World’s first electricity-generating sunflower!

Thompson & Morgan’s horticultural innovators who won the Plant of the Year at the Chelsea Flower Show 2012 and introduced the amazing TomTato® have done it again!

They have now developed a brand new strain of sunflower which generates its own electricity from the central stem.

The PowerFlower can charge mobile phones and tablets or can be used for lighting. Plants are supplied 12 inches high, and in bud. Customers can buy a “SunCharge” model, which features a unique waterproof USB port, pre-installed into the stem, for charging a range of devices with USB connections. Alternatively, the “SunLight” model is available, where the main flower head has a light bulb socket pre-installed, meaning the plant can be used for lighting in the home.

World’s first electricity-generating sunflower!

This dwarf, potted PowerFlower is the first step in a whole new world of electricity. A strong charge is created due to friction built up in the fibrous tissue of the plant stem. However, the exact technology of the patented “S-Stem” is being kept a closely guarded secret for the moment; however it’s guaranteed that the PowerFlower will change the face of gardening and energy sources across the globe.

With the release of the taller versions (estimated as 2016), gardens could be dedicated to just growing this variety and powering people’s homes, with an underground network of power leads filling borders. Gone are the days of mass fields of sunflowers growing across France for cut flowers, there will now be fields generating power for the world.

Masterminded by Thompson & Morgan’s development team with the help of leading scientist Professor Paolo Rilf, the PowerFlower is a long blooming variety, which lasts up to 4 weeks in flower. Even when the petals fall and the seed head begins to develop, the whole plant is still producing electricity within the S-Stem.

New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry said “The PowerFlower is capable of producing unlimited electricity over an 8 week period. With a dose of Thompson & Morgan’s exclusive new Incredibloom® fertiliser technology, you can increase the strength of that electricity by up to 4 times.”

Thompson & Morgan is planning to release this variety during late 2014. When buying a PowerFlower, customers can choose between the “SunCharge” USB pack, or the “SunLight” table lamp unit, and plants are ready for producing electricity immediately. Prices are yet to be confirmed.

Tweet using #PowerFlower.

Weekend project – making a bird bath

Inspired by a photo of a homemade bird bath I’d seen on Pinterest a while ago, I decided to put the pile of bricks at the side of my house to good use and make one myself!

We’re trying to be much more mindful of wildlife in our garden (I often refer to it as a wildlife garden, when in fact it’s just a bit untidy…) and this was the perfect project. It also had the added bonus of making me clear out a load of bits and bobs we’d kept hold of ‘just in case they come in handy’.

I started off by digging a small trench where the first layer of bricks was going to go. Our garden slopes a lot, so we chose the flattest, sturdiest spot, which also happens to be next to the buddleja that self-seeded from a neighbour’s garden and attracts dozens of bees and butterflies every year. After getting the first layer as level as I could, I set my daughter the task of choosing the best bricks in the pile – some were starting to crumble, some had lumps of mortar stuck to them – and giving them a quick brush. 8 layers later, it was ready for the bird bath to be added. My daughter put some pebbles into the bath itself for bees to land on – we’d read that bees are thirsty little creatures, but either need very shallow water or somewhere to land.

Weekend project - making a bird bath

It was really easy – it probably took us half an hour or so to make, so it’s the perfect project to do with children. Interesting and different enough for them to want to be involved, but not so difficult or time-consuming that they get bored.

We’re really pleased with the finished result, even though it is a tiny bit wonky. It goes very nicely in our ‘rough and ready’ garden, now all we’ve got to do is wait for the birds and bees. It could take a couple of weeks for worker bees to find it, so we’ll just have to be patient!

Weekend project - making a bird bath

Gardening on a budget

In his first blog post for Thompson & Morgan, gardener Richard Laker writes about the challenges of gardening on a budget…

My name is Richard Laker, I am (just) the better side of 30. I live on the North Essex coastline and this is the start of my second full year gardening at this house.

I should probably explain that I have a wife and two children, two dogs and a cat, all of whom (apart from the wife) throw unexpected challenges on my gardening aspirations and also require feeding, which sadly leaves less than desired money to spend on the next project.

Gardening on a budget

View from the back door

When we moved in, in late August 2012 I was recovering from complications following surgery and couldn’t wait to start getting the garden in a happier and healthier state, but in the process it has received many ‘tweaks’ which has kept me busy.

Gardening on a budget

The damaged fence

Last year was a challenging one as we got our first family dog, a working welsh sheepdog puppy, called Kiyo, which soon taught me that things were going to have to change if I ever wanted to see a full plant life cycle ever again.

Gardening on a budget


Being on a very tight budget requires a lot of improvisation when different challenges arise. Stopping Kiyo from eating the various garden plants and shrubs that are poisonous to dogs and running through the different beds was one of them.

I started to try to dog-proof the garden by raising the flower beds on the patio section, for which I needed a cheap and effective boundary that I could try and train him from jumping on. I thought about and priced up a number of ideas to raise the beds but my finances couldn’t stretch as far as I had hoped, so I improvised. This time it was with some bricks left over from a neighbour’s building work. I literally dug a five inch trench alongside the path and plonked the brinks on their edges and started to fill the borders with a mixture of compost and well rotted manure. It mightn’t be as aesthetically pleasing as it could’ve been but it was a cheap, effective and environmentally friendly way of sorting the problem. Luckily Kiyo was a very quick learner and learnt that past the bricks was off limits!

Gardening on a budget

My 1st place T&M award winning Begonia ‘Inferno’ hanging basket and my stunning Tree Lilly ‘Yellow Rocket’

I then decided that I needed to separate the garden in half: dog end and dog-free end. I started to divide the two ends of the garden with old pieces of wooden slats that were laying around (from my son’s bed) and made an awful attempt at a picket fence.

