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Allan Hart, A.L.I., M.I.Hort., Dip.Ld.(UCL), Dip.IPRA

2002 - Today
Kew Guild President 2002-2003
Allan Hart in 2002

A keen member of the Kew Guild since student days, Allan has served on the main Committee and was founder member of the Award Scheme.

Allan was born in Golbome Lancashire, a coal mining village where plants were rare, but his father and uncles were interested in gardening, though from necessity, the cultivation of vegetables took priority over growing flowers. Allan's first introduction to exotics was through a neighbour who grew large numbers of tobacco plants, of the cigarette type, allegedly for his own use! This initial interest was almost extinguished after working in the school holidays at a local nursery, which grew thousands of Ligustrum ovalifolium for trunk road landscaping.

Much to the surprise of family and friends, after his grammar school education, Allan decided to work as a gardener and was employed by Leigh Parks Department, attending Day Release at Wigan Technical College. He then became a student at the Lancashire Farm Institute, where he was given much encouragement by Mitch Mitchelmore, (Kew 1947), the lecturer in Mycology and Entomology.

King and Country then called to say that Allan was essential to its plans for world peace, but after an intensive ten weeks of National Service in Warrington, they decided that it would be preferable if he continued to follow his chosen career!

The next move was to T.R. Hayes in Ambleside to study nursery work and garden construction, under the direction of Dick Hayes (Kew 1916), a very enthusiastic supporter and member of the Guild. Any spare time was spent botanising, with help from Hubert Taylor (Kew 1933), or playing football, or rock climbing on the fells.

Working at Bodnant Gardens followed, where there was ample opportunity to increase his knowledge with the wide range of plant species growing in the sheltered micro-climate. However, the feudal system was alive and well at Bodnant, which Allan found hard to reconcile with his socialist upbringing - and so onwards to Kew in 1956.

Placements included the Tropical Department and Palm House (Lewis Stenning), the Herbaceous Department (George Preston) and the Arboretum (George Brown). All were instrumental in consolidating his plant and horticultural expertise, plus the added bonus of making many lifelong friendships, with both british and overseas students. During his time in the Tropical Pits Allan succeeded in germinating seeds of Clitoria ternata, a rare climbing plant with stunning bright blue, sweet pea shaped flowers, which was painted by Margaret Stones for the Curtis Botanical Magazine.

During his student years at Kew, Allan joined in all its activities, including the Botany, Football and Social Clubs, being secretary of the latter and organising, amongst other events, fancy dress parties at the Coach and Horses, which have gone down in Kew folklore! He was also a keen member of the Kew Gardens Music Circle, hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Metcalfe at their home in Pensford Avenue. This was a civilised haven, where students could escape from their bed-sits and enjoy some home comforts. The Metcalfes were great admirers of J. S. Bach, but such was their generosity of spirit, that they tolerated exposure to modem music, promoted by the secretary, Lawrence Mills (Kew 1958), which included Hans Werner Henze, Schoenberg, Musique Concrete, and its even more advanced form - Musique Concrete Renforce! Lawrence was a great character, who later became a Buddhist monk and renowned teacher and poet known as Bhikou Khantipalo. Many years later Allan was able to meet up with him again at a temple in Bangkok. 

Being very near to London, Allan also benefited from the opportunity to discover restaurants (food and wine still being a passion), theatre, and music clubs, particularly modem jazz. Perhaps the most significant event in his time at Kew, was meeting Joan at her leaving party at Gipsy Hill Training College, Kingston in 1958 - so significant that they are still together, 45 years later! They enjoy a keen interest in modern design, in fact Allan has been a modernist since an early age, his design gurus include Burle Marx, whom he once had the good fortune to meet.

After Kew, the job market was very poor, so a six month period at an ICI research station followed, notable only for providing Allan with the opportunity to read the complete 'Lord of the Rings' cycle in three weeks. He was then recruited by Tom Risely to act as Tom's landscape foreman at Hayes and Harlington Parks Department. With Tom's encouragement, Allan applied and was accepted, for the Institute of Park and Recreation Administration course, where an inspirational lecturer in landscape design (Laurie Fricker), prompted yet another change in career.

Allan Joined the Ministry of Defence Army Works landscape section in 1961, as a draughtsman, working directly under Cliff Tandy with Phil Haywood (Kew 1950), who willingly shared his wide experience, and insisted that every drawing was of the highest standard, with good italic hand-writing an essential. At that time this was probably the most dynamic office in the country, with a wide range of projects, from housing, barracks, schools/colleges, embassies and new towns both in the U.K. and overseas, giving Allan the opportunity to travel to both the Middle and Far East. There was a steady recruitment of Kew graduates, including Eddie Rolls (Kew 1948), Bob Adams (Kew 1959) and Haydn Bell (Kew 1963). Eddie was a great influence, passing on his experience of design and planting in arid zones, gained from his time working in East Africa.

Joan and Allan were married in 1962, when the Diploma of Parks Administration was completed, and set up home in Richmond. Allan was then able to enrol for part time study of landscape design at University College, London, when Parts I and 2 of the Landscape Institute were passed. In 1967 Allan started work for private consultants (LUC), specialising in the reclamation of derelict land, mainly in the Rhonda Valley, including the Aberfan disaster site. The final examination of the Landscape Institute was passed in 1968, just one week before his first son Richard was born - critical timing! Fifteen months later, second son Mathew arrived to complete the family.

Allan established his own landscape design practice in 1968 and has been fortunate in attracting a wide range of clients and projects. He has always insisted on high standards of plants, materials and workmanship, not always easy with the general lack of skilled, trained gardeners. Sustainability and re-cycling have always been of interest, and he created in his own garden over 30 years ago, what was probably one of the first timber decks in the U.K. using flooring from a demolished local garage. (But not painted blue!) One of his most interesting recent projects has been the involvement with the Canary Wharf development in London's Docklands, which gave him the opportunity to carry out a European-wide survey of nurseries growing large trees. The formulation of a manufactured soil and self-draining surfaces also resulting from research into materials, together with new planting techniques, has enabled this riverside landscape to become established and mature, despite a very harsh environment. 

Allan has also had a considerable involvement with the design of sport and recreational facilities, including the first all-weather athletics tracks and field events areas in Surrey and Hampshire. Particularly rewarding has been his participation in the design of several children's play areas, working with the N.P.F.A. and creating gardens for the mentally and physically disabled.

The practice has now been in existence for over 40 years, and during this time Joan has played a large part in the success of the business - her secretarial skills and no nonsense critical analysis of designs being greatly appreciated. She has also been a very involved supporter of all Guild activities, including hosting many Award Scheme fund raising soirees held after the AGMs.