Gardening News

Find the latest gardening news on the T&M blog. From pumpkins to potatoes, we’ve got it covered!

Suffolk train stations back in bloom

The colour has again returned to Ipswich and Stowmarket train stations thanks to a partnership between train operator Abellio Greater Anglia, local seed and plant specialist Thompson & Morgan and Ipswich-based charity Activlives. In a repeat of last year’s hanging basket displays of Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’, volunteers, work placements and young learners from ActivLives have been busy this spring growing baskets of Thompson & Morgans’ best selling begonia, but looking to add scent as well as colour to the platforms for 2016 Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ has been added to the mix.

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan, ActivLives' gardeners and Jackie Station Manager at Ipswich

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan, ActivLives’ gardeners and Jackie Station Manager at Ipswich

Not only will the baskets brighten up the journeys of everyone who passes through the stations on the London to Norwich mainline, the project has provided local young people with valuable horticultural experience. Participants from a number of organisations, including WS Training, Talent Match and Seetec, take part in training programmes at ActivLives’ two garden projects in Ipswich to gain skills for work.

The Activlives team planted up the baskets back in April. They have since tended the choice Begonia blooms at the glasshouses in the walled garden at Chantry Park, bringing them into peak condition for display at the rail stations.

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan with ActivLives' gardeners

Ipswich Train Station with Thompson & Morgan Blooms

Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord said: “We were pleased with last year’s baskets, but Activlives has outperformed themselves this year, with bigger better baskets for the best impact. Planted in incredicompost® and fed with incredbloom® at planting time, these baskets are looking stunning and will continue to perform right through to autumn, with minimal care from station staff – spent flowers simply fall off to be replaced by fresh new blooms. The addition of Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ should really lift the spirits of workers on their daily commute and make a warm welcome for visitors and tourists passing through both stations.”

Begonia 'Fragrant Falls' & Begonia 'Fragrant Falls' at Ipswich Station

Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ at Ipswich Station

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Decorative dual cropping veg plant holds its own against latest flower introductions

Innovative Egg & Chips® plant makes the finals in two of gardening’s most prestigious floral awards

Thompson & Morgan is celebrating a second time in as many weeks, following the industry success of its latest dual cropping creation, Egg & Chips®.
The innovative potato and aubergine graft has been well received by all sectors of the industry and customers alike, with strong sales in its first season on the market. Already an announced finalist in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year, the Ipswich-based seed and plant specialist has just been informed that Egg & Chips® has also been shortlisted as one of the five finalists in the prestigious Fleuroselect Fleurostar awards.

Egg & Chips®

Egg & Chips®

Traditionally a bedding plant event, organisers where so impressed with the unique attributes of Egg & Chips® that it is being pitted against four new floral creations in this year’s ceremony; Argyranthemum ‘Grandaisy’, Dahlia x hybrida ‘Dahlegria Red Yellow Bicolor’, Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Capitán Colón’ and Begonia hybrid ‘Miss Malibu’.
Thompson & Morgan new product development manager, Michael Perry said; “We’re really pleased to see recognition being given to this very special creation. Previous finalists of these two prestigious awards, such as Petunia ‘Night Sky’ and Viburnum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’, have gone on to become top-sellers for the industry, so expect to see Egg & Chips® widely grown on allotments, patios and gardens across the UK. Our recent focus on dual cropping vegetable plants has opened up home growing to everyone. Both our Egg & Chips® and Tomtato® plants allow home grown crops to be produced in the smallest of spaces. As long as you have room for a large patio pot, you have the space to grow your own potatoes and aubergines or potatoes and tomatoes.”

Egg & Chips®

Egg & Chips®

Michael says these quirky plants could be the answer to encouraging the next generation of gardeners too.  He adds: “These plants really capture the imagination of children. Grow Egg & Chips® with your kids or grandkids this summer and see their amazement as they harvest large shiny aubergines from the top and a crop of large white potatoes from the pot below.”

