GTN January/February 2022 - Garden Trade News, UK

Page 6

Garden Centre Champions

Mike Wyatt, GTN Associate Editor So, we must now get used to a garden industry without Peter John Seabrook MBE. No witty banter from the lectern at conferences, no heckling from the auditorium, no presentation of posies to the Queen at Chelsea, no mugshot smiling back at us from the pages of The Sun and Amateur Gardening, no gentlemanly words of approval or encouragement when something pleased or inspired him. We surely had fondly imagined that Peter would live forever, such was the way he continued right up to his death to throw himself untiringly into his work. When I last spoke to him about his misgivings about the forthcoming ban on peat in growing media, he insisted he had no plans to retire. After Margaret, his wife of 60 years, died with Covid in 2020, Peter is on record as saying that work helped him to deal with his grief. I first met him at a seed company press lunch after I joined Practical Gardening magazine in 1981. Percy Thrower, Clay Jones and Geoff Hamilton were still around. To be honest, I was a little star-struck and, as a journalist with no horticultural background, nervous about whether I would be able to hold my own in conversation with a man whose words of gardening wisdom on Pebble Mill at One and Gardener’s World I had swallowed enthusiastically. I need not have worried. I owned up to a mere smattering of technical knowledge but professed my love of plants and gardening. “That’ll do,” Peter said. “If you love it, the rest will stick like glue.” Encouragement and a supportive attitude were Seabrook hallmarks. An appreciative note (or, later, an email), always drafted “in haste”, would often follow something that had caught his eye. His primary motivation seemed to be to make sure that the entire world shared his passion for gardening. His written and broadcast output and Sunflower Street projects at Chelsea inspired a generation – and his work with young people nurtured another. (The day before he died, he was helping children at a school in Essex plant acorns to grow saplings for the Queen's Jubilee Canopy.). His projects with schools are reported to have helped more than three million children discover the pleasures of growing flowers and vegetables. Peter had championed the horticultural industry for most of his life. He once aspired to opening his own garden centre but the planners turned him down. His broadcasting career started on BBC Radio’s Home Service in the Sixties, while the highlight of his TV career was taking over as host of Gardener’s World in the 70s after Percy Thrower was dismissed for promoting commercial products.

He even had a following in the US, thanks to featuring over more than 20 years in a TV series titled The Victory Garden. The job he undoubtedly loved best was as The Sun newspaper’s gardening correspondent, a role he held for 45 years, during which he wrote 2300 columns, never missing a week, while his column in Amateur Gardening had run uninterrupted for 36 years. He had also been a regular contributor to trade magazines, including Horticulture Week and Nurseryman & Garden Centre. Out of loyalty to them, he would never agree to writing for GTN! He had a generally warm relationship with the Royal Horticultural Society, serving as a show judge for many years. When Practical Gardening magazine built its first Chelsea Garden in the 80s, he took the trouble to tell us why our medal was no better than a Silver-Gilt: “The plants weren’t good enough.” He was always forthright. As GTN Editor and MD Trevor Pfeiffer said in his tribute: “Typically at press events Peter always asked the most perceptive and difficult questions, but always in a very pleasant way.” The world of gardening media will be grateful for Peter’s role in setting up the Garden Writers Guild, now the Garden Media Guild. Peter wanted all freelance and salaried journalists to have a voice and to celebrate their success via the Garden Media Guild Awards, now an eagerly-awaited annual fixture. Most recently, Peter was a signatory to the Open Letter on peat which generated so much media coverage of issues he felt were being ignored. Frank, honest, sincere, warm, loyal, passionate…and a truly good friend of an industry he greatly enriched. I hardly need say how much we are going to mis him.

Simon Hedley, The Real Soil Compa ny

Dougal Philip, New Hopetoun Gardens Peter Seabrook was one of the iconic characters in gardening for all my life, always with a strong view on any topic raised and a real champion of horticulture. He wouldn’t suffer fools gladly and you rightly had to be on your toes when discussing anything with him. I apologised to him once for inviting him to judge the Chelsea Product of the Year on a Sunday afternoon as I knew he would have to miss cooking his speciality Sunday Roast Lunch. He gave me that lovely Peter smile and then pontificated on his belief that all men should learn to cook as he only started to learn how to cook when he had to take over cooking from his wife Margaret . He was a delightfully wise old owl and will be greatly missed.

