Kew Guild

Kew Guild Annual Dinner 2018

RESERVE THE DATE: Wednesday 25th May 2018 at Kew. Details will be published as soon as they become available.

Scilly Isles visit – seeking provisional interest

Dear Friends,


Would you like to join us on the beautiful Isles of Scilly in 2018?

Travel arrangements for Thursday 19th – Monday 23rd April 2018 are being coordinated by Brian Phillips and on the islands, the botanical and horticultural visits by Mike Nelhams, Curator, Tresco Abbey Gardens.

We have provisionally reserved 12 double rooms at the Star Castle Hotel on St Mary’s.

The arrangements would be as follows:
• Own travel by car or train to Lands’ End Airport to connect with return flights to St. Mary’s
• All transfers thereafter included
• Accommodation at the Star Castle Hotel, 4 nights’ bed, breakfast and evening meal
• Inter-island return boat trips included

Key visits (others to be arranged later) on four of the islands:
• Tresco Abbey Gardens – “a perennial Kew without the glass”
• St. Martin’s Flower Nursery
• St. Mary’s Holy Vale Vineyard
• St. Agnes Western Rocks and island walks

Flight times for 2018 are not published until October 2017, although we have been warned that October is a very flexible timeframe!

The Isles of Scilly are a very popular destination and due to their remote location hotel and flight prices are not cheap. There may be some opportunities for discounts, but that will not be known until October.
For now we are looking at a budgetary price of about £640 each for all the travel and accommodation arrangements detailed above.

If you are interested in this unique opportunity to visit islands that are part of the United Kingdom, but have a unique flora and fauna, please email to Brian Phillips, or call 01342 824154 to express interest. If there are sufficient numbers at this stage then we will continue the planning and issue another bulletin in October, at which time we will collect deposits.

Best wishes,

Brian Phillips.

The Friends of Kew

THE FRIENDS OF KEW (by Allan Hart)

It had always been a bone of contention that all ex. students and gardening staff had to pay the full amount of the entrance fee – no concessions allowed. During my Presidential Year in 2012 I was able to negotiate with the (then) Director – Peter Crane – for a substantial reduction in the annual subscription.

The rate for 2017 is £35.00, which is approximately 30% of the full amount.

This is for two people and includes all privileges. All you need to do is obtain the application form and write on it ‘KEW GUILD MEMBER’. This information used to be sent out with the Members Certificates, which are no longer issued by the Guild.

Kew Guild AGM 2017

Past Presidents of the Kew Guild

The Kew Guild AGM was held on Saturday 9th September 2017 at RBG Kew. The photo is of many of the past Presidents of the Guild.

Members arrived at the Queen Elizabeth gate to join a tour of the Economic Botany Collection guided by Mark Nesbitt (Curator) and Frances Cook (Assistant Curator). The tour was slightly oversubscribed, but Mark and Frances accommodated everyone and we enjoyed a fascinating tour, learning about the role of Christine Leon and her important work in the identification of plants and fungi used in Chinese medicine. We were also shown some of the more historical items stored in the collection.

Old friends had the chance to catch up during the picnic in the Gardens and we were lucky the rain held off until we went into the meeting.

A great turnout for the meeting and the first things we noticed was the wonderful floral display and the successful renovation of the Jodrell Lecture Theatre. Business was conducted swiftly and the meeting closed at 4pm. The students provided tea and cakes afterwards, sharing their work and experiences giving us the chance to meet and chat, raising approximately £160. Our thanks go to Sal Demain and her team of students.

Flower display in Jodrell

Dinner was provided at the Cricketers Inn on Kew Green, hosted by the new President Jean Griffin (who looks in fine voice with her mouth open in the photo below!)

The Trustees and Committee extend their thanks to all involved.

Past Presidents photo, from L-R Tom Wood, Jim Mitchell, Stewart Henchie, Martin Sands, Alex George, Jean Griffin, Allan Hart, David Hardman, Bob Ivison, Colin Hindmarch, Tony Overland.

