REFLECTIONS OF THE KEW GUILD DINNER 2019 – Graham Heywood.
On a very pleasant sunny evening, 51 members, family and friends gathered at the Cambridge Cottage on Wednesday 22nd May in sight of a scene reminiscent of days gone by. I mean of course the cricket match playing out on Kew Green that evoked memories of my time at Kew when many an hour was pleasantly passed watching the men in whites following my two or three hours of botanising in the gardens. For a couple of years I thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the Kew Student Cricket team. Just one of the many happy memories that still linger in the depths of my ever increasingly failing mind.
Inside Cambridge Cottage the atmosphere was one of anticipation and excitement as we all conversed with friends we hadn’t seen for many years.
Enthusiastically welcomed by Sparkle Ward and Jean Griffin we collected our badges and were guided to the inner regions of the ‘Cottage’ towards the bar. It was pure delight as members, family and friends swelled the numbers over the next hour or so and we were all able to have a most relaxing catch -up. The ladies were all, as perhaps expected, beautifully attired in their finest clothes, but it was a close call as to who shone the brightest among us once Leo Pemberton arrived. I allude of course to Leo’s tulip adorned tie. How very appropriate and how very flamboyant did he look? Well he was in his 91st year after all and at that age one can get away with anything, almost!
At the appointed time, our Past President Jean Griffin, who on this occasion was our MC, called us to our tables, took control of proceedings and called us all to order and we ‘clapped in’ our President Mr Peter Styles. The President said grace. Again during dinner, which was, many later judged, the very best Guild dinner they had experienced, we were catching up with our friends and making new introductions.
As the last vestiges of the tableware were cleared away Jean announced a 15 minute comfort break and precisely 15 minutes later she again called everyone to order at which we stood to toast Her Majesty The Queen.
Jean, on every ones behalf thanked the catering staff for a splendid meal. and proposed a toast to the President Mr Peter Styles and shared with us a little history relating to the President. During his studentship, Peter won a prize for his plant collection, no doubt in part due to his having included a Bee Orchid collected from the Avon Gorge- really? During Peter’s stretch in the Palm House he was known to regularly hang his Jeans to dry from the balcony walkway. He was also given to wearing an ear of Frangipani behind his ear until he discovered whilst in India that it was often interpreted by many as a sexual preference. We have come a long way haven’t we? At Kew Peter was recognised as a future Landscape designer when, as part of his Diploma he designed a ladies lavatory. He has a quick wit and is known throughout both Kew and the Landscape profession for his expertise, dedication and professionalism. Peter reminded us there is a danger that the title Landscape Architect is often used erroneously for to be a Landscape Architect one needs to be a chartered Landscape Architect. A full biography of Peter’s career can be found in the 2019 edition of the Kew Guild.
Following Peter’s address he proposed a toast to the Kew Guild and our Guests Helen Tranter and Mike Fitt. A toast was proposed to absent friends by student representative Daniel Le Cornu.
At the Dinner it is usual to award the Kew Guild Medal to that year’s recipient. This year the award goes to Laurie Olin, American Landscape Architect. However, the President informed us Laurie was unable to attend the Dinner this year and therefore arrangements are in hand to present Laurie with the Kew Guild Medal in the Autumn when he is expected to be in the UK.
The President then introduced us to Helen Tranter, Vice President of the Landscape Institute. Helen said she was delighted to be among Kew people and emphasised that she was not a Landscape Architect but a Landscape Manager. Helen is a Green Flag Judge and manages a plantation of 200 Cricket Bat Willows for her family. She has previously worked in local government and is linked with many of the landscape managers who look after our green spaces. Kew graduates are well represented within this group.
The Institute engages regularly in its work with no less than 20 influential organisations and representation was based upon the Institute’s Corporate Strategy for 2018-2023 entitled People Place and Nature reflecting the link between the three. Helen reminded us that over 20% of our landscapes are designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and so the LI regards these as important partner organisations. Staff from the AONB teams are being encouraged to join the LI.
