Botanical VIPs

Our gardens would not be the same today if there would not have been courageous adventurers that had set out to discover new plants. Many have become famous due to their achievement of introducing thousands of new plant species to our Western gardening world. Most of those newly introduced plants have also been part of our modern plant breeding schemes, creating hybrids with better resilience, new colours or larger flowers. It is those passionate plant hunters, who braved life threatening conditions in foreign countries and cultures, discovering the unknown and returning as heroes, when there was very little technology around to make such an expedition more comfortable.

All of them have become Very Important People and eternal heroes to the botanical world, as nothing botanically or horticulturally would be same without their knowledge and plant discoveries.

As each of them get mentioned in this growing encyclopaedia, their entries will be added.

»»  Ernest Wilson

»»  Roy Lancaster

Ernest Henry Wilson

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Born 15th February 1876 in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, UK
Died aged 54 in a car accident on 15 October 1930 in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Ernest Wilson left school early aged 16 to become an apprentice gardener at a local nursery before working at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, UK where he the began to study botany in the evenings after work. From there he moved to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The famous nursery Veitch & Sons hired him to join their plant collector team. As that he travelled via Boston to the Arnold Arboretum, USA where he learnt how to ship seeds and plants without damage.

His first Chinese expedition started in Hong Kong on 3rd June 1899. He collected 900 herbarium specimen, 300 seeds and 35 Wardian cases with bulbs, tubers and rhizomes in two years, mostly in Hubei Province, before he returned to England in 1902. Not long and Veitch sent him on the next expedition.

In subsequent years E.H.Wilson also collected plants and seeds for the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts, USA. Between 1911 and 1916 he also travelled to Japan, and later to Korea and India. A tragic landslide meant that Wilson struggled walking and had to limit is expeditions. He became Keeper of the Arnold Arboretum in 1927.

There is an Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden near the High Street of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, UK which has been created in the early 80's to mark Wilson's 100th birthday. It has been planted with typical Wilson plants. The Garden was opened by Roy Lancaster in May 1984, and is open to the public every day free of charge.

E.H. Wilson collected about 100.000 herbarium specimen and introduced about 1.200 plant species during his career, of which about 60 plants are named after him. He also wrote several books of his travels.

Wilson Plants:
  • Acer griseum
  • Davidia involucrata
  • and many more

Roy Lancaster

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Born in 1937 until present

Roy Lancaster's career in horticulture began at Bolton parks department, followed by two years as a student gardener at the University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. In 1962 he joined the Hampshire nursery Hillier and Sons in Winchester and rose from catalogue compiler and horticultural botanist to become the first curator of the Hillier Arboretum (now Sir Harold Hillier Gardens). In his 18 years with Hilliers, he was involved in many exciting projects and played a major role in the preparation of all of the Hillers Manual of Trees and Shrubs, first published in 1971. Although his career took him to many places, Roy Lancaster remains close friend and patron to the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.

Roy Lancaster's interest in plant exploration grew stronger and from the late 1970's onwards it has taken him round the world to countries like New Zealand, Georgia, Chile, Brazil, Japan, North America and South Africa. He has also been a member of expeditions to Nepal and Yunnan, China. He shared his travel experiences and plant adventures in his fascinating books.

He joined the Royal Horticultural Society almost 40 years ago. Soon he became a member of several committees as people were appreciating his plant knowledge. In the 1999 New Year's Honours List he was awarded an OBE for services to horticulture. 2014 he was promoted to CBE. He became a freelance writer and lecturer around the globe whilst taking part in a number of TV programmes, including BBC's Gardeners' World and is a regular panellist on Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time. Lancaster is also President of the Hardy Plant Society.

Roy Lancaster's private home in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, UK

Roys Plants:
  • Hypericum lancasterii
  • Quercus monimotricha
  • and many more