Well, what a year it has been for us at Thompson & Morgan. Each year is never complete without its ups and downs, and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Spring in particular is our busiest time of year, but it is also the most valuable for us as a business. We learn about areas which we need to improve on and your feedback is incredibly valuable to us, good or bad. You, our valued customers, help us to offer you a fantastic service. That aside, I just wanted to go back to a few funny, emotional, hard, but most importantly memorable times we have had over the past year.
2015 was the year of the fuchsia where we celebrated this much loved garden favourite with the Fuchsia Festival. We had a calendar of online activities including top growing advice from our experts, exciting blogs from customers and staff and on top of that, we added a further 20 new fuchsia varieties to our online range.
Chelsea centrepiece fit for a Queen
Did you read about this in the news? This year, there was a chance that Her Majesty The Queen was going to visit the Fresh gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but there was a gaping hole where the centre piece was meant to be. The team at Fernando Gonzalez Garden Design was missing its’ star plant when UK stocks of our Digitalis ‘Illumination Apricot’ failed to flower in time for display in the Pure Land Foundation Garden.
We 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 us. Without hesitation, I embarked on a 3,000km round trip to collect the plants and ensure they were safely in the garden at the time of build. For more info take a read about my mad dash (includes security checks with a large box of plants, broken fixtures on the plane and plant selfies!)
Not forgetting the potato exhibit we sponsored at Chelsea that won gold – the first ever potato display to win gold at Chelsea in the shows 150 year history.
Brightening up Suffolk Stations
Aiming to brighten the daily commute for Ipswich locals, we decorated train stations around Suffolk with 24 large hanging baskets filled with our customer favourite Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’.
We teamed up with Activgardens to get the baskets ready for their display back in June, donating all the plants, baskets, compost and feed needed to get the job done. The local charity, part of ActivLives, operates in the walled garden at Chantry Park, stepped up to the mark and grew magnificent baskets. We had tweets coming in from all around Suffolk, showing us the view of our baskets during their commute.
A fool too far?
Every year we try to come up with our best fool yet, and this year I think we managed just that! We created the Bridge in Bloom, 160 hanging baskets were set along each side of the Orwell Bridge in Ipswich, creating two 1,237m swathes of spring colour above the River Orwell.
One customer said;
We all wished it was real, what a magnificent sight that would be!
Thompson & Morgan trials at Jimmys Farm
In previous years, our Thompson & Morgan open day drew thousands of keen gardeners to our trial grounds here in Ipswich. Unfortunately, due to the large number of attendants and health & safety, we could no longer hold them on site. This year, we were able to team up with Jimmy’s Farm to showcase our magnificent trials to customers once again.
Over a thousand containers and many large flower beds injected colour to the activities at the farm, and the garden was open for free for customers to enjoy all week throughout summer. When it was time for Jimmy’s annual beer and sausage festival, we didn’t want to close the garden. So up stepped numerous T&M employees to man the garden to make sure those happy festival gooers could enjoy the display safely.
Expanded our range of garden supplies
2015 saw the launch of our range of gardening equipment, furniture and accessories. Look out for this range to expand in 2016! From garden furniture and greenhouses to pest control and garden tools, our range includes everything you need to grow, maintain and enjoy your garden. Can’t find what you are looking for? Then let us know and we will try our best to stock it!
Thrive listed as charity of the year
We were so delighted to announce this year that Thrive are our charity of the year. Thrive is the UK’s leading charity using gardening to help bring positivity to the lives of those who have a physical or mental disability. The dedicated staff and volunteers at Thrive, provide much needed support and respite for those that need it most.
Thrive Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ has been launched to raise money for this incredible charity. Thrives supporters named this Sweet Pea to commemorate the late wife of the founder of Thrive, the late Rev. Dr Geoffrey Udall and we couldn’t have thought of a name better suited.
So please, get buying and sowing and not only will you be supporting this amazing charity, but you will be creating incredible displays in your garden for all to enjoy.
Finalist for website of the year
The Garden Media Guild awards are a much anticipated awards ceremony for any keen gardener and the horticultural trade. Sporting their suits and ties, our horticulturists Kris Collins and Michael Perry attended the event held in London, which also provided the opportunity to meet with some of the Thrive team.
This year, we were a finalist for Website of the Year, which is just amazing. We work endlessly to improve our website to provide you with top quality plants and a great experience, and I cannot tell you how much this means to us! Maybe next year, just maybe, we will be top!
Egg & Chips™
Following the success of our 2-in-1 Tomtato ®, we excitingly launched Egg & Chips ™. This grafted plant provides Aubergines AND potatoes from the same plant, perfect for patio and balcony pots. The best part, the grafting process makes it easier to grow aubergines in the UK climate. The hardy, vigorous potato plant supports the more delicate aubergine far better than its own root system can in British soil, enabling optimum fruit production. You won’t even need a greenhouse to grow Egg & Chips™ !
There have been so many memories that I could share with you but this blog would become more of a report! Today is my last day Thompson & Morgan, it has been great to be able to reminisce on the past year and it has been a joy to be a part of. Wishing you all the very best for 2016.
