Posts Tagged ‘press day 2019’

End of Summer Finale for Mr Fothergill’s Staff Competitions

October 9th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Every year, our trials team organises gardening-related challenges to Mr Fothergill’s employees. This summer, volunteers could grow a children’s garden or the largest onion. Teams designing the gardens used their creative skills and came up with lots of great ideas that were then judged at our annual Press Day by visiting journalists.

Competition was stiff and closely matched, so much so that we ended up with joint 2 winners and 5 more competitors drawing in 3rd place! Congratulations to Garden 8 (Mr F Minion’s Garden) & Garden 9 (Mr McGregor’s Garden) for taking home joint first place.

Garden 8, Mr F Minions Garden. A small garden including crafty and colourful homemade decorations made from pots, buckets and other garden materials, set on a raised display draped with hessian fabricGarden 9, Mr McGregor's Garden. A small garden featuring a round wooden sign that reads "Mr McGregors WELCOME", colourful flowers and Peter Rabbit references, including a Peter Rabbit stone statuette and photocopied pages from a Peter Rabbit book.

The largest onion competition also had its keen participants. 25 people competed with each other with good-natured banter and secret growing methods employed.

In the end, the heaviest onion was grown by Paul, our Head of Mail Order with a weight of 1.54kg. Finance Director Phil gained 2nd whose onion was 1.38kg in weight, Aga and Rob from our Sales Office were just behind him with 1.34kg.

The 4 winners of the Mr F staff growing onion competition, stood in a row holding their prize onions and smiling.

Everyone grew Mr Fothergill’s Exhibition Onion but could use any fertiliser they wanted. Many went for Seasol, others tried chicken manure or even sheep poo. The winner said: ‘As a first-time onion grower I had no magic formula, so just did a bit of research. I fed my plants weekly with sulphate of ammonia (nitrogen) and every two weeks with a plant tonic.’

Aga and Rob commented: ‘‘From the very first day, we watered our onion every day and made sure we raked the soil around it, to air the soil and allow the water to get down to the roots. From an internet tip from Peter Glazebrook, we used a sulphate of ammonia growth booster which was a good source of nitrogen, which encouraged leafy growth. The more leaves the larger the onion should grow. We used Seasol every time we watered.’’

Mr Fothergill’s has a wide range of easy to grow varieties for children. Exhibition Onion is ideal for shows and cooking alike. Our seed is available from Mr Fothergill’s retail stockists throughout the UK, from our latest Seed Catalogue or online. Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to

Mr Fothergill’s launches new Sweet Pea Mayflower 400

August 19th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's Sweet Pea Mayflower 400 commemorates the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s pioneering voyageAt its August Press Day, leading sweet pea seed supplier Mr Fothergill’s introduced a new and exclusive Spencer variety for the forthcoming season as part of the 400th anniversary commemoration of the sailing of the Mayflower to the new world in 1620. Sweet Pea Mayflower 400 (RRP £2.40 for 20 seeds) is a Spencer type, bred by world renowned hybridiser Keith Hammett, and produces frilly flowers in a pastel pink flake on a cream background. It is vigorous and free flowering, with a high scent.

The Mayflower transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth to the ‘New World’ of America in 1620. All 102 passengers, from England and Holland, established a Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Their story is one of suffering and survival in a harsh environment.  The Voyage is one of the most famous in early American history.

John Stirland naming Sweet Pea Mayflower 400 at Mr Fothergill's Press Day 2019

Mr Fothergill’s Commercial Director, Tim Jeffries said, “A full and exciting programme of events is being planned for 2020 to celebrate the sailing of the Mayflower. We are delighted to have a great relationship with breeder Keith Hammett to obtain this wonderful sweet pea Mayflower 400 and by introducing it now gardeners can celebrate with blooms in the anniversary year.”

Chief Executive of Mayflower 400, Charles Hackett commented on the new sweet pea, “I am delighted that the commemoration of the Mayflower’s voyage will be marked by having its own sweet pea named “Mayflower 400”. The breadth of events and activities marking this historic voyage is incredible and to have our own sweet pea flowering in the commemoration year will add another unique aspect to the year of the Mayflower 400.”

