A dream come true with Floral Fantasia

So, I heard we (Thompson & Morgan) were having a floral fantasia trial garden this year at RHS Hyde Hall in Chelmsford and I was very pleased, and couldn’t wait to visit.

Then I got an email asking me to help plant it up, I was over the moon!!!

Since starting my new career in Horticulture many years ago now, I wanted to work at Hyde Hall. I did apply for an apprenticeship there, but travelling would have been too much, so I studied at Otley College as it was closer.

An early start at T & M HQ and off we went to Hyde Hall down the A12 into Essex.


When we arrived the beds were marked out with marker spray and labelled and all we had to do was crack on with the planting.

floral fantasia areas marked out

There were 26 trolleys heaving with excellent, strong plants all ready waiting for planting.

getting underway

We also had a team of six Gardeners from the RHS to help us plant out.

the RHS team at the floral fantasia

The weather was kind to us, but the day before when the chaps were unloading the plants, they got a tad wet, apparently!

peter and lance getting wet at the floral fantasia

I planted some of my favourites including Cosmos Cupcakes and Nicotiana Marshmallow. Can’t wait to have some in my garden!

cosmos cupcakes and nicotiana

We think we planted about two thirds the first day, I went back for a second day of fun. It started of misty and cloudy, but to be honest, to me that’s perfect planting weather. It broke out warmer from lunchtime, so on went the hat and all important sun cream.

I loved day two, we got to plant the wonderful Sunflower, SunBelievable ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, what a truly stunning plant it is! In the centre of the garden, there is a large old trough packed with these beauts, I definitely want these in my garden. They are perfect for weddings, as my cousin’s wedding has a Sunflower theme so may have to grow some for her.

sunbelievable at floral fantasia

Pots and pouches complete the trial garden.

floral fantasia in progess

The garden is packed with summer favourites and also new introductions for 2018.

floral fantasia nearly finished

I am looking forward to visiting the garden with my children and showing them the riot of garden. Its open from the 9th June to the 30th September.

You will find the Floral Fantasia next to the Global Growth Vegetable Garden.

Sue Russell

One of my earliest memories; helping my Mum and Dad weed the veggie plot and collecting chicken eggs from the chooks at the end of the garden. I grew up on a farm as a child and always had my own piece of land to grow and learn with, so I suppose its in the blood!
In my mid twenties, I re trained in Horticulture (Professional Gardening ANCH) and set up my own Gardening business working for clients in the Suffolk/Essex area. For the last thirteen years Ive had the pleasure of working on a private twenty five acre estate tending to the grounds.
Most recently, eighteen months ago, I joined the team at Thompson and Morgan in the Customer Care department.
Also season ticket holder at Ipswich Town Football Club!!

Five 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!)

Cosmos are still all the rage in 2017

Thompson & Morgan has been at the forefront of cosmos breeding for 10 years since some unusual seeds arrived from California.

The ‘Cupcakes’ series of the ever-popular cosmos was born out of a chance find in a California back yard in 2007. When Diane Engdahl discovered an unusual cosmos flower in her garden in Santa Rosa, she sent the ensuing seed to the plant breeding team at Thompson & Morgan. Instead of its flower being made up of individual petals, rather like a daisy, as with most cosmos, the petals of this unique bloom were fused together, creating one single ‘cup’.

For nearly 10 years, plant breeders at Thompson & Morgan have been busy ‘fixing’ this new trait across the cosmos colour mix, developing new shades and refining the habit of this new cosmos shape. This long-standing cottage garden favourite was celebrated in 2016’s Year of the Cosmos and visitors to RHS Garden Wisley were asked to vote in a poll to name their favourite garden cosmos as part of the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual People’s Choice Competition. Once votes were gathered, Cosmos bipannatus ‘Cupcakes White’ came out on top of the 84 varieties on show in the RHS garden. Read more about the RHS People’s Choice Competition at http://www.thompson-morgan.com/rhs-cupcakes-white

Cosmos 'Cupcakes White' part of our Cosmos 'Cupcakes' seed range

It’s easy to see why cosmos are so popular. Sales of cosmos seed and plants have increased hugely over the past 10 years. This is partly due to breakthroughs in breeding which have led to new varieties such as ‘Cupcakes’ and ‘Lemonade’ (see below), but it is also down to the fabulous garden performance of this very stylish flower. Available in so many colour ways, heights and flower types; easy to grow; not prone to disease or pest attacks – cosmos really are every gardener’s dream plant!

