Another International Award for T&M’s SunBelievable™

SunBelievable 'Brown Eyed Girl' wins International Award

We’re so pleased to announce another international award for its innovative Sunflower SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. Initial trials of the long-flowering sunflower in Japan have proven hugely successful prior to its launch in the early summer of 2019.

The plant was well received at the horticultural industry show, Flower Trial Japan 2018, held recently in the prefecture of Yamanshi and Nagano, and was placed second in the Outstanding Performance Award category.

Our Head of Horticulture, Paul Masters, commented today:
“We’re thrilled to hear that SunBelievable™ ’Brown Eyed Girl’ has won another international award. It is very encouraging to know that interest in the plant is spreading around the world! We’re looking forward to a successful launch of SunBelievable™ ’Brown Eyed Girl’ in Japan next year.”

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

More Awards for T&M’s Sunflower SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’

More Awards for T&M's SunBelievable™ 'Brown Eyed Girl

Following its success at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May, our fantastic in-house-bred sunflower, SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ has won even more awards and accolades. Proving hugely popular in the US, the new sunflower was awarded the Retailers’ Choice Award at the FARWEST Show in Portland, Oregon, as well as the 2018 American Horticultural Retailers’ Choice Award at Cultivate Ohio. In the UK, at the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) National Plant Show, SunBelievable™ took gold in the annuals category, as well as the Best in Category (Annuals) and the Visitor Voted Best in Category (Annuals). The long-flowering sunflower also won the 2018 Four Oaks Trade Show ‘Best Plant Introduction Bedding or Pot Plant’.

Our Head of Horticulture, Paul Masters, commented:

“We’re very proud to have won so many prestigious awards for SunBelievable™ ’Brown Eyed Girl’ both in the UK and abroad. To have gained international recognition for our fabulous sunflower is a great success for Thompson & Morgan.”

With online and catalogue sales topping 100,000 plants in the UK, SunBelievable™ is also proving to be incredibly popular in the USA where it has been well received at all the top trade shows and in trials prior to its retail release in 2019.

“Customer feedback for SunBelievable™’Brown Eyed Girl’ has been extremely positive” says Peter Freeman, our New Product Development Manager. “We’ve been amazed at the plants’ performance this summer – particularly through the heatwave and drought conditions. Those that were planted in the first half of the summer are still flowering now!”

At our Floral Fantasia garden at RHS Garden Hyde Hall this summer, at which hundreds of varieties of annuals were on display, SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ proved to be the favourite of the majority of the almost 140,000 visitors to the gardens.

Paul Masters also commented that there would be further exciting introductions to come in the SunBelievable™ range. Watch this space!

Sunbelievable™ 'Brown Eyed Girl'

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Autumn news update from Thompson & Morgan

Left: T&M Flower of the Year Nasturtium ‘Orchid Flame’ Right: Beetroot Morello Photo credit: Thompson & Morgan

New Season

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve seen a strong start to sales from our newly-launched 2019 mail order seed range. Flower of the Year, Nasturtium ‘Orchid Flame’, Beet Morello and Tomato ‘Sweet Success’ are all proving popular with gardeners eager to prepare for next season.

New Retail Ranges

Back in April, we announced partnerships with Mr. Men Little Miss and with the National Trust. Officially launched at the Hampton Court Flower Show, the Mr. Men Little Miss retail seed range is selling well in garden centres and other retail outlets.

Joseph Cordy, our Head of B2B Sales said:

‘We’re so pleased at how well this new range of seeds is being received by the gardening public. Our partnership with one of the best known and loved children’s brands seems to be inspiring gardeners young and old to get growing from seed’.

Left: Mr. Men Little Miss range details from T&M retail brochure Right: National Trust range details from T&M retail brochure Photo credit: Thompson & Morgan

The eagerly anticipated National Trust seed range is due to launch in early October and will be available via a variety of retail channels. Both new seed ranges will continue to grow and develop with exciting plans to add further products to them.

Long Hot Summer

The Floral Fantasia garden at RHS Garden Hyde Hall near Chelmsford, has been one of the horticultural highlights of the year. Thompson & Morgan’s display of thousands of bedding plants created an amazingly colourful spectacle which was visited and much admired by many of the over 135,000 visitors to RHS Garden Hyde Hall this summer. Last week, staff from Thompson & Morgan and the RHS cleared the garden as the displays had started to fade from their former glory.