Bodenham Arboretum visit, Saturday 21st October 2017

The first event of the 2017/18 year is being organised by Tony Overland and is to the Bodenham Arboretum in Worcestershire on Saturday 21st October 2017.

If you are interested in joining us, Please download the Bodenham Arboretum Flyer here.

Dorset & Hampshire weekend, 13-14 May 2017

Kew Guild members enjoy the railway at Exbury Gardens

Not everyone is fortunate enough to visit the magnificent gardens of both Compton Acres in Poole, Dorset and Exbury in Hampshire and be met by their owners and key staff members.  Our hosts not only graciously outlined the history, their development philosophy and answered all our questions, they also escorted our group at a leisurely pace around two of England’s finest gardens.  Kew is undoubtedly lucky to hold such prestige in the gardening world that members of our guild are afforded such generous hospitality.

Compton Acres

Peter Thoday and Leo Pemberton at Compton Acres

Peter Thoday (left) and Leo Pemberton

It was a mixed group of 23, both members of the Kew Guild and their families that met in Compton Acres’s light and airy tea room to enjoy a welcoming cup of tea. There we were greeted by Bernard Merna, owner, Peter Thoday who advised Bernard in the initial stages when he bought the garden about restoration and planning issues and brought Mary Payne on board as an associate to manage the horticultural side of the garden.  It was very informative to be made aware of the restraints behind the development and management of this stunning garden.  Compton Acres is a relatively new garden that dates back only to the 1920’s.  What it lacks in size just over 10 acres it more than compensates with floral displays evolving to meet public expectations whilst still maintaining a charm of its own.

The garden boasts a magnificent collection of over 3000 species of trees and shrubs and herbaceous plants, including some at the extreme limit of their hardiness in the U.K.

After a light lunch, we were free to explore at our leisure.  The weather was mild and it was truly delightful to traverse and explore the wooded valley via its well-maintained paths and discover some of its many features, especially the stream with its cascades and water falls. In contrast the Italian garden functions to host special events. including marriage ceremonies and receptions.

Exbury Gardens

Exbury’s 200 acre spread of rhododendrons include over 800 registered hybrids is deservedly world famous.  Whilst after lunch the train ride epitomized the carefree nature of our visit, it was the warmth of our reception in the morning that set the tone to our visit.  After welcoming us,   Mr. Lionel de Rothschild explained the vision he is still developing, the important role his head gardener Thomas Clarke now plays, and what Mr. Rothschild’s forefather’s dedication, and resources had achieved. It is hard to believe that a staff of only 10 gardeners manage the maintenance of such a colossal undertaking. Species have been collected from around the world and hybridized to produce plants of improved colour, form and hardiness, many of which we were able to enjoy in bloom.  Plants not meeting desired hybridizing objectives being ruthlessly destroyed.

A Toot, Toot, Tooting

Lionel de Rothschild and Alan Stuttard, Exbury Gardens

Lionel de Rothschild (left) and Alan Stuttard enjoying the railway at Exbury Gardens

I don’t think our president, Alan Stuttard could believe his luck when being given the opportunity to be co-engineer of Exbury Gardens’ miniature steam locomotive on a twenty-minute trip through part of the gardens.  The train carried our party of 32 as well as our gracious host Lionel de Rothschild who had made this exclusive special arrangement.  Alan seemed to re-live childhood memories of his grandfather who was an engine driver.  He even managed to get us back safely to the station!

We were privileged to gain a first-hand insight and enjoy two truly delightful and magnificent gardens and David Hardman is to be commended for a superb job organizing the visits which ran like clockwork.

Brian Dodds, Landscape Architect and Kew graduate


The Kew Guild Associate Membership

by Allan Hart

The Annual General Meeting of the Kew Guild 2005 ratified the recommendation of the Committee – to incorporate a new category of membership, that of ‘Associate’. This is in recognition of the support of wives, husbands and partners who have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to the administration and activities of the Guild.

