The London Gardens Network was conceived of over a cup of coffee Fiona’s office in the Chelsea Physic Garden, and was yet another example of how during Fiona’s long and distinguished horticultural career, her gentle and calm technique, almost imperceptibly, took the trade to new levels.
During Fiona’s time there she developed the National Collection of Cistus and for a good number of years was Collections Coordinator for the London Group of Plant Heritage, making her biennial visit to check collection holders were getting it just right.
Her time from 2007 at the Chiswick House Garden was instrumental in bringing the site around to making it the visitor attraction it is now; based wonderfully around the very special Camellia collection held in the Georgian glasshouses. Fiona brought all her diplomatic skills together to coordinate the major refurbishment of the garden and greenhouses in 2010. Notably too, Fiona was the secretary of the Merlin Trust and as instrumental in awarding bursaries to students wanting to further their career.
Gerald Goddard, long standing member of Plant Heritage (London group) and National Collection holder of Tanacetum since 1986 writes: I was as a regular attender at London group meetings of Plant Heritage that in 1991 when Fiona, then Head Gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden "conned" me into becoming Co-ordinator for the London area National Collections. This task she relieved me off in 2015 (being 85 years old!) when we did a tour round the Collections for her to be welcomed by the Holders as their new 'mentor'.
The early 2000s saw the London Group staging a series of hugely successful medal winning exhibits of cut plant material from our London Collection Holders (as well as PH members) at the RHS Westminster shows, now lamentably no more! As a member of the team Fiona was always on hand with advice and prepared to dash off to obtain last minute plant contributions.
Pat Huff writes: Fiona was such a bright shining light - definitely a radiator rather than a drain. (A friend shared that metaphor with me many years ago and it has proven invaluable on many occasions.) She always tried to see the other person's point of view without being the least bit saccharine or smarmy. She was a good woman as well as being great company. The highest accolade--she was never boring. It's one of the many evils of this pandemic that we weren't able to get together as a group in person at all during this last precious year. We will miss her good counsel as a Plant Heritage committee member and knowledgeable gardener but most importantly as a dear friend.
It is with great sadness that we say a fond farewell to Robert Player who passed away on the 14th January following a brave battle with illness.
Robert joined London Gardens Network as a Committee member in June 2014. Rob always jovial, brought light refreshment to our meetings and indeed to our guests with the provision of cheese and wine as a thank you to our speakers after our seminars. The team will miss his support and fun approach in delivering well organized and smoothly run behind the scenes co-ordination of London Gardens Network events.
Rob exclusively managed London squares winning many prestigious awards with his company Garden Associates from 1984. An incredibly passionate plantsman the introduction of unusual Genus and species to these squares can be fully accredited to him. Winner of 13 consecutive golds medals in the floral marquee at Chelsea Flower Show showcased the award winning team player that he was.
His skills, knowledge and implementation of high standards of horticulture formed the perfect platform for his endless judging commitments including London in Bloom and The Guild of Horticultural Judges spanning over 20 years. He was Vice Chairman of the Horticultural Committee of the London Garden Society. Always encouraging and generous with his advice. In 2018 he became a ‘Freeman of the City of London’ for his contribution to horticulture shortly after he became a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.
Aside of horticultural Rob enjoyed football and was a season ticket holder of Watford Football Club.
Rob leaves a wife Pippa, and children George and Harriet, to whom we send our sincere condolences.