Initially marketed as part of Thompson & Morgan’s exclusive Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’ mix, ‘Cupcakes White’ boasts pristine white petals which are fused together to form the single ‘cup’ that is the unique trademark of the ‘Cupcakes’ series. Tall, bushy plants are free flowering; ideal for elegant border designs and container growing, and perform well in all types of weather. Cosmos make fabulous cut flowers and each plant will produce an impressive number of blooms.

During T&M’s trials, it was remarked that bees appeared to be taking shelter from wind and rain inside the flower ‘cups’, with sometimes more than one bee sharing the protection that the fused petals afford. Cosmos are always a favourite with pollinating insects, but the knowledge that bees are using this new variety to take refuge from inclement weather, makes them all the more appealing.

Top tips for growing cosmos from seed
• Sow cosmos seeds in a heated greenhouse or propagator in April.
• Good light is important to prevent ‘stretching’
• Young plants can be planted out after the very last frosts, usually in late May/early June
• Regular dead-heading will promote flowering right up to the first frosts
• When dead-heading cosmos, cut the stem right back to the first leaf rather than just pulling the flower head off
• Seed can be planted outside, where you’d like them to flower, in May or early June

Thompson & Morgan also offers a number of cosmos varieties as plants which, depending on the size of the plant at the time of delivery, can be planted straight out into the garden, or they can be potted up and grown on before transplanting.

Cosmos ‘Cupcakes White’ – 1 packet (30 seeds) £1.99
Cosmos ‘Cupcakes Mixed’ – 1 packet (100 seeds) £1.99
Height: 120cm (48″). Spread: 60cm (24″)

Also from Thompson & Morgan’s own breeding comes another stunning cosmos variety – ‘Lemonade’

cosmos lemonadeTo create this multi-flowering subtle yellow cosmos with a striking central white eye, T&M’s plant breeding team took a very bright yellow, but late-flowering Japanese cosmos variety and crossed it with earlier-flowering cosmos with better, shorter habits. The resulting delicate, yellow blossoms of Cosmos ‘Lemonade’ marked a major breakthrough in cosmos breeding. Flowers are produced en masse throughout the summer on short to medium-high, branching cosmos plants. Fantastic for patio pots or as a robust and floriferous border filler – its colouring and habit means that it combines well with most other plants in bedding or container displays. Cosmos ‘Lemonade’ also makes a great cut flower and looks stunning in a vase, either on its own or mixed in with other flowers.

Cosmos ‘Lemonade’ – 1 packet (30 seeds) £2.49
Cosmos ‘Lemonade’ – 30 garden-ready plants £14.99
Height: 60cm (24in). Spread: 40cm (16in)

For further information on growing cosmos, please go to Thompson & Morgan’s website and read an article by Graham Rice taken from The Seed Raising Journal from 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!)

Giant pumpkin boats brave high winds to cross RHS lake in Essex

Matthew Oliver, of RHS Hyde Hall, rows hollowed-out UK record-breaking pumpkin in daring stunt

Had aliens landed in East Anglia this morning, they might have been forgiven for thinking that they’d stumbled upon some very strange goings on. Windy weather had caused traffic chaos on the A12 and A14 in the Ipswich area and grown men and women were rowing hollowed out pumpkins on a lake in Essex.

Matthew Oliver, horticulturist at RHS Hyde Hall, Chelmsford, not content with having successfully grown the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK, decided to turn his record-breaker into a boat and to attempt to row it across the lake at the RHS Essex site today.


Matt Oliver and his Giant Pumpkin Boat!

Matt Oliver and his Giant Pumpkin Boat!

Not only did Matthew launch his 1,333.8lb (95 stone or 605kg) pumpkin, he also managed to persuade 3 others to get aboard other giant pumpkins which were huge, but hadn’t grown quite big enough to break any records. Taking part were Steve Usher of Motorboat & Yachting magazine, dressed as a pirate, and 2 intrepid ladies who work at RHS Hyde Hall and who had daringly volunteered to (wo)man two of the potentially un-lake-worthy ‘boats’.


