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.

Portrait of Augusta, Princess of Wales

Dear Friends,

Kew has recently acquired a portrait of Augusta, Princess of Wales, mother of George III. The acquisition of this important painting was made possible by the matched contribution of two members of the Kew Foundation Board and Council. It is a large work, about 6 ft tall, and depicts her seated, full length, in the grounds of Kew Palace. The artist is George Knapton (1758). The portrait hangs in the dining room of Cambridge Cottage and can be viewed on a visit to Kew, provided the room is not being used for a private function.

Augusta_full_length (002)

Portrait of Augusta, Princess of Wales, mother of George III by George Knapton (1758)

Kewite-mail, December 2017

Dear Kewites and Friends,

A promising start to my Presidential Year and things are progressing regarding the ongoing changeover to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). The committee has met twice since the AGM and it is disappointing that neither meeting contained enough members to vote on any decisions. This is just one of the issues that the new CIO will address and the Guild will not face this issue in the future.

The decision to employ a Charity Lawyer is proving fruitful and things have moved on considerably since that involvement. I will keep you all in the picture in the New Year when the transfer of assets takes place from the old charity to the new.

Everyone booked on to the Scilly Isles event is eagerly awaiting sampling the delights of the Islands and the fascinating flora and fauna. The Guild will be encouraged to run a repeat tour in 2019 as so many people were disappointed that they were on the reserve list.

Watch this space for a wonderful excursion to Bonn later in 2018 and I will be looking at an early summer trip to Kent Gardens and Nurseries.

Following the November meeting, the Guild hosted 10 young people from the Gardens at the Coach and Horses; the students were either from the Diploma course or the Certificate Course. It was so refreshing to mix with them and to hear about their varying backgrounds and to know why they chose to study at Kew. We look forward to welcoming them as active members of the Guild and thank our new Student Representative, Eve Halliday, for being an enthusiastic volunteer.

Our new Archivist, Astrid Purton, has been very active and is proving to be a great asset to the Guild, having already made substantial progress on sorting the archive boxes and providing the committee with a conservation report. Astrid has written a blog post regarding the archives, which will be published on the RBG web site and I will distribute the link when it becomes available. Astrid has also used the Guild as a case study in her MA dissertation entitled ‘Charity Archives and value’ and we wish her all the best of luck with that.

The post of President is a challenging one, not to be taken on lightly and I thank my fellow trustees for their support and advice.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas with friends and family and here I include my ‘Kewite Family’ across the globe.

Best wishes to you all for a prosperous and healthy 2018.

Jean Griffin, Floreat Kew!



The web site operation is moving on and considerable costs have been saved by moving the hosting company. The committee is looking to draft a policy for uploading content from members, with articles being sent to the Secretary for consideration

Kew Guild Journal

The editor of the Journal, Sparkle Ward noted that the deadline for Events of 2017 Journal for copy is 31st January 2018 please send any contributions to

Please email any ‘News of Kewites’ and any photos to Pamela at

Kew Guild visit to Guernsey

See the report by Alan Stuttard on the web site:

Guernsey, April 6th – April 9th 2017

Little did we know when we presented Raymond Evison with the Honorary Fellowship to the Kew Guild at last year’s Dinner that events would unfold whereby the Kew Guild would be in Guernsey for spring the following year. Raymond, very gracefully offered to host a visit by the Guild to Guernsey in the spring of this year. On the 6th April, 24 Guild members found themselves meeting in the car park of the Bella Luce hotel to begin an excellent visit to this horticulturally rich island.

Our first visit was to Le Vallon, the home of Antony and Jane Phillippi, a ten-acre valley garden, with views across the east coast of Guernsey that has evolved over many years. This wonderful garden is split into a magnificent formal area, a natural wooded area adorned with the English Bluebells dissected with moss pathways and a stream running into a large pond, surrounded by Lysachitum americanum. This was all framed by gentle rolling parkland with a great stock of mature trees. However, the best part was kept until the end, when we entered the superb walled kitchen garden with its cold frames and glasshouses stuffed with plants awaiting spring planting. The superb south facing wall was covered with trained Apples and Peaches just beginning to stir into seasonal life – a real gardener’s paradise.

Le Vallon (1)

You are not supposed to find Brugmansia flowering in April!!

