Show Time

I’m one of the lucky few who get to visit the RHS Chelsea Flower Show the day before it opens to the general public. I attend most years, but took a break in 2015.

The break did me good. When you visit year on year it can start to feel a little samey – exhibitors in the same spot as the year before, doing little different to the year before. This year I had fresh eyes for the show and took plenty of planting ideas away with me.

Chelsea Plant of the Year is always my first point of call. It was great to see T&M’s very own Egg & Chips® plant making it through as a finalist – particularly when there is such focus on a plant’s ornamental value in the garden. Judges praised Egg & Chips® for its unique dual cropping (potatoes and aubergines from the same plant), and its value in small gardens, balconies and patio settings.

Left: Egg & Chips®, Right: Tomtato®

Egg & Chips® and Tomtato®

With Plant of the Year under my belt its time for my favourite part of the show – the Grand Pavilion. This is where the plants are the stars (not some designer you may or may not have heard of). This is where nurseries and growers show off their skills and their wonderful collections – all brought on to perfection, often flowering outside of their natural cycle to the delight of the thousands of visitors who flock to the show each May. I could spend a whole day and more in the pavilion.

Particular highlights for me were Peter Seabrook’s Sun Flower Square (four front gardens featuring 80 different container plants, plus much more, brought together with the help of school children. It was great to see the Thrive charity sweet pea, ‘Eleanore Udall’ on display alongside pots of Petunia ‘Night Sky’, Bidens ‘Bee Dance Painted Yellow’ and Marigold Strawberry Blonde’.

Marigold 'Strawberry Blonde' and Petunia 'Night Sky'

Marigold ‘Strawberry Blonde’ and Petunia ‘Night Sky’

At home I’m trying my hardest to encourage my children into gardening, so anything that helps nuture their interest is good in my books.

The Miracle-Gro’wers Urban School Garden featured many vegetables from the T&M range including Egg & Chips®, Tomtato®, Fuchsia ‘Berry’ and many more. Miracle Gro aimed to bring the benefits of school gardening to the fore and certainly did that. The exhibit highlights the wide range of fruit and veg that can be grown in an urban school garden and spreads the 5-a-day message.

Fuchsia Berry

Fuchsia Berry

What little time I don’t spend in the pavilion I then use for a whistle stop tour of the show gardens. It’s taken me many years to get my head around these displays. As a true hands on gardener (as opposed to a flouncy designer) I’ve always viewed these gardens as unachievable – flowers are forced to bloom out of season and the hard landscaping is so high-end that most households would need a second mortgage to get the same look.

I came at things with a different approach this year, viewing each show garden as a living art installation and I appreciated them much more than I ever have in the past.

Working with plants every day, Chelsea can be a bit of a busman’s holiday for me, so one aspect I really take advantage of on the Monday press day is the celeb spotting. I didn’t do as well as I have in previous years, but there were plenty of stars to be seen among the flowers – Dame Judi Dench, Rob Brydon, Ainsley Harriot, Richard E Grant, Jerry Hall, to name a few, plus of course the usual gardening gang; Carol Klein, Toby Buckland, Alys Fowler and the man himself Mr T! I took a few blurry candid snaps of celebs, but I’m not brave enough to run up to them paparazzi style or ask for a selfie!

RHS gardener sows seed of hope for UK record-breaking pumpkin

Thompson & Morgan donates world’s most expensive pumpkin seed to Hyde Hall vegetable grower


Expert tips for bigger and better sweet peas

3 simple tips for bigger sweet peas

Left to their own devices sweet pea plants will work their way up their supports, going on to produce masses of colour and scent. However, with a few simple training tricks you can turn an every-day display into a real show-stopper!

My tips here will encourage the fastest growth and the biggest blooms on the longest stems. You can see the difference my training tricks bring about in the photo below.


Incredicompost®: best growing media on the market

Independent sowing and growing trials confirm incredicompost® can’t be beaten on performance

It takes confidence to launch a new product in a crowded market while claiming to have the best in the business, but consumer champion Which? has confirmed what Thompson & Morgan already knew: the mail order specialist’s incredicompost® really is the best overall compost for sowing seeds and raising young plants.

