Strolling round the Chelsea Flower Show in this, its centenary year, I bumped into more ex-Kew Diploma students than ever before, broadcasting, writing, designing and building, and it made me realise what a huge contribution the diploma has made not only to gardening in the UK but around the world.
Chelsea Flower Show's centenary
This year's Chelsea Flower Show was more special than usual, being its centenary. It is 100 years since CFS was founded and it certainly rose to the occasion:
The Chelsea Flower show garden I would have most liked to take home: the Brewin Dolphin Garden deservedly won a gold medal. (Photo: Tony Hall)
I found the exhibit in the Great Pavilion from East Malling Research of tree roots amazing. (Photo: Tony Hall)
The Kew diploma's fiftieth birthday
But as I strolled around admiring the exhibits, I was also aware that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Kew diploma. Time goes so fast and students come and go, but every year when I meet them at Chelsea, it gives me the opportunity to find out what they have done since graduating. Over the years ex-Kew students have designed gold-winning show gardens in their own right, and many work with the designers, helping with the builds. Many old students travel from around the country to attend the show, and some even fly in from around the world.
Haven't they done well?
One of the best-known ex-Kew students, through his work on television and heading the TV coverage of the Chelsea flower show, is Alan Titchmarsh who studied at Kew as part of course 7 in 1969-1971.
Alan Titchmarsh and fellow presenters. (Photo: Tony Hall)
Greg Redwood, a student in 1984-1986 (course 22), is now the head of the Great Glass House section at Kew, which includes the School of Horticulture. Greg is also a senior RHS judge. Course 22 also included garden designer Dan Pearson, who has designed show gardens at Chelsea.
Greg Redwood, head of the School of Horticulture at Kew and RHS judge. (Photo: Tony Hall)
Through the past five decades, students have come to study at Kew from all around the world, some taking their expertise back to their mother country, while others have continued to travel, working on different continents. Some names that will be familiar to many are:
- Tony Kirkham (course 16: 1978-1980), now Head of the Arboretum at Kew, an author, television presenter and member of the RHS woody plant committee.
- Matt Biggs (course 21: 1983-1985), TV presenter, author, lecturer and panelist on Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time.
- Tom Hoblyn and Alys Fowler, who studied both with the Royal Horticultural Society and at Kew (course 36: 1998-2000). Tom is a landscape and garden designer and has won three gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court. Alys has been a presenter on BBC Gardeners' World and more recently presented the BBC series the Edible Garden and is a respected writer.
Gavin Meggy (on the right), ex-Kew diploma student, now working for a landscape designer. (Photo: Tony Hall)
Gavin Meggy was a student on course 43 (2005-2008), and is here explaining some of the concepts of the Sustainability Garden designed by Sallis Chandler Landscape Designers which he was helping to build in the Great Pavilion. Gavin also lectures on garden design on the diploma course
Emma Crawforth, sub-editor of Gardeners' World magazine. (Photo: Tony Hall)
Emma Crawforth was a student on course 44 (2006-2009). She was at the show, getting ideas for coverage of the show by Gardeners' World magazine.
Students on the original Kew Diploma course back in 1966, wearing very smart suits - I'm sure it would have only been for the photo! (Photo: Kew Archives)
In the School of Horticulture at Kew are all of the group photographs going back to the one above, which shows the original student course in 1966. It is really good to look back through these and see just how many students are now, or have been, influential in their roles. Many are curators of botanic gardens, working as head gardeners on large estates and famous gardens, or are writers, lecturers or work in many, many other roles. I have only mentioned a few.....
This year's crop
And so to course 50 and this year's 14 keen young students.
The newest Kew Diploma intake, course 50.
Some come with solid horticultural backgrounds already, but all are here to continue their learning, before going off into their own, no doubt exciting, careers.
Here's to the next 50 years of the Kew Diploma!
- Tony Hall -
- Find out more about the Kew Diploma in Horticulture
- Read a Kew magazine article behind the scenes on the Kew Diploma course
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