After scrolling through Royal Horticultural Society’s website for information on different plant varieties and how to grow this and that in more detail, I came across the ‘gardens to visit’ section and thought it was about time I actually checked it out in real life, rather than staring at pretty pictures through a screen.
It was probably the worst day I could have visited on. The wind was crazy! It was so windy that they had to restrict the areas you could walk around. The New Zealand and Australian Gardens and the Woodland Walk were both out of bounds. Two areas I actually wanted to snoop around, although, it’s probably the perfect excuse to re-visit next year.
It wasn’t all bad though, as we were able to save some money on entry with a 2 for 1 offer this particular weekend. It’s always worth checking out deals and events that are happening before you go. In the past they have had some great events, such as an official tour of the gardens, fun kid’s events and arts and crafts workshops to take part in. Pretty much something to cater for everyone!
The weekend we went there was a Christmas fair; perfect to get into the festive mood and even better for looking for homemade and unique Christmas gifts.
Trying to keep my hat on!
We were greeted by about 5 different members of staff within 5 minutes of walking through the door. I always appreciate friendly customer service (after all, I am in customer service myself!) and we got exactly that. We were handed a map and we were off on our way! We explored for a good hour and a half before being defeated by the wind and returning to the marquee to browse the gift fair.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from the gardens in the winter. I guess as a new gardener’s outlook I was half expecting dead looking plants and trees from every angle I looked. I’ve quickly learnt that winter is not a time to ignore your garden. There’s still plenty of colour around and beautiful evergreens in every bed.
I particularly loved the shrubs and trees with the various coloured berries. They’re perfect for attracting wildlife too; I can imagine such a Christmas image, a robin on a beautiful red berries hedge. These Firethorn shrubs we sell here at Thompson and Morgan and I’m definitely buying one of these for my garden next year! They’re quite quick growing and easy to maintain. That is ideal for me as a new young gardener who is still learning what to grow and how to look after.
A lot of plants were dormant or past their best as we walked around, however Rosa plants were still in bloom and looking sweet and delicate, Nerines were bobbing around in the wind (or viciously being thrown around on this particular day) and colourful autumnal leaves clinging on several trees. It was really lovely to stroll from place to place and take inspiration from the largest RHS garden in the UK.
Hyde Hall also hosts some of The Chelsea Flower Show on its over 300 acre patch, and I’d love to return at that time of year and see the entire buzz surrounding it. Working for Thompson and Morgan allows an insight into the event and the company has won several awards for plants such as the Foxglove Illumination Pink. It would be nice to see it up close and in person.
After walking around and checking out the various nooks and crannies of the gardens, and the beautiful restaurant area, we headed to the Christmas fair. I didn’t buy any presents, although did spend some pennies on a mulled wine. Well, it is the festive season after all!
I’d definitely recommend a visit to one of the 5 RHS gardens in the UK. Hyde Hall was really enjoyable; however I’d probably have preferred a warmer day in spring or summer to visit. It did give me some great ideas for my own garden over winter though, and has left me with plenty of designs I could use in my own little patch of land.
Have you visited Hyde Hall before and what were your thoughts? Feel free to drop a comment and let me know your favourite gardens in the UK – I’m always looking for new gardens to visit!
These award-winning RHS Award of Garden Merit vegetables have all passed extensive trials and been judged for their outstanding garden performance, yield and flavour. But just how do you receive such a prestige award? Plants must;
- Be of outstanding excellence for ordinary garden use
- Be of good constitution
- Not require highly specialist growing conditions or care
- Not be particularly susceptible to any pest or disease
Here are our top 5 RGM vegetables for 2016. Look out for more RHS vegetables throughout our website which will be highlight with the RGM symbol.
Beetroot Wodan F1 Hybrid
This variety can be freshly cooked either as baby beet or as a larger root and will provide astonishing flavour. Bright red-fleshed roots will not go woody like other beetroot varieties. Can be direct sown from April our purchased as Beetroot plug plants you can plant them straight out in May.
Broad Bean Jubilee Hysor
Producing a tremendous yield of well filled pods, this variety is a major improvement on traditional varieties. Each pod contains 6-8 beans if superb flavour. Direct sow under a cloche in February or without protection in March.
Runner Bean St George
This British bred bean will produce an early and heaving crop of quality seed pods. Sow alongside Nasturtiums to draw aphids away from your crop. You can direct sow Runner Bean St George from late May.
Carrot Bangor F1 Hybrid
Great for juicing, this variety is one of the best and tallest Maincrop for the garden. Vibrant colour and excellent flavour, this is a must have for 2016. Try growing carrots with spring onions, leeks and mint, whose aromatic leaves deter carrot fly.
Chili Pepper Basket of Fire F1 Hybrid
Chilli peppers are versatile in the kitchen. They can be used fresh or dried in sauces, grilled, roasted, stir-fried or as a pizza topping. Chilli Pepper Basket of Fire has a unique habit which makes it the perfect choice for hanging baskets and patio containers. These plants have shown good tolerance to cooler weather and will continue to fruit outdoors well into autumn.
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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.”