For the first time in the Royal Horticultural Society’s history, two women, Elizabeth Banks and Sue Biggs, hold the most senior positions in the Society – President and Director General.
But women have played an important part in horticulture for many years. At the RHS London Orchid and Botanical Art Show which was held on 19-20 March, the RHS Lindley Library hosted a display to highlight the life and works of a number of women who have been extremely influential in horticulture over the last century.
On display will be photographs, books, archives and artworks to celebrate the lives of:
Gertrude Jekyll was a garden designer and one of only two women among the first recipients of the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1897.
Ellen Willmott, a horticulturist, was the other woman among the first recipients of the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1897.
Marion Cran was the first gardening radio broadcaster.
Dorothy Martin, a botanical artist. Her 300 original watercolours are housed in the RHS Lindley Library. Two of these will be on display.
Constance Spry, society flower arranger and social reformer.
Lilian Snelling, botanical artist. The RHS holds an extensive collection of her works. Three of her watercolours will be on display.
Margery Fish was a horticultural journalist famous for popularising gardening for the masses after the war.
Vera Higgins was another botanical artist.
Beatrix Havergal, a horticulturist who was a member of the RHS Examinations Board for over 20 years. She started the Waterperry School of Horticulture for Women.
Margaret Mee, a conservationist and botanical artist famous for her trips to the Amazon rainforest.
Valerie Finnis, a plantswoman, alpine gardener and photographer.
Joyce Stewart who worked as a botanist in Africa, she was the first Sainsbury Orchid Fellow at Kew and went on to be Director of Horticulture at the RHS.
RHS Art Librarian, Charlotte Brooks, says: ‘These women are represented within the library collections by books, archives, original photographs and artworks, many received as valuable donations. We will be exhibiting 13 original items, including a wall paper design by Gertrude Jekyll and an unfinished field sketch from the Amazon by Margaret Mee.’