Launch of Veitch ‘plant hunters’ Devon guide

News Desk
Authored by News Desk
Posted: Saturday, July 3, 2021 - 01:02

East Devon District Council launched a new, free publication called “The ‘plant hunters’ guide to the Devon Veitch Legacy” at the Devon County Show on Friday. A handbook for finding native, international, ancient and exotic trees in Devon, particularly in East Devon. The publication is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

The book was launched from the St Bridget Nurseries stand at Devon County Show. St Bridget Nurseries prides itself on its own Veitch heritage, raising and selling Veitch specimens. St. Bridget Nurseries purchased the famous nursery of Robert Veitch & Son of Exeter in 1969 and today it is a subsidiary of St. Bridget Nurseries.

The book is a guide to the legacy of James Veitch & Sons and unsung heroes of horticulture. It helps modern-day plant hunters find native, international, ancient and exotic trees, shrubs and plants across Devon, with a focus on Exeter and the Clyst Valley.

The impact of the Veitch family on horticulture, garden and parkland design in Devon and beyond, as well as plant conservation worldwide was huge, and has largely been forgotten. However, these heroes need no statues, as their legacy lives on in every garden around the country and in the wonderful local parks such as Killerton, Bicton, and the University of Exeter campus.

The guide was created by Simon Bates and Caradoc Doy. Simon is the Green Infrastructure Project Manager at East Devon District Council responsible for developing the Clyst Valley Regional Park. Caradoc Doy is a professional horticulturist who devotes himself to researching the achievements of the ground-breaking Veitch nurseries of Exeter and Chelsea. The guide is beautifully illustrated by artist Jane Cope and photographer Jenny Steer.

Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Coast, Country and Environment, said: “We are lucky in East Devon to have a world class environment which we need to protect and cherish. Much of it is natural beauty, but we also have some superb parklands and gardens designed by skilful plantsmen. Those places and plantsmen are celebrated in this important new book at our local parks: Killerton, Poltimore, Winslade, Bishops Court, Rockbeare – which are all in the Clyst Valley Regional Park.

“East Devon District Council has recently approved a masterplan for the Park and is seeking to protect and enhance it for future generations.”

Simon explained: “As we work towards delivering the Clyst Valley Regional Park for local people, this guide helps us celebrate the tenacity and fortitude of the plant hunters who overcame hostile encounters, terrain and weather, while travelling across the world without modern-day technology and equipment. With this guide in hand, we encourage you to discover the local places and marvel at the grandeur, beauty and rarity of the trees that are the living heritage of these talented plantsmen. Tell us what you discover – the story has not ended!”

Caradoc added: “The plants and trees brought to Devon by the plant hunters enrich our lives, regulate our climate, and protect global biodiversity for the future. Although not introduced by Veitch, they did help make the Monkey Puzzle popular. For example, it is now only found growing wild in the mountains of Chile and Argentina, but we have a fine avenue at Bicton College. The Monkey Puzzle was once native to the British Isles during prehistoric times. We know this because Whitby Jet is fossilised Monkey Puzzle tree.

“The Veitch heritage is my lifetime labour of love, but there is still much to be discovered. I encourage all residents and visitors to Devon to get out there, be inquisitive and support the evolving Clyst Valley Regional Park.”

Tammy Falloon, Managing Director of St Bridget Nurseries, said: “It has been a real privilege to be involved in the launch of this book. We are delighted that the Veitch legacy is getting the attention it deserves. Their important contribution to horticulture is recognised and especially their achievements right here in Devon.”

Grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Cranbrook Town Council, Devon County Council- Devon Gardens Trust, Environment Agency and the National Trust are gratefully acknowledged.

The book will soon be made available at a number of venues. Sign up as a Friend of the Clyst Valley and get updates on how to get your copy as soon as details are released.