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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Churchill Fellow - Studied conservation and education
in the botanical gardens of Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden
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
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
Committee Member, International Association of Botanic Gardens
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
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)
Philip passed away March 29, 2007.
To see and sign the page in his memory, click
Profile - Philip
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
International Water Gardening Society, Hall of Fame Award 1994
UK Garden Writers Guild, Award for Best Local Radio Gardening
Philip also received an array of other UK and US writing awards.