Our next visit was to Forest Lodge the home of “Tattie Thompson,” the Chairman of the Guernsey Plant Heritage Group. This was a relatively new garden created from a virgin site and laid out like an artist’s palate with colour themes running throughout the garden. Even though it was early in the year splashes of colour where beginning to appear with the variegated Brunnera macrophylla and Clianthus paniceus albus catching the eye. Tattie was the ideal host who treated us all to coffee and a Guernsey speciality, Gache, a type of tea bread.




Clianthus paniceus albus

Clianthus paniceus albus

Our final visit for the day was to walk along the wooded coastal paths at Petit Bot, overlooking the rugged eastern coastline of Guernsey. When Raymond promised us Bluebells on our visit in early April I have to say I was a little sceptical, but how wrong could I be! The pathways were lined with a tapestry of native wild flowers including Bluebells, Primroses, Triangular stalked Garlic, Sea and Red Campion and Stitchwort.

Bluebells and the Kew Guild

Bluebells and the Kew Guild



This was definitely Mother Nature at her best and the mild Guernsey climate had given us a very early start to the year.

To end the day we met in our hotel before dinner to receive a presentation from Raymond titled “Clematis for today’s gardens” and an over view to our visit on the following day to his Guernsey Clematis Nursery. Over a fine dinner I asked Raymond to give me the definitive answer to that age old query, the proper pronunciation of the genus Clematis. Is it a soft or hard “a” – Raymond was very definite on the hard “a” and who am I to argue with the guru of the Clematis world.

The following day we visited Raymond’s Guernsey Clematis Nursery and at this point I think some facts are worth providing to give some idea of the scale of the enterprise. The nursery produces 25% of the world’s annual requirement of young Clematis plants, exporting as far afield as China and Asia. 60% of their production goes to America, with the other big markets being the UK and Europe. Production of Clematis by the nursery for 2017 is expected to be a massive 2.5 million plants, a very impressive set of statistics!

Raymond took us through all the stages of production, but the one area that most of our members were waiting to see was the breeding programme that produced all the new varieties. This area was a sea of magnificent colours from which the best cultivars are chosen and “bulked up” in numbers for marketing and release.  This was a very “hush, hush” area where we were not allowed to photograph individual plants and where we saw the new varieties to be launched at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Raymond showing the “bulking up” process of the new Clematis varieties.JPG

Raymond showing the “bulking up” process of the new Clematis varieties

I had never realised how important to the financial success of the company the marketing launch and branding was. This year’s Clematis varieties to be released at Chelsea are stunning, but you will have to see them for yourself, as we were all sworn to secrecy!

After a leisurely lunch at the Beauccette Marina (created by the military blasting a hole on the seaward side of a landlocked potential harbour) we then went to a completely different type of venue at Saumarez Park. The spring bedding in front of the large Georgian styled residence was superb and the shrubberies were ablaze with colour from a great collection of Camellias. This also included the very old Guernsey Camellia variety that when produced wasn’t quite stable and now has the unnerving ability to produce masses of different coloured flowers on each plant. Our main focus for the day’s visit was the Victorian walled kitchen garden which after years of dilapidation is going through a complete renaissance which started some ten years ago. The garden is being restored back to its 1875 – 1900 heyday and the present claim to fame is the 175 ft lean to glasshouses which have been rebuilt to their original style using traditional materials. The garden is managed by volunteers and a programme of growing fruit and vegetables has developed and become a regular visitor attraction exhibiting methods of growing and varieties from the Victorian era. The link with the Guernsey Plant Heritage Group has allowed the very popular sale of heritage vegetable seeds with many members bringing away ancient vegetable variety seeds to be later planted in English gardens.

The afternoon was completed with a visit to the Guernsey Folk Museum to view the exhibition of Island life in the 19th and 20th century with a special focus on the rise and failure of the Guernsey Tomato growing industry

Our final day started with a visit to Jennifer Monachan’s garden at La Pette Vallee. This was another valley garden with a superb collection of mature plants and at our visit there was a wonderful Paulownia tomentosa and groups of Melianthus major in full flower. Jennifer had made good use of sculpture throughout the garden and enjoyed introducing humour to put a smile on the visitor’s face.

