Posts Tagged ‘trial ground’

Gold medal winners old and new

January 24th, 2020 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Fleuroselect Gold Medal winners Lavatera 'Silver Cup' and Zinnia ‘Queeny Lime Orange’

Fleuroselect is the Europe-wide organisation that trials new annuals and gives awards to the very best. The idea is to highlight the finest new plants so that home gardeners can choose varieties we can depend on.

Trial grounds where the assessments are made are scattered all across Europe and, in the organisation’s fiftieth anniversary year, a new trials site has been added to the roster – the Mr F trials in Suffolk!

Every year new varieties are grown, unidentified, under code numbers – to eliminate any chance of bias – and voted on by experienced and knowledgeable growers. The very best performers are awarded a coveted Gold Medal.

Now you may wonder what relevance the results from trials sites in Italy or Russia have to us in Britain. Well, if a variety does well enough across Europe to be awarded a Gold Medal then it’s likely to do well in different situations here in Britain.

One of the best early winners was Lavatera ‘Silver Cup’, gaining its Gold Medal in 1979 and still going strong as is Alyssum ‘Snow Crystals’ (1989). The pick of recent Gold medal winners is last year’s Zinnia ‘Queeny Lime Orange’, an entirely new colour in zinnias. Mr F will soon be highlighting the Gold Medal winners in the print catalogue and online.

Of course, many older Gold Medal winners have also been superseded by newer introductions, development is rapid and competition to create improved varieties is intense. But even those winners from long ago are still good plants and worth growing.

Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground Awarded Fleuroselect Status

January 14th, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, the Newmarket-based seed experts, are delighted to announce our selection as a trial site for Fleuroselect, the international organisation for the ornamental plants industry.

The company will now undertake trials of newly bred, yet to be launched, ornamental varieties on our trial field site and evaluate according to criteria such as wow factor, innovation, and technical features such as floriferousness and garden performance. The assessments will count towards the award of prestigious Fleuroselect gold medals and approved novelty awards.

The last of the UK seed companies with a fully functioning field trial, we will be the furthest west of all the 18 Fleuroselect trial grounds which stretch across mainland Europe to Russia in the east.

A colourful photo of the Mr Fothergills Trial Ground 2017

Tim Jeffries, commercial director at Mr Fothergill’s and a member of the Fleuroselect Home Garden Committee, said: “We are delighted to become a Fleuroselect trial facility as it is further recognition of our place as a leader in the European seed industry. Our trials, run by Brian Talman who has 60 years of horticultural experience, have long been recognised as among the very best of their type in Europe. Although quality control is the main driver of our trials, we also seek to evaluate forthcoming new varieties and their suitability for UK gardeners and this development sits perfectly with that aim.”

Sally van der Horst, secretary general of Fleuroselect added; “Mr Fothergill’s have long been an important member of the Fleuroselect family and a driver for the interests of the home gardener. We are so happy that such a prestigious home gardeners’ trial will include Fleuroselect entries.”

Fleuroselect celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020 and allows industry professionals to join together to test and evaluate new pot and bedding plants, promote award winners, protect member varieties, network with each other and contribute to the development and advancement of the industry as a whole. The current membership comprises approximately 75 pot and bedding plant breeders, producers and distributors, mostly European, but also from Japan, Russia, the U.S., China and Thailand.

Brian’s patience is rewarded as bird of paradise flowers

December 20th, 2016 | News | 0 Comments

Bird of paradise - Mr Fothergills BlogDespite having been a grower for more than 50 years, our trials manager Brian Talman still enjoys a horticultural challenge. During those years he has learned the value of patience, and nowhere more so than with his experience of Strelitzia reginae, also known as bird of paradise.

Brian sowed the seed of the flamboyant South African native back in 2008, and waited for it to germinate in his greenhouse; the process took two years, but finally green shoots emerged. He has been nurturing the plants ever since, and in December 2016 he was rewarded when the first flower appeared on a 2m tall plant – six years after it first emerged.

“It has been growing in general purpose compost all that time”, explains Brian, “and it even managed to survive being frosted once, despite its tenderness. It’s great to see it flowering after all that time!”

