Master Grower: Robinson Seeds & Plants

Meet RHS Tatton Park Flower Show 2024 Master Grower: Robinson Seeds & Plants – a family grower who specialise in giant veg seeds

Robinson Seeds & Plants display
Celebrating the UK’s finest specialist plant growers and nurseries, the RHS Master Grower scheme awards those who go the extra mile, nurturing beautiful, healthy plants, while also taking a sound, skilful and sustainable approach to production. At this year’s Show, the accolade goes to big-veg specialists Robinson Seeds
& Plants.


A family of growers

Seed sowing at Robinson Seeds and Plants

The founder, William Robinson, started the nursery in 1860, growing soft fruit, apples plums and pears, to onions, leeks and all the usual vegetables of the time. The next generation, also called William Robinson, moved into growing large onions and leeks and exhibiting at local flower shows. His success drove the popularity of the prized seed, all given the prefix Mammoth, and formed the basis for the business as it remains today.

William Martin Robinson continued the award-winning legacy, specialising in unusual varieties of tomatoes. He was awarded the RHS  Victoria Medal of Honour in 1979 and was instrumental in the foundation of the National Vegetable Society, serving as their Chairman and President.

Close up of Robinson Seeds & Plants display
Champions of unusual vegetable varieties, the nursery has seen many of its introductions become mainstream staples of allotments around the country. The nursery is now run by the 4th and 5th generation who continue producing vegetables which are big on taste as well as size.

Growing naturally

“The ground where we grow the exhibition vegetables has been prepared using natural products and the same formula for all the 160 years. All our plants are grown using John Innes compost which is loam based. We use biomass boilers to heat all our glasshouses and use predators or a natural spray to control unwanted garden pests rather than a chemical spray.”
– Robinson Seeds & Plants.

Top tips from a Master Grower

Susan RobinsonCo-owner Susan Robinson tells us why it pays to know your onions.

What does being named RHS Master Grower mean to you?
We were at the very first RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 25 years ago, so it feels like a perfect way to acknowledge the past and present.

How did you get into growing giant veg?
The nursery has been in the family since 1860; my sister and I are fourth generation with the fifth already running the nursery. My grandfather obtained some onion seeds from Spain via a gardener friend. Being a Lancashire man, he called the resulting seed ‘mammoth’ because it was a large one. Every year, he would select seed from the biggest and best plants and our ‘Mammoth’ range evolved from there. We now sell heritage vegetable seeds and plants to customers, via mail order, direct from the nursery and wholesale.

Who’s in the market for a giant onion?
Many of our customers enter giant veg competitions, and there is sometimes a
bit of light-hearted rivalry between them. But plenty of our competitive customers like to keep everything shrouded in secrecy! Competitions aside, most people simply grow the onions because they’re surprisingly delicious – you can have size and substance.

Any tips for cultivating giant veg?
Like all vegetables, they don’t like stopping and starting, so need consistency. Start them indoors or in a heated greenhouse, in December, and transplant outdoors from late April, depending on night-time temperatures. Use farmyard manure and a good general fertiliser to provide lots of nutrients, and make sure watering is consistent.

Robinson Seeds & Plants photo display
The Master Grower display can be found in the Floral Marquee.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.