At Thompson & Morgan we trial over 1000 plants each year before we decide which ones are good enough to offer to our customers. It can sometimes take years of trialling to introduce a new product into the range - from the initial search for varieties, right through to sourcing enough good quality seed or plant stock, our extensive efforts ensure customers get the healthy and high-performing plants that they expect from us.
We have our own on-site laboratory where we test the germination of every variety of seed we offer. Seeds are tested twice in a 12 month period to make sure that germination rates have not diminished. If they have, we drop the variety from our range; simple as that!
Our plant buyers and our new product development manager travel the world in their search for new and interesting plant varieties to offer our customers. Once discovered, they request samples of the plants to trial here in the UK, in our own ‘backyard’. At our trial grounds near our base in Ipswich, we trial every plant before we add it to the range. It’s not good enough that a plant might perform well in its native environment; we want to know if it will perform well in your gardens, up and down the UK.
To get a true picture of how plants will perform in your garden, we have to put them through their paces. Adding some compost in late autumn and maybe some fleece protection when necessary is all the plants get in the way of special treatment - no pesticides or chemicals are used and they are not even watered particularly often, all in the attempt to create a relatively authentic, ‘home garden’ environment. Our Horticultural Team keep an eye on the plants throughout the growing season and regularly check how they are performing.
Whether it's trialling flower plants or vegetables, the team will be looking for many aspects of performance. ‘Flower power’, growing habit, resistance to drought, heat and disease, strength and longevity are all noted in the case of flowers. For vegetables, similar attributes are noted such as resistance to drought, heat and disease, but other factors, like crop yield, taste, reliability and how long a crop might stand before bolting, are all taken into consideration. At the end of the season the team will consider which varieties to introduce into our range and which ones need further trialling.
In the last step of our trials process, we seek to gain further performance assurances from an external panel of 65 Thompson & Morgan customers. Located all over the country, our trusty triallists grow a selection of Thompson & Morgan plants and report back to us on what they’ve managed to achieve, with some informative information and photographs. We add new members to our Customer Trial Panel each year.