She said that increasingly, Governments and agencies now understood the need for landscape-led approaches to urban living spaces. Helen shared with us the Landscape Institute’s Continuing Professional Development Programme ( CPD) for 2019-2020 that included subjects from Plants and Bio-security to Climate Change to People and places, Digital integration and Transformation to Health, Wellbeing and Place.
One of Helen’s tasks is to widen the breadth of membership of the Landscape Institute by introducing new entry standards that cater for a wider range of disciplines. The profession is becoming more diverse and specialised. A dual system is being introduced with one track for the traditional landscape architects and another for landscape professionals. In the past, there were three categories: Landscape Architect, Landscape Manager and Landscape Scientist. By keeping Landscape Architecture as a separate track, it helps to protect the identity of this group of members whilst facilitating growth.
The current LI President, Adam White, is particularly keen to involve children in a Back to Nature initiative and has been supporting them with the involvement of the Duchess of Cambridge in designing a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. This is particularly appropriate as the LI was founded at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1929, so is celebrating its 90th anniversary.
The President thanked Helen for her presentation and members gave a round of applause. Following Helen Tranter’s presentation came the presentations; firstly Honorary Fellowship of the Kew Guild was awarded to Michael Fitt OBE and The George Brown Award went to Marcella Corcoran. In responding to his award, and taking receipt of a copy of the Kew Gardens Guide Book from the President, Mike thanked all present and took us back in time as he shared highlights of his career . Although he didn’t study at Kew, he has always been inspired by Kew. Before his retirement, Mike was Deputy Chief Executive of the Royal Parks, being responsible for the day to day management and maintenance of London’s eight Royal Parks. He continues to have an involvement with The Royal Parks as Honorary Archivist and Chairman of the Royal Parks Guild. Mike is involved with numerous initiatives and particularly he is passionate about involving people from diverse backgrounds in Horticulture, particularly young people and disabled people. Mike is a Freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Gardeners and the writer was not the only one to feel humbled to hear of the many achievements and passion for Horticulture and people of this lovely Man. In closing, Mike said he always had the same words of encouragement for anyone finding things difficult whilst making their way, no matter at what level, and that was ‘Don’t Give Up’. A more detailed Biography of Michael Fitt OBE can be found in the Guild Journal of 2019.
At the conclusion of Mike’s address, overseas representatives and past Presidents’ stood to a round of applause and a very sincere and heartfelt thank you went to Mr Tony Overland for his meticulous organisation of the Dinner and to Jean for executing the task of MC with wit and precision.
To round off a splendid event, Jean and the President called the numbers for the raffle which on this occasion raised £230.00 for the Kew Students.
Graham Heywood, Vice President, Kew Guild
PS: Keep an eye on this post for more photos as they arrive…
16th February 2019
By Alan Stuttard
The first Kew Guild event of the year is always a slightly worrying time for the President and I’m sure that this year was no different for Peter Styles. In recent years it has become a bit of a norm that this visit is timed to enjoy gardens well stocked with that harbinger of spring, the humble Snowdrop. However, seasonal weather can play havoc with the best laid plans by making the main flowering time too early or too late, or even worse, just appalling on the day of the visit.
Well, again the weather gods smiled on a Kew Guild visit and 26 members met in The Golden Heart Inn near to Cheltenham, on a mild early spring day with some light cloud. A most convivial lunch was enjoyed by all and it was great to see such a good turn out with some members attending for the first time for a number of years. This reminded us of one of the major benefits of being a Guild member, meeting old friends with shared interests, in pleasant venues. After enjoying lunch and much chatter, we moved off to our destination for the day, Colesbourne Park. Described by Country Life as “Britain’s greatest Snowdrop Garden”, we were expecting a good display.
