The winning pumpkin grown by the Paton twins. Picture; Thompson & Morgan

Brothers break UK pumpkin record

Paton twins head list of four record breakers

Everyone loves monster veg and last weekend four British records were broken, including the biggest pumpkin ever grown in the UK.

Gardeners from all over the country converge at The Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival and Scarecrow Avenue in Southampton is well-known for its mammoth veg.

The event, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, ended in triumph again for the superstars of the monster pumpkin growers, twins Stuart and Ian Paton, also from Southampton.


They broke the record that they set last year for the heaviest pumpkin to be grown in the UK, weighing in at 2269lbs or 162 stone, beating the 2016 entry by 15lb.

Ian said that producing a giant pumpkin is no mean feat – he and his brother Stuart spend on average three hours a day tending to their pumpkin patch, often using 100 gallons of water to keep the pumpkins irrigated.

For the first time, the pumpkins were kept at a constant 18°C even during the night.

Matthew Oliver, of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hyde Hall garden, in Chelmsford, beat the record for the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin with a 1498.4lbs whopper.

Last year, he famously hollowed out his giant pumpkin – which had weighed in at 1333.8lb – and rowed it across the lake at the RHS garden!

Other UK record breakers at the weigh-in were Steve Bridges, who took the prize for the heaviest UK-grown squash (457.3lb) and David Maund with his 176.5lb field pumpkin.

Paul Hansord, of Thompson & Morgan, said: “We’ve been sponsoring the Autumn Pumpkin Festival event in Southampton for many years and it’s always exciting when a record is beaten, so this year we’re thrilled to see four records broken.”

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Chilli Loco

Year of the Pepper 2018

Tone down the chilli heat and look for flavour

The heat is on… 2018 has been designated the Year of the Pepper, but there’s more to this vegetable than just fire.

If you’re wondering who decides this, Fleuroselect Home Garden Association, an international non-profit organisation, chooses a vegetable and flower each year, designed to boost seed and plant sales.

Seedsman Mr Fothergill’s wants gardeners to forget about the fire and explore the wide range of flavours in the chilli kingdom.

If you don’t like the heat, growing the world’s hottest chilli isn’t going to be your thing, but the capsicum family has something for everyone.

Just as sweet peppers have different flavours (orange cultivars are sweeter than red ones, and green ones have a level of bitterness) so too do chillies.

Among the commonly cultivated species, Capsicum annuum, chinense and baccatum, there are thousands of cultivars, with many different heat levels and flavours, from sweet to sour and smoky to fruity.

100 varieties trialled each year

Mr Fothergill’s trials about 100 varieties each year. Trials manager, Alison Mulvaney, said: “We work with the top chilli breeders in the UK to find the best flavours and the best plants suited to UK growing conditions.

“The recent introduction of Capsicum annuum Biquino Yellow to our range is a perfect example of a chilli chosen for flavour, not heat. This mild Brazilian pepper carries an interesting smoky flavour with just a little heat to add a mild spice and aroma to any dish.”

Apart from C. annuum, mild Peruvian ‘Aji’ chillies are favourites with chefs at the moment. These Capsicum baccatum varieties produce an abundance of medium-sized chillies with a sweet, fruity flavour laid over a mild to medium heat.

Havana Gold is new for this season and is a good introduction to the Ajis, providing a complex fruity flavour and manageable, mild heat.

Capsicum chinense is the dominant species in the Caribbean, with fiery habaneros and Scotch bonnets bringing a balance of sweet, sour and fruitiness to dishes along with intense heat. There are also varieties that carry the pungent flavours with no heat, such as Trinidad Perfume.

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The Scoville Scale

The heat of a chilli is measured on The Scoville Scale in Scoville heat units (SHU), or capsaicin concentration, named after its creator, US pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

SHU values range from 0 in a sweet bell pepper to 2,000,000-2,200,000 in a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion or Carolina Reaper.

Chilli Loco

I’m no fan of hot chillies, but Loco is compact (about 2ft), bushy and covered with inch-long cone-shaped fruits held above the foliage like little fairy lights.

The fruits start purple/cream, changing from orange to red – the look like plump blackcurrants. Despite its name, Loco is not that hot, slightly less than a cayenne pepper, a medium heat level of about 24,000 SHU.

Which Gardening Chilli Trials 2012 recommended it as a Best Buy and it is UK bred, so makes an excellent plant for the patio.

You’ll find it at Thompson & Morgan, Suttons, chilli specialists Sea Spring Seeds, The Eden Project, Dobies and DT Brown Seeds.

Mr Fothergill’s RHS Award of Garden Merit seeds

New range celebrates preferred partner status

A new flower and vegetable seed range from Mr Fothergill’s has been tried, tested and recommended by experts at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

The RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) seed range follows the appointment of the seed supplier as the preferred partner for licensed seed products for the RHS.

Mr Fothergill’s retail marketing manager, Ian Cross, said: “We trial all varieties in UK conditions before releasing them into our general seed range, but we have gone even further in the search for trusted garden varieties with our new RHS AGM collection.

“We have worked closely with the RHS to develop a range that we all agree is the best it could possibly be for home gardeners.”

To carry the AGM logo, all plants in the range have been grown and tested in RHS gardens and judged by a forum of industry experts.

Excellent garden performance

Plants only receive the award if they have excellent garden performance, are stable in form and colour and show reasonable resistance to pests and diseases.

Cathy Snow, RHS licensing manager, added: “The AGM ‘seal of approval’ tells gardeners that the plant performs reliably in the garden and is the ultimate guarantee of quality.

“Mr Fothergill’s has a well-earned reputation for its passion to supply the very best quality gardening products and we are delighted to be partnering with such a highly respected company. Mr Fothergill’s seeds are the only RHS endorsed seed range available.”

Available now from garden centres and, the range consists of 61 flower varieties and 57 vegetables.

The flower varieties have, wherever possible, been selected from the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list, maintained by RHS entomologists and beekeepers.

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