John Simmons (1937-)
John Simmons started as an ‘improver gardener’ in
the Arboretum in 1958 and rose to become one of our youngest ever
Curators in 1972.
He oversaw a great period of change in the Living Collections
Department, and improved the scientific quality of the collections
by increasing emphasis on natural source material and introducing
effective recording systems.
Wakehurst Place in Sussex became part of the Royal Botanic Gardens
during his time. He instituted the innovative Marine Display in
the disused basement of the Palm House, and wrote The Life
of Plants, published 1974, which was used internationally
as a school textbook.
Simmons was pivotal in obtaining funding for and overseeing
the design of the Princess of Wales Conservatory. He proudly
reported that it offered the largest display glasshouse area
in the world. Still an incredibly striking and efficient building,
vast area providing an array of computer-controlled habitat’ for
plants from desert cacti to the Giant Amazon Waterlily (Victoria
amazonica). Initial proposals for such a conservatory were
made in the 1960s, and a design brief was submitted in 1972,
but it was 15 years before it opened in 1987.
Victoria Medal of Honour 1987
to: People overview
to: Tony Kirkham