Associates do not pay a subscription as they are already covered by that paid by their partners. (Associate Members are not allowed to vote.) On the death of their partner the President will contact them to invite them to become full members at the current rate of subscription. The Guild would like to attract more Associates – simply contact the Membership Secretary


Report of the Kew Guild Annual Dinner, 2017

by Richard Ward

The Annual Kew Guild Dinner was held on Thursday 25th May in Cambridge Cottage, Kew Green.

On one of the hottest days of the year nearly 60 Guild members and guests enjoyed free access to the Gardens during the day and at 18.50 precisely were summoned to the dining room by MC Richard Ward. Members and guests clapped President Allan Stuttard and his wife into the room and Rev. Hugh Flower said Grace. After the meal Stewart Henchie, ebullient as ever, proposed the toast to ‘The President’, to which Allan responded, reminisced, entertained us all, and gave a toast to ‘The Kew Guild’ and ‘Our guests.’ Kew’s Director of Horticulture Richard Barley responded on behalf of the guests. Diploma student Kathryn Bray gave the toast ‘To Absent Friends.’

President Allan presented the Kew Guild medal to Landscape Designer Chris Beardshaw who voiced his appreciation. The George Brown scroll ‘For furthering diplomacy in the true spirit of the Kew Guild’ was presented to Nicholas Boyes who was equally grateful.

Past Presidents of the Guild were stood and were recognised. Similarly Overseas visitors – being Val and Jim Mitchell from Australia, Pamela and Brian Dodds and Ian Lamont Smith from Canada.

5 Diploma students attended the Dinner. Di Stuttard kindly drew the raffle tickets and their raffle raised £280 for student funds.

Allan thanked outgoing Dinner organiser Jennifer Alsop, MC Richard Ward, and Editor Sparkle Ward for their input to the evening; and presented gifts of wine and flowers in appreciation.

Further details of the evening will be published in the Events of 2017 Journal, together with selected photos.

Prizegiving Speech (2015) – Richard Bisgrove

Precis from a fantastic prize-giving speech in 2015 by Richard Bisgrove – Ed.

I have been to several Prize Days at Kew and listened to several eminent guest speakers so it is a great privilege to be standing here today, especially as the guest speaker is chosen by those students who are about the graduate. This means that the students probably enjoyed my lectures but I wonder if they are also putting me on the spot. Because I live north of Reading our modus operandi is that I battle along the M4, we switch on the projector at 9am and I ramble on for six hours – with coffee breaks – then head off back on the M4 before the rush hour traffic is too bad. I suspect that Course 50 want to see how I cope with less than an hour to speak, and with no projector!

This afternoon I would like to tell you something about three people. The first is me. I lectured at Reading, in Horticulture and Landscape Management, for forty years and two weeks. In the last five years of my Reading career I was given Honorary Life Membership of the Kew Guild, the Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society and the Peter Youngman Award by the President of the Landscape Institute. In my first five years that triple honour would have been impossible: the botanical, horticultural and landscape architectural professions had almost watertight boundaries and many opportunities were lost as a result of inter-professional rivalry, sometimes amounting to enmity. Gradually the botanists have realised that nature conservation and habitat restoration involve what is in essence sophisticated gardening. Only this morning I heard on the radio of micropropagation and pelleting of sphagnum moss in attempts to restore peat bogs.

Landscape designers have slowly come to recognise that grand plans are useless without sophisticated gardening to see those plans evolve to fruition. In 1978 the Institute of Landscape Architects became the Landscape Institute and widened its membership to include landscape managers and landscape scientists. It is no coincidence that by far the most successful Landscape Architecture Department in Britain is at Sheffield, headed by their Professor of Horticultural Ecology, James Hitchmough, who was your guest speaker last year. The Kew Diploma can be a painful experience as it involves such a wide range of subject material, from DNA sequences through practical horticulture to landscape design and management but the graduates from the Diploma course are ideally qualified for the new environment of inter-professional collaboration.


