RHS Victoria medals

More RHS Honours for British gardening women

Hip, Hip, Hooray

 The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced the recipients of its prestigious awards for outstanding contribution to horticulture. This year there are four recipients for the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH). This is the highest accolade the Society awards. Only 63 horticulturists hold the VMH at one time, marking the length of Queen Victoria's reign. This year, the awards were given to three men and Viscountess of Merton, Alice Boyd from Cornwall who receives the award for the following citation: 

'As an Honorary Fellow of the RHS Lady Boyd has given exemplary service to the charity for many years. She has served on a number of committees and was on the RHS Council for 10 years. She was also President of the Cornwall Gardens Society between 2007 and 2009.'

"I am delighted to announce the recipients of the Victoria Medal of Honour which was established in 1897 in remembrance of Queen Victoria," says Elizabeth Banks, RHS President. "These are very special people and their contribution to horticulture has been outstanding. Their work has been wide-ranging and impacts on most aspects of gardening and is an inspiration to everyone."

The charity has also announced the Veitch Memorial Awardees This Award is given to those who it is felt have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of the art, science and practice of horticulture. There are five recipients this year. They include Susyn Andrews from Richmond, Surrey. 

Andrews, recently of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a world-leading horticultural taxonomist and was the co-founder and Chairman of the Horticultural Taxonomy Group. She has published over 150 scientific papers and articles, was the senior editor of Taxonomy of Cultivated Plants (1999), has sat on the ISHS Commission for Nomenclature and Registration, is an Honorary Research Associate at Kew, and currently serves on several scientific and horticultural committees. An enthusiastic gardener, her main interests are temperate and subtropical woody plants and her passion for lavenders stretches back 15 years.

Many congratulations to them both. 



Time to vote on RHS Council's 'storm in ladies' teacups'

The excitement of Chelsea has finished for another year but the post mortems will carry on for a while. The gardening twitterati are still talking about the fact that all the garden judges were men. If you're a member of the RHS, it's time to vote for the Council members. If you're like me, you've probably not bothered to vote in the past, flicking quickly passed the AGM notice in The Garden.

But this year, please don't throw it in the bin. It's been a long, hard fight to get women on to the RHS Council as the following story about Frances Perry's election from Gardening Women illustrates.

"By the late 1960s, despite the fact that women were now being awarded many of the prestigious RHS medals, there was still no female representation on the society’s council. At the Annual General Meeting of the RHS in 1967 a question was raised as to why this was so. Because, came the answer, there had never been ladies on the council and there were none ‘at present’ who had ‘as useful experience as the men available’. Within days. Enid Bagnold, the writer famous for National Velvet and The Chalk Garden had a letter published in The Times quoting this and suggesting that Gertrude Jekyll must be rolling in her grave...

"Lord Aberconway, then president of the RHS and scion of Bodnant, retorted that this was a ‘little storm in ladies’ teacups’ and that he had been misquoted. ‘We have nothing against the ladies,’ he blustered. ‘As soon as a lady comes to our minds or is suggested informally . . . who can contribute in our view as much as to our multifarious activities as any man available, we shall support her appointment.’ A year later a suitable candidate was elected unopposed: Mrs Frances Perry. When asked to join the council, Perry famously replied: ‘If you want me because I’m a woman, the answer is no, but if you want me because of anything I have done in horticulture, the answer is yes.’

"... the president was at pains to point out, Perry arrived as no token woman. ‘I must emphasize that she was nominated by Council not because she was a women, but because she was, in the unanimous view
of us all . . . more likely than any others to contribute to the works of Council . . . Indeed, it was only because our invitation was couched in those terms that she accepted the nomination.’ With the ‘little storm in ladies’ teacups’ dealt with, Perry went on to make an enormous contribution to the Society, being awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1971 and eventually becoming a vice-president."

Forty-five years later, there are now three women on the Council and a fourth, The Hon Sarah Joiner, is standing again and needs your vote.

Photo 2010(1)

Sarah is a member of the Bursaries, Libraries, Daffodil & Tulip and Fundraising Committees. With a background in the NHS and Department of Health, she is now also Chairman of Trustees for the Gardening for the Disabled Trust and active Patron of the MS Trust. With seven candidates standing for five places on the RHS Council, every vote counts. Please give one of yours to Sarah.