Colesbourne Park’s story is an interesting one and its Snowdrop collection was started by Henry John Elwes (1846 – 1922) a country squire, traveller and naturalist. In 1894, on one of his first expeditions, he collected many species of bulbous plants from Turkey, including those that became named as Galanthus elwesii. During his life and using much of his collected material, he developed at Colesbourne Park what was known at the time as “the finest collection of bulbous plants in the world”. His interests continued to grow and extended to include a serious passion for arboriculture and he planted at Colesbourne an impressive Arboretum within the Churn Valley. The collection now holds 13 British Champion trees, 35 Gloucestershire Champions and 26 Remarkable specimens. Henry was not impressed at the time with the standard of books written about British trees so he co-wrote with the distinguished botanist, Augustine Henry, Trees of Great Britain and Ireland. The seven volumes were published between 1906 and 1913 and are still considered by many to be “unsurpassed”.
After his death the collections lay more or less undisturbed for fifty years until his grandson Henry Elwes and his wife Carolyn began to identify the Snowdrops, and develop the collection to its present standard through regular division of the bulb clusters. Many new species and cultivars were added and a breeding programme developed new varieties that are unique to this collection. The garden now boasts some 350 species and cultivars and is laid out in large areas of mass plantings interspersed by other spring flowering items. The flagship variety is S. Arnott, named after the Scottish Victorian gardener, and these were in full flower at the time of our visit. The garden being focused on Snowdrops is only open to the public for 3 weeks in February and again for a short period in autumn for visitors to enjoy the Arboretum.
On our visit many interesting species and varieties were enjoyed, with the following being particularly noteworthy, the green leafed Galanthus woronowii, the large Galanthus plicatus “Gerard Parker”, the golden fruited Galanthus “Primrose Warburg”,the unfairly named Galanthus “Nothing Special” and the aptly-named Galanthus “The Whopper”. Colesbourne Park has recognised the passion of the Galanthophile market and tapped into it to create an income stream to help support its favoured charities and we found an impressive 100 cultivars on sale. Whilst many of these were being sold as single flowering potted bulbs at quite reasonable prices, the rarer and more obscure bulbs were commanding increasingly dizzying prices, with the yellow leafed and flowered variety Galanthus elwesii “Carolyn Elwes” being sold at £290.00 per bulb.
The Kew Guild visits are always a shared mixture of horticulture, friendship and gastronomic enjoyment and therefore what better way to end a great day than to enjoy tea and the delightful array of homemade cakes made by the local Women’s Institute in the Long Room (not the one at Lords Cricket Ground) I think at this point our President Peter Styles realised that the weather gods had indeed smiled on him and that he could now relax before seeing his guests leave after an enjoyable first garden visit of the season.
Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th July 2019.
This Event is being organised by Brian and Sylvia Phillips.
Saturday 6th July
7th February 2019
With its unique place in the history of science and evolution, Down House was the family home of Charles Darwin. See the study where Darwin wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’, stroll through the gardens that inspired him. The visit will start with a tour of the garden to see places that inspired Darwin and amplified his ideas. Then wander through the house with the interactive multimedia commentary by Sir David Attenborough.
The Forest is an ancient area of tranquil open heathland occupying the highest sandy ridge-top of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are expansive vistas across the wooded hills of the Weald to the chalk escarpments of the North Downs and South Downs on the horizon. Ashdown Forest is famous as the setting for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories written by A.A. Milne. The visit will start with a talk from a member of the team on the history and conservation work on the forest. We will then drive to a car park on the forest for a short walk to see the landscape and visit some of the places made famous in A.A Milne’s books about Winnie-the-Pooh.
By storing the world’s seeds, the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) aims to provide an insurance policy against
the extinction of plants in the wild. The visit will start with a talk from a member of staff on the history and work of the Seed Bank followed by a behind the scenes tour of the storage vaults and laboratories
Payments will depend on whether Kew Guild members are also members of “English Heritage” and/or “National Trust”
It is recommended that members stay to the north or east of the area of Ashdown Forest / Wakehurst Place.
There are a number of smaller hotels and B&Bs in the area plus some of the chains : Crowne Plaza, Travelodge, Premier Inn, Marriott.
PRICES – at present the above prices are a guide as we are waiting, in some cases for 2019 numbers, or on offers that might be available.