Egg & Chips®

Egg & Chips®

The FleuroStar Contest will be held at nine locations in The Netherlands and Germany as part of the annual Flower Trials open days. More than 30 professionals working in plant breeding, production and retail, as well as trade journalists and marketing specialists, will choose the ‘Winner with the Wow Factor’ based on the highest average score on commercial potential and point of sale attractiveness. The winner will be announced on 16th June at the Green Inspiration Event at RAI Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Egg and Chips® can be grown outside in a sunny sheltered spot and will crop right through to the first frosts of autumn – even longer if you can bring the pot indoors later in the season. So there is still time to grow Egg & Chips® this season. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com and search ‘Egg & Chips®’ to order yours.

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Hanging basket habits revealed

Thompson & Morgan survey reveals nation’s habits when it comes to summer hanging baskets

Love them or loathe them, nothing sets up the garden for summer like a vibrant display of hanging baskets. As the UK’s leading mail order supplier of seasonal basket plants, Thompson & Morgan has surveyed the nation’s gardeners to see how they use them to best effect in their garden, with some interesting findings.

Highlights include:
•   Red is the nation’s favourite basket flower colour
•   Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ named best basket plant
•   Begonias, fuchsias and petunias hold the top slots but….
•   60% of gardeners are planning to try something new in their summer baskets this year
•   Hanging basket numbers per garden ranged from 1 to 28, but the average is 5.4 per plot
•   15% of gardening households don’t include hanging baskets in their summer displays

Begonia 'Apricot Shades' & Begonia 'Lotto Mixed'

Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ & Begonia ‘Lotto Mixed’

Hanging baskets are all about showing off and adding colour to the garden scene, so Thompson & Morgan was keen to identify the nation’s favourite floral basket shades. When gardeners were invited to take the Thompson & Morgan online survey this spring, the top three flower colours were red (24%), purple (22%) and pink (17%). Just 5% prefer white flowers, and while only 10% chose yellow and 9% orange, Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ received the most mentions as a favourite hanging basket plant, with trailing begonias, petunias and fuchsias in general filling the top slots.

Petunia 'Night Sky' & Begonia 'Illumination Mixed'

Petunia ‘Night Sky’ & Begonia ‘Illumination Mixed’

The survey findings reveal that the majority of basket gardeners use just two or three flower colours in their basket displays (38%), with only 9% sticking to one colour. 26% go all out with a riot of mixed colour in their baskets, while 27% of respondents said they employ a combination of single colours, duos, trios and mixes across their various baskets.

Hanging baskets seem to be the place for gardeners to experiment with new plants, with over 60% looking to try something different in their displays this summer. Thompson & Morgan sales analysis shows that the new edible Fuchsia Berry and the unusually speckled Petunia ‘Night Sky’ are stand out ‘experimental’ basket options for customers this season.

Petunia 'Frills & Spills™ Mixed' & Fuchsia 'Trailing Mixed'

Petunia ‘Frills & Spills™ Mixed’ & Fuchsia ‘Trailing Mixed’

Tastes in basket style are fast changing too, with just 13 per cent opting for traditional moss-lined wire baskets. Coir matting is now the preferred option for lining older style baskets, but 45% of respondents said they had no need for basket liners as they now use pre-lined wicker baskets or plastic Easy Fill Baskets that need no lining at all. These were also chosen for their durability and ease of planting and upkeep through the season.

Only 36% of basket gardeners have tried fruit or vegetables in their hanging displays, despite many edible plants being suitable for baskets. For those that do grow their own this way, strawberries, tomatoes and mixed herbs were the most common planting option, but the new edible Fuchsia Berry and basket Blackberry ‘Black Cascade’ look set to shake things up.

Fuchsia Berry & Blackberry 'Black Cascade'

Fuchsia Berry & Blackberry ‘Black Cascade’

Gardeners are savvy about the benefits of regular deadheading of basket plants to promote more flowers and extend the life of their baskets – Just 1% admitted to never deadheading, saying life is too short. But 31% dead head their basket plants on a weekly basis, and 29 % do it daily. 23% deadhead twice a week, leaving 15 percent to do it “when remembered”.

Thompson & Morgan’s survey also threw up some interesting findings when it comes to the nation’s use of winter and spring hanging baskets, to be revealed soon.

