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.
By Tony Overland and Pamela Holt
Friday 11th August Broomfield Hall
The Guild’s visit to Broomfield Hall was the first part of a wonderful weekend of gardens and historic buildings in the Matlock area organized by Jean and Rod Peach. Broomfield Hall Campus is part of Derby College, a further education establishment that provides a wide range of courses for some 26,000 people. Broomfield was the county’s agricultural college and in the recent past merged with Derby College to become a centre for the land-based industries.
We were met by Head Gardener Samantha Harvey (Kew 2008) and welcomed by the principal Eileen Swan who gave a brief résumé of the courses at the campus, she mentioned there was plenty of interest about the various options available, although sometimes there was less response for the horticultural courses.
Charles Edward Schwind bought the estate in 1870 and by 1880 he had the Hall erected, with Victorian Style gardens. The gardens were designed and laid out by William Barron (the inventor of the Barron tree transplanting machine) with, a walled garden, sunken garden, paths and extensive grounds.
On 1 March 1830 Barron was appointed Gardener to Charles Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Harrington, at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire and instructed to create a new garden. He created what was to be the first garden in Britain to have ‘rooms’, each a theatrical set-piece dedicated to the themes of chivalry and love. The most striking were the Alhambra garden with its Moorish pavilion and the Mon Plaisir garden, with its bowers, topiary, statues and monkey puzzle trees. After five years of drainage and earth moving the Earl was impatient to have a more mature landscape. This may well have led Barron to design and build his large tree trans-planting machine; one of which remains at Kew to this day.
After the death of the Fifth Earl in 1851, Barron bought 40 acres for a nursery site; he quickly gained a reputation for plant sales, landscape gardening and the transplanting of large trees. There are 25 acres of Victorian gardens and woodlands at Broomfield Hall, we entered through an extensive nursery with plants for sale. Adjacent to this is a large area of glass for plant production and student training maintained by students and volunteers. The garden after a long period of neglect is now, with the skill and energy of Samantha Harvey and a large team of volunteers undergoing restoration. Key areas of the grounds have been reconstructed thanks to a £4,000 grant received last year from the Stanley Smith (UK) Horticultural Trust.
There are so many different areas like the impressive Long Border, now in the process of being planted. The Japanese garden is to be restored, and a new Rose Garden will be established. In fact, even today the influence of Barron’s design found at Elvaston Hall, can be seen in the series of enclosures throughout the grounds at Broomfield Hall. There is a Parterre Garden, where cool colours will be used to fill the beds. Further on there was an interesting array of different kinds of hedges, where the students can learn to prune. Also along the woodland walks can be seen specimen trees including Davidia involucrata and Nothofagus dombeyi. My particular favourite piece of design was a sheltered area of sub-tropical plantings featuring different Ricinus communis varieties, Canna indica, Tetrapanax papyrifer, Penesetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’, Musa basjoo and many Amaranthus varieties including ‘Hot Biscuits’
Overall our visit here was a most enjoyable prelude to an outstanding weekend of venues with some beautiful gardens and good company.
A lovely sunny day greeted us as we parked opposite Haddon Hall near Bakewell and followed Jean Peach across the road to meet our guide Gail who conducted us through the private home and garden of Lord and Lady Edward Manners. Starting in the courtyard we learned that the origins of Haddon Hall go back 860 years with only two families; the Vernons and Manners living here. Prior to this William the Conqueror owned the property with mention in the Domesday Book. After 1640 the house was abandoned for the Duke of Rutland to make his ancestral home at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.
Although some walls are castellated, the house has never had military involvement which has helped retention of many original features. Moving into the oldest part the Chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas, we examined the fine wall murals and sculptures. Other wall paintings were uncovered by the 9th Duke in the 1920s following restoration of the house. Next, the medieval kitchens with original 13th century oven and chopping boards. Several 14th century dole cupboards where examined where surplus food was placed and beggars could insert their hand through a hole for sustenance.
In the Great Hall hangs a huge tapestry from 1480 gifted by Henry VIII for help at the battle of Boswell. The long table has an unattached top board which was turned over after meals allowing dogs to clear up leftovers-the origin of the phrase ‘tables turned’. The Tudor parlour with the Vernon crest and a fine boar carving is frequently used for private wedding services, the Great Chamber with its Italianate plasterwork frieze and Elizabethan Long Gallery were all visited. Here we learned of Bombay Glass created by Robert Smythe. The diamond-leaded panes appeared distorted but in fact deliberately made in wavy panels to scatter the light into the room. From here the party stepped out onto the terrace one of several which lead down to the River Wye below. The soil is limestone and very free draining with massive retaining terrace walls where a large collection of roses are sited.