2022 ............... Mondayy, January 17,

26 ............... Monday, January

0 PAGES, AFTER 45 YEARS & 2,30

17, 2022




of one of THE discovery gold “first England’s a make could coins” £400,000. metal detectorist King The near-perfect was III token Henry 1257 with struck around Africa. gold from North the coins Only eight of inch in — just under an with diameter — exist almost all in museums. detectThe anonymous the find orist, who madeDevon last in Hemyock in its discovered only year, photo he rarity when a was seen posted online by Spink auctioneers. ecologist The man, an outon a first detecting said: “It ing in ten years, find it.” was humbling to of the Some 52,000 and coins were minted about valued at 20 pence,it was £60 today, butits weight worth less than all in gold and virtually were melted down. by It will be auctioned London Spink in central on January 23.

PETER SEABROOK, The Sun’s legendary expert, gardening never forgot the moment he discovered the sheer joy of growing a plant.

dug a Aged just six, heinto his handful of seeds wartime grandfather’s watched and allotment beautiful them grow into sweet peas. multi-coloured later, through

And 80 years in The his Saturday column began writing Sun — which he year, 1977 — in Silver Jubilee that pasJOY . . . in he was still sharing and vegetables. CHELSEAQueen and sion for plants generations six 2010 with Thanks to Peter, more than Kate Kabengle, of people, including schoolchildren, million three gardens and learned to love gardening. writing for When he started daily newspapermedia Britain’s biggest a worldwide Peter was already shows on the star, with gardeningTV. BBC and American wrote more than In 45 years he The Sun, and never 2,300 columns forweek. missed a single of a heart attack on When he died he had been making Friday, aged 86,The Sun’s biggest-ever plans to build year’s Chelsea Flower exhibit at this the Queen’s Platinum Show to mark Jubilee. he presented with Her Majesty, whoat Chelsea, was one year a posy every along with Beatle of his biggest fans,and acting legend George Harrison — whose garden he Barbara Windsor looked after.

Comic star . . Gnasher

Beano’s Gnasher is a gnut roast fan By BEN O’DRISCOLL

6 January / February 2022



Rare . . . Devon find

£400k for Henry III gold coin field find

Menace’s the DENNIS side-kick sausage-loving vegan. Gnasher has gone carThe comic canine turns nivore unwittingly food in to plant-based Annual. the 2022 Beano bangers He steals some they and, after learningthinks: vegan, were I like? “What else might at cats.” I’ll draw the line rights Yesterday animal said: campaigners Peta is “The vegan revolution in full swing.” an Gnasher — officially wire-haired Abyssinian been a tripe hound — has since he fan favourite in 1968. first appeared He is the 84-year-old to comic’s latest character be given a make-over. and Bash St Kids Fatty called to Spotty are now Fred and Scotty. said: Beano The to find a “Gnasher is yet like sausage he doesn’tto try but will continue one he each and every comes across.”

Marquee full of flowers



ON CAMERA . . . filming Pebble Mill At One in the 1970s

L . . . with FRUITFU Windsor Barbara Scott and hubby at Chelsea

NEW SHOOTS . . . gardening with schoolchildren in South London, 2010

TOP OF THE CROPS . . . Peter with tulips at Hyde Hall

Picture by his friend ARTHUR EDWARDS

Y u were our Yo Sun shine

and big FRIENDS, colleagues world names from the gardening to Peter. last night paid tribute took over Alan Titchmarsh, who Gardeners’ show from him on BBC2 was the most World, said: “PeterHe was a good generous of men. colleague in the friend and a great together at years that we worked Show. the Chelsea Floweryear I made a “I remember the as well as garden at the showprogramme. presenting the TV from the “I was hauled away finish off and to garden I was trying exhibit of an of front in stood which I’d had strange plants about on with the no time to swot up his notebook grower. Peter openedresearch and reeled off all his use. to me for material man he was. “That’s the sort of We will miss him hugely.” writer Bob Flowerdew, gardening on Radio 4’s and long-time guest Time, said: Gardeners’ Question and “Peter was so knowledgeable which his delivery so measured, always added gravitas. glove, “He was like a velvet resolve.” gentle but with a steely worked with Steve Bradley, who for 20 Peter on his Sun column respected years, said: “He was from across the whole industry, plant to a lady with a house complex somebody with a vast in producing geraniums California. ever come “Nobody else has was his life’s Horticulture close. he was good work and, by God, at it.” Steve’s wife and colleague Val added: “With those flower and hats distinctive him ties, people sought out. He was generous with his time. “Where he found his no I’ve from energy

