It is hard to believe it is 15 years since I first suggested to the Kew Guild Committee that we should consider having a medal struck to recognise people of outstanding merit in topics close to the interests of the Guild. The Committee set up a small working group to develop the idea. On the basis of their report it was agreed to go ahead because the initiative was seen to ‘raise the profile of the Guild, to recognise personal achievements and spend the money of the Guild in a wise and constructive manner.’
The initial criteria devised by the working group have been revised since they were first set out, and the most recent revision, in 2018, states them as follows:
“The Medal is awarded for outstanding merit in the furtherance of one or more fields of interest of members of the Kew Guild. For example: Scientific or amenity horticulture, Plant systematic research, Plant or habitat conservation and Horticultural Education. Other relevant fields of interest can be considered. The recipient need not be a member of the Guild.”
It was agreed that the Medal should be presented at the Annual Dinner or the Annual General Meeting unless the recipient or their representative is unable to attend, when other arrangements can be made. It was also agreed that normally the Medal should be awarded every two or three years, and exceptionally on consecutive years. However, as you can read below, there was no shortage of suitable candidates and after 2014 a medal has been awarded in each of the following years. Kewite Anthony Ross was invited to design the medal, and although somewhat taken aback by the request, consulted a medal die and engraving specialist company in Twickenham about practical matters and put his considerable skills to producing the exquisite medal. A first batch of ten was struck. The medal is silver gilt, weighs 50g, is 50mm in diameter and 2.5mm thick. The 2006 Journal cover showed the Medal, together with a short article by Anthony Ross on page 78 of same.
Initially the nominations for the medal were made by a Medal Awards Sub-Committee. This consisted of the President of the Guild with John Simmons, John Edmundson, Prof. Gren Lucas, Dr. Thomas S. Elias, David Hardman and David Cutler (Secretary). This functioned very effectively, but in due course the members of the Kew Guild Committee decided that they should take full responsibility for receiving and deciding on the nominations and the Sub-Committee members were thanked for their work and the Sub-Committee was disbanded. I continued to be responsible for seeing the process through the Guild Committee until I retired from this role in 2019.
Nominations are most welcome from all members of the Guild and should be sent to the Kew Guild President. It is very important that when making nominations you shouldn’t tell the nominees! Medalists up to the time of writing are as follows:
2007 Roy Lancaster, 2009 Raymond Desmond, 2010 Alan Barber, 2012 Noel McGough, 2014 Sir David Attenborough, 2015 Christopher Brickell, 2016 Alan Titchmarsh, 2017 Christopher Beardshaw, 2018 Martin Duncan, 2019 Laurie Olin.
I would like to add my thanks to Richard Ward for his help in gathering data for the article.
Peter Styles – We have recently received ten new medals. We used a mint through our Welshpool printers so thereby keeping things in house so to speak and making it easier for ordering.
Spec is: Design and Development – 50mm Obverse @ £940.00, 50mm Reverse @ £780.00, 10 off H M Silver, 2.5mm thick Collar Medal, gilt finish, in a standard presentation case 50mm @ £196.00 each. These were provided by Toye Kenning and Spencer Ltd, London. They are by Royal Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen and the medals were cast in their factory in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.
2008 – Roy Lancaster
Guild President Rebecca Bower presented the first ever Kew Guild Medal to renowned plantsman Roy Lancaster at the Kew Guild buffet dinner at the Coach & Horses Hotel, Kew Green on 19th May. See 2008 Journal p 298.
2009 – Ray Desmond
Awarded ‘in absentia’ at the annual dinner on 23rd May. ‘Ray has been driven to work tirelessly for the benefit of Kew and the Guild. During his tenure on the staff he helped place the Kew Library on a more secure foundation. He also established the Kew archives as we know them today. All his many publications are reference works of great value, and have been central to increasing interest of how Kew has developed over its 250 year history. His latest, the second edition of the history of Kew, is an especially valuable contribution of increasing public understanding of the mission of Kew.’ Together with Nigel Hepper Ray co-authored a celebration of the Kew Guild in their book ‘A Century of Kew Plantsmen’ published in 1993.’ See 2009 Journal pp 398/9.