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

RHS gardener sows seed of hope for UK record-breaking pumpkin

Thompson & Morgan donates world’s most expensive pumpkin seed to Hyde Hall vegetable grower

Following a nationwide hunt to find a gardener brave enough to sow the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed, Thompson & Morgan has delivered a seed of the current world record-breaking pumpkin (2,323lb, grown by Beni Meier in 2014) to the vegetable garden at RHS Hyde Hall, Essex. The mail order seed and plant specialist paid a record £1,250 for the seed at auction at the World Pumpkin Commonwealth Conference earlier in the season, in a bid to boost UK pumpkin genetics and see a world record contender grown on UK shores for the first time.

Paul Hansord handing over the giant pumpkin seed to Matthew Oliver

Paul Hansord handing over the giant pumpkin seed to Matthew Oliver

Thompson & Morgan director Paul Hansord delivered the precious seed to RHS horticulturist, Matthew Oliver, on 13 April. Armed with a crib sheet of Thompson & Morgan’s tips for success he promptly set the seed into potting compost, eager to make a start on the giant undertaking. Adding to the pressure, all this was carried out in front of a film crew from BBC Inside Out East, who will be following his progress through the season. A full report will be aired on the BBC1 show in the build up to Halloween.

Fortunately Matthew already has some good experience under his belt. Hyde Hall has become renowned for its pumpkin patch in recent years. Around 60 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds are grown at the Chelmsford garden each year, with thousands of visitors attending events through autumn to see the produce on display.

Matthew said: “Our largest pumpkins always draw a crowd, so I have been concentrating more time and effort on growing giant specimens in recent years. In 2015 I produced a 530lb giant and I already had big plans for 2016. We’ve built a larger patch (150x40ft) giving me space to grow four giant plants. Soil conditions have been improved and so have the irrigation systems, wind shelter and feeding programmes have all been planned to encourage the heaviest fruits.”

Sanding down the seed coating for quicker germination

Sanding down the seed coating for quicker germination

Growing outdoors, Matthew admits he is unlikely to break the world record, but has set a personal target around the 1,000lb mark, which would make his attempt the heaviest outdoor pumpkin ever grown in the UK. He also hopes his attempt will encourage others to try in the future. He said: “Outdoor growing is much more achievable for home gardeners, and once they see the results at Hyde Hall I hope others will take up the challenge in their own gardens and allotments. Pumpkins are such a rewarding hobby plant.”

Matthew now has until 8th October to grow the biggest possible specimen and get it to the UK official weigh in at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Southampton.
The pumpkin patch will be on show to all Hyde Hall garden visitors through the season.

Thompson & Morgan was swamped with requests to grow the seed. Impressed with the passion of many of the entrants, it has sent seeds from several other heavyweight pumpkins (1689-2008lb specimens) to five other interested growers: Joanne Jackson, Cheshire; Guy French, Essex; Anthony & Sally Pooley, Suffolk, George Richardson, County Durham, and Mr Hill, Cantubury

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Expert tips for bigger and better sweet peas

3 simple tips for bigger sweet peas

Left to their own devices sweet pea plants will work their way up their supports, going on to produce masses of colour and scent. However, with a few simple training tricks you can turn an every-day display into a real show-stopper!

My tips here will encourage the fastest growth and the biggest blooms on the longest stems. You can see the difference my training tricks bring about in the photo below.

 

Training difference in sweet peas

Training difference in sweet peas.

 

Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ in the left hand pot has been left to its own devices, while Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ on the right has received some regular attention from me – and what a difference it makes. When I get home this evening I’ll have to add the next tier to the Tower Pot frame, it will be another couple of weeks before I have to do that for ‘Turquoise Lagoon’.

If you want the same results, simply carry out my three easy maintenance tips:

Remove side shoots: Check plants every few days for side shoot development. These divert energy away from the main stem, which delays flowering and reduces eventual flower size. Use snips or your thumb and forefinger to pinch out shoot growth as close to the main stem as possible.

 

Remove sideshoots

Remove sideshoots

Remove tendrils: Sweet pea plants put a lot of energy into producing tendrils and latching on to available supports. Divert that energy back into the main stem by snipping off tendrils before they latch on to a support.