Sweet pea seeds are available from Mr Fothergill’s retail stockists throughout the UK and from the company’s latest Seed Catalogue or online. Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to

Year of the Rudbeckia and Cucumber Launched for Mr Fothergill’s by Sally van der Horst of Fleuroselect

August 16th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds were delighted to welcome Sally van der Horst, Secretary General of Fleuroselect, as the keynote speaker at the August Open Day for the gardening press at their Kentford trial grounds, where over 2,000 seed lots are tested annually. She was delighted to be part of the Suffolk company’s launch of the plant of the year campaigns for 2020 – Rudbeckia and Cucumber.

Sally van der Horst of Fleuroselect speaking at the Mr Fothergill's Press Day 2019

Sally explained the role of Fleuroselect, who will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year, as the international organisation which represents breeders and producers of the starting material for pot and bedding plants, both seed and cuttings. Through a system of European trials, varieties are assessed for those which specifically show excellence in breeding which could then become Fleuroselect Gold Medal winners and FleuroStar winners.

Sally explained that UK companies had been at the core of Fleuroselect since its creation in the 1970’s which is a role Mr Fothergills had been pleased to continue. She commented “the youthful Mr. Fothergill’s joined Fleuroselect after they set up business and have been a proud and positive supporter ever since. They are part of the group of companies within Fleuroselect who focus on supplying the Home Garden Market. Filling and selling seed packets accounts for most of their main business and I am sure if you look at their assortment there are many wonderful varieties that have received a Fleuroselect Gold Medal.”

Sally continued to praise Mr Fothergills by saying: “Our Home Garden group has not sat still. Just over 10 years ago we got together to look at how we could talk to each other and better share ideas on a Pan-European scale. Mr. Fothergill’s has been on the organising committee for that from the start, now through our great friend and supporter, Commercial Director, Tim Jeffries.”

The Home Garden Group developed a Plant of the Year campaign to promote one crop each year in both flowers and vegetables that is suitable for Hobby Gardeners starting first with the Sunflower which was supported by a spectacular display at RHS Wisley of over 180 varieties. Not only was the trial a delight for the public, who had the opportunity to vote for their favourite, but there were visitors from breeding companies from all over Europe and even Japan paying a visit.

From displays at one successful location at Wisley, there are now displays in Ireland, France and Germany. 2019 is the year of the Nasturtium and the Carrot and we have Nasturtium trials at RHS Harlow Carr and Hyde Hall as well as the Jardins des Plantes in Paris, Ega Park in Erfurt, Teagasc, Ashtown Food Research Centre in Dublin and the spectacular Blumeninsel Mainau on Lake Constance. We look forward to similar displays in 2020 for rudbeckia and cucumbers.

Sally explained the rationale behind the campaigns “We believe that the campaign highlights the diversity in each species, and we hope that gardeners will branch out and try some of the newer varieties. We use children in the photography as we have high hopes that it will encourage them to develop and maintain pleasure in gardening. You can’t start young enough.”

Brian’s Lifetime in Horticulture is Just What the Doctor Ordered

August 15th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's Trials Manager Brian Talman at their August Press Day being presented with an Acer Shirasawanum Jordan by Joint Managing Directors John Fothergill and David Carey to celebrate his 60 years in horticulture

Mr Fothergill’s celebrated 60 years in horticulture for their Trials Manager Brian Talman at their August Press Day with a presentation of an Acer Shirasawanum Jordan in a premium pot with a personalised inscription. Acers are one of Brian’s favourite plants and the gift follows earlier celebrations and gifts within the company.

The company marked the occasion when the trials were looking at their best and in front of the gardening journalists of the UK. As he celebrates 60 years working in horticulture, Brian muses how his working life could have been quite different if he had not heeded the advice of a family-friend doctor. “As a Surrey teenager I passed an engineering exam in 1959 to become an apprentice, but because of my asthma the doctor said a factory environment would be bad for me and I would be better working outside”.