Photograph © RBG Kew, originally published in ‘Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens’, by Ray Desmond.
2010 – Alan Barber
Awarded at the annual dinner on 22nd May. ‘Simon said he was always proud of his achievements while he studied at Kew Gardens in the 1960s and achieving the Kew Certificate and was always mindful of his distinctive service as Secretary of the Mutual Improvement Society. Alan has devoted his working life to the improvement of Parks and Open Spaces and campaigning for their improvement and development. Alan’s career spans over 50 years and served in many positions and is well known as a commissioner for architecture and the built environment. He is the author of numerous publications and articles and is much sought after for advice on management of urban parks and green spaces and has been consulted on management of green spaces of cities in the United Kingdom and overseas and is a worthy recipient of The Kew Guild Medal.’ See 2010 Journal p 500.
2012 – Noel McGough
Noel joined Kew in 1988. Apart from the line management of the Conventions and Policy Section and of the UK Overseas Territories and Conservation Training teams, Noel’s role at Kew involves advising the UK government on the application of international biodiversity related conventions to plants. This role also includes conservation governance and negotiation, packaging scientific advice for government policy makers, inter-governmental decision-makers and for international negotiations. Noel is often found leading for the United Kingdom and European Union Presidency in international negotiations.
His day to day job involves managing Kew’s role as UK Scientific Authority for Plants under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and supporting the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity at Kew and in partner countries, the investigation of trade in wild plants and the assessment of possible detrimental trade and the effective application of the CITES Non-Detriment Finding process.
Noel is often working with partner countries to identify methods to correct detrimental trade, in particular through the CITES Significant Trade process and the CITES Plants Committee. This can include developing tools and building capacity to help countries fulfil their obligations under international conventions and building global partnerships through the mechanisms of international biodiversity related conventions.
Noel is a member of the CITES Plants Committee, Chair of CITES Plants Committee Significant Trade Working Group, and Co-Chair of the CITES Advisory Panel for the Evaluation of the Review of Significant Trade. In addition, he is a member of the European Union CITES Scientific Review Group, a member of the CITES Standing Committee Working Group on the use of Taxonomic Serial Numbers, a member of the Defra Advisory Panel for the Methodology for Assessment of Priorities for International Species Conservation and a member of the UK CITES Officers Group. A further significant role is as a UK Government delegate for CITES meetings of the Conference of the Parties, CITES technical committees, European Union meetings and in negotiations.
Projects Noel is involved with include CITES checklists, listed timbers, trade research, Climate Change Science Policy, Plant Diversity Challenge: The Official UK Response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and Significant Trade in CITES Plants.
Noel has not only been instrumental in building capacity and expertise in the Conventions and Policy section but is recognised by Defra and other international bodies as a key player in the arenas of CITES and latterly of the CBD. He has made a significant contribution to help Kew maintain and enhance its collections legally, to train numerous staff and relevant external people in most aspects of CITES implementation and has been an effective ambassador for Kew.
Biography originally contributed by D. Hepper. Also see 2012 Journal p 168.
2014 – Sir David Attenborough
‘The President then introduced Sir David Attenborough to whom he then presented the Kew Guild Medal. In accepting the Medal, Sir David expressed how much Kew meant to him and how his attachment to Kew, cemented as a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens for 10 years, began at a much earlier time when he was married in St Anne’s church on Kew Green where the Hookers are buried. His wife’s family are from the area and as a resident he became a frequent visitor to the Gardens in the days when they charged just 1d.’
As published in 2014 Journal pp 420/21.