Matt Oliver scooping the pumpkin out & Matt and Paul Hansord scooping the bottom!

Matt Oliver scooping the pumpkin out & Matt and Paul Hansord scooping the bottom!

Having hollowed out the giant pumpkins, the valiant sailors set off, using oars to propel the cumbersome craft across the designated course. Prior to the event, Matthew had voiced some concerns about the ‘floatability’ of the giant pumpkins and how he might extract the waterlogged pumpkin hulls from the lake should they sink.

Matt and Paul Hansord from Thomspon & Morgan scooping out the bottom

Matt and Paul Hansord from Thomspon & Morgan scooping out the bottom

However, his fears were unfounded and, whilst one pumpkin foundered at the start of the course, the other 3 made it safely over the finishing line.


Sailing on the lake in a pumpkin boat!

Sailing on the lake in a pumpkin boat!

The seeds from Matthew’s record-breaking pumpkin will be available for purchase from Thompson & Morgan ready for next year’s growing season.

Anyone who would like to try their hand at growing a record-breaking giant pumpkin, can find Thompson & Morgan’s top tips at www.thompson-morgan.com/giantpumpkins


Matt Oliver wins again!

Matt Oliver wins again!


Pumpkin Facts & Figures

The pumpkin seed was bought for £1,250 at auction by Paul Hansord from Ipswich-based plant and seed merchant, Thompson & Morgan. The seed came from the then heaviest pumpkin in the world, which weighed 2,323 lb (166 stone) grown by Beni Meier from Switzerland in 2014.

The seed was entrusted to RHS horticulturist, Matthew Oliver back in April. Matthew then spent seven months nurturing the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed in the hope of breaking a new world record.

At the official weigh-in at Southampton on 8 October, the Pumpkin Commonwealth confirmed that Matthew’s pumpkin was the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK at 1,333.8 lbs
After the official weigh-in the pumpkin returned to Hyde Hall and took centre stage in a Halloween-themed pumpkin display.

The seeds will be harvested from the UK giant pumpkin with the intention that they will be available to purchase from Thompson & Morgan in time for next year’s growing season.

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!)

Cosmos ‘Cupcakes White’ favourite with RHS visitors

Cosmos has been Fleuroselect’s very successful plant of the year for 2016. With the year drawing to a close a favourite cosmos needed to be crowned.

Cosmos 'Cupcakes White' included in T&M's Cosmos 'Cupcakes' seeds.

Cosmos ‘Cupcakes White’ included in T&M’s Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’ seeds.

During August and September, over a thousand visitors at RHS Garden Wisley have been voting in a poll for their favourite garden Cosmos cultivar. The gorgeous Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Cupcakes White’ was chosen as the overall winner, with Cosmos ‘Cosmic Red’ coming second and Cosmos ‘Brightness Red’, third. Cosmos ‘Cupcakes White’ won out of a total of 85 cultivars that were shown to the visiting public during that period. The poll was part of the RHS annual People’s Choice Competition, and together with Fleuroselect they worked on the promotion and trialling of the cosmos genus.

RHS wanted to showcase the large number of varieties on offer for gardeners to grow, and with years of breeding and selection, cosmos has become an ideal plant for beginners and experts alike.

Cosmos 'Brightness Mixed' including 'Brightness Red'

Cosmos ‘Brightness Mixed’ including ‘Brightness Red’

At the start of the year Thompson & Morgan introduced the, butter yellow, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’ to their large existing range. Clare Dixey Direct Marketing Manager has affirmed that the cosmos has been a wonderful success this year, with many gardeners stating they will definitely grow cosmos again next year, adding that they wanted to try a different genus or colour.

Cosmos 'Xanthos' and Cosmos 'Cupcakes'

Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ and Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’

The year of the cosmos has been a fantastic success, bringing the flower to the forefront of gardeners growing lists. For 2017 Fleuroselect have chosen zinnia as their plant of the year.

What is your favourite cosmos? Do you agree with the visitors at RHS Wisley?

Wendie Alexander

I have worked for Thompson & Morgan for nearly four years. In that time I have learnt lots about gardening, but consider myself very much a novice. I have started growing veg on a colleague’s allotment and also growing windowsill seeds such as Salad Leaves and Rocket. I love gaining more knowledge about horticulture and am lucky enough to work here.

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