Scrumping for apples.jpg

Scrumping for apples

We then travelled to St Peters Port to visit the Candie gardens which were resplendent in spring bedding with many fine trees, including a very large Ginkgo biloba which is the tenth largest in the UK. The garden also home to some very ancient lean to glasshouses built originally in the late 1700s and still giving good service.


Our final two visits were to two vastly different high quality private town gardens. The first was an amazingly large town garden developed at Grange Court by Patrick “Pat” Johnson who is the Chairman of Guernsey Floral. The garden was laid out in a series of interlinked “garden rooms” on different themes and often the setting for Pat’s other passion, sculpture. Pat didn’t stop at just placing pieces of sculpture in his garden, but with the use of topiary techniques he ensured that parts of his planted material became “sculptures” in their own right.

Pat Johnson enthralling the Kew Guild visitors to Grange Court

Pat Johnson enthralling the Kew Guild visitors to Grange Court

We then visited our final garden tucked away in the heart of St Peters Port which is the home of Huw and Sarah Evans. Having a very difficult slopping urban garden they have ingeniously created a superb terraced garden made up of a number of areas of different planting styles that defines what must be the best view of the harbour in St Peters Port.

At the end of this garden visit we had to say goodbye and thank you to our host Raymond Evison for organising such a magnificent tour of the sites of horticultural interest on Guernsey. We also were also totally amazed with his links to the “Weather Gods” who allowed the sun to shine and the skies to be blue for the whole of our time in Guernsey.

A truly memorable trip!

Alan Stuttard, 2017

Allan Cunningham (1791-1839)

The King’s Collector for Kew in Brazil, Australia and New Zealand; Colonial Botanist in New South Wales.

Assistant to William Aiton at Kew, 1810/11–14. Collector for Kew in Brazil with James Bowie 1814–1816. In Australia and New Zealand 1816–31. Worked on his collections at Kew 1831–36. Colonial botanist at Sydney Botanic Garden, 1837. Visited New Zealand 1838.

b.Wimbledon, Surrey, England, 13 July 1791; d. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 27 June 1839

After schooling in Putney which included grounding in the Classics, Allan Cunningham was appointed by William Aiton the younger in 1810/11 to assist in preparing the new edition of Hortus Kewensis, giving him a first-class knowledge of plant names. When Joseph Banks persuaded the government to support the employment of two collectors to travel overseas to seek plants for Kew, Cunningham applied and in 1814 was appointed Plant Collector for His Majesty’s Botanic Garden at Kew (the King then being George III). Together with James Bowie, also a Kew man, he was sent first to Brazil. For two years they explored assiduously and sent living and dried material back to Kew. Besides plant collecting, Cunningham developed a love for exploration. In 1816 Bowie was sent to the Cape of Good Hope while Cunningham went to Sydney, New South Wales. In 1817 he joined the Surveyor-General John Oxley on an expedition into the interior, in an attempt to solve the riddle of the flow of rivers west of the Great Dividing Range. From late 1817 to 1822 he accompanied Philip Parker King on four voyages around the coast of New Holland (as Australia was then known) and one to Van Diemen’s Land (later Tasmania). He made further expeditions inland, discovering the Liverpool Plans and Darling Downs, each region to become important in pastoral and agricultural development. Besides these he took every opportunity to explore botanically closer to Sydney. In 1826–27 he went to New Zealand and in 1830 to Norfolk Island. During the 15 years that he stayed in New South Wales he sent hundreds of living plants, bulbs and seeds to William Aiton, introducing many new species into horticulture. He made corresponding herbarium collections and kept detailed notes on localities and habitat.

In 1831 Cunningham returned to London and for over five years lived at 18 Strand-on-the-Green, just across the Thames from Kew (close to where the railway bridge stands now). There he worked on his herbarium specimens and often visited the gardens, especially to see how his ‘children’ were faring. He developed a strong association with William Hooker, then in Glasgow, sending him many fresh specimens from the gardens for featuring in Hooker’s journals, especially the Botanical Miscellany and Journal of Botany. These were accompanied by notes on their origin and classification, sometimes including Latin descriptions and, for new species, often proposing names, for which ‘A.Cunn.’ is often seen as the authority. His botanical associates, with whom he shared his collections and knowledge, included William Aiton, Robert Brown, Aylmer Bourke Lambert, John Smith, Robert Heward, Franz Bauer and, mainly through correspondence, Augustin de Candolle, George Bentham and John Lindley. Late in life he came to know William Colenso, a missionary/botanist in New Zealand.