The premium-grade compost was officially launched in March 2015 in response to increased levels of Thompson & Morgan customer disappointment with existing blends on the market, which were leading to poor performance in their gardens from the mail order specialist’s core range of seeds and young plants. Following extensive in-house comparison trials incredicompost® was launched along with incredibloom® and incredicrop® fertilisers, promising the healthiest of plants with up to 400 per cent more flowers and fruit.

incredirange - incredicompost®

incredicompost® – prices from £9.99

Justifiably the trials team at Which? Gardening was keen to put the claims to the test. Their independent trials, carried out during the 2015 growing season, have named incredicompost® as the best overall compost for sowing seeds and raising young plants. It was given a score of 95 per cent for sowing seeds, setting it well ahead of the next best performer, which scored 80 per cent. It came miles ahead of the worst seed sowing performer, labelled a ‘Don’t Buy’ product by the trials team having scored just 33 per cent. For raising young plants incredicompost® also gained a high 90 per cent test score, leading to a Which? Best Buy.

Two seed varieties, antirrhinum and cabbage, were sown in the Which? trial and two plant varieties, fibrous begonias and tomatoes, were chosen for growing on. According to the trial report incredicompost® “had the highest germination rate by far for the antirrhinum seed and close to perfect germination for cabbage seed. The seedlings were all very healthy. The young begonias were the best in the test and the tomatoes were robust plants.”

In another Which? Gardening compost test looking at container performance, incredicompost® was listed as a recommended product: “The bedding plants [grown in incredicompost®] were dazzling. They shot away and were larger and flowered better than in most other composts early in the season. They were also superb in August.”

Thompson & Morgan's incredicompost® trials

Comparison shot from Thompson & Morgan’s own trial programme

Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director Paul Hansord said: “We always knew we were on to a winner with our first move into the compost market. Our aim with incredicompost® has been to develop a premium-quality product that brings consistency and reliability back to the market – something that has been missing since the increased use of green waste materials in a bid to reduce peat content in many well-known brands. Gardeners are keen to reduce their peat use but many have reported poor results with green-waste products.”

He adds: “To reduce the peat in our blend we have instead included wood fibre, sourced from Irish saw mills, actually making use of a surplus by-product. This wood fibre is graded by chip size, so each time we make a new batch we can guarantee consistency from our ingredients, leading to consistent performance from the compost, no matter the time of year or which ‘batch’ our customers are supplied from.”

incredicompost® comes packed with trace elements and minerals and like many other composts includes wetting agent for easy watering, plus a little pre-mixed fertiliser to ensure good early growth. What sets it out from the crowd is a pre-packed sachet of incredibloom® in every bag for mixing in at planting time, ensuring strong healthy growth for 7+ months – a little goes a long way! Separating the feed into a sachet prevents degradation (leading to either a lack of nutrients for plants or nutrient scorch), a common problem with other pre-mixed, long lasting composts.

If you can’t afford failure in the garden, choose incredicompost® for the best performance from all your seeds and plants. Click here to view incredicompost®. Prices from £9.99.

How to use Incredibloom: quick video guide

Introducing the Gin & Tonic Tree™

The latest innovation from the Thompson & Morgan Grafting Programme

Juniper berries and quinine bark from the same tree? Following the success of the dual-cropping Tomtato® (tomatoes and potatoes from one plant) and Egg & Chips® (aubergines and potatoes on one plant), Thompson & Morgan is pleased to introduce its latest innovation in grafting technology: The Gin & Tonic Tree™.

Gin & Tonic Tree™

It may sound impossible (so did the Tomtato® concept!), but UK gardeners can now grow juniper berries and quinine bark on the same plant, thanks to a major breakthrough in grafting technique.

The mail order seed and plant specialist has cornered the market for dual-cropping grafted plants in recent years having invested heavily in a grafting development programme at its Suffolk trial grounds.

The project has come on in leaps and bounds under the stewardship of Rolf Paoli, who joined the firm in spring 2015, bringing with him a reputation for creating the seemingly impossible.


The Gin & Tonic Tree™ is set to be the first in a series of grow-your-own beverages. Expect to see the Vermouth Vine and Sherry Cherry following in future years.

A limited stock of the Gin & Tonic Tree™ has been made available for the spring despatch season. A further 100,000 plants will be made available this summer for autumn delivery.

Thompson and Morgan recommends growing The Gin & Tonic Tree™ alongside a lemon tree to complete the ingredient list. For a bit of fun this was our 2016 April Fools joke. We hope you enjoyed it?

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