This was the meeting that we had all been looking forward to, when Tom Hart Dyke was the speaker. He bought his unique enthusiasm and passion of all things horticultural to Greenfingers for us all to enjoy. His great inspiration for gardening began with his grandmother, who was obviously a very great influence when she was alive.
As an introduction, he told us briefly about his capture by Colombian rebels 13 years ago, whilst on a plant collecting expedition. His party strayed off their intended route and into rebel territory. One of his guides was beheaded by them. His party didn't expect to survive the ordeal, they were constantly threatened with death and suffered terribly, living off anything that crawled, including Tarantula spider legs. Apparently, they were very crunchy! Back home, they were presumed dead. There were even memorial services, featuring empty coffins. The tide turned when a new captain came to the camp, and they were released, with no explanation as to why they had been held.
As a way to survive his ordeal, he began to plan the World Garden for Lullingstone Castle, his family home. This consisted of areas of planting from the various continents, surrounded by native stone to outline them. It is constantly growing year on year. There is even a miniature version, under cover, made from succulents and cacti.
|Tom, in serious mood, tells about his capture.|
Lullingstone now boasts the National Eucalyptus collection. In July 2011 the world garden was invited to build a stand at Hampton Court Palace flower show, in the plant heritage tent, exhibiting a range of species from Tom's national collection, for which he won a silver gilt medal. He was really pleased with that.
Recently, a number of improvements have been made to the garden, including removing most of an old Victorian glasshouse. The brickwork couldn't be removed, as it was listed, so that was preserved, and Tom showed us some photos of it's renovation. It is now the Moroccan blue room, with the original fountain covered in mosaics, giving the all important sound of running water. Jim Buttress helped with this renovation, and there was also an apprentice to help in the garden. An imitation volcano was built, using any old rubble they could find, including an old kitchen sink! Some ducting and an old smoke machine was added, the "mountain" was built up and painted, and hey presto! a smoking volcano came to life.
Tom advised us on many plants to grow, to name a few, there were Lavateria and Salvia Indigo Spires, which attract the insects. He has 240,000 bees in hives in the garden as well (how he counted them remains a mystery)! Quite by accident, he discovered that planting vegetables among the flowers greatly increased the pollination of both. For example, he grows chillies among ornamental plants, which results in good contrasts of leaves, as well as colours.
He had bought some packets of seeds from Lullingstone which we could purchase, also some copies of his book.
After the tea break, he answered questions from the members. It was a most memorable meeting. Peter will try to arrange another visit to Lullingstone next year. By the show of hands as to who would be interested in going, it will be a very popular destination.
|Tom & Peter discuss the microphone.|