Peter Freeman, our New Product Development Manager, who oversaw the design, planting and maintenance of the Floral Fantasia garden, said:

We’ve been astounded at the success of the Floral Fantasia garden. The feedback from visitors has been extraordinarily positive. People have commented on the fantastic colour and the sheer quantity of varieties of plant featured in the garden.

The long hot summer was a challenge in many ways, but also meant that the plants filled out and came on quickly to produce the amazing displays that everyone has enjoyed.”

Left: T&M’s Floral Fantasia garden in July Right: View of the garden area following the clear down last week. Photo credit: Thompson & Morgan

 

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

A Life in the Garden of….Suffolk businessman, Jeremy Scowsill

Ipswich-based property developer doubles as self-sufficient organic gardener

 

Isn’t it funny how, at a certain age, you realise that many of the people you’ve known for years have apparently ‘suddenly’ got into gardening? I’m not sure if it’s actually an age thing – it clearly isn’t as the growing number of young gardening bloggers shows – or just the fact that you’re hearing more about your friends’ gardens and seeing the results of their gardening endeavours thanks to social media.

I recently noticed that an old friend (‘less of the old’, he’ll say!) was posting some amazing pictures of his garden and the things he’s been growing on Instagram (@jemsgardening). I’ve known Jeremy and his wife Julia for years, since our children were in junior school, and as far as I knew, Jeremy was a very busy businessman, and not someone I’d imagined digging a veg patch or pottering in a potting shed, so I got in touch to find out more.

I started by asking Jeremy when he’d got interested in gardening? I was interested to find out if it was a new thing for him or if he’d gardened with his parents or a grandparent?

“I really started gardening about fifteen years ago. When I was a child, my father grew some vegetables and fruit, but I was more interested in getting him to play football with me than actually helping him in the garden! I did a day’s gardening course some years ago with my wife Julia, and having eaten the freshly-grown food as part of the day, we realised that home-grown food is just so much tastier than shop-bought food. So it’s fair to say that my real interest started in my adult years.”

Jeremy lives in a lovely house just outside Ipswich in Suffolk and I wondered if he had laid out his beautiful kitchen garden or if it had already been there when he and his family moved in.

“I actually started with just a small area of the garden where I planted some herbs, along with a few simple salad and vegetable seeds. I quickly learnt some simple lessons – like don’t plant mint without restricting it! Although the amount of produce was initially small, it was, as I’d hoped, so much tastier than anything we could buy and I quickly became hooked. After a couple of years, I had outgrown my mini-plot and decided to convert the old ‘kitchen garden’ back to its original use. I prepared a simple plan on paper, creating a design of raised beds and fruit cages. I already had a greenhouse (actually a vinery) with a mature grape vine inside – but this was just loads of work and produced grapes that I am sure would have made excellent wine, but really weren’t sweet enough to eat raw. So I took out the vine and installed some simple wooden benches. This became my working area under glass, although controlling the heat was a bit of a problem on occasions. About three years ago, we built a potting shed which gave me a few more options and took the messy side of gardening away from the garden itself.

I had seen from Jeremy’s social media posts that he was gardening organically and so I asked him if he’d set out right from the start to keep his garden organic and what his motives were.

“I definitely set out to garden organically as it was quite clear that shop-bought salad leaves in particular simply don’t stay fresh without some fairly serious ‘additives’ being applied. Knowing more about what we were eating as a family and knowing how it had been grown suddenly became more important to me. There has been the odd occasion over the last fifteen years where I have resorted to using a non-natural pesticide, but this is now pretty rare. I think the only times I have resorted to chemicals is when I have been confined by time – as I am still pretty busy with work – or if I really can’t deal with the issue with an effective natural or organic solution.”

I wondered which were Jeremy’s favourite vegetables to grow and which he finds to be the most successful.

“In my earlier gardening years, I tried growing all sorts of things and whilst I am always experimenting, the basic premise is that I only grow things that we as a family want to eat. So there are a few things we no longer grow at all, although I have been known to grow things just because they look nice! My standard year’s crop would comprise about five varieties of lettuce, four or five different varieties of tomato, cucumbers, beetroot, onions, shallots, broad beans, sweetcorn, artichokes, leeks, aubergines, various varieties of squash, marrows and spinach. I rarely grow carrots as my predominantly clay soil is not conducive to growing good carrots – and to get the right conditions for them will require a bit of extra hard work – which will have to wait until I have a bit more time to spare! I also have a bed which provides a constant supply of fresh herbs.”

