Meet the Experts
The Wakehurst Team
John Dickie, Assistant Head of Collections, Wakehurst
A plant ecologist by training, John Dickie has worked for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for over 37 years. Based at Wakehurst, he and his team are responsible for the curation of not only the Millennium Seed Bank’s 70 thousand plus seed collections and their associated data, but also Kew’s DNA bank and more than 150 thousand anatomical microscope slides.
Gary is the Visitor Services Supervisor at Wakehurst, helping to make the visitor experience a calm, pleasing and memorable one. He has spent the last four years here working as a volunteer on the Conservation and Woodlands team helping to manage, maintain, improve and extend the meadows and grasslands around Bloomers Valley and the MSB. He uses natural techniques as well as modern machinery and has appeared in Wakehurst teams of scythers at the last two years of Scythe & Cider festivals.
Iain Parkinson, Conservation and Woodlands Manager
Iain has worked at Wakehurst for the past 28 years and played a key role in helping to restore the tree collections following the Great Storm of 1987. He has a particular interest in traditional woodland management and has more recently been involved in restoring and creating a suite of quintessential Wealden meadows across the Wakehurst estate. He enjoys the challenge of developing the botanic tree collections while protecting the inherent natural beauty of Wakehurst.
Chris Clennett, Garden Manager, Wakehurst
Leading Sussex horticulturalist Dr Clennett has worked at Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst, for 20 years. He recently wrote a book widely regarded as the world authority on its subject – The Genus Erythronium, about the eponymous genus of 29 species of bulbous perennials, published by Kew.
Chris Cockel, Coordinator, UK Native Seed Hub Project, Wakehurst
Chris and his team have a mission to improve the quality, quantity and diversity of native plants and seeds available for nature conservation and habitat restoration. Chris is also a keen environmentalist and has previously been involved in projects to create habitats and green spaces in London.
Kit Strange, Botanical Horticulturalist
Kit looks after Kew's extensive alpine bulb collection. She is responsible for developing exhibits for horticultural and educational events and demonstrating propagation techniques for horticulture students from Kew and UK horticultural colleges.
Joanna Wenham, Plant Propagation and Conservation Manager
Jo and her team are responsible for managing the nurseries, UK Seed Hub site, and Children’s Heritage Garden at Wakehurst. The nurseries grow thousands of plants for the botanical collections and the Millennium Seed Bank. Jo has a particular interest in plant species from the Southern Hemisphere and has travelled to Tasmania, North America and Chile to collect seed. Jo has recently developed the Children’s Garden at Wakehurst, inspired by her two little boys Elliott and Alfie.
Steve Bradley, M. Hort (RHS) M.A.
Steve grew up on a busy rose nursery in Lincoln and moved on, via other nurseries and parks departments, to achieve the highest available RHS qualification. This was followed by 22 years teaching horticulture.
Starring in the TV series Garden Doctors in the early 90s led to a second career writing books, magazine articles and the support booklets for the hugely successful BBC series ‘Ground Force’, along with his wife Val (also a qualified horticulturist). Between them, Steve and Val now have over 50 gardening books to their names. Steve is also resident horticulturist for local radio in Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Essex.
Tom Hart Dyke, Plant Hunter and Gardener
Tom Hart Dyke is a plant hunter, plantsman and a plant nut. Despite nine months captivity as a hostage in Colombia, while on an orchid hunt, he hasn’t been put off further travels to far-flung climes. His mission in life: creating and further developing the World Garden (modeled on maps sketched in his diary during his captivity), which has a worldwide reputation of excellence.
Neil Helyer, Pest and Disease Specialist, Fargro
Neil Helyer joined Fargro in 1995 after almost 20 years researching insect behaviours. He and his colleagues travel the country giving advice to growers and organising the control of pests and diseases. While the company predominantly services commercial growers, it is also geared up to supply amateur gardeners with their range of biological control products.
Jason Irving, Forage Wild Food
Jason Irving worked as a full time forager in Kent for two years, supplying many of London's top restaurants. He then returned to London to study herbal medicine and has been working at Kew Gardens for the last two years on the Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) project. He regularly leads a foraging course in London parks with Forage Wild Food and has a wonderful blend of knowledge, mixing herbalism and wild food foraging.
Barry Newman, NDH, FNVS
Barry is a well-known grower, exhibitor, lecturer and judge for a diverse list of horticultural events.
He is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Committee and a former chairman of the National Vegetable Society (NVS). As well as being a senior NVS judge, Barry serves on the judging and lecturing panel of the RHS.
John Guest, the English Apple Man
The English Apple Man's story is of a lifetime spent in the industry, as a boy straight out of school, then as a young man developing the practical knowledge of growing and later taking on the management of the family fruit farm. He then changed course to join the major supplier of English apples in a technical role and finally became Technical Director with a responsibility for product and environmental safety, product quality, and technical innovation.
Melissa Waddingham, Truffle Hunter
Melissa is a licensed truffle hunter and wild mushroom picker. In the spring and autumn months, she runs mushroom forays, truffle hunts, talks, courses and throughout the year she provides truffle hound training days for her clients’ would-be truffle-sniffer dogs. She also manages woodlands for the sustainable production of truffles.