Thursday, 3 May 2012

Pastures new

One of the fine vistas in the Castle Howard Arboretum, June 2011.

I have been appointed to the post of Director of the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, North Yorkshire, with effect from mid-August 2012. It is a full time position, with responsibility for managing the arboretum, its staff and volunteers, and for increasing its public profile and visitor numbers. 

I first visited the arboretum in June last year, when I wrote:

"This amazing collection, undervalued and largely unknown, was started by the late Jim Russell (formerly in partnership with Graham Stuart Thomas at Sunningdale Nurseries in Surrey) in the 1970s. He developed a strong links with RBG Kew and after his death in 1996 Kew personnel were instrumental in setting up the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, which looks after it, with management input from Tony Kirkham from Kew, and others. It now serves as a northern outpost for Kew, providing space for back-up collections or more extensive plantings of important material. While still comparatively new, with most trees being comparatively young, the arboretum is showing promise of being a really great collection of well-grown trees for the future: it deserves more support and more visitors."

Obviously, at that time I had no idea that almost within the year I would be in charge of the place:  it is an exciting new challenge for me and I’m really looking forward to getting to grips with it. The Arboretum covers 130 acres and has a very fine collection of interesting trees set in a well-designed landscape on the Castle Howard estate. The Trust also has responsibility for collections in Ray Wood adjacent to Castle Howard. More information can be found on the website.

The Castle Howard Arboretum in April 2012

It will, however, be a great wrench to leave Colesbourne, where I have enjoyed working since 2003  and where I've seen the garden grow in beauty and reputation over those nine years. For the next three months, however, it will be busines as usual, laying the foundation for the snowdrop season to come and ensuring I hand the garden over in the best possible shape. In the cottage garden I will be propagating as many plants as possible, and lifting bulbs, etc, to ensure that most of my collection  also migrates north to Yorkshire.

Pyrus communis 'Jaspidea' at Castle Howard Arboretum, April.


  1. Congratulations on your new job! It sounds like a dream job. Looking forward to see more pictures from the arboretum.

  2. Congratulations John, an exciting job. John Simmons always speaks highly of Castle Howard's arboretum - I wonder why!

  3. Congratulations and what a wonderful challenge/opportunity!

  4. Congratulations, heres to pastures new. An exciting new job - I hear that the arboretum houses many fine trees that often struggle to grow at Kew!

    Looking forward to all pictures arboreal.

  5. Yes, great news - now that I have got over my sense of personal loss, I congratulate you! You are obviously on the way to greater things - I shall track your progress with great interest.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful challenge (yes, I am green with envy) I hope you will continue to entrall us as the arboretum develops.

  7. Hi I was searching for information on Sunningdale Nurseries and the Russell family. I was great friends with Margaret Russell who said he father owned the nursery, I was lead to believe someone in the family invented the Russell Lupin. Can you cast any light on this and give me any background information? My eamil is Sorry I'm not very computer literate and couldn't athom out how to send you an email.


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