Before I start, no I’m not a ‘gardener’ as such. I CAN grow stuff, but with my product development role I can mostly be found in an office.. or in a car.. or on a train.. or plane.. or (mainly)browsing glasshouses and trial grounds across Europe/the world, seeking out new, different and unusual plants!
I think there are probably only a small handful of similar jobs in the UK actually; my role of New Product Development Manager at Thompson & Morgan is a blend of 50% horticulture and 50% marketing, with the added flair of being able to choose something different, something that’s more than just another purple petunia….
Each year, I need to co-ordinate almost 200 brand new plants; which are shared across our 3 different brands, and divided between spring and autumn seasons. They appear in our catalogues, on our website or through our TV sales channels. To make this happen, I maintain a huge network of contacts, attend trade shows in Europe, make plant-hunting roads trips, organize a trial of more than 1,500 plants, arrange and supervise photography, prepare marketing…. and-stand up and sell some of those plants on TV.
It’s an enjoyable job, and I’m addicted to seeking out new plants. Whenever I’m at a nursery, my eyes are on high alert, and I’ll often pull out the thing they didn’t think we’d be interested in. It’s not just about NEW plants, but also new CONCEPTS, so ground cover petunias become climbing petunias, pot lilies become ground cover lilies, and so on… And sometimes, of course, it’s about cheeky marketing… ‘summer blue roses’ were simply a form of Lisianthus. And, we can pick up on things that don’t work commercially, we don’t care how many fit on a trolley, as we’re sending out younger, smaller plants!
Social media was been a boon to me as well, and is a great way of finding new contacts, new ideas for marketing plants, and for sharing my findings and letting people know I’m up to, whether it’s investing in a yellow snowdrop or revealing the TomTato to the UK public! Keep updated by liking me on facebook and following me on twitter!