idea.” in tributes poured Telly garden expert“His And yesterday of gardening to the David Domoney said: and from the greats DIG TIME . . . in ’76 “Britain’s favourite drive to support schools man they called has when he replaced children’s gardening gardener”. the son of a Percy Thrower on Peter John Seabrook, inspired many new ball bearing factory, Gardeners’ World tool-grinder in a on his grandfather’s generations.” star of TV’s was brought up Charlie Dimmock, near Chelmsford, “Peter was farm at Galleywood, Garden Rescue, added: for a newbie Essex. there was full of kindness, even starting out. As a boy he discovered by growing his like me when I was sense of money to be made and selling them “He had a wicked dry beloved sweet peas shop. humour that was understated, the glint of to the local flowerwas 15, and still at and subtle, althoughgave it away By the time he afford to pay £60 — mischief in his eyesgentleman.” school, he could — to fly from Southsometimes. A true of the a fortune in 1951 Holland Keith Weed, President end Airport to world’s Society, said: Royal Horticultural champions of to visit the “One of the greatest away. biggest flower market, near horticulture has passed Aalsmeer, respected and was “Peter was hugely award for Amsterdam. He trip held the RHS’s highest the still making the out services to horticulture, We will at 86 to check to Victoria Medal of Honour. new plant varieties about. miss him enormously.” tell his readers skipped In 1952 he off school in Chelmsford for his first-ever Chelsea visit to the at all. To Flower Show. I plot or no garden He Peter said: “When before his smallest was their gardener. marquee garden, and just Sun office, Molli them Peter wife Margaret went into the always had Fantasiahe and his assistant bulbs will be so missed in Theour days by it just CHEERS . . . with his up adored him and saw him.” death full of flowers I can Ajax mower thousands of at him in absolutely where he brightened flowers or whenever she IN TRIM . . . with trusty Christman planted colourful display. blew me as if it in presents of to trim a big smile after she had wolf-whistled created our brilsummer’s still remember people to bringingto taste and sample. quite a follow- the street — only to be asked in her At Chelsea Peter Sunflower Street for this e The Sun, I had joine As well as encouraging to Margaret, his geraniums was yesterday.” Peter was a apples on 1970s joined liant award-winning with radio. the wild-growing “Peter was devotedwho died during plants and veg, hated ing on TV and gardening expert He left school garden displays. of nesting blackbirds grow anywhere without window box. but After regular Pebble Mill At campaigner who waste wife of 60 years suffering qualifications him “I couldn’t go fun, Peter took few lunchtime show Flower Show.” his even on holiIn 2005 a pair display, and just as passionate of garden in 2020 after dementia stop As well as having returned to BBC that the Chelsea for Peter craftily called n asked questions, bein green bins instead column, lockdown that did not and was only person into the and vascular It was terrible he still used keep National Service he Britain’s new One — and Dig This! which helped being full-time his job seriously hold the three top moved the birds began going to compost. In his last day on the beach. landing his first working just as Saturday, he Alzheimer’s hole weekly slot the Queen arrived booklets. same mower to it was my job.” Britain to for nine years. verbena plant in her at horticulture, you can read on making a gaping horticulture — began to boom. own him get rid of the unsold came when my family but he once got 50,000 in gardening job, plans to outlaw local the two 40ft lawns for services to Honour, the slugging it out, the display — which which garden centres break “He created a for the to run his of Att The Sun campaigns against for a 200-year-old 40 pet to win a awards Medal of Peter’s biggest TV his home in Chelmsand raised £7,000 presenter of the in the top Peter had hoped but his planning for a competition for a Sun the Victoria in gardening. entries entrr Victoria memory of Honour and also amused Her Majesty. Our thoughts are firm which owned Thrower, legendary ford immaculate. a stunning peat RHS Associate was sacked for mower nursery business site into Percy — far