Kings Seeds has celebrated its 125th anniversary with an event at its Essex trial grounds and headquarters, with a rare appearance by garden-writing legend Dr David Hessayon.
Kings is launching a "Sow Simple" range of seed tapes and discs from Seed Developments this autumn as well as a "Patio Perfection" range.
Hessayon said: "Kings Seeds takes pride in its work. When a call comes in, the managing director Les Day takes it. It didn't happen when I was at PBI. I wish I'd been like that. I'm impressed by Kings' ethos because it goes beyond EU standards when other people moan."
He added that seeds must be planted in proper seed potting, peat-based compost, which he complained is increasingly hard to find.
"Seed and potting composts have disappeared," he said. "Forty years ago, multipurpose composts came in and seed composts have disappeared. You can only find it if you look hard - and I don't think there is a peat replacement for seed sowing."
The garden writer also stipulated that the peat used should not be sedge-based "Somerset stuff" that "should not have the same name because it's not sphagnum". He added: "You shouldn't have one name for two completely different products."
Kings is trialling Dalefoot wool compost and also uses Durstons John Innes seed compost from Somerset as well as Scotts Levington seed compost in its trials.
The company's trials seed purchasing manager Peter Miller is going into semi-retirement after 50 years at the firm. Marketing director Tony Ward is also going part-time, having reached 65.
Internet era Garden books suffer decline
Dr Hessayon appeared at the event to celebrate the 125th anniversary of King's Seeds, based near his home in Essex
He said: "The garden reference book market has declined because of the internet. If you have a problem, you go on the internet. I pity anyone new coming into it."
Hessayon added that when he brought out Bedding Plant Expert in 1991 it was "in the great era when people wanted information and it was in the top 10 non-fiction books, but that won't happen again. People don't have the time for books when they're always on Twitter or Facebook."