Cunningham’s bother Richard (1793–1835), also a Kewite since he worked under Aiton for many years, accepted the position of Colonial Botanist in Sydney, arriving there in 1833. Although he threw himself into the duties his tenure was brief as he was killed by Aborigines while on an expedition into the interior in April 1835.

After the death of his brother, and with his health affected by the climate of London, Cunningham accepted the post of Colonial Botanist. He returned to Sydney in 1837 but found the duties of managing the botanic garden (especially supervising about 40 convict workmen and the associated bureaucracy) not to his liking. He resigned on 1 January 1838 and returned to his love of exploring and collecting. This included a further visit to New Zealand that year. The years of hard living in the bush had taken their toll, however, and despite all attempts to restore his health he passed away in 1839, much regretted by friends and associates in Sydney and Britain. Heward wrote a long obituary, published in 1842. An obelisk to his memory was erected in the Sydney Gardens in 1844, and in 1901 when the old Sydney Cemetery was cleared for a railway station, his remains were moved to its base.

Cunningham ranks with Robert Brown as one of the two most significant early plant collectors in Australia. A large quantity of correspondence by him and his contemporaries has survived and has recently been assembled for publication (Orchard & Orchard, 2015). He corresponded frequently with Aiton and, until his death in 1820, with Joseph Banks.

The main set of Cunningham’s herbarium specimens is held at Kew and there are duplicates in more than a dozen other herbaria. He is commemorated in the genus Cunninghamia, in specific names in genera such as Acacia, Araucaria, Archonophoenix, Grevillea, Stenocarpus, Verticordia, in several placenames in Australia and in the name of a journal from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.


Cains, F. & Whitehead, J. (2011), Cunningham’s Tracks 1827: His Journey through the Gwydir & Inverell Shires, privately published, John Whitehead, Coonabarabran.

Curry, S., Maslin, B.R. & Maslin, J.A. (2002), Allan Cunningham: Australian Collecting Localities, Flora of Australia Supplementary Series no. 13, Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra.

Desmond, R. (1994), Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists, Taylor & Francis & The Natural History Museum, London, p. 342.

Heward, R. (1842), Biographical Sketch of the late Allan Cunningham, Esq., F.L.S., M.R.G.S., &c, privately published, London, first published in Journal of Botany 4: 231–320.

McMinn, W.G. (1970), Allan Cunningham: Botanist and Explorer, Melbourne University Press, Carlton.

Orchard, A.E (2013), Allan Cunningham’s cryptic publications, Telopea 15: 191–204.

Orchard, A.E (2014), The dispersal of Allan Cunningham’s botanical (and other) collections, Telopea 17: 43–86.

Orchard, A.E & Orchard, T.A. (2013), Allan Cunningham’s Timor collections, Nuytsia 23: 63–88.

Orchard, A.E & Orchard, T.A. (2014), The Botanist and the Judge: Allan Cunningham in Tasmania 1818–1819, Botanical interpretation by S.J. Jarman & G. Kantvilas, privately published, Weston Creek, A.C.T.

Orchard, A.E & Orchard, T.A. (2015), King’s Collectors for Kew: James Bowie and Allan Cunningham, Brazil 1814–1816, privately published, Weston Creek, A.C.T.

Orchard, A.E & Orchard, T.A. (2015), Allan Cunningham: Letters of a Botanist/Explorer 1791–1839, privately published, Weston Creek, A.C.T.

Whitehead, J. (2003), Tracking and Mapping the Explorers vol. 1, The Lachlan River Oxley, Evans & Cunningham 1817, Sunnyland Press, Mildura.

Whitehead, J. (2014), Tracking and Mapping the Explorers vol. 4, Cunningham’s Pandora’s Pass, 2nd amended edn, privately published.



Allan Cunningham, portrait by Daniel Macnee c. 1831. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


Bodenham Arboretum, Saturday 21st October 2017

So have I heard the cuckoo’s parting cry,
From the wet field, through the vext garden trees,
Come with the volleying rain and tossing breeze.