There is an absolute maximum limit of 20, so early registration is recommended.
Please register by email (see below) to Brian Phillips with the following information:
Members will be registered in strict time and date order from receiving an email. Closing date: 1st June 2019.
Refund policy: full refund available for cancellations up to 1st June 2019.
Reply to: Brian Phillips E-mail: email@example.com Tel: 01342 824154
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.
Hello to you all on muggy but bright day. The Guild has just celebrated a very successful Annual Dinner, this year we were over subscribed and reluctantly had to disappoint several potential diners!
Sparkle Ward and Pamela Holt hosted the ‘meet and greet’ table in Cambridge Cottage and did a great job in PR terms, all helped by the glorious weather and access to the Gardens for members and guests.
Tony Overland did a magnificent job of organising the event and left no stone unturned to make the evening the success it was. This year I introduced a spot or two of humour, we need to make events interesting for all members and get away, dare I say, from the ‘Old Boys Image’ which some members appear to have judging by comments sent on to me! Tom Hart Dyke was an inspirational and passionate speaker, and Martin Duncan, the recipient of the Kew Medal was equally passionate as he shared his lifelong interest in plants.
Our Two Honorary Fellows, Professors Dunnett and Hitchmough from Sheffield University were pleased with their awards and we look forward to them joining as Guild members and seeing them at events during the years ahead.
Now it is on to the next Committee Meeting in June where I will report that a new Bank Account has been set up for the new Charity after long discussions over the year. The months before the AGM at Wakehurst in September will be taken up with organising the rewriting of the Constitution, rules and regulations, call it what you will, and we must take a long hard look at the way in which the Awards Committee will run with Chris Kidd, Allan Hart and myself making suggested necessary changes in order to comply with the new Charity Rules in order to take to the AGM.
I am presently trying to fit in the organising of a visit programme in and around the Wakehurst AGM (on Saturday 8th September) where there a guided tour in the morning will be followed by a celebration after the meeting of the 90th Birthday of Leo Pemberton. PLEASE join us and celebrate this unique event with him.
I hope my ramblings find you all in good gardening spirits and urge you all to consider nominations for posts within the Guild, encourage lapsed members to re-join and be part of our great Guild family as we welcome new and exciting ideas taking us into the next phase of the Incorporated Charity.
Happy Gardening, folks.
A group of 23 Kew Guild members, including our President Jean Griffin, were gathered in Cornwall on the morning of 19th April, keen to explore the remote Isles of Scilly. We were to fly there from Lands End airport, but an early morning phone call alerted us to a change of plan due to fog. Instead we were to make the three-hour voyage on the ship Scillonian III, leaving from Penzance dock. This was no problem for those of us who had spent the previous night in Penzance, but seven of our party were already at the airport. However, all was well in the end as the fog cleared by afternoon and they were able to fly out to join the main group. Some of us on the boat were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a group of dolphins swimming nearby.
We were based on the largest island, St Mary’s, staying in a converted 16th century castle (Star Castle Hotel) on Garrison headland above Hugh Town. The castle was founded in 1593 and was very atmospheric, with splendid views down to the bay and across to the other islands. Our President even had a room built into the surrounding old stone ramparts which she happily said felt like a gardener’s bothy! The food was exceptionally good, including much locally caught fish and seafood.
That afternoon most of us walked the 1½ miles through the lanes to the small Holy Vale vineyard set up by the hotel owner, Robert Francis. This is clearly run as a hobby, as they have not had a good grape harvest since 2014, but the wines are served in the hotel and we had a wine tasting at the vineyard, enjoying the sunshine and tranquil setting. Strolling back by a different route we went through the Carreg Dhu gardens, a shady oasis of fine old trees. One large silver-leaved tree had us all puzzled, so we took a few leaves to ask about it at Tresco Abbey Garden. On arriving back at the hotel there was time to relax and go for a swim in the hotel pool built inside a glasshouse, which ensured nice warm water.