2015 – Chris Brickell
At the 2015 Annual Dinner the Kew Guild recognised Christopher Brickell for his outstanding contribution to international horticulture and botanical science, awarding him the Kew Guild Medal. Through his initiatives and involvement in garden management, plant conservation, taxonomy and publications he has provided knowledge, interest and encouragement to a large audience, both professional and amateur to fully appreciate all types of plants and their care.
See further details in 2015 Journal pp 581/582.
2016 – Alan Titchmarsh
35 Kewites assembled on 15th June for a lunch at the Coach and Horses Hotel, Kew Green. The event was arranged by the Kew Guild to mark its award of a Kew Guild Medal to Alan Titchmarsh for distinguished work as a horticulturalist. In welcoming Alison and Alan, Guild President Tony Overland mentioned Alan’s career and particularly his work as President of Plant Heritage, Perennial, and a Trustee of Gardens for Schools, and President or patron of approximately 35 charities and organisations.
Alan, in turn, thanked the Guild for the honour and expressed his pleasure in returning to Kew and meeting up with old friends. He recalled his digs on the Mortlake Road in Kew, and five happy years beside Kew Green; how he had met his wife through Barnes Operatic Society, how he valued the Kew Diploma and the fact that he is in touch with plants every day – he will always be a gardener.
See 2016 Journal p 79.
2017 – Chris Beardshaw
President Jean Griffin presented the Award at the annual dinner on 25th May. Multi Chelsea Gold Medal winner and TV personality Chris provided an entertaining review of his work and gardening experiences.
‘As a landscape designer Chris has been responsible for many attractive planting schemes including the RNLI commemorative feature at the National War Memorial at Alrewas (Staffs) along with many imaginative award winning plantings that have supported important charities at RHS Chelsea. Along with many contributions to radio and television he perhaps is best known as ‘the Helicopter Gardener’ as he ‘dropped in’ to view many top ranking UK garden landscapes. All of the UK’s major horticultural events have benefitted from his expertise, often adding an appealing and captivating touch of humour along the way. Chris uses his natural skills to encourage any age group seeking to pursue an interest in growing plants whether it be for colourful amenity planting, productive cropping or the natural landscape.’
See 2017 Journal pp 142 & 202.
2018 – Martin Duncan
Jean Griffin presented the medal to Martin at the annual dinner on 23rd May.
‘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.’
See 2018 Journal pp 285 and 322.
2019 – Laurie Olin
Awarded ‘in absentia’ at the annual Dinner.
‘Laurie is a distinguished American teacher, author, and one of the most renowned landscape architects practicing today. Born in Wisconsin and raised in Alaska, Laurie studied civil engineering at the University of Alaska and pursued architecture at the University of Washington, where Richard Haag encouraged him to focus on landscape. He practiced in Seattle and New York before travelling to England on a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972-1973 and to Rome as a Fellow in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 1974-1976.’…‘He is currently Practice Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught for 40 years, and is former chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University.’
See 2019 Journal pp 401 and 454.
Precied for the Kew Guild website by Sparkle and Richard Ward in December 2020.
In view of the exceptional circumstances brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve decided, very reluctantly, to postpone our spring/summer events programme. Unfortunately this includes the annual dinner and, most likely, the Ireland trip. I’m really sorry that we’ve had to take this action but the safety and welfare of our members is paramount and this cannot be assured for the foreseeable future.
All being well, we aim to re-arrange these events to take place either later in the year or in 2021; we’ll email you regularly with updates. For those booked onto the Ireland trip we’ll be in touch with you separately.
Once again, apologies. Please stay safe and well.
All the very best, Dave Simpson, President.
The Kew Guild Annual Dinner in 2021 will be held on Thursday 20th May 2021 in Cambridge Cottage.
The Kew Guild President, David Simpson, is reluctantly postponing the Kew Guild Annual Dinner to be held at Cambridge Cottage, 37 Kew Green, TW9 3AB on Thursday 21st May 2020.
