On trial at Mr F

September 1st, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's Trial Field

Yesterday, I visited the Mr F trial ground in Suffolk. I took a look earlier in the season and I’ll probably be going again soon. After all, there’s about 2000 different varieties, all grown in rows, side by side – it’s not only an invaluable resource, it’s an astonishing sight.

Years ago, all the seed companies had a trial ground where they grew everything they sold, to check that what went into the seed packets was exactly what it should be and that the quality was up to par. New varieties were also assessed to determine if they were worthy of being added to the range.

And, to cap it all, garden writers from all over the country were invited to take a look and make up their own minds about what they saw. Mr F saw a record turn out for its press day last month but Mr F is the last of the seed companies to grow such extensive trials and open them up for independent scrutiny.

I’ll be discussing the highlights and the standout varieties here over the next few weeks and months. The perennials grown from seed sown in the spring of this year were especially impressive as was the huge selection of marigolds. Next year is The Year of The Marigold so Mr F is getting prepared.

The zinnias were impressive, I spotted a couple of outstanding new sunflowers, some double cosmos caught my eye and there were some intriguing new calendulas. And more, much more.

With a top temperature of 31.3C (88F) this summer, and a low of 6C (43F) and with soil so dry in spring that, for the first time, it had to be watered before Trial Ground Manager Brian Talman could sow the seed of the hardy annuals – well, it’s been a challenging year. But Brian’s decades of experience allowed him to adapt to this unique season and the trials looked superb.

Please check back here over the next few months as I reveal this year’s highlights.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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