In the wild, Strelitzia reginae is thought to be pollinated by the sunbird (Nectarinia afra), which lands on the corolla tongue or spathe, probing for nectar. The tongue opens, pollen is released on to the bird’s feet and feathers, from where it is transferred to the swollen stigma of another flower.

Gardeners who fancy a similar challenge to Brian’s can buy a packet of 10 seeds of Strelitzia reginae for £2.55 from Mr Fothergill’s.

For more information on our range of seeds you can visit the website here, or to request a catalogue please fill out the form here.

Mr Fothergill’s new weather station to provide worthwhile data on trials

August 25th, 2016 | News | 0 Comments

weather stationMr Fothergill’s has installed a state-of-the-art weather station on its Kentford, west Suffolk, trial ground, which it believes will provide a database of useful information relating to the scores of genera and species it grows every year. The station has been providing information to the company’s horticultural team since April 2016. The system measures temperature, humidity, dew-point, wind direction, speed and chill factor; it includes a barometer, a record of daily rainfall, rain rate and storm total. It also states sunrise and sunset time.

It comprises two pieces of kit – the actual physical weather station and a console connected to a computer, and with benefit of batteries in the console, data will continue to be collected even during a power-cut. The apparatus collects data at regular intervals and a database of all previous months’ weather means all aspects and their impact on the trial ground can be monitored. The plan is to build data over time to check the performance of different genera and species in different conditions.

For instance, in May 2016 temperatures ranged from -0.6ºC to 25.6ºC, and two very notable issues have already been highlighted. The first is the amount of rainfall, which for a relatively dry site has been surprising. Up until 2 August 2016 the site has received 191.6mm, of which 94.6mm fell in June, with 37.8mm falling on the 23rd alone; on 20 June the rain rate was more than 180mm per hour.

Equally remarkable are the fluctuations in temperature in July, with the lowest 8.9ºC and the highest 30.3ºC, which is also the highest so far in 2016. In July there were three nights when the temperature dipped below 10ºC, when the cucumber trial in the polytunnel clearly showed which varieties had the best cold tolerance. Overall mean temperature through the months has been recorded, with April 6.9ºC, May 12.8ºC, June 15.2ºC, and July 18.1ºC. Trial ground manager Brian Talman believes the cooler weather in late spring kept plants back for a several weeks, but, fortunately, July has put them back on track for a good display in August.

For more information on Mr Fothergill’s range, or to request a catalogue, please visit, telephone 0845 371 0518 or write to Mr Fothergill’s, Gazeley Road, Kentford, Suffolk CB8 7QB.

weather station

Chelsea Pensioners name new sweet pea Scarlet Tunic after Royal Hospital and Public Votes

August 16th, 2016 | News | 0 Comments

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Chelsea Pensioners were on hand at Mr Fothergill’s Kentford, Suffolk, trial ground in mid August 2016 to name a blend of sweet peas in red shades aimed at raising funds for the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It has been called Scarlet Tunic, after the Pensioners’ distinctive apparel, following a ballot of the residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and a public online vote. Mr Fothergill’s will donate 25p to the Royal Hospital Chelsea for every £2.19 packet of 20 seeds sold. It will be on sale from its own counter-top display at garden centres and other retailers nationwide from Autumn 2016.

Mr Fothergill’s supportive retailers and gardeners have already helped the company raise more than £50,000 for the Royal Hospital Chelsea through sales in 2015 and 2016 of its poppy Victoria Cross. Sweet pea Scarlet Tunic continues that backing for the veterans of the British Army. Mr Fothergill’s was recently honoured by being granted Corporate Patron status by the Hospital.

Rachael Ferguson, corporate partnerships officer at the Royal Hospital Chelsea said “We are delighted at Mr Fothergill’s continued support, which is well known among and appreciated by the Chelsea Pensioners. The backing from the company and its thousands of customers, for which we are grateful, is quite remarkable”.

Mr Fothergill’s joint-managing director David Carey commented “Our continued commitment to the Royal Hospital Chelsea is testament to the generosity and loyalty of our garden centres stockists and their customers, of whom we are proud. Their support provides tangible benefits to the men and women who have served our country”.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea was established in 1682 by Charles II to provide a safe home for military veterans ‘broken by age or war’. The Christopher Wren-designed Royal Hospital admitted its first pensioners in 1692.