Jeremy says that he also grows lots of fruit…and has time to grow and maintain a wonderful cutting garden.

“I have fruit cages where I grow redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, tayberries and some cultivated blackberries. We have some apple and plum trees in the garden which I largely leave to their own devices – pruning probably every three years, rather than yearly which I would definitely not recommend, but I do get a good crop from them occasionally!”

“As well as growing flowers in the cutting garden, we deliberately allow certain of our vegetables to go to seed to produce wonderful seed heads which we combine with other flowers from the garden to decorate indoors. Leeks and artichokes are our favourites for this.”

I was interested to know how Jeremy and his wife, Julia, managed the gardening chores – including dealing with their abundant crops.

“Julia and I share the bottling, blanching, freezing and preserving of our crops – whatever we don’t eat! We live off salads in the summer and always have a bowl of Sungold tomatoes available for ‘Scooby snacks’ from July to October. If there was one thing I would recommend growing lots of, it would be these – they are just like sweets and you don’t feel guilty eating them!”

Knowing that Jeremy is generally busy with a number of business projects on the go at once, I asked him how much time he is able to spend in the garden.

“Depending on the weather, I probably spend about six or seven hours a week in the garden between March to October. I do have some help at the end of the season when we have a clear-up and dig in our own compost, which we carefully create over a two to three year period.”

He adds:

“I find gardening a very relaxing pastime – watching things grow and sometimes helping them along if they’re struggling, is very therapeutic. Sometimes I put on some music or listen to some sport while I’m gardening; other times, I just use it for thinking time. It entirely depends upon my mood and how much time I have available. It is without question a de-stressing time of the day for me and, except during periods of really bad weather, I will usually make at least two trips out to the garden during the day to either do something specific, or just to potter!”

A big thank you to Jeremy and we look forward to hearing more from him. All the images in the blog are from Jeremy’s instagram account @jemsgardening

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

T&M’s highly-regarded horticulturalist celebrates 50 years in horticulture

Left: The Sun’s Peter Seabrook (L) presents Colin Randel (R) with engraved garden fork and spade Right: Colin Randel, Thompson & Morgan’s vegetable product manager and potato expert Photo credits: Thompson & Morgan

Colin Randel, our product manager and vegetable expert here at Thompson & Morgan was last week presented with an engraved commemorative garden fork and spade in recognition of his 50 year contribution to horticulture.

Veteran gardening writer, The Sun columnist and broadcaster, Peter Seabrook, who has known Colin for many years, was on hand at RHS Garden Hyde Hall last Tuesday where we were holding our annual press day, to make the presentation.

Peter commented:

Colin is a real treasure; his knowledge and experience in the world of vegetable growing is remarkable. Whenever I come up with a query on vegetables he is, and has been for many years, my first port of call. He is to be congratulated on his 50 years’ working in the seed trade and on his loyal service at Thompson & Morgan over the last 18 years. Long may he continue to serve vegetable growing gardeners at home and abroad.

Colin’s love of gardening started when, as a young boy, he would help in his grandmother’s garden, planting potatoes and runner beans. He left school at 16 and has been working in horticulture in one form or another since then. Colin learned much of the basics of gardening with the head gardener of the Parker-Bowles estate, Donnington Castle House in Berkshire. As an apprentice, he took day release to the local agricultural college to add to his practical horticultural knowledge. Over the next 26 years, Colin worked developing seed lines at several companies in Berkshire, Devon and Suffolk before moving to Thompson & Morgan here in Ipswich in 2000 to develop the company’s seed potato business.

Thompson & Morgan’s commercial director, Chris Wright, said:

“Colin has been part of the fabric of Thompson & Morgan for 18 years now and he has developed and launched many new and exclusive vegetable lines to UK gardeners. We’re very lucky to have benefited from his incredible fount of knowledge over the years and so we were keen to celebrate his half century in horticulture with this presentation.”

One of the highlights of Colin’s career was his invitation in 1995 to join the RHS Garden Wisley vegetable trials committee. He enjoyed working with other vegetable specialists on this prestigious board for 23 years, acting as Chair for 8 years from 2006.

Colin remarked:

“I was most surprised when Peter made his presentation last week. Of course I know how long I’ve been working in horticulture – time does fly when you do a job that you’re passionate about – but I wasn’t expecting to have this milestone recognised with so many kind words and congratulations!”

 

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

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