Gallery: Flower power!

Thousands of garden lovers are expected to visit one of Ipswich's best known companies this weekend.

James Marston

Thousands of garden lovers are expected to visit one of Ipswich's best known companies this weekend . JAMES MARSTON had a sneak preview of the Thompson and Morgan trial ground.

AS soon as visitors get out of the car the scent of flowers hits them.

There are pots everywhere and masses of colour.

Lilies, begonias, fuchsias, petunias - the flowers almost assault the senses.

A team of gardeners at plant specialists Thompson and Morgan, in Poplar Lane, Copdock, is putting the finishing touches to the firm's trial gardens as the company prepares to throw open the doors to the public for its 16th Trial Ground Open Weekend.

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And once through the doors, the public can expect a stunning sight.

With an estimated 10,000 plants on trial - both new varieties and established favourites, 1,000 pots, 1,000 flower pouches as well as window boxes, hanging baskets and climbing plants, not to mention 1,000 rows of flower and vegetable seed trials, this is a must-see event for any keen horticulturalist.

Thompson and Morgan managing director Paul Hansord said he is expecting between 5,000 and 10,000 people to visit the two-acre gardens this weekend.

He said: “We like to introduce six to eight major new varieties each year as well as improve and monitor the overall quality of our products.

“We order one plant of everything we supply to our customers and our gardeners grow them.”

As we walk round what is best described as a living catalogue of Thomspon and Morgan plants, Paul is keen to show new versions of old favourites.

He said: “We look for a number of different things - how the plant performs, how easy it is to grow, fragrance and other criteria.

“It is a weekend where we can show off what we have got coming up and what will be available next year.”

Paul said the firm employs three full-time gardeners to maintain the trial ground.

He said: “We spend �350,000 a year on the trials gardens and we might as well share it with the public.”

New plants are sourced from all over the world and the firm employs four specialists who are constantly travelling and looking for new products.

Paul shows off a new begonia -the world's first cascading begonia with fragrance - supplied from a nursery in Belgium.

He said: “We deal with specialist nurseries. We are the biggest supplier of begonias in the UK and we will sell about two million next year.”

Famous for its catalogue, Thompson and Morgan has a wide customer base and people travel to the annual open weekend from all over the UK, often staying in nearby hotels.

Paul said: “We also offer technical advice and information. There is a refreshments marquee, vegetable display and begonias exhibition. There will also be a gardeners' question and answer session with Howard Drury.”

Thompson and Morgan product development manager Michael Perry said: “By holding trials right on our own doorstep we are able to see products close up and to ensure they will give good garden performance to the customer.

“It also allows us to check that existing products are meeting our quality standards both in terms of reliability and appearance.”

Trials also show Thompson and Morgan bosses what products not to buy.

Paul points out a rose called “forever mixed”.

He said: “It is too floppy and it won't give enough repeat flowers.”

Potting for the trial garden takes place from February to the end of April and planting from early May. And with days to go the gardens do look impressive.

And as well as the trial grounds, visitors will be able to see the wall of colour - a 199ft-long fence adorned with thousands of busy lizzie accent plants.

Paul added: “We have 50 staff on hand to welcome people to the open weekend. We are really looking forward to it.”

The Trial Ground Open Weekend takes place on August 1 and August 2 from 10am to 4pm at Thompson and Morgan in Poplar Lane, Copdock. Entrance is �2.

Are you a keen gardener? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to

Entrance is �2

Includes free technical advice

Refreshments available

Quizzes and competitions


2010 seed range available

Gardeners' question and answer session with Howard Drury

�2 voucher for every visitor when you spend �15 or more

Thompson and Morgan was voted best supplier in online and retailer categories of the Gardeners' World Awards 2009.

Bring this voucher with you to the Thompson & Morgan Trial Grounds Open Weekend on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd August 2009 and you will receive a free Amaryllis Apple Blossom bulb absolutely free!

Amaryllis Apple Blossom

The large, pure white brushed with soft pink flowers can be easily brought to bloom. Their tall and thick stems together with the colourful impact of flowers are not to be missed. Growing to a height of around 60cms (24in), you can expect multiple blooms in 6-8 weeks after planting. This Amaryllis usually retails at �7.97 each.

Please take this voucher to the seed sales in the main Marquee and you exchange it for your free

Amaryllis Apple Blossom bulb.