The Dinner provides the perfect opportunity to renew old friendships, make new friends, catch up on news, and meet the current Kew Diploma students and Guild Committee members.
The Guest Speaker will be, Dr Tim Utteridge Head of Identification & Naming at Kew. He is an entertaining speaker and will talk about the work that he and his team are doing in SE Asia.
In addition to this special occasion all day free admission to Kew Gardens has been agreed for all applicants. The President with the assistance of Tony Overland has arranged a menu with an excellent selection for you to choose when applying for your tickets. We have agreed with the caterers that the event will be at the same price as 2019. There will be a cash bar to purchase drinks throughout the event. The current students will organise a cash raffle to help support student travels. There will be no reserved seating.
Any member requiring financial assistance to facilitate attendance at the Dinner should contact Awards Scheme Chairman by Tuesday 31st March.
We look forward to meeting you all at what will be an excellent occasion for the Guild. Please click here for the application form to reserve your place[s]
David Simpson President 2019-20
11-12 APRIL 2019
This was a two-day event suggested by Martin Staniforth. The planning of the Rockcliffe and Highgrove visit had been much anticipated and was long in its making. Royal Household protocol and other events at Highgrove meant that we only received approval shortly before the event, but we were not disappointed.
Thursday morning saw 20 members and guests gathered in the car park at Rockcliffe House to meet the owners Emma Keswick and her husband Simon. Kew Graduate Thomas Unterdorfer was the head gardener here until last year and Amy Newsome, student in Kew Diploma course 56, also trained at Rockcliffe.
The 8-acre garden is a personal triumph for Emma, who created the garden and whose design philosophy can be described as organic. Emma is also a garden designer in her own right, trained in horticulture at Merrist Wood and in garden design at the English Gardening School. One her of her earlier commissions involved the first Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh in 1996. The centres are named after Maggie Keswick, Simon’s cousin, also a garden designer, who died of cancer but left behind a legacy of cancer centres dedicated to a new approach to patient care. Maggie was supported by her husband, the late architect Charles Jencks of Garden of Cosmic Speculation fame – such are the common threads that bind us all together in life.
Throughout the garden there are references to Simon’s old school Eton – in the gate to the formal terrace and another reference in the pennant-shaped Dovecote weather vane. The Dovecote is a magnificent Cotswold stone structure, sitting high up in the garden and entered through a gate from the Kitchen Garden. The path is lined each side with topiarized doves creating a wonderful quirky approach.
To the rear of the house Emma has created a ‘ha-ha’, forming the boundary to the garden and allowing an uninterrupted view to the surrounding Gloucestershire countryside. A double row of Beech obelisks draw the eye across the lawn to the ‘borrowed landscape’. The view is punctuated with a striking bronze statue by Nigel Hall, aptly named ‘Southern Shade’.
The garden is famous for its planting and the use of colour, yet despite the early Spring visit, we were able to appreciate the form of the individual garden spaces or rooms. This has been achieved by the skillful use of clipped Yew and Box hedges and which provide all year round structure to the garden. The formal pool garden was particularly impressive with an early showing of colour from a magnificent stand of the tired Cornus controversa ’Variegata’.
At the end of our tour we were treated by Emma to coffee and biscuits in the Orangery. This is truly an iconic garden and we thanked Emma for her hospitality with a copy of the Kew Guild book.
On Friday morning, armed with the requested various forms of photographic identification we gathered in a car convoy at the entrance to Highgrove. In the event the security guards were happy for your President to vouch for the good character of the whole group!
Debs met us armed with a large piece of Flowering Cherry, which Leo Pemberton was able to identify. Our first plant ident test for the morning!
Debs Goodenough, head gardener, although with a very busy schedule for the week, was able to generously give her time to host the morning. We were extremely lucky to have such an exclusive tour of the gardens.
