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 Philip Swindells'
Career Story

Accomplishments of a Dazzling, Proficient Professional

A brilliant gardener, skilled horticulturist, prolific writer, talented garden designer, gifted educator, popular radio and TV personality, innovative botanic garden curator, accomplished linguist, perpetual world traveler, consummate student

Philip Swindells' rigorous horticultural learning began at the renowned University of Cambridge (known for preparing Charles Darwin for his notable work in the nineteenth century) Garden, UK.

Following valuable learning experiences at Cambridge, Philip became a student of commercial horticulture at Perry's Hardy Plant Farm, Enfield. At that time (the early 1960s), this was the largest aquatic plant and herbaceous plant producer in Europe. Later he became production manager for Highfield Nursery, Cambridge. There he oversaw the growing of herbaceous plants, trees, shrubs and herbs.

During 1977 to 1980, Philip gained practical, full-time management experience as the commercial and garden manager of the famous Scottish rhododendron garden at Castle Kennedy, Stranraer, home of the Earl and Countess of Stair. His responsibilities included the development of a plant centre and plant production unit.

Next (1980-88), he moved to Harrogate, Yorkshire, as the innovative curator of what is now the Royal Horticultural Society's Harlow Carr Gardens. It ranked as the largest horticultural and botanical collection in northern England. Philip directed the garden operations in addition to conducting experimental, educational and public programmes with a staff of 37. He coordinated a student intern programme and was involved with both access and teaching issues for disabled people.

Following this, in 1988, Philip became Director of Wycliffe Hall Botanical Gardens, Durham. He was responsible for the early development of this garden. However, he resigned after 18 months when he became aware of serious financial irregularities within the trust. Philip reported these misdeeds to the authorities, resulting in closure of the project.

At this point, he established a talented horticultural consultancy practice, Philip Swindells Limited, based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. He operated his incredible and well-respected business until 2002, having undertaken challenging, worthwhile, major projects.

Philip worked at Glamis Castle, Angus (ancestral home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), as advisor to the estate for the gardens and for the proposals for the Queen Mother's Centenary Garden. He also arranged the international naming of the tulip 'Elizabeth of Glamis' for the Queen Mother's 100th birthday (coordinating with the Dutch bulb industry).

At Wynyard Hall, Cleveland, Philip organised a complete restoration of the 100-hectare (274-acre) garden and parkland of the former Lord Londonderry for Sir John and Lady Hall. He searched throughout Europe for major plant sources for the elaborate project.

For six years at Coughton Court, Warwickshire, he diligently oversaw development of the intensive 14-hectare (34.6-acre) garden for the Throckmorton family and The National Trust. Philip also designed a magnificent landscape scheme of the surrounding area for Stratford-upon-Avon District Council to protect the ancient heritage site and garden. Displaying immense appreciation for his splendid work, the trustees named part of this historic garden "Philip's Garden" in his honour! In 2006, the World Federation of Rose Societies granted this marvellous garden the coveted Award of Garden Excellence.

Philip directed the historically accurate restoration, recording and interpretation of Thorp Perrow Arboretum, Bedale, Yorkshire. This privately owned, major tree collection is now open to the public. His team managed the arboretum for two years until the owner appointed a curator.

Other notable UK clients:
Castle Hill - Earl and Countess of Arran
Teasses House - Sir Fraser and Lady Morrison
Groombridge Place - Andrew de Candolle
Wentworth Castle Gardens - Barnsley Metropolitan Council
Croxteth Park - Liverpool City Council
Hinchingbrooke Hall - Cambridge County Council
(All except the latter are major gardens open to the public).

Under a Commonwealth of Independent States (an association of former Soviet states) programme at St .Petersburg Botanical Gardens, Russia, Philip detailed comprehensive recommendations for the implementation of a modern management and public access plan for the distinguished botanical gardens.

The International Flower Bulb Centre (IFBC), Hillegom, The Netherlands engaged Philip to operate a European programme for practical technical research for using flower bulbs in the landscape, including the overseeing of trials and planting projects. For twenty years, he edited the IFBC's European Bulb Bulletin for the landscape industry.

Although Philip managed no major US projects, he did assist with programmes in a number of gardens, especially favoring historic gardens. For a short time, he had a satellite office in Nokesville, Virginia, managed by a cousin. The problem was that he had to head up the projects. Although he had considerable experience in the U.S., Philip decided to concentrate on the Middle East where various truly interesting and very rewarding projects presented themselves.

Middle East
In Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Philip designed the new palace gardens for His Highness Sheik Sultan bin Mohammed al Qasimi.

Working directly with the Sheik, he oversaw installation of the National Botanical Gardens, Sharjah, a 100-hectare (274-acre) garden carved out of the desert. The BBC in the UK made a television programme about the three-year installation programme when it opened. His team also organised the "Botanic Gardens in Dry Lands" international conference at the inauguration of the gardens.

Additionally, he directed the National Park and Airport landscaping reorganisation and development with the Sharjah Municipality horticultural and landscape team.

In Dubai City, United Arab Emirates, he designed landscape proposals for the new 25-year irrigation development programme. Upon approval of his plans, Philip provided all the input for plant material and nursery management for the Dubai Municipality.