The plan was that we should spend each of the remaining three days on a different island, with both an organised visit and time for members to explore on their own. Luckily we were blessed with fine weather for the whole of the trip, as this plan could easily have been ruined by stormy weather preventing the boats going out. We had our own boat reserved for each day, but all were small and open without any roof protection.
Day 2 was our day on Tresco island, home to the famous Abbey Garden, renowned for its tender plantings which can survive outside nowhere else in the British Isles. The Gulf Stream and abundance of sunshine mean that many plants from Mediterranean and other warm temperate parts of the world can be cultivated in its 17 acres of terraced garden. We immediately saw a number of examples of the silver-leaved tree which had puzzled us the day before. It turned out to be Leucadendron argenteum (Proteaceae) from South Africa. We were met by Mike Nelhams, the Curator, who kindly gave us a garden tour. Almost straight away we saw imported red squirrels, the greys not having reached the Scillies. The garden has many large palms, bamboos, tree ferns, Echiums, King Proteas, Cape Ericas and cacti. Particularly noteworthy were the species of Aeonium, with their large flat leaf rosettes, often growing in abundance on the old stone walls.
After lunch in the garden café members were free to spend the afternoon as they wished. Tucked away in a corner of the Abbey Garden is a fascinating collection of ships figureheads in the Valhalla Museum. These came from old shipwrecks and some were representations of real people. The path running along the east side of the island has views over the many rocks and islets towards St Martin’s, and down to fine sandy beaches, deserted at this time of year. The path goes to the little hamlet of Old Grimsby, where a welcome ice cream is to be had. From there the north part of Tresco is covered in heather and gorse moorland, with the remains of old fortifications from the Civil War. Our return to St Mary’s was from a different quay at a quite different part of the island, necessary because of the difference between high and low tide levels.
Day 3 was our day on St Martin’s island, lying to the northeast of Tresco. Once again we landed in the morning at a different quay from where we would be departing at the end of the afternoon. We were met by Zoe Julian, who with her husband runs Scilly Flowers at Churchtown Farm, a business growing scented flowers in which orders are sent out in gift boxes by post. Most of our group set out to walk the ½ mile up to her farm, with those who would find the walk difficult travelling with Zoe in her vehicle. The morning was spent on a tour of the farm, comprising a number of small fields protected by tall hedges of Pittosporum and Euonymus. Their main crop is scented Narcissus, most of which had already been harvested, but they have recently started growing scented pinks as a summer crop, buying in plugs from a source on mainland Cornwall. The bulbs are grown on a 5-year cycle, being dug up at the end of 5 years and the field put down to grass for 3 years to recover, when it is grazed by cattle. We were taken into the machinery sheds and shown the packing process. We were impressed by the way they have built up their niche market of scented floral gifts by post, and especially by the enthusiasm and energy of Zoe herself.
Lunch was taken at Little Arthur’s Café, involving a walk down a steep grassy slope and up again to the café. This was little more than a hut with a view, but produced a surprising variety of delicious cooked and presented food. As before, the afternoon was free for members to enjoy as they wished. Some of us walked up to a prominent red and white striped daymark (for shipping) on the eastern headland, and then followed the coastal path looking down on white sand beaches and across heather moorland. There was just the sound of seabirds and the waves on the shore on this beautiful island.
Day 4 was our last full day, and we visited the smallest of the inhabited islands, St Agnes in the southwest of the group. The boat trip over seemed quite rough in the small boat, which rocked from side to side in the waves. Members had about two hours on this small island before lunch in the pub just above the quay. The little paved lane leads past stone cottages to the church, surrounded by its graveyard in sight of the sea. This has fine stained glass windows depicting local seamen in their boats. From the church a footpath leads up on to Wingletang Down, a heathland area with amazing rock formations, granite boulders piled up in weird configurations. The views westward extend over the uninhabited island of Annet and out into the Atlantic. The numerous rocks and islets in the foreground are terminated by the lighthouse on Bishop Rock.