Brian noticed local seed company Nutting & Sons of Merstham was advertising for a trials assistant, so he applied for the post, was taken on a five-year apprenticeship, at the end of which and while still a teenager, he was appointed flower seed manager on a six-month probation. “Although I was never told the company was satisfied, I suppose it must have been because I stayed until 1983”, laughs Brian.

During that time the company moved to Cambridgeshire. In 1983 Brian was approached by Chicago-based Ball & Co and invited to set up a British trial ground, which he managed until 2002 when he decided to set up his own plant company Talman’s Plants Nursery, which in turn led to him working with Mr Fothergill’s. In the early days of this association, Brian grew all Mr Fothergill’s plants at his
own nursery because there were no facilities at the seed company’s Kentford, Suffolk, base. Through the years, Brian has supervised the development of the Kentford trial including the development of polytunnels to facilitate all germination and growing on-site.

Brian's 60th anniversary cake. It features a shovel with his name, Brian Talman, on it, with a message that says "Brian 60 years, still digging it" as well as mini seed pot decorations - all 100% edible!

Mr Fothergill’s commercial director Tim Jeffries takes up the story. “We know how fortunate we are to have Brian running our trials, which several independent experts have told me are the best of their kind in Europe. His plant knowledge and understanding and his growing skills are unparalleled. He is a key member of our specialist horticultural team”. Brian Talman is more modest. He simply says “I can honestly say I have loved every minute of the past 60 years. While every day may have its challenges, every day I work with plants is a joy”.


Mr F HQ Gets a New Toy for Trials Grounds

April 12th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

We’ve got a new toy here at Mr Fothergill’s HQ!

We’ve set up a time lapse camera overlooking our Kentford trials grounds for this upcoming season, so month by month you can follow the progress being made in the run up to Mr F’s annual Press Day, where members of the gardening media world are given the chance to take a look around the grounds. On the trials grounds, we grow thousands of varieties of seeds from our range to test them for performance, as well as new varieties that we’re considering including in our future range. It’s an incredible feat of gardening that our Trials Manager Brian is able to meticulously plan for all the different varieties of flowers and vegetables to be at their very best and in bloom all simultaneously in time for Press Day, don’t you think?

Check out the videos below for what’s gone on each month.

In March, arguably not a lot happened – except for some speedy ploughing.

April‘s video shows the grounds being prepped, ready to begin sowing in the beginning weeks of May (please excuse the darker parts of film, we’re still working out the kinks with our new technology). Plus, take a look at the bonus footage from inside the tunnels! This month involved sowing flowers and veg that will eventually be transplanted to the field, as well as peppers and tomatoes that will stay in the tunnel.

May was still very much dominated by brown field, but some promising spots of green start to appear at the end as this month we began direct sowing and transplanting from the polytunnel. Features lots of (mostly) lovely weather – plus blink and you’ll miss the beekeeper!

In June, you can really see things starting to take shape! This month featured a lot of typically British summertime weather, from some heavy downpours of rain to then a fair bit of sun. All the direct-sown plants are in the ground and growing, and all the plants grown in the polytunnel have now been transplanted to their final growing positions, after having had a period to harden off at the side of the trials grounds where they’re covered in fleece overnight if the temperature drops. Where you can see the canes with the white bottles on top is our staff competition area, where those competing have been asked to grow a small children’s garden from seed, which will be judged by a visiting journalist on Press Day!

There’s also some more bonus footage from inside the tunnels this month! The polytunnel now has a different purpose since the earlier plants that were started off indoors have been transplanted outside, and is now the home of our growing tomato and pepper plants. The tomatoes are in the centre and the peppers are on either side, with sweet peppers on one side and the chilli peppers growing nearest the camera. The chilli plants are especially fun to watch – as they’re growing they look like they’re dancing!

Be sure to watch this space for monthly updates of behind the scenes footage straight from Mr F HQ as the year goes on!