 

Remove tendrils

Remove tendrils

 

Tie in: With no tendrils to hold up stems you’ll have to provide an alternative. I use sweet pea rings to keep my stems in place. They are quick and easy to put around both stems and supports, with plenty of room left between them. Therefore, avoiding any stem damage, and the rings can be used again and again. It is so much easier to work with than fiddly twine or raffia.

Sweet pea rings

Sweet pea rings

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Sweet pea diary – part 2

Just over 4 weeks from sowing, Kris’s sweet peas are ready for potting on. Here’s his daughter Ruby showing off the healthy young plants. The Haxnicks root trainers have encouraged really strong root growth, leading to fast, vigorous shoot growth.

 

Sweet pea root trainer and Ruby with the Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

Sweet pea root trainer and Ruby with the Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

 

Looking to produce the earliest flowers possible, the plants are now in a Tower Pot. All but the strongest side shoots have been retained, concentrating plant energy into a single stem for the fastest growth.  A few hours of supplementary lighting in the morning and evening should see the plants quickly cover the frame.

 

Tower Pot for Sweet peas

Tower Pot for Sweet peas

 

There’s still plenty of time to sow sweet peas for summer. The easy-sow seeds can be sown outside through March and April, where they are to grow. Why not join Kris and Ruby and grow Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’. Not only will you have a garden full of scent and colour this summer, you’ll be raising vital funds for the charity Thrive, which uses therapeutic horticulture to bring positive change to those with ill health or disability, or are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Don’t put up with inflated onion pricing. Grow your own and save £££s

With news that the wholesale price of onions is set to rise by 60% in the coming weeks (Daily Mail 14 March), Thompson & Morgan is advising gardeners that there has never been a better time to grow your own onions from spring-planting sets.

The Thompson & Morgan onion range not only offers an economical solution to rising prices; better flavours, better bulb size and better storage life can be had too.

 

Onions

 

The wholesale price hike has been blamed on a poor 2015 harvest, brought about by a hot summer in Europe’s main production areas, which led to bulbs ‘bolting’ (running to seed) in the field before a late harvest due to a wet autumn. Onions that do make it to supermarket shelves will be smaller in size, with larger bulbs fetching a premium price.

Thompson & Morgan’s spring planting onion sets have been specially heat treated for 20 weeks to help prevent summer bolting and extend their growth period, leading to bigger yields and bigger bulbs at the end of the season.

Crops harvested in late summer can be prepared for storage and used right through winter, or until stocks last. Thompson & Morgan has 13 product options for spring planting onion sets, including brown, white and red options as well as mixed collections for a varied harvest.

 

Onion 'Hercules' & Onion 'Golden Ball'

 

Thompson & Morgan onion set prices remain unchanged, starting at £3.99 for 75 sets – already a vast saving on supermarket prices. ASDA currently sells 3 Grower’s Selection Organic Brown Onions for 97p. 75 onions would cost £14.55 in store – and that’s before any knock-on retail price hikes come into effect.

If small, expensive supermarket onions won’t cut it for you this season, make sure to try a large variety such as Setton, Hercules or Golden Ball, all selected for their large uniform bulb shape, full flavour and long storage qualities.

 

For the full range visit www.thompson-morgan.com

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Sweet pea diary – part 1

We’ve had some good sunny days in Suffolk this week and spring is almost in the air. Have you made a start on sowing? What have you got in your propagators?

Our gardening expert Kris Collins is growing sweet peas with his kids this year. The seeds were sown on 10th Feb – they are growing Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ for their colour-changing blooms, alongside Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’, launched this year to raise funds for Thrive, Thompson & Morgan’s Charity of the Year.

 

Week One Sweet Pea 'Eleanore Udall' & Sweet Pea 'Turquoise Lagoon'

Week One Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ & Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

 

The tips were pinched out last week to calls of “Daddy what are you doing to our plants?!” A quick lesson on the benefits of pinching out, and there are now two happy children looking forward to lots of lovely flowers this summer.

There’s still time to sow sweet peas indoors. Alternatively sow outside where you want them to grow. Get your Eleanore Udall seeds here – 50 % of proceeds go direct to the charity.

 

Sweet Pea 'Eleanore Udall' & Sweet Pea 'Turquoise Lagoon'

Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ & Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

Kris Collins

Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

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