For almost two decades Thompson & Morgan has opened its doors and grounds to enable customers to see a spectacular showcase of our range of flowers and vegetables, including new additions. If you would like to find out more about this years Trial Ground Open Weekend click here.
If you would like to discover the work and preparation that goes into making the weekend a success then see below.
Our Product Development team compiles lists of plants to be included at the Open Weekend. These may be new products, unusual or often over-looked products or items we currently list and need to check for performance and quality. Plants are then sent to our Suffolk trials station.
The work at our trials station begins by sowing seeds for the main display. Once germinated, they are potted on as necessary.
Staff work through a list of plants which we’d like to feature in the container trials, ordering samples from suppliers all around the world. These will begin to arrive in young plant form. We may wish to simply photograph one of the plants we already offer, or trial a new variety for ourselves prior to adding it to our range. We also, as part of our own quality control, order a selection of plants from our own plant catalogue. This enables us to see the condition they arrive in and grow the plants on (just as our customers would), so that we can ultimately see how that plant develops and its final performance.
At the Poplar Lane Head Office, work is started on preparing the grounds. Beds are made for the field trials and the main display beds are tidied after their winter break.
Young plants are potted on for the container trials. Decisions are made as to whether they’re grown on in pots, Flower Pouches™ or beds. We sometimes use this opportunity to experiment, maybe trying lavender in Flower Pouches™ for example.
Plants for the beds are sent across to Head Office to start the planting out process. The hardiest perennials come across first, followed by half-hardy annuals.
Planting out of the show beds is completed. The raised bed garden is also completed.
The magnificent 16ft tall Flower Tower centrepiece is assembled and planted up. The flower (and innovative vegetable) pouches are hung and container trial displays laid out.
All plants are tended to get them to peak condition for Open Weekend. The ones in containers and pots are fed liquid feed through the irrigation system. It’s different for plants in the beds and in the field trials, however. Because we want to see how plants perform just as they would in customer’s gardens, we only feed our plants with standard Growmore fertiliser which is applied to the ground prior to planting. Visitors therefore know that these are the results they can realistically expect to achieve in their own gardens at home.
This year the grounds are actually open a few days before the weekend, for two special days for subscribers to The Times newspaper and Gardeners World magazine. At the weekend, we are open to our customers. Staff from across the company come in to help, so it may well be one of our managing directors or plant breeders directing your car or chatting to you about the plants.
As well as our floral displays, talks, Q&A sessions, refreshments and the chance to do a bit of shopping, we’re also lucky enough to have some specialist growers on hand to either answer queries or chat to you about their society. This year we have The Begonia Society, The Alpine Society and Fuchsia Society as well as a giant vegetable display by expert grower and exhibitor Arthur Davies. Greenthumb, the lawnsmen who keep our lawns looking green and lush will also be attending. Our chosen charity, the East Anglian Children’s Hospice (EACH) is also present and we’re donating 50p from each entry fee to them, to help build a garden at a local hospice.
All in all, there’s a lot of work and planning undertaken, but the results are certainly worth it.