28 September 2011

Obscure Gardens: World Garden Of Plants & Tom Hart Dyke

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I first learned of Tom Hart Dyke when I happened to pick up a book at a book fair,

In this fascinating book (and quick read), 
Tom tells of a problem he shares with other families 
who have been bequeathed castles and manors in England-
they are incredibly expensive to maintain

To my absolute delight, 
I met Tom this week
and toured the World Garden of Plants at his home in Kent

Lullingstone Castle Estate, Kent

Let me just say his excitement and enthusiasm 
for life and plants was infectious! 

Think of a 'Steve Irwin' about plants

Tom holds his discovery from SW Tasmania, 'Varnished Gum' (Eucalyptus vernicosa),
the smallest eucalyptus species known to mankind

While on an orchid hunting expedition in 2000 in the Darien Gap, Columbia, 
Tom was kidnapped and held for 9 months by guerrillas
and miraculously released for Christmas without an explanation as to why 
(Although he wrote a ransom note home, it never arrived)

Incredibly, as the first gun was thrust at his temple 
Tom was hit with the idea of creating a World Garden 
as a way to blend his botanical passion
with a potential tourist attraction to save his Lullingstone Castle

Plants you may have in your garden that originated from Africa

Six years and 10,000 plants later,
the World Garden has flower beds roughly in the shape of the continents
with plant species, cultivars, and hybrids planted in their country of origin

It is an educational botanical map within a 2 acre walled garden
and a nod to the Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters of the past

{did you know almost 80% of plants in England are non-native?}

When Tom is plant hunting,
he brings back just seeds and grows them once home

{he generously welcomed us to take any seeds we saw in the garden}

And although most of his seeds were destroyed by his kidnappers in Columbia
he did keep a few, such as this Banana Passionflower

This week is the first time Tom's Banana Passionflower has ever bloomed
from seed collected during his fateful trip to Columbia eleven years ago!

As Tom 'hunts', he collects seeds from plants he thinks have a high ornamental value
- simply for the love of it, not for the fortune or fame -

In fact, he has buckets of plants that he has not yet named,
for naming them doesn't really interest him
He just enjoys collecting them :)

But such a magnetic aura cannot go unnoticed:
so far he has been featured in KEO films, BBC, and PBS documentaries
And THE Kew Gardens just paid him a visit and were 'wowed' by his collection

As you can imagine, nature is creating new varieties of plants in Tom's garden
as pollinators span 'the continents'

All sunflowers originated in North America - who knew?!

A family affair, his mother and sister served our group tea and biscuits
I felt I already knew them from the book; it was such a pleasure to meet these lovely people!

Tom's next plant expedition may take him to Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa
He is crazy passionate about cacti at the moment

Being a Plant Hunter his hardly an extinct profession in England
There are still quite a few that will risk life and limb in pursuit of plants

Don't you just love the possible story behind each flower we see in the garden?
Tom Hart Dyke certainly has a doozy :)

More information :: Lullingstone Castle
Tom's books :: The Cloud Garden, An Englishman's Home: The Adventures of an Eccentric Gardener

More 'Obscure Gardens' Posts
Kew at Wakehurst


Time for another Post Of The Month Club day - yea! 

It is a great way for bloggers promote their best work
and a place to meet & greet

Join me Friday, September 30th

Yep, right here :)


(more details here)


Pet said...

Tom Hurt Dyke's story is a good example of necessity made virtue, a good recipe in general and a very good one for the times we are leaving too. And then concentrating one's mind in a single clear objective is at the end so much satisfying, and easier too, than trying to do this and that, be this and the other thing too, here and there.
Well, not only an example, it might be a lesson, for me at least too. Thanks for the Post, and for your tips for London. I've also been looking at the BlogBook thing, but am still undecided about how best to do it. But I will :-)

Pet said...

.. the times we are LIVING... I meant :-)

Zosia said...

You were lucky to see the first bloom of the Banana Passionflower.
A great story. I guess it does not matter what treasures you are hunting (old books, stamps or plants), the passion and drive are the same.

Barbara said...

Such great pictures. I love the one of the banana passion flower! Every time I stop by it makes me wish I was in a beautiful garden with a good book and coffee!

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

What an incredible venture! It is always so energising to meet passionate and knowlegable people, I'm sure your mind was buzzing all the way home!

I am curious how all that travelling/investment provides the financial security for the house though, sounds like a money draining quest, rather than money-making, maybe the importance of his collection attracts grants etc? Fascinating, and goes to show that old adage, 'where there is a will there is a way" is true! x

Sarah @ Modern Country Style said...

Hi Laura,

What a great story!! And what an amzing man - the Steve Irwin of plants title fits perfectly!


Jane said...

How intriguing, Laura! Thanks so much for the fascinating insights. And I'm loving that little eucalypt...J x

I Dream Of said...

Laura, what a fascinating story. Love people who are passionate and driven to create something beautiful in their lives.
Thanks for sharing the take!

La Vie Quotidienne said...

What an amazing adventure...you met a real life plant hunter! Plant hunting is really a english tradition going way back. I am just a bit envious. (-:

Erin S. said...

That is such an interesting story. So does he fund his home through tourism to his garden? Awesome that his passion can help him keep up his historical home.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Many have asked about his funding for his trips and castle, and to be honest, I didn't have the heart to ask him. So I don't know... XOLaura

HolleyGarden said...

What a fascinating man to meet! I bet the tour was fantastic. I admire people that know what they want to do, and then do it. Didn't realize, though, that there were still quite a few plant hunters left. What an interesting life they must live (although also dangerous).

devorelebeaumonstre. said...

nice! x


katie at brighton park said...

Love your blog and so glad i found it through google searching. My husband and I are in England yearly and were just there over the royal wedding hoopla this past spring. I love your page on moving to the UK as it is something that comes up in our conversations time to time, though the hold us is lots of kids and lots of animals! I write an English themed blog and would love to extend an invitation for you to hop over and visit!

Jen of Country Weekend said...

Fascinating--I am going to look for that book. And I think I need to take a tour of English gardens!

greenthumb said...

How lucky for you , it must have been a great day out. I have heard of him I think I saw a TV show on him.

ann said...

What a wonderful treat to be able tour such a garden.

Emily said...

Another fascinating read!

My Garden Diaries said...

SO wish I could meet him...what a fascinating story! I love how he collects seeds and throws caution to the wind! Tea sounded like fun too! Great post..I really enjoy reading your blog!

Nieves said...

Laura, I always love so much your great and beautiful photos that it is a pleasure for me to come into your blog. Besides your post of today about Tom has been quite interesting, in spite I am not a gardener at all, I live in a flat and I am afraid I am not very good with plants really!