Debs was an international student at Kew in 1985 before moving to Ventnor Botanic Gardens. Debs has been at Highgrove since 2008 and heads up a team of 11 full time gardeners.
Security protocol is strict at Highgrove and sadly we were not allowed to take photos or to use recording equipment. This was understandably but a shame as there were many photo opportunities. Highgrove, an 18th century house and gardens, is the family residence of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall The Prince acquired the estate in 1980 and set about transforming it into his own personal space with energy and artistic flair.
The gardens are filled with many treasures – plant and sculptures gifts to The Prince from around the world, each given its own space to form a unique feature within the gardens. There is, for example, an elephant-themed area.
The Prince has a real ‘hands on’ approach to his garden, which is a reflection of his own eclectic and often whimsical taste. His commitment to organic and sustainable gardening is much in evidence. There is so much to see in a garden of this size and complexity. One favourite was the Stumpery which also contains the National Collection of Hostas and a magnificent Gunnera stone tower water feature. This would be one feature to come back to see in Summer when the Gunnera is in full leaf. The Sundial Garden has a feature hedge of clipped Yew with windows framing busts of HRH The Prince of Wales. We were told that the delphiniums, extensively planted in the garden, are one of the Prince’s favourite flowers.
The dramatic scale of the Thyme Walk drew us at once. An informal paved walk with 20 varieties of thyme, marjoram and primroses form a link to the main house. Planted each side there are lines of pleached Limes framing the view to the house and providing a dramatic backdrop to the Golden Yew topiary. This ancient topiary has been clipped into magnificent and fantastical forms. Sir Roy Strong had an involvement in the redesign of this space. The Prince is keen to allow the thyme, marjoram and primrose to seed themselves into the paving thus creating a living carpet.
We were delighted to be shown a new garden in construction. A formal garden with clipped Box and Yew and with each bed a different colour scheme grading though the colours – almost like a living colour wheel. The Prince, with his love of watercolour painting, has a keen eye for the use of colour in his planting schemes, very much in the styles of Gertrude Jekyll.
As we toured the garden, we happened upon our old Kewite friend Alan Titchmarsh who was delivering a presentation that day. There were hugs all round.
Towards the end of the tour we were handed over to gardener Ashleigh Davies, a graduate of the Kew Diploma 2015. Ashleigh invited us to see the Kitchen Garden, with its extensive production areas and the collection of rare breed chickens – all ready to provide the Prince with those famous boiled eggs we often hear about. The area is enclosed with a Celtic knot hedge – an idea that the Prince picked up on one his many travels. The hedge is woven with Ash, Sycamore and Oak into an attractive and biodiverse living feature. It was heartening to hear of the deep trust that the Prince has with his head gardener, even when travelling he is keen to have a regular update from Debs on what’s happening in the garden.
All too soon it was time for us to thank Debs and leave her to her busy day ahead – but not before we manged to capture a photograph of Leo Pemberton and Debs together. Highgrove is a garden to return to in the Summer when in full flower.
8th – 9th June 2019
This was a weekend event that was originally organised by Bob Ivison in 2018 but was postponed to June 2019. 26 members and guests gathered at Capel Manor College on a damp Saturday morning . Our spirits were immediately alighted by our host for the morning Dr. Stephen Dowbiggin, past Principal of the College. His enthusiasm was palpable – clearly a man who although retired still retained a great love and interest in the students and the future of the College.
Capel Manor is an extraordinary Institution. 60 gardens and landscapes spread over 30 acres and it’s easy to forget that these wonderful grounds support no fewer than five individual Schools and Colleges including, Arboriculture, Agriculture and environmental, Conservation, Royal College of Animal Management and Saddlery, plus of course its Higher Education Course-in short, the very epicentre of learning excellence.
Since its establishment in 1968, hundreds of students have passed through its doors, many going on to establish successful careers in horticulture, garden design, floristry, equine and arboriculture. Alumni include garden designers Anne-Marie Powell and Kim Wilde.