He developed planting schemes for the Emir's new 7-hectare (17.3-acre) garden at his official residence in Doha, Qatar.

At the Botanical Gardens of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, Philip planned the development and planting of the water gardens and the European section of the botanical gardens. He was also responsible for designating the sourcing of plant material from Europe.

Philip assisted in the establishment of a nursery near the Lebanese border to service botanical gardens and foreign plant distributors. This, Hazorea Aquatics, has become the largest aquatics export nursery outside the US.

Philip's work obliged him to travel extensively, sometimes advising in areas outside those noted, and spoke at conferences across six continents. Specific countries include Canada, Canary Islands, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Reunion Island, Russia, and the United States. He also worked in a voluntary capacity on a Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)-funded project to develop a botanical garden and horticulture project in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, and advised on a similar project for Guatemala.

Philip authored more than 50 full-length horticultural books, mostly water gardener- and home gardener-orientated. Publishers include Ward Lock, Random House, Readers' Digest, Salem House, and Timber Press. Being in great demand globally, a number of them are available into 24 diverse languages, principally Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Russian and Chinese.

Best-sellers include The Master Book Of The Water Garden, Waterlilies, Complete Book of Bulbs, RHS Water Gardening, Herb Gardening, Cottage Gardening, Fuchsias for Home and Garden, Bulbs For All Seasons, Container Gardening, and Primulas.

Philip also edited various encyclopedias and journals. He contributed to many of them, including all major encyclopedias of The Royal Horticultural Society.

Other Media
For three Philip years hosted a popular television gardening programme in Scotland on (Border TV). He appeared frequently on national and regional television, and from time to time in North America.

He fronted his acclaimed weekly radio gardening show from BBC Radio Leeds for twenty years. For eight years, he hosted a gardening magazine programme with BBC North Night Network. This won the UK's Best Regional Gardening Show title. Philip appeared on various radio shows in the United States and Canada. In the Middle East, he was a guest-expert on English-language radio and television.

In recent years, Philip divided his time mostly between Europe and Australia, focusing on water gardening for internet users. He operated GardenMessenger Yahoo, PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. While continuing to produce traditional hard copy for various media, he also edited the International Water Gardener, including its regional websites.

International and National Show Experience
Philip produced the gold-medal-winning international garden exhibit for the Gateshead National Garden Festival representing gardens from UK, South Africa, Ecuador and the Soviet Union.

At the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, he produced a garden for the Australian Wine Bureau of London. The imaginative garden displayed strong aboriginal themes, including aboriginal art and dreamtime.

Working as part of a team, Philip helped to create a gold-medal-winning water garden for Perry's Hardy Plant Farm at the Chelsea Flower Show when he was a young student.

Philip created the gold-medal-winning tropical plants exhibit for the Gateshead Summer Show in 2001.

Over the years, Philip contributed to many horticultural shows and exhibits and often judged national and international flower and garden shows. Philip officiated as a senior judge at the 1990 International Garden Festival, Gateshead, UK.

Philip's natural aptitude for gardening attracted the attention of many, resulting in prestigious fellowship and scholarship awards for decades after completing studies at Cambridge. These include:

Churchill Fellow - Studied conservation and education in the botanical gardens of Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Nuffield Scholarship - Studied horticultural training in the US Department of Agriculture's Extension Service, universities and botanic gardens on the East and West Coasts, Missouri, Colorado and Hawaii.

Mary Helliar Scholarship (International Plant Propagators' Society) - Studied in-vitro aquatic plant reproduction in Czechoslovakia.

Soviet Academy of Sciences Fellowship - Studied botanical gardens and their public role (under communist doctrine) in Russia (Moscow and Leningrad), Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Over the years, Philip acquired formal qualifications including:

FIHort. Fellow of the Institute of Horticulture
LCGLI. Licenciate City and Guilds of London Institute
FLS. Fellow Linnean Society of London
MISTC. Member, Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators
AMITD. Associate Member, Institute of Training and Development

Along with these qualifications, he held various positions including:

Committee Member, International Association of Botanic Gardens
(European/Mediterranean Division)
Editor, Bulletin of the International Association of Botanic Gardens (European/Mediterranean Division)
Yorkshire Chairman and National Council Member, National (UK) Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens
Founder Member, Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Founding Member and Columnist for Water Gardeners International Journal
Editor, Historic Garden magazine (UK)
Editor, International Waterlily and Water Garden Society Journal
North of England Chairman and Council Member, Institute of Horticulture.
National Committee Member, Federation to Promote Horticulture for the Disabled (UK)

UK Garden Writers Guild, Garden Writer of the Year 1985
Garden Writers Association of America, Quill & Trowel Award for Radio 1986 Department of Trade and Industry, SMART Award 1989
International Water Gardening Society, Hall of Fame Award 1994
UK Garden Writers Guild, Award for Best Local Radio Gardening Programme 1995
Philip also received an array of other UK and US writing awards.

Philip passed away March 29, 2007. To see and sign the page in his memory, click here.

Profile - Philip Swindells

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