After lunch in the pub we returned to the quay for a two-hour wildlife boat trip round Annet and the western rocks. We were delighted to see Atlantic grey seals lying on the rocks, and many seabirds, including a few puffins although only fleetingly. Shags were plentiful, and we learned that a group of them sitting on the sea is called a “raft”. We had a good view of Manx shearwaters wheeling above the waves. These birds have been encouraged to return to St Agnes and have bred there since 2014 after an absence of many years.
As this was our last evening in the Star Castle hotel we all dined together, with our President raising a toast to the Guild which is now in its 125th year. The flights back to the mainland the following morning went according to plan, the small propeller aircraft flying low over the sea to Land’s End airport. We all felt incredibly lucky that the weather had held, enabling us to fully appreciate the peaceful atmosphere and special way of life of these beautiful islands at the extremity of England.
Student gardener, Kew, 1928–1933. Gardener, La Mortola, Italy, 1930. Gardener, Ospedaletti, Italy, 1934. Superintendent, Villa Taranto, Lake Maggiore, Italy, 1934–60. Horticultural and landscape consultant
b. Palmers Green, London, 3 July 1906; d. Venezia, Italy, 3 January 1995
The son of a doctor, Cocker became infatuated with gardening, and on leaving school he worked in a number of nurseries, including Carter Page at London Wall and Perry’s Hardy Plant Farm at Enfield. He entered Kew as a student gardener in December 1928, passing out in 1933.
Whilst at Kew he was awarded the Kew Certificate with a distinction in systematic botany, ecology and genetics. He was sent on a 15-month exchange to the Hanbury Garden at La Mortola, Italy, to gain experience in sub-tropical horticulture.
Following the end of his training at Kew, he returned to Italy and worked as a gardener at Ospedaletti, where he caught the attention of wealthy Captain Neil McEacharn. McEacharn had an estate, Villa Taranto at Lake Maggiore, and wanted a Kew-trained, Italian-speaking gardener to help him achieve his goal of creating his dream garden. Cocker oversaw the creation of the garden (which McEachern later bequeathed to the nation). Among his achievements was the first flowering in Europe of Davidia involucrata and Emmenopterys henryi.
During World War II Cocker enlisted in the RAF, serving in Libya, Egypt, South Africa, India and Ceylon. Wherever he went he was able to observe the local native flora. After the war he returned to Villa Taranto which had become greatly run down. Undeterred, and with a horde of staff, he set about restoring and expanding them into one of the great gardens of Europe. He remained there until 1960, earning a reputation as a garden designer. Following this he worked as a garden consultant for many celebrities and members of the European nobility, including Prince Borromeo, the Rockefeller Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim, Carlo Ponti and Sofia Loren, and HRH Princess Aspasia of Greece.
He was often called upon to give lectures and judge at horticultural shows, including Chelsea. For some years he was Technical Advisor to the Lombardy Horticultural Society, Milan
In 1950 he was awarded the Associate of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society. He wrote a number of books and made many contributions to horticultural and other publications. Three contributions to The Journal of The Kew Guild are cited below. He was a paid-up life member of the Kew Guild.
The Archives at Kew hold materials about Cocker including correspondence, photographs, working papers, lecture notes, and autobiographical notes.
Cocker, H.R. (1936), Some impressions of Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands, The Journal of The Kew Guild 5: 544–550 (with a page of plates).
Cocker, H.R. (1945), Horticulture in India, The Journal of The Kew Guild 6: 376–383 (with three plates).
Cocker, H.R. (1949), Villa Taranto Gardens, Pallanza, Italy, Journal of The Kew Guild 6: 670–676 (with six plates).
Goodall, Nancy-Mary (1990), Cocker’s Italian Triumph, The Garden 115: 407–411.
Goodall, Nancy-Mary (1991), Henry Cocker and some contemporaries, Hortus 5: 20–31.
By Stewart Henchie
The promised weekend started off at Torre Abbey Garden and glasshouse on a warm but overcast Friday afternoon. Fifteen of us were greeted and guided around the garden and glasshouse by the infectious and enthusiastic Head Gardener Ali Marshall.