The Which? magazine has its garden trials here such is the College’s high esteem in the horticulture world.
The history of Capel Manor dates back the 13th century. There is very little evidence of the original estate layout today. The historic Gothic elements seen in the gardens today have been skillfully created to provide a theatrical backdrop to the gardens, so much so that they are in great demand for regular wedding events. The central elements to the estate are the Georgian house and Victorian stables.
There are Royal connections aplenty – HRH Prince Charles is a frequent visitor and both HRH The Queen and Princess Diana have opened display gardens – Stephen entertained us with a few ‘Royal’ anecdotes.
After a splendid lunch at the College Refectory we assembled at Myddelton House garden in the afternoon to meet our host Bryan Hewitt, Senior Gardener. Bryan is a man of many parts, not least an expert on the Gothic horror actor Vincent Price, and is also an author to boot. Bryan made us feel very much a home and is a natural raconteur providing us with a veritable smorgasbord of good stories as we toured the gardens.
Myddelton House and Gardens, built in 1818, are managed by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. Myddelton was the home of Edward Augustus Bowles – ‘The Crocus King’ and Bowles dedicated his life to maintaining and developing the Gardens. Myddelton was also at one time the plant base for the London School of Pharmacy and a vivisection centre.
Apart from Crocus one of Bowles‘ passions was for plants with contorted stems and foliage. He created a plant ‘Lunatic Asylum’ – one of the original plants featured here is Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’. Bowles was also an accomplished artist and author.
One of the highlights of the eight-acre garden is the Victorian glasshouse with its four climatic zones and there was a further surprise discovery for us – the original early Victorian Enfield Market Cross which Bowles rescued and erected as a central feature in the Rose Gardens. To these features we can add an extensive heritage kitchen garden and the cut flower beds.
Bowles’ plant hunting trips to the Pyrenees inspired him to create a fine Alpine Meadow which features his signature Crocus and other choice bulbs The recently renovated Rock Garden with its Japanese-style pagoda was of considerable pleasure to Bowles who helped with its construction. On his death his ashes were scatted here.
A stand of Japanese Knotweed was an unusual find for us. Bowles was a great admirer of this invasive plant and specimens are maintained to educate visitors on identification how this weed can be kept in check. I remember planting Japanese Knotweed in my own Richmond garden back in the late 1960’s because of its architectural qualities and easy cultivation made it a firm favourite for a budding landscape designer. I may have been responsible for spreading Japanese Knotweed throughout the Borough!
Throughout the gardens there are plants discovered by Bowles and which bear his name. Hebe ‘E. A. Bowles’, Helleborus ‘Bowles Yellow’, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ and Viola ‘Bowles Black’ were noted. There are more than 40 plants named after him and a Bowles Corner at RHS Wisley has been dedicated to his plants.
New additions to the gardens, funded by the Heritage Lottery and opened in 2011, include the Bowles museum and a fine Bowles tearoom which we were able to enjoy after our extremely entertaining and informative garden tour by our host Bryan Hewitt.
We all enjoyed a superb evening meal at the Pied Bull in Enfield on Saturday night and on Sunday morning, with the sun shining brightly, we gathered at Hatfield House where we were met by our host Andrew Turvey Head of Gardens and Estates. Andrew maintains the gardens and estate with a staff of 10 – no small feat given that the gardens cover 42 acres.
Hatfield House built in 1611 by Robert Cecil- son of Lord Burghley, is a splendid Jacobean house. It Is the home of the present 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and has been in family for 400 years. It embraces a diverse portfolio of property, which we were informed by Andrew includes TV and film production facilities as it is so close to Pinewood and Elstree studios. Recent productions include The Crown, Paddington2 and Transformers.
We commenced our tour poising in front of Hatfield House. Behind us, forming an impressive backdrop, was the water sculpture. Suitable titled ‘Renaissance’ it was commissioned by Lord Salisbury and designed by Angela Connor, the world famous sculptor.