The second person is one of our former students at Reading. I’ll call him Smith. Young Smith was a bright and hard-working student so it was no surprise when he gained a first class honours degree in Horticulture. He stayed on at Reading for his PhD and, in a department with research interests in organic horticulture, in synthetic soils and other aspects of sustainable horticulture, gained his PhD with his thesis, ‘A study of the effects of protein-based fertilizers on the growth and development of vegetable crops’. In the course of his research Smith adapted a dot matrix printer (then new technology) to produce very large numbers of very small samples of liquids for analysis. Doctor Smith then went to the Water Pollution Research Laboratory near Stevenage, where he built up a substantial research team. He was then appointed Professor of Environmental Management at Imperial College in London where he has developed multi-million pound contracts in Egypt, Australia and elsewhere in waste management and energy capture from waste materials.

I was invited to hear Professor Smith’s inaugural lecture. The Dean of his department stood up to introduce him and started by saying that Professor Smith’s career started in Horticulture – and he actually sniggered as he said the word, with knowing chuckles from his senior colleagues. Professor Smith then stood up to deliver his lecture and started by saying that he thought Horticulture was the best possible start for a career in environmental management as no other subject brought together so many aspects of science and technology.

My third person is John Claudius Loudon, a Scotsman who came down to England to teach the English how to farm and garden properly. Loudon was the first documented workaholic, going one night a week without sleep in order to study languages and suffering the loss of an arm and other painful experiences while working himself into an early grave. He died in 1843 with typically Victorian melodrama, dictating the last chapter of his book on the self-improvement of young gardeners to his young wife. Loudon preached that young gardeners should be tidily dressed and well-spoken at all times and should devote themselves to study. In return he thought that employers should respect their gardeners and foster their career development. He bewailed the fact that gardeners, often the most highly educated and literate of the army of servants, were so little appreciated and so poorly paid.

I would like to end by congratulating the students of Course 50, and the apprentices now completing their apprenticeship, for their achievements and to wish them well in their careers. They may be sniggered at from time to time as ‘mere gardeners’, they will almost certainly not be paid as much as they deserve, but they will probably save our planet.

Kewite-mail, May 2017

Dear Kewites and Friends,

I just cannot believe that it is almost five months since I sent everyone copies of the Christmas newsletter, as I have said before, “Where does the time go?”

The Guild Committee has met a further two times since Christmas and along with a number of day to day issues to keep us occupied, our most important piece of work has been the submission to the Charity Commission of our application to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). These arrangements, aimed at the Kew Guild being able to meet the present legal requirements of the Charity Commission, were agreed as long ago as the AGM in September 2015. They have been an ongoing issue for the subsequent Presidents and particularly Bob Ivison, who has been the lead committee member on this issue. Earlier in the year the submission was finally made and then a response was received from the Charity Commission that was far from positive, which left your committee in doubt as to whether they were going to be able to take this matter forward.

Given this, at the February meeting of the Trustees it was decided that to take this matter forward, we needed help from specialist solicitors who were experienced in dealing with the setting up of trusts and the creation of their constitutions. This proved to be an inspired decision and I am glad to be able to report that our response to the Charity Commission’s queries, which was put together with the aid of the solicitors, has been very favourably received. The Charity Commission has indicated that with some minor changes to wording in our submission, they would be happy to accept the Kew Guild’s application for CIO status. A report on these matters will now be placed before the Trustees at their meeting on the 1st June 2017 and it is expected that we will then be in a position to finalise our application and agree it with the Charity Commission. It will be almost two years since the matter was first discussed at an AGM and I must offer my thanks to the past Presidents and again, Bob Ivison for all the sterling work that they have put into this project to bring it to fruition.