Gardening on a budget

First fence attempt!

It did the job for a couple of weeks before Kiyo realised that, if he ran at it fast enough, it would collapse. The next idea I had was to try something I hadn’t done before and that was to set three fence posts into the ground and fit 6X6 trellis panels to securely cordon off the two areas. First I wanted to move the existing garden path from the edge of the garden to the centre which would help me fit the posts to provide most support to the panels. I was in the planning stages when I was given a large black gate which, coincidentally, was the exact size for the gaps in the trellis panels and this is the semi-finished result.

Gardening on a budget

Nearly finished…

The summer continued to present more troubles but I hope to explain more in my next blog.

Spring spruce up begins in Church Lane

Customer trial panel member Caroline Broome has had a busy weekend, getting ready for spring.

At last we have had a fine weekend and I’ve been making the most of it in spades, literally! Everything is coming into leaf, notably tree peony Hong Xia, and some plants like bog sage never died down. How timely was our decision to get rid of our lawn last autumn in favour of Indian stone – it’s so much easier to access the borders now. A near neighbour’s massive ash tree, which has overshadowed our garden for years, has been hard pruned by half so I’m dying to see how much more sun we will get here. The spring spruce up begins!

Spring spruce up begins in Church Lane

Tree peony Hong Xia

Having compiled a ‘Things To Do’ list I went completely off plan by cutting back the clematis Montana by half! I know that it’s officially the wrong time to prune this clematis but it was smothering everything in its wake. Then I hard pruned the neighbouring choisya. Everything in that corner of the garden looks strangely bare, but a lot brighter.

Next I dug up congested patches of symphytum, white phlox and acanthus to make room for my new T&M trial plants: Wallflower Perfumed Collection & Digitalis Leopardskin plugs, which were overwintered in 9cm pots, now have healthy root systems poking through the bottom of their pots. Also ready for transplanting are barerooted brunnera ‘Starry Eyes’ which have been storming away in their temporary greenhouse holding beds. Can’t wait for the soil to dry out a bit so that I can plant them out. I can’t bear to throw away any potential plants so every time I lift perennials I end up with loads of divisions, which I pot up for sale at my NGS Open Day. It’s only February and I can’t move in the greenhouse for plants. Some of the plants from last autumn that died back naturally over winter are totally unidentifiable, so it’s a case of wait and see.

Spring spruce up begins in Church Lane

Digitalis and wallflowers

I planted Freesia ‘Patio Perfection’ bulbs into terracotta patio pots, but the Trumpet Lily Collection has been planted into plastic pots for sinking into the borders later. Daffodil Rainbow Butterflies Mixed is promising to put on a magnificent display; I planted dozens so I’m anticipating a show stopping display outside our sun room doors.

Spring spruce up begins in Church Lane

Daffodils and Jitterbug, the annoyed cat!

It’s a case of hope over experience with me when it comes to seed sowing, but always the optimist I have sown my Courgette Defender seeds already, along with some ‘Boogie’ peas and sweet peas ‘Old Spice Mixed’ for the allotment. Probably not my most sensible decision was to plant out the Charlotte and Maris Piper potatoes, but they were chitted and raring to go;  so now I am glued to the weather forecast, fleece in hand, in case of impending frost.

A friend made a beautiful raised wooden and aluminium herb planter for our Christmas present, which has been filled with perennial herbs like sage, thyme, chives and rosemary, and I have sown purple basil and coriander to fill in the gaps in summer.

Spring spruce up begins in Church Lane

Iris reticulata in its 3rd year

T&M raises over £1000 for EACH charity

During November and December 2013 and January 2014, staff at Thompson & Morgan took part in the EACH £50 challenge – and raised over £1000!

T&M raises over £1000 for EACH charity

Julie Rush receives a £50 note from Vanessa Bell, Suffolk Fundraiser for EACH

The challenge itself was to turn £50 into as much money for the EACH charity in 3 months. Thompson & Morgan was presented with a £50 note in November and had until 31st January 2014 to raise as much cash as possible. East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices supports children and young people with life-threatening conditions and their families.

A fundraising committee was swiftly set up and the team got to work on ideas. A couple of brainstorming and planning sessions later, and the events were ready to be organised – school dinners, silent auction, cosy day, furniture sale, and a soup and cake day.

The school dinners day was a real success – committee members made chilli con carne and fruit crumble with custard. It was cold and wet outside and a hot dinner was just what everyone needed!

On ‘Cosy Day’, staff were able to come to work in their onesies and slippers for a donation to the fundraising effort. They were treated to luxurious hot chocolate too!

T&M raises over £1000 for EACH charity

Luxury hot chocolate and cakes for Cosy Day

The ‘TM-Bay’ silent auction had some great items, including hotel stays, golf lesssons, signed books by Alan Titchmarsh, Christine Walkden and Vanessa Kimbell, a bespoke stained-glass mirror, cinema tickets and even film cells from The Lord of the Rings. This event alone raised over £400!

We’ve got some very skilled bakers at Thompson & Morgan and, once again, they turned their hands to whipping up some amazing cakes for the Soup and Cake day, the last fundraising event for the £50 challenge. The team served minestrone, leek and potato and vegetable soup and the cakes included the incredibly popular malteser bake…

T&M raises over £1000 for EACH charity

20 companies and groups in East Anglia took part in the winter challenge (there’s another one in spring, starting in April) and raised a total of £8,481.27 for EACH! We’ve also just found out that Thompson & Morgan is in 3rd position on the leaderboard!

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