Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I first learned of Tom Hart Dyke when I happened to pick up a book at a book fair,

In this fascinating book (and quick read), 
Tom tells of a problem he shares with other families 
who have been bequeathed castles and manors in England-
they are incredibly expensive to maintain

To my absolute delight, 
I met Tom this week
and toured the World Garden of Plants at his home in Kent

Lullingstone Castle Estate, Kent

Let me just say his excitement and enthusiasm 
for life and plants was infectious! 

Think of a 'Steve Irwin' about plants

Tom holds his discovery from SW Tasmania, 'Varnished Gum' (Eucalyptus vernicosa),
the smallest eucalyptus species known to mankind

While on an orchid hunting expedition in 2000 in the Darien Gap, Columbia, 
Tom was kidnapped and held for 9 months by guerrillas
and miraculously released for Christmas without an explanation as to why 
(Although he wrote a ransom note home, it never arrived)

Incredibly, as the first gun was thrust at his temple 
Tom was hit with the idea of creating a World Garden 
as a way to blend his botanical passion
with a potential tourist attraction to save his Lullingstone Castle

Plants you may have in your garden that originated from Africa

Six years and 10,000 plants later,
the World Garden has flower beds roughly in the shape of the continents
with plant species, cultivars, and hybrids planted in their country of origin

It is an educational botanical map within a 2 acre walled garden
and a nod to the Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters of the past

{did you know almost 80% of plants in England are non-native?}

When Tom is plant hunting,
he brings back just seeds and grows them once home

{he generously welcomed us to take any seeds we saw in the garden}

And although most of his seeds were destroyed by his kidnappers in Columbia
he did keep a few, such as this Banana Passionflower

This week is the first time Tom's Banana Passionflower has ever bloomed
from seed collected during his fateful trip to Columbia eleven years ago!

As Tom 'hunts', he collects seeds from plants he thinks have a high ornamental value
- simply for the love of it, not for the fortune or fame -

In fact, he has buckets of plants that he has not yet named,
for naming them doesn't really interest him
He just enjoys collecting them :)

But such a magnetic aura cannot go unnoticed:
so far he has been featured in KEO films, BBC, and PBS documentaries
And THE Kew Gardens just paid him a visit and were 'wowed' by his collection

As you can imagine, nature is creating new varieties of plants in Tom's garden
as pollinators span 'the continents'

All sunflowers originated in North America - who knew?!

A family affair, his mother and sister served our group tea and biscuits
I felt I already knew them from the book; it was such a pleasure to meet these lovely people!

Tom's next plant expedition may take him to Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa
He is crazy passionate about cacti at the moment

Being a Plant Hunter his hardly an extinct profession in England
There are still quite a few that will risk life and limb in pursuit of plants

Don't you just love the possible story behind each flower we see in the garden?
Tom Hart Dyke certainly has a doozy :)

More information :: Lullingstone Castle
Tom's books :: The Cloud Garden, An Englishman's Home: The Adventures of an Eccentric Gardener

More 'Obscure Gardens' Posts
Kew at Wakehurst


Time for another Post Of The Month Club day - yea! 

It is a great way for bloggers promote their best work
and a place to meet & greet

Join me Friday, September 30th

Yep, right here :)


(more details here)