit that one-fifth of gardeners polled have reluctantly admitted to!

A horticultural guilty habit

After our recent spell of rain, you would expect more snails to be appearing in your garden, but are you sure this is a weathering aftermath or do you need to quiz your neighbours? An RHS poll has revealed that one-fifth of gardeners throw their snails over the fence into their neighbouring gardens.  Now, unneighbourly? Yes! Clever? No. Past research has suggested that snails have a homing instinct and if they are not stood on, played with, run over or taken into a child’s bedroom for experimentation, they will return to their rightful owners!

Londoners are the most unneighbourly, with 30% admitting to the habit. Scottish gardeners are less likely to commit the horticultural crime with only 14% passing on their snails.

How truthfull is this poll? We have all done something that no matter how many times we are questioned about it, we still fail to admit to doing it. Are you still hiding in horticultural etiquette? Do you throw your snails? Or do you have any other gardening faux pas? Let us know your guilty gardening habits by posting your comment below

Beating Blue Monday

Beating Blue Monday

Beating Blue Monday in the garden

Beating Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year. According to research, people working in horticulture are less likely to be affected (see our recent post ‘Gardening best for job satisfaction for more info). With this in mind, the RHS is asking people to share what they love about their jobs, post pictures and give advice on getting into horticultural careers on its Facebook page or on Twitter using #OfficeVHorticulture.

The RHS carried out a survey of 1,000 adults in March last year, which revealed that attitudes towards careers in horticulture differ greatly between age groups. The vast majority of under 25s thinks that gardening isn’t a job to be proud of and “should only be considered as a career if you have failed academically”. However, people in the over 40s category thought the complete opposite. School leavers aren’t generally being encouraged to get careers in gardening and horticulture either – a quarter of the people surveyed said that lack of information was part of the reason that they had no interest in such jobs.

Another thing that holds people back is their own lack of knowledge of horticulture, but there are many careers where you can learn ‘on the job’ or take short courses or diplomas to get the qualifications you need for your chosen path. The ‘grow’ website (www.growcareers.info) gives advice on many career options and what you need to do to succeed.

Michael Perry, Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Manager, says “A career in horticulture isn’t all about digging borders! There’s a wide range of roles; you can get involved in anything from copy writing to rose pruning. Gardens and outdoor spaces are so important to people and we need to help break down the mystery behind how they’re created. It isn’t as daunting as you may think and incredibly enjoyable.”

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