Hatfield defines the very essence of English history. It was in the medieval parkland in 1558 that the young Princess Elizabeth heard of her accession to the throne. An Oak planted by HRH The Queen in 1985 marks the spot and replaces the original veteran Oak. There are many other fine veteran trees throughout the estate which we were able to inspect including the famous Lime Avenue. Andrew explained that he is collaborating with Barcham Trees on the propagation and planting of new trees to the Avenue.
There was so much to see in one day, but highlights included the Sundial Garden, Commissioned to celebrate Hatfield’s 400th anniversary. We entered the Garden through Box tunnels which opened out onto a paved area surrounded by raised rose beds and blue and white delphinium and iris planting. The unique Longitude Timepiece appropriately locates Hatfield as the centre of the world.
The sheer scale of the 16-acre landscaped Broadwater lake is breathtaking. We were informed that the island has been recently planted with twenty species of Oak.
The East Garden, another highlight, was laid out by the 5th Marquess and contains parterres, topiary drums and octopi shapes, and some very unusual planting.
Hatfield is a place to return to time and again and we all thanked Andrew for his wonderful tour and presented with a copy of the Kew Guild book.
Featured image: Hatfield House, Renaissance Water Sculpture.
KEW – SATURDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2019
Report by Peter Styles
As part of the AGM festivities at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew we were invited to view the recently completed Agius Evolution Garden which replaces the old Order Beds. Those of us who were horticulturists and students at Kew will well remember working on the old beds.
Our host for the event was Kew’s Director of Horticulture, Learning and Operations, Richard Barley, who kindly gave up his Saturday morning to show us around the Garden.
Completed in mid-2019 the Garden covers 1.3 acres and is filled with about 700 species and varieties of plants. Divided into a series of rooms the design has been skillfully conceived by Richard Wilford, Kew’s own ‘in house landscape designer’. The planting follows a natural evolutionary trail, unlike the former Order Beds with their formal plant classifications.
The plant evolution story starts 350 million years ago. Ferns, Cycads and Equisetums form some of the first plant groupings in the Garden, moving through Magnolia and Palm species and finally to the main flowering plants species and families. Each section of the Garden tells a different, interesting story, which is well supported with first rate interpretive information.
An opportunity in the creation of the Garden has been taken in the use of DNA plant analysis to inform the plant groups. This has revealed some interesting plant relationships .Peonies for example are not related to Ranuculus despite their similar flower structures. They are in fact related to Saxifrages.
The Garden was generously funded by Kew’s then Chair of Trustees, Marcus Agius and his wife Kate de Rothschild Agius, sister of Lionel de Rothschild, whose hospitality we all enjoyed in our visit to Exbury Gardens in May 2017 (Journal number 122).
We thanked Richard Barley for a fascinating insight into plant evolution and the way that Kew is engaging more on a plant science level with the visitors to Kew.
The event then continued with a visit to the recently restored Great Pagoda, a much loved Kew icon, reopened in 2018 after many years of closure. Organised by Bob Ivison, ten members and guests were allowed free access to the Pagoda, courtesy of the Historic Royal Palaces who manage this fine 18th century structure. 253 steps were climbed to the top. Looking out from the top storey across the Arboretum one feels that there is scope for some of Richard Wilford’s magic to rework the shrub island beds!
One interesting fact about the famous finial dragons that adorn the roof is that there are only 8 dragons traditionally carved from African cedarwood – the other 72 are produced by modern 3D printing with a plastic material!
Some of us concluded our very informative morning with a splendid lunch at the new Pavilion restaurant.
Stourhead Gardens, near Mere, Wiltshire BA12 6QD
A one day visit
The first visit of 2020 for the Kew Guild is to be to the world famous Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire, 25 miles south of Bath and off the A303. This classical gem of a garden is usually visited in the summer and autumn but we will be visiting this amazing garden as it awakens from its winter slumbers. Its magnificent stands of mature trees, its powerful landscape and sumptuous buildings need to be enjoyed before the summer crowds arrive! I am also advised that the wild Narcissus will be in full bloom!!!
