Trad’s Diary began in the first issue of The Garden, Volume 100 part 6 of the R.H.S. Journal, in June 1975. I happened to look it up because it contained the first article on The Chelsea Physic Garden; up to then, as Allen Patterson said in the article, ‘something of a mystery to contemporary Londoners. Its four acres of fascinating garden beside the Thames are never open to the public’. In 1975, for the first time, Patterson, its new curator, made arrangements with the R.H.S. for ‘Fellows’ (as we were then called) to visit it on certain days.
We were there again last week, for an evening party to celebrate the installation of a new curator, Christopher Bailes. Having given Christopher his first gardening job, 39 years ago, I felt not only a proprietary interest but a surge of pride, augmented bythe spectacular blooming of what was once a pretty humdrum botanical garden, however historic. The four acres are now a brilliant demonstration of horticulture at its most business-like, regimented in order beds at one end, then turning more and more romantic among the trees towards the river. Towering over the guests on the lawn by the house where Philip Miller wrote his Gardener’s Dictionary 350 years ago is London’s finest rose: Rosa brunonii from the Himalayas, having consumed the whole canopy of an ancient catalpa and clearly longing for another.
Trad, in that first article, dedicated the new magazine ‘to be the link between serious gardeners everywhere ……. To report all that is new and interesting, or that needs explanation, either on the scientific or on the aesthetic side of horticulture?’ It is a promise many editors have made down the years.
The R.H.S. was foolish to abandon the term ‘fellows’ for its members, not long after the time I am talking about. It should have been retained as a mark of seniority for those who had been loyal for, say, 25 years. Now we learn it is coming back, but as a sweetener for a substantial cheque make out to the Society. Autre temps …..