We marvelled that the head gardener Jane managed the grounds almost single handed, taking six months to prune all the climbing roses. One part-time gardener and three volunteers complete the workforce to cope with hedges, lawns, bowling green, cutting garden and topiary. Arne Maynard was called in to design the upper terrace which was suffering from rose sickness. The original Bowling Green now sports a knot garden and small lawn with formal clipped purple beech squares surrounding a pool.
At the conclusion of our tour [then] President Alan Stuttard presented our guide Gail with the book Kew Plant Hunters along with our thanks. We then wandered along the top terrace and thence to the delightful tea rooms where we took lunch before driving off to our next location.
Anita and Jeremy Butt greeted us in their idiosyncratic garden with a few words on its development. Anita had taught at Broomfield Hall prior to retirement and both are keen gardeners buying extra land to enlarge their garden and until quite recently. opened for the National Gardens Scheme. We were invited to explore and then return to the tables and chairs set out on the lawn for delicious tea and cake. Much of the garden is on a slope with a ravine below and running stream spanned by rustic bridges. Various quirky sculptures in wood and ceramic with a fascinating zip wire with suspended seats strung between some conifers were all tried out. Many fine trees were admired from Eucalyptus sps., Sorbus aria`Mitchelli`, Alnus glutinosa`Imperialis`, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Liriodendron tulipifera `Variegata`, to Liquidambar styraciflua and unusual plants like exotic Begonia, Fascicularia and Eucomis planted outside. Various shrub and herbaceous borders together with a fruit and vegetable area made for a fascinating afternoon.
That evening was a continuation of laughter and enjoyable chatter as members partook of an excellent buffet supper provided by our hosts Rod and Jean Peach on their terrace above Matlock.
Another glorious day this time at Chatsworth where the gardener in charge of the walled gardens, Faye Tuffrey, took time to explain what we were seeing as she expertly guided us around. The garden staff of 24 include a florist team and two teams to cover ornamentals, production, glasshouses and flowers. There are three students (including an apprentice) from the Professional Gardeners Guild and Historic, Botanic and English Heritage. Separate staff manage the wider estate.
We learnt how William Cavendish married Bess of Hardwick in the 1550s, creating orchards, fish ponds and Queen Mary’s Bower, a viewing platform when Mary Queen of Scots came in 1570. The Duke of Devonshire redesigned the garden in 1699 much influenced by the Dutch. When Capability Brown was employed much of this was swept away creating the grass swards and cascade in 1720.
Joseph Paxton at 23 years of age arrived as Head Gardener in 1826 having been spotted at the RHS Chiswick garden by the 6th Duke. Many glasshouses were erected during his time in office from restoring the stone built Camellia house of 1697, the wall heated Paxtons Case, a house with sliding panels, the 340ft long Conservative wall with fruit trees to orchid and tropical houses. We were able to wander through some houses normally closed to the public and were warned not to touch the luscious Muscat of Alexandria grapes being raised for show. A special house was built to grow the Victoria Amazonica in 1801 which flowered ahead of the plant at Kew. The orchid house has three heat regimes to suit the various plants many of which were collected in India by John Gibson and named after Paxton and the Duke in the1890s. Between 1836-41 Joseph Paxton designed and built the Great Stove with ingenious guttering, ridge and furrow glazing and tunnels; one with a tramway to supply the coal to the underground boiler, another of nearly a furlong to take smoke and smuts up the hillside. With 52,287 square feet of glass and covering ¾ acre, this was then the largest free standing glasshouse in the world. World War1 took its toll on the gardens and plants due to lack of staff and coal to heat the glasshouses and by 1920 the decision was taken to demolish the Great Stove House.
We were horrified to learn that this was accomplished by was using dynamite! Today a yew maze occupies the former site. The current three-acre kitchen gardens were created from an area originally used for grazing horses. The vegetables, fruit and flowers are used in the house with any excess sold in the shops. At lunch time members were free to visit the house or explore the extensive gardens and grounds, rock garden, arboretum and water features.
A very full and enjoyable weekend made possible by the meticulous planning undertaken by Rod and Jean Peach. They are deservedly our first new members under the new rules of the Kew Guild.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.