‘Behind the Genes’

It’s a very exciting time of year. RHS Chelsea Flower Show preparations are in full swing and the countdown is on.

This year, Thompson & Morgan is teaming up with Sparsholt College who are creating a ‘Behind the Genes’ show garden which is diving into the science behind plant breeding and genetics to offer an insight into the development of plant breeding and selection.

'Behind the Genes' Chelsea Garden

T&M breeding is recognised around the globe and it’s a great opportunity to showcase some of this in the garden which has been designed by Sparsholt’s Chris Bird in The Discovery Zone inside the famous Great Pavilion. The garden will feature plants such as Hydrangea ‘Runaway Bride’, one of the most floriferous and vigorous hydrangeas which won first place in last year’s Plant of the Year competition and plants from our very own breeding programme, such as Helianthus ‘SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl’ which won 3rd place in last year’s competition. This is the world’s first multi branching sunflowers which puts out over 1,000 flowers during the growing season.

Hydrangea 'Runaway Bride', Lance with Peter Seabrook and Helianthus 'SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl'

Hydrangea ‘Runaway Bride’, Lance with Peter Seabrook and Helianthus ‘SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl’

My first trip to Chelsea was back in 2014 as a student at Sparsholt when we brought home the gold medal for ‘The Paper Chase’ garden and it’s great to be going back again this year with both my college and Thompson & Morgan to work on this very exciting project.

It’s a real honour to be a part of this project which aims to encourage the next generation of horticulturalists whilst promoting the opportunities that I’ve enjoyed – particularly at such a prestigious horticultural event! I’m hoping that by being involved in this garden, current Sparsholt students will be able to see the career options that await them.

A very busy few weeks lie ahead; preparing plants for Chelsea comes with its challenges. I find it’s almost like tricking nature, as you have to learn to sweet-talk plants to make them look beautiful on the day! Various methods are used to encourage plant growth, and in some cases, it’s necessary to ‘hold the plants back’.

Clematis ‘Kokonoe’ ©Plantipp/ Visions

Of course, the weather has a big impact on how well plants progress and as with all years, each season is different and no one can predict the weather.

Peter Freeman, our New Product Development Manager, has been working miracles and we have got some very exciting Plant of the Year entries that are being nurtured as I write, including a really striking, brand new clematis which has flowers that change shape throughout the season. Clematis ‘Kokonoe’ starts with warm purple single flowers which change into fully double pom-poms blooms as they develop to create a truly luxurious display!

We are also really excited to be joined by plant hunter Peter van Rijssen, who manages the trials for a worldwide portfolio of new plants and an avid promoter on social media of plants and new genetics.

Watch our Journey to Chelsea video:

I look forward to seeing you all at Chelsea!

Happy Gardening,

The Journey of Floral Fantasia

It’s been an amazing experience to watch the garden on its wonderful journey from a blank canvas to the flourishing beauty that it is today. I joined T&M back in April and one of my first projects to get my teeth stuck into was our ‘Floral Fantasia’ garden at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex near Chelmsford.

There was no time for sitting down at my desk; it was straight over to our nursery where we growing all of the plants to get my hands dirty.

From April until the start of June I helped Peter Freeman, our New Product Development Manager with the various tasks that were needed for growing on the plants for the garden. Potting, pinching, watering, feeding, planting up into the various baskets/ containers, spacing, moving – just about everything involved in growing plants, we did it. Luckily for me I have a passion for plants. I started growing my own plants when I was a young child and have come from a previous wholesale nursery and garden centre background. It’s almost second nature to me by now. For me there really is something quite special in watching those tiny little seeds and plug plants develop into healthy and robust plants ready to plant up in the garden. It gives me such a good feeling!

But I have to tell you what took me by surprise was seeing the area we had to plant up for the first time, check it out…

The old vegetable garden at RHS Hyde Hall

The old vegetable garden at RHS Hyde Hall ready for transforming to the Floral Fantasia garden
© Thompson & Morgan

I was probably thinking what you are now. “How on earth is this going to turn this into a show stopping garden that will give people the ‘WOW’ factor and something really exceptional to see?” The area we planted up was the old Hyde Hall vegetable garden. My first words to Peter were “we need to grow some more plants, this place is absolutely huge”. But fear not Lance, Peter was armed with a planting plan that detailed down to the cm exactly just how many plants we would need. (Anyone who has been or seen the recent pictures of the garden will have a feel for just how many thousands of plants there are).

After all the hard work growing and planning, the time came for planting up. This is where the fun really started…. before it was all hands on deck with the trowels we had to unload all of the plants from the lorry and get them into situ. We also had to go crazy drawing lines with line marker paint – let me tell you how it looks on paper isn’t always how it comes out looking sprayed on soil. I will confess we did have to “wing it” slightly (only slightly). This sounds fun right? It was… until the heavens opened and we got soaked and became two Hyde Hall ducklings (not ugly ones though I hope?).

Peter and I getting soaked in the rain

Peter and I getting soaked in the rain
© Thompson & Morgan

Each section was labelled ready for the planting team to come in and help us out the following day. In came the flower tower, “to me, to you, left a bit, right a bit”; three tiers later the giant masterpiece was in situ. What did we forget to put on the last tier? The Thompson & Morgan flag at the top!

Putting in plant labels and assembling the flower tower

Putting in the plant labels and assembling the flower tower
© Thompson & Morgan

So it began… In came the planting team – a lot very helpful T&M and RHS staff. Together we planted thousands of plants in the garden, put in posts to hang the baskets and off loaded all of the hundreds of baskets and containers to their new homes.

Floral Fantasia Planting

The Thompson & Morgan and RHS teams planting the thousands of plants needed to create the Floral Fantasia garden
© Thompson & Morgan

Trust me all of the hard work was worth it! Get your sunglasses at the ready and look at the masterpiece we created below. So many beautiful plants, colours and combinations with a great deal of scent for everyone to enjoy.

The Flora Fantasia garden at RHS Hydea Hall in full bloom

The Floral Fantasia garden at RHS Hyde Hall in full bloom
© Thompson & Morgan

After all that there was one last job I needed to do…. a sit down in the giant deckchair.

Sitting and relaxing in the giant deck chair

Sitting and relaxing in the giant deck chair
© Thompson & Morgan

If you haven’t already been to see the garden I would strongly recommend a visit. It still looks absolutely cracking and there is always something new to look at and a lot of inspiration to take from.

P.S Don’t forget to take a selfie in the deck chair and send it to us for your chance to win £50!

Enjoy, Lance 🙂

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