This year’s Kew Guild’s programme of events is now well under way with two of the visits already having been undertaken. In February we visited Bennington Lordship Gardens, near Stevenage, for our annual “Snowdrop” start to the year. Well over twenty members braved a cold, but dry day and enjoyed a landscape of superb snowdrops of all sizes. Many of us were taken by the flower sizes of some of the newer hybrids and one that really caught the eye was Galanthus Sarah Arnott, an absolute star! In true Guild style the cold late morning visit was combatted by a visit to a local hostelry for lunch and the pleasure of sitting by a blazing fire.

In April we visited Guernsey, on a trip that came about when Raymond Evison received the Honorary Fellowship of the Kew Guild at last year’s Guild Dinner. Raymond kindly offered to host a trip to Guernsey in 2017 to visit his Clematis nurseries and local private gardens – an offer that I wasn’t going to miss out on. I worked with Raymond on putting together a four day visit and I must say as we planned the visit I wasn’t sure what the take up of the package would be like and initially we planned only 15 places. I needn’t have worried, the Guild members were just as excited about the proposals as I was and within 24 hours we had reached our maximum number for the visit of 24.

The visit itself was a great success and we visited a number of superb private gardens along with an eye opening tour of Raymond’s Clematis nursery, where we toured the whole of his production side, where plants were being grown for the European and American market. We were also very lucky to see the “secret” side of his business, where we were allowed to inspect the new Clematis cultivars for 2017 which are planned to be released at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. The Clematis fans amongst us Guild members are really in for a treat this year, but I can’t tell you any more, as we were “sworn to secrecy!!”

The real success of the event was the weather, as we had four days of beautiful clear weather without a cloud in the sky. I was so impressed with Raymond’s links to the weather Gods, as I was told that the previous week had seen Guernsey blanketed in fog. I was amazed how much “earlier” Guernsey was to mainland Britain and when promised banks of flowering Bluebells, I was to say the least, a little sceptical. But there they were, along hedgerow banks stuffed with early wild flowers and in one garden a magnificent Paulownia tomentosa, in full flower.

As I am writing this newsletter Di and I am preparing ourselves for this weekend’s Guild trip to Compton Acres in Dorset and Exbury in Hampshire. This great visit has again been fully booked and I am especially looking forward to enjoying two of my interests at Exbury, one the family, Rhododendron and two, a ride behind their famous steam miniature railway. What better way to enjoy a visit to Exbury for an ageing gardener / steam buff, than to travel the over one mile track around the gardens watching Rhododendrons and Azaleas pass me by, whilst taking in the intoxicating aroma of smoke and steam.

If you haven’t been to a visit this year, there is still a chance for you as there are a further two trips planned in June and August when we visit Devon and Chatsworth respectively. But don’t delay, as on this years’ experience they are filling up fast – check the Guild website for details as they become available. I look forward to welcoming the stalwarts of the Guild’s visit along with those who have yet to try these very friendly and relaxed visits to superb gardens

– try us, it is a lot of fun!

Plans are now well underway for this year’s Guild Dinner in the Cambridge Cottage, Kew Green, on the 25th May and we have again managed to arrange free entry to the garden for all those that are attending the dinner. The guest speaker at this year’s dinner will be Richard Barley, the ‎Director of Horticulture, Learning and Operations at Kew who, I am sure, will give Guild members attending the dinner, an up to date insight into the future management and development of the gardens. We will also be presenting Chris Beardshaw, of Chelsea Flower Show and Gardener’s World fame, with the Kew Guild Gold Medal. I look forward to this special evening in the Kew Guild calendar.

Finally, thank you for reading this newsletter which outlines the work of the Kew Guild and more importantly, I hope, reminds all the readers that there is much pleasure to be found in being an active member and enjoying some of the activities of this special organisation. I look forward to meeting up with many of you at one of the remaining visits this year or at the AGM on the 9th September.

With kindest regards,


Alan Stuttard, President of the Kew Guild