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!)

Thompson & Morgan donates plants to local schools

 

Left: Children from Chelmondiston Primary School holding plants donated by Thompson & Morgan. Right: Children from Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy with a trolley of donated plants. Photo credits: Thompson & Morgan

 

Last week we donated over 1,500 plants to two local schools. The PTA of Chelmondiston Primary School, near Ipswich, was delighted to receive the plants which have been planted in the Key Stage 1 garden and playground area to brighten it up whilst the rest have been sold to raise money for a new outdoor classroom.

Catherine Seel, a parent and Chelmondiston Primary School PTA member, said:

“Many thanks to Thompson & Morgan for this generous donation of plants! We’re so pleased to be able to plant some of them around the school and to use the others to raise funds for our outdoor classroom”.

Plants were also donated to Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy in Ipswich.

“We would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Thompson & Morgan for this very kind donation of summer annuals and perennials which are being sold to raise funds for some much-needed outdoor sensory equipment to enhance our sensory garden area”.

Peter Freeman, our new product development manager, commented:”

It was a pleasure to be able to donate these plants to local schools. We planted over 14,000 plants at the end of May at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex for our Floral Fantasia exhibition garden and had a few left over! We’re always keen to encourage young people into gardening, so it’s fantastic that these plants will be put to good use in the schools’ gardens – and also to help raise funds.”

 As you may have heard, we’ve recently transformed an area of the well-known RHS Garden Hyde Hall site in Essex into a magnificent floral exhibition, Floral Fantasia, which is showcasing many varieties of T&M’s range of bedding plants over the summer months.

To view our extensive range of bedding plants, go to https://www.thompson-morgan.com/bedding-plants

For more information on Floral Fantasia at RHS Garden Hyde Hall this summer go to

https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall

About Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy

Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy is a special school for children with a wide range of physical, medical and/or sensory needs and associated learning disabilities.

 

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!)

THOMPSON & MORGAN TAKES FIRST AND THIRD PLACES FOR RHS CHELSEA PLANT OF THE YEAR

Hydrangea hybrid Runaway Bride® ‘Snow White’                                                                      SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’

We’re thrilled to announce that our entry ‘Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride® ‘Snow White’ has today been awarded the prestigious accolade of RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year.

When we announced yesterday that no less than five of our seven entries had made the shortlist of 20 plants selected by RHS plant committee members, we hardly dared to hope that one of these would take the renowned title at judging today. In fact, our home-bred entry, SunBelievable™ ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ has taken third place, giving us two slots in the Plant of the Year top three!

‘Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride Snow White’  is completely unique in that it flowers not only from its terminal buds as with traditional hydrangeas, but also from virtually all the lateral stem buds. Flowering from late spring/early summer well into autumn, Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride’ produces a profusion of lacecap white flowers flushed with pale pink – often 6 along each branch – on graceful, trailing stems.

Paul Masters, our Head of Horticulture, comments this afternoon from RHS Chelsea Flower Show:

“We’re completely over the moon to have taken first and third places in this year’s RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year. ‘Runaway Bride’ is a truly spectacular plant – I’ve never seen so many flowers on a hydrangea! To see six blooms on each branch is unheard of. It really is incredible!”

SunBelievable™’Brown Eyed Girl’ is the latest of our many breeding successes. This brand new hybrid has been perfected over 8 years by Thompson & Morgan’s in-house breeding team, headed by Charles Valin. Like no other sunflower, SunBelievable™ flowers on unique multi-branching plants continuously from May until the first frosts. In trials, plants were still blooming in November! Ideal for containers as well as borders, each plant produces over 1,000 flowers during the growing season.

Head plant breeder, Charles, says:

“I’m incredibly pleased to hear that SunBelievable™’Brown Eyed Girl’ has been awarded a place in the top three Plant of the Year at RHS Chelsea. I set out to breed a new hybrid that wouldn’t waste time setting seed and would put all its energy into flowering. In creating this amazing new sunflower, I’ve crossed the very best with the very best to really boost its flower power. It’s a huge honour to have our hard work recognised by such a prestigious body.”

Easy to grow, quick to recover if neglected, heat and drought tolerant, SunBelievable™ is the first cutting-raised annual sunflower with multiple uses as a pot plant, patio decoration, bedding and as a cut flower.

All our shortlisted plants as well as other shortlisted entries are available from www.thompson-morgan.com/chelsea-2018

 

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!)

Five entries shortlisted for RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year

FIVE THOMPSON & MORGAN ENTRIES SHORTLISTED FOR RHS CHELSEA PLANT OF THE YEAR

We’re so proud to announce that FIVE of our seven entries into the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year competition have today been shortlisted. We were awarded this very distinguished accolade in 2012 for our fabulous Digitalis Illumination.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year finallists

Our Head of Horticulture, Paul Masters, commented this afternoon from RHS Chelsea Flower Show:

“I’m thrilled that we’ve got five plants through to the final – including two that are from our own breeding. Each of the plants is so incredible in its own way, we’re really so pleased that this has been recognised by the judges today. We’re keeping everything crossed for the final selection tomorrow!”

Sunbelievable™’Brown Eyed Girl’ is the latest of our many breeding successes. Like no other sunflower, Sunbelievable™ flowers on unique multi-branching plants continuously from May until the first frosts. In trials, plants were still blooming in November! Ideal for containers as well as borders, each plant produces over 1,000 flowers during the growing season. This brand new hybrid which has been perfected over 8 years by our in-house breeding team, headed by Charles Valin, is bred to be sterile so it puts all its energy into flowering rather than setting seed.

Stunning Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride’ is completely unique in that it flowers not only from its terminal buds as with traditional hydrangeas, but also from virtually all the lateral stem buds. Flowering from late spring/early summer well into autumn, Hydrangea hybrid ‘Runaway Bride’ produces a profusion of lacecap white flowers flushed with pale pink – often 6 along each branch – on graceful, trailing stems.

The third short-listed plant is another breeding success from our in-house team. Isotoma axillaris ‘Fizz n’Pop Glowing Purple’ is an extra-large-flowered Isotoma boasting an exceptional unfading colour of bright purple. Flowers and petals are much larger than traditional Isotoma and instead of fading over the flowering period, they actually become darker with age.

Next on the list is the latest in the Garvinea® Gerbera series is Gerbera hybrida Garvinea® Sweet Sunset®. Sweet Sunset® is the very first bi-colour variety. Uniquely, this fabulous, vibrantly-coloured gerbera flowers non-stop from early spring until the first frosts, producing masses of large, warm yellow-orange flowers on each plant – more than 100 per plant each year.

The last on the list of the shortlisted plants for RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s Plant of the Year is the amazing Dahlia Lubega Tricolour. This strikingly attractive dahlia represents a major colour breakthrough. Red, yellow, orange and white areas on the petals give the blooms an ever-changing appearance through the flowering period. In a never-before-seen colour combination, flowers will seemingly change colour as the season progresses. It has taken 5 years for this variety to come to the commercial market after its unique colouring was discovered during a bicolour breeding programme.

All plants are available from www.thompson-morgan.com

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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