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,

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