On trial at Mr Fothergill's

Plenty of colour on a rainy day at Mr Fothergill's trials field

Oops that sounds more serious than it actually is! Let's take a deep breath and drink in the scene at the trials field at Mr Fothergill's* instead. It looked splendid last month, even on a rainy day.

Visual results from the seaweed plant tonic and root formation experiment

There's always lots to learn on a press day at Mr Fothergill's and first up was news of their launch of Seasol seaweed plant tonic. I've used the powdered version of this product before and I'm a huge fan of all things seaweed based. Whilst they're not a feed per se, I've found the extra minerals does help keep plants healthier for longer. I must do a proper trial myself sometime...

What I didn't know previously was the potential for a dramatic effect on cuttings. As you can see from the photo, the plants in diluted Seasol, have a more extensive root system, which in turn should help the plants romp away when they're potted up.

Optigrow carrots germination vs usual seed
Looking at a bit of a game changer, methinks - could this be the end of my parsnip seed chitting?

Another dramatic difference we saw was in the new Optigrow® seed range due for launch early next year. This is a new non-chemical seed treatment which primes seeds ready for germination. Here you can see the difference between treated and untreated carrot seeds, with the treated row showing a quicker and greater rate of germination.

They've also found seeds are less prone to fungal disease during germination and the process really helps those tricky-to-germinate seeds such as parsley and parsnips. It'll also be interesting to see if those seeds usually sown fresh every season can be used next season and beyond.

There are black peppers... who knew?

We all wanted to know what 2018 will be... it turns out it will be the year of the pepper and the marigold (of the Tagetes kind). As you can see, I'm looking forward to growing something a bit different in that line next year.

Exhibits on the day

There's always plenty more to explore, such as this DIY green wall/salad bar idea made from pallets. There were the staff scarecrow and wildlife gardens to judge, plus the announcement of the support given to Greenfingers and Royal Hospital Chelsea charities from last year's seed sales (hence the Chelsea Pensioners in my photo). We were also introduced to the Chilli Guru™ who breeds chillis from a wider range of species than most, specialising in flavour rather than heat - definitely my kind of chilli.

A lunch tent find

Lunch is always special and produce from the trials field is used wherever possible. I detected a boost of Chilli Guru's flavoursome chillis in the meal as well as that admitted to in the chocolate tart. You can see Chef also has a nice line in humour!

Cucurbits growing up a fence

Back out in the trials field I liked the way the cucurbits were taking over one of the fences. It's a great example of how to find some space for these often sprawling monsters (see also the potager at Ulting Wick).

In view of my blight woes this year I was pleased to see the blight trial plot and I await the results with interest. I also picked up the tip that not only does 'Losetto' have some blight resistance, it can crop from a planting out as late as July.

Agastache flowering from a March sowing

On the floral side of the trials field, I particularly liked the first year flowering perennials plot. The seeds were sown in March and were putting on a great show in early August. I loved the airiness and apricot shades of Agastache 'Sunset Hyssop' you can see in the middle of the photo. I think it's a great looking and fragrant alternative (albeit completely different colour) to Nepeta. I can't grow the latter as the cats love it to death.

Verbena 'Scentsation'

Finally, I fell in love with this annual and I wish I could bring it to you via smellovision. One day Trials Manager Brian Talman noticed a beautiful scent in the trials field and crawled around until he located it in the Verbena trial area. Several years on from that day, it was a privilege to be there when Brian announced its name: Verbena 'Scentsation'. It'll be a wonderful addition to the Flowers for Mum project next year.

Thanks to everyone at Mr Fothergill's for being such informative, enthusiastic and generous hosts.

* = in case you're wondering there are real Mr Fothergills at the helm. John Fothergill now runs the company alongside David Carey and they're the sons of company founders Jeff Fothergill and Brian Carey. Look out for special company celebrations next year for its 40th birthday.


  1. Interesting post and good pictures. xx

  2. How wonderful - sounds like the ideal day! I'm with you on the chillies - I often find that the heat of many chilies overpowers their flavour.

    1. It was marvellous Margaret! It was interesting to taste chillis without heat, they do have a wonderful depth of flavour so I'm looking forward to seeing more from this company partnership. I've been enjoying your photos from Paris :)

  3. Sounds like a good day out. What I need are slug proof carrot seedlings!

    1. Slug proof everything Sue - not THAT would be progress! They could then focus on the useful things they do for us...

  4. Oh I will be looking out for that verbena VP. I have grown 'Losetto' a few times and out of the four varieties of tomato I have grown this year it has fared the best. Lots of little tasty toms. What a lot of work went into making those nibbles look so artistic.

    1. Hi Anna, thanks for your observations re Losetto - definitely on my list for next year then :) I'm glad you like the artistic nibbles - so much effort and neat little touches goes into this day all round :)


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