Wednesday 18th May was a lovely warm summer day, enabling many Kew Guild members to enjoy the special arrangement of visiting the gardens where the recently restored Temperate House could be viewed in all its glory before the annual dinner. Held in Cambridge Cottage, Sparkle Ward and Pamela Holt welcomed attendees with name badges and their Kew Guild Journal as they made their way to the bar or the Dukes Garden to socialise.
Tony Overland, Master of Ceremonies, gathered everyone indoors before calling for all guests to be upstanding as our President Jean Griffin and her daughter were escorted to their table in a packed dining room of members and guests. (The event was actually oversubscribed and several potential diners were disappointed).
A splendid meal was enjoyed whilst Kew students circulated amongst the tables selling raffle tickets to raise funds for their annual study trip to Spain.
Tony Overland explained how long he had known Jean Griffin having both met as students at Kew. She was born in Neath, South Wales and inspired by her grandfather to take up horticulture went on to study at Studley College. More recently Jean has been active with judging the London and South East Britain in Bloom and regularly broadcasts on Radio Sussex, Kent and Surrey. She assured us that the questions on these radio phone-ins are not known in advance. So to illustrate the point and introduce humour thus dispelling the old boy image of annual dinners, Jean and Tony re-enacted a typical scenario which had the audience in stitches.
Tom Hart Dyke, guest speaker explained how he was inspired to work with plants at the age of three years through the gift of seeds and a trowel from his grandmother. Later it was Joyce Stewart`s articles and working under Sandra Bell at Kew that Tom developed his love of orchids. At 21 years of age he won grants enabling him to travel to S.E. Asia where he saw orchids in the wild and later spent time in Australia and Tasmania collecting plants. However it was the year 2000 when he met up with Paul Winder in Mexico and travelled over 17,000 miles through the Darien Gap to Columbia with a guide, which proved the most riveting part of his talk. He captivated his listeners with vivid descriptions of being kidnapped by young gun-toting guerrillas in the cloud forest who held him and Paul in captivity for nine months. As Tom continued to collect orchids, his captors realised he was not a drug runner, a political activist or working for the CIA and suddenly released the pair returning all their valuables! Once safely back at his family home Lullingstone Castle in Kent, Tom created the World Garden of Plants within the two-acre walled garden as he had envisaged whilst in captivity.
Jean Griffin then presented the Kew Medal to Martin Duncan, Head Gardener at Arundel Castle owned by the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk who attended the dinner in support of Martin. From horticultural training in Ireland, National Parks work, farming, coffee plantation and advisory work in Africa to Jordan working for King Hussein, titled people in Bermuda and landscape designing in the UK; Martin now manages the ornamental and organic vegetable garden at Arundel. He is a firm believer in developing and making history, not keeping to strict historical layout or features as his work at the castle testifies.
Honorary Fellowship was awarded to Professor Nigel Dunnett and Professor James Hitchmough from Sheffield University who were both responsible for the landscaping of the Olympic park in London.
The President concluded the evening by thanking Tony Overland for masterminding another successful dinner with a bottle of gin; thanking all Trustees for their support and dispensed orchids to guests wives. A grand total of £405 was raised from the student raffle.
All photos copyright Stewart Henchie, except where stated.
Have a look through the photos; more will be uploaded as time permits.