Stourhead was described as ‘a living work of art’ when first opened in the 1740s. Meandering paths offer vistas through trees to classical temples and surprises at every turn.
Henry ‘the Magnificent’ (Henry Hoare II) was one of a small group of early eighteenth-century ‘gentleman gardeners’ using their acres to create a particularly personal landscape which expressed their hopes and beliefs about the world and their journey through it. His vision was, “recreating a classical landscape, dependant on water”. The centre piece of the garden at Stourhead is the lake, which dictates the path you take and the views you enjoy. The damming of the river and the creation of the lake was an ambitious undertaking which Henry and his architect Henry Flitcroft planned before work began on the garden buildings such as the Temple of Flora, Pantheon and Grotto.
Plans for the day
Arrive at 10.30, meeting in the car park and then entering together we will take coffee in the café, where we will meet our garden guide. The guide will be with us for approx two hours to walk us around the main parts of the garden.
After this tour we will collect back at the National Trust restaurant at lunchtime for a bite to eat.
It is planned that in the afternoon members of the Guild will then have available time “under their own steam” to visit either the house or further explore the gardens with the intention that the visit will come to an end at approximately at 5.00 o’clock (Gardens close at 6.00 o’clock and the House at 4.30)
It is suggested that about 20ish is a good number for this visit as this will allow everyone to hear the guides presentation and keep us in a group, which is never easy.
Some members may wish to stay overnight and I have therefore booked dinner for 7.00pm in the Spread Eagle Inn, which is on the Stourhead site. This establishment has 5 letting bedrooms and the Stourhead Gardens B&B is also within easy walking distance. There are other pubs and hotels within a short driving distance. I found Expedia.co.uk gives the best selection of accommodation in this area when a search is done for Stourhead.
There are a number of other interesting sites within the area to visit on Sunday for those planning on staying overnight.
Stourhead Admission Prices
National Trust members
Non National Trust members
These costs are based on a minimum party of 15 otherwise its £18.40
Cost of guide is £3.00 per person (everyone) with a minimum payment of £45.00
Dinner in the Spread Eagle Inn
The pub provides a classic British pub menu in the evening with mains examples costing as follows:-
Two courses can easily be achieved at under £25.00 per person.
Coffee and Lunches
Drinks on arrival and lunchtime snacks and meals will be paid for by members of the Guild as they are taken. The menu and costs of these items are at the standard National Trust rate.
If you wish to attend this visit to one of Europe’s most magnificent gardens please advise me by email, by Sunday 23rd February at the latest, with your name and the numbers that will be attending with you on this visit and whether you will be joining us for dinner.
This is likely to be a very popular visit and we are advised that a total number of approximately 20 guests is ideal, so please get your applications in early to guarantee a place. We will be accepting applications on a “first come, first served” basis.
Once I have a more fixed idea of numbers, I can then finalise the arrangements, provide joining instructions and take payment. No money is required at the present time.
In the meantime, if you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.
Tel 01886 853465
The Kew Guild Annual General Meeting was held on Saturday 7th September 2019 in The Lady Lisa Sainsbury Lecture Theatre, RBG Kew, at 2pm
Peter Styles opened the meeting and thanked everyone for coming. The Kew Guild met five times during 2018-19 and all meetings were quorate.
David Simpson took over from Peter Styles as President for the year 2019-20. David has been a member of the Herbarium Staff for over 30 years. He thanked members for their nomination of him and said that he was looking forward to working with the Trustees and indeed all members over the coming year.
Date of next meeting: Saturday 5th September 2020, venue to be confirmed.
For Peter Styles’s report on the visits to the Agius Garden and the Great Pagoda, click here