Ali gave us the detailed history and background of the garden behind the main house on what was originally the canon’s cemetery in monastic times. She had started work there in 2008. The standard and care of the garden is high taking into account the amount of staff and volunteers she has at her disposal. She showed us a themed Agatha Christie the Queen of Crime garden of mainly potent plants arranged in an informative way many mentioned in Agatha’s books. The garden also has an extensive collection of tender plants housed in a large Hartley glasshouse –Palm House built in 1969. A Knot garden and apple orchard with old Devon varieties under planted with wild flowers has been planted. To provide further interest, a children’s Medieval Garden to provide activities for families and is divided by paths into four distinct sensory spaces of touch, taste, colour and smell. If all of this was not enough for us, we then able to visit the 800 Years Gallery in the main house with a mixture of interactive displays, historic objects, portraits, art work and information panels telling the history of the Abbey since 1196.
Saturday started off in a warm mist of Dartmoor meeting volunteer guide John Whiting at the lower car park for Haytor. We all set off enthusiastically embracing the surroundings of the wild, wet, muddy, cow and horse ‘pat’ strewn grassy areas! John our guide somehow managed to get us to avoid the obstacles and engage us all, and pointed out wild plants of note, birds, and how the landscape had been changed and used over its many years in existence. After our three and half hours guided walk we finished fully informed of the surrounding area, including Haytor itself at 457m above sea level.
Now, for the drive across Dartmoor to The Garden House at Buckland Monachorum, Yelverton.
As we drove over the wild Dartmoor National Park the sun finally burst through the mist and the surrounding landscape was hopefully something to remember. To make it a little more exciting and challenging, we took the route via Widecombe in the Moor, Dartmeet, Two Bridges, Princetown, avoiding the prison! Yelverton to Buckland Monachorum.
The Garden House is a different type of garden. We were met at the entrance by William Stanger a three -year trainee as a part of the Professional Gardeners Guild, who guided us at a good pace over part of the 10acre site An imaginatively planted two -acre terraced walled garden centred on the ruins of a 16th century vicarage was visited. This area was extensively planted with a wide range of tender, uncommon and exotic plants arranged in a pleasing way to show off their unique colour, texture and form. We were also shown the ’New Naturalism’ style of planting developed on six acres in the western part of the garden by a previous Head Gardener, Keith Wiley. Finally we were guided around the two-acre Jubilee Arboretum planted by Head Gardener Matt Bishop to commemorate 50 years of the Fortescue Trust, using 100 carefully selected trees of interest and note. Nick Haworth who unfortunately was not available to guide us now manages the garden. After all of this we were then all ready to demolish a ‘proper’ Devon Cream tea with lots jam and cream!
Later in the evening after a full day we all sat down to a meal at the Smugglers Inn, Dawlish.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny, with the morning adventure of steam train ride, ferry and river cruise.
Sixteen of us were due to meet at Paignton Station at 10.30am and we set off in our booked carriage called ‘Madeline’ to Kingswear; our president seemed to be a happy man at this stage of the proceedings! At Kingswear we promptly got off the train and embarked onto the ferry across to Dartmouth and immediately onto a circular river cruise on the Dart. The sun was now finally out, and in the glorious sunshine we cruised up and down the river Dart with the captain of the cruiser entertaining us with useful and some dubious information!
We then did the journey again in reverse to Paignton and made our way to the National Trust property, Coleton Fishacre.
We were met at the entrance by the Senior Gardener Martyn Pepper who took us around the garden. The site conditions are so mild and sheltered in some cases it resembles the plantings you would find inside the Temperate House at Kew! We did not visit the beautiful house on the site built of local stone in the 1920’s situated on the southern slope of the sheltered valley of the whole garden. Martyn gave us a great and interesting tour showing us lots of plants, which puzzled some of our members as to their identity. So much so that many said they would visit again to look at the house and gaze out at the amazing views from the valley to the sea.