Kew Guild

Kew Guild Devon trip, 23-25 June 2017

Coleton Fishacre garden looking out to sea

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.

Devon trip talk and guide by Aly Marshall Torre Abbey Torquay

Devon trip talk and guide by Aly Marshall Torre Abbey Torquay

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.

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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!

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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.

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Devon Trip AJ Stuttard Peter Styles in quarry store

Devon Trip AJ Stuttard Peter Styles in quarry store

Derbyshire visit, 11th-13th August 2017

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.

Saturday 12th August

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.

Members enjoying the views from Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, Kew Guild, 2017

Members enjoying the views from Haddon Hall, Derbyshire. L-R: Rear of Leo Pemberton, Rod Peach, John Isaac, Roger Marsden and Jean Griffin

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.

Kew Guild Members visiting Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, 2017

Chatsworth: Faye Tuffrey with members outside the Tropical House

Sunday 13th August

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.

Derbyshire Visit 2017 (2)

Faye in the Vinery

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