Mather Arnold, 1822-1888

How apt that just a few days before our visit to Bodenham I (Graham Heywood) should be reading the above poem by Mathew Arnold. Was it a warning of the weather we might expect?

We gathered under a dark grey sky with warnings of extreme gales and heavy rain, but despite the warnings 22 members signed up braved the weather to enjoy the first event of the 2017/18 season. Organised by Tony Overland with assistance from Brian Phillips we enjoyed a guided tour of ‘Worcestershire’s Hidden Garden’. Led by the second generation’s owner James Binnian we were shown a huge range of trees and shrubs, set within a beautifully landscaped 170-acre park with magnificent water features.

The arboretum is a privately-run garden, part of a larger family run farming business incorporating home produced lamb, pork and beef; log production producing 1,000 tons per year to feed the hugely increasing number of private log burning fires; a very popular lakeside licensed restaurant and shop. There are 170 acres in total. The restaurant has become a local destination attracting large numbers of visitors at the weekend.

James informed us that in terms of overall income, the most profitable was the food sales, followed by sale of logs and then admissions to the arboretum.

The site is bowl shaped with an opening on one side, and converting it to its current purpose was relatively easy. Within this bowl there are two miniature valleys which are fed with water from a series of springs. David Binnians’s (James’ father) first task was to decide where the pools were to be created, and then the location of the planting of additional trees. There are now some thirteen pools with a constant supply of water.

When the property was purchased in 1973 by James’ parents it was a near derelict 127 acres with extensive rough grazing and covered in brambles and scrub woodland. James’ father David was a Kidderminster based estate agent and who read forestry at college. The arboretum opened to the public in 1998. It now employs 20 staff inside and 5 outside the grounds. The site is on clay but with careful management the tree losses have been reduced. Part of the estate was heavily planted with Poplar for the nearby Bryant and May matchstick factory, but this has long disappeared although large stands of Poplar still survive in and around the site. One of the main features of the park is the Laburnum tunnel, styled on the fine example at Bodnant but laid out in a unique curving format. Honey fungus is a problem here. A splendid Gazebo erected to mark the millennium and a new fernery both add greatly to the must-see attractions.

The arboretum is a perfect wildlife habitat and the West Midland Bird Club hold their National Bird surveys there every year. One the busy times of year is Christmas when the donkeys become a firm favourite.

James has received a host of awards including a Tourism Enterprise Award and an English Heritage Status Award in 1995. Bodenham is the only site which has qualified twice for this prestigious award. James took a poignant moment to describe his experience when visiting the House of Lords to collect the Tourism Enterprise Award from Angela Leadson. He was on the Westminster Bridge at the time of the terrorist attack in March of this year with his family on their way to collect their award.

James reminded us about the Kew links with the arboretum – Kew were assessors for the Heritage Status award and were also instrumental in the early days of its development by providing plant material. Sadly, these early links with Kew have not lasted and our President, Jean Griffin promised to look into the possibility of these links being renewed.

Finally, we asked about the future plans for the arboretum and the family business. James is not the kind of man to let the grass grow under his feet! There are two rapidly growing Forest Schools benefiting more than 3000 children each year and a programme of thinning and shrub colour enrichment. At this point James reflected on the knowledge he and his family have accumulated over the years and cautioned anyone in a similar situation not to plant trees too close together. They need room to grow!

We concluded our very informative and inspiring morning tour with a splendid lunch at the lakeside restaurant, after which many members took the opportunity to explore the gardens by themselves before departing home. However, before members and friends departed the restaurant there was one very important task for the President to perform. That was to congratulate Leo Pemberton on his 89th birthday (we had all signed a birthday card for Leo) who seemed to be more fit and agile than many present who were younger than he. We reflected on the support and encouragement Leo had provided to many of us during our time as students at Kew. Well done Leo; what a wonderful age and what a wonderful man!

PS: The weather was, after all, relatively good for our visit with just a light occasional drizzle and no wind to speak of.

Review by Graham Heywood and Peter Styles.

Bodenham 2017, Leo Pemberton and Jean Griffin

Leo Pemberton on his 89th birthday being presented with a birthday card from our President, Jean Griffin

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.

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