more than Alzheimer’s Society. Alison, son Roger He was w The Sun’s Editor-in-Chief, mow and garden shops.amazing Gardeners’ World, In 2020 Peter designed with 10,000 Peter was so fastid- application to turn a 12-acre down. daughter night: “Just before Harlow Carr Medal.for services to products. to win a Jag. pyramid lawn contt Peter put his to those Newton, said lastwas helping children with his was turned of Tom and Rachel.” promoting commercialwas a gardening contest . . . on Service 10ft-high floral ious about his awarded the MBE had a wicked senseto he a garden centre plans for him. e Pe Peter CALL-UP Edwards said: 2005. his death, Peter Essex to grow oak and grandchildren constitution down he was for Chelsea. Peter said: “Percy the prolooking good that12in horticulture in Yet fate had other in the show to be His friend Arthur and once replied colleague plants colleague. A hum for the each mistakes in a weekly early years when He’d been presenting and they humour, When Covid forced it at the Royal at a school Peter’s friend androyal phomowed 7.30am to acorns to plant who asked if Via“Peter was a wonderful cut He often spotted and wrote to the god. fingers, he re for 25 years he rebuilt digging from It a reader at saplings from Canopy. wilting to make sure the the greenest of witty and for 45 years, Sun a week — help trade magazine could do a better job gramme him with a nobody — me. Edwards, cancelled, Jubilee could Society’s gardens the man with strip three times 5pm for six days miles a replaced tographer Arthur in his ele- Horticultural have been he sought Queen’swas adored by all, from being taken gra a thoroughly decent, editor saying he much where “There was do Lineker be to to was perfect. Essex, Gary was “He plan plants: will in had and cycling ten work. like but he was hired. said: “Peter person. He his was Flower Hyde Hall his wife Margaret’s death Royal Family and celebrities Day.” that it could help,stiff As a young man the Royal — and used the same ploy to get led Chelsea repo day to and from a two-year diploma his help warm at after off Match Of The a weekly audience reports ment He Service, and joinedtaught him would be too missed.” the same year. the ordinary people who wanted such pride in solace which in turn He quit to take who they had the Peter soon had of Agriculture, National in 1977, the cost Show. He took they from Alzheimer’s use.” first break in radio, has turned plants, even if and on a Saturday totalling eight million, and Army Service Corps, at the Essex Institute prove useful. exhibitions a new for general loved tellSince then, Peter The Sun’s Floral to grow his built up his encycloof the to TV. Peter appeared Dig This!. skills that would was looking for perfect He also where he also Hall plot into taught me to type gardening show, when The Sun became a firm favourite the of plants — and two The Queen Hyde Peter said: “Theyto go to lessons in afternoon suddenly axed, Editor, he was ing how he ended paedic knowledge Margaret, who was Royal Family. But when it was60,000 copies of a Gardening Barbara in and paid for me up also met his wife candidate. bedroom Peter was left with column was titledI Windsor’s floristry. Win on the same course. that, decades booklet he had paid for to accompany And his first Sun time there, Peter bought longer existed. ‘Dig This!’ Peter said: “By the “Little did I realise RanWhile he was GONG . . . MBE in 2005 those florists’ skills show that no lawnmower, a as the and later, I would useof flowers I’d grown a TV his first push he was soon hired a 12in cylinder to make posies give to the Queen at Luckily, somes Ajax with half a hundredweight. my garden to weighing in at 80 years later, in Remarkably, nearly


I was saddened as I’m sure were a lot of other people to he ar of the sudden death of Peter Seabro ok. Peter Seabrook was a rea l hero of mine especially during my ear ly horticultural years along with Percy Thrower and Geoff Hamilton. His passion for horticultural new no bounds. Even if you didn’t agree with some of his ideas, you always knew that his position was wh at he felt was the best for horticulture. I was lucky enough to me et him last month. He still had a twi nkle in his eye and a vast knowledge of all things horticultural. He was a huge influence on our indust ry and will be sorely missed.