Doctor Chris Clennett is retiring from Wakehurst – part of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – after 30 years.
He joined the house in 1987 as propagator in the nursery and worked his way through the ranks to become gardens manager.
One of his first tasks was the propagation of the National Collection of Birches. He also undertook the careful cultivation of tender plants for the Walled Garden.
He saw the company through The Great Storm in October 1987, which hit with 115mph winds, virtually razing it to the ground. Clennett, who was living onsite at the time managed to sleep through the entire storm, but woke to find 20,000 trees had been uprooted and the nursery in which he had worked torn to shreds.
Following the storm, Clennett propagated thousands of plants to replace those that had been lost. He was rewarded for his efforts and became nursery manager in 1989. Here he oversaw the development of the National Skimmia and Hypericum collections as a new, more open Wakehurst took shape.
Clennett also got to work on growing all the required for the new Asian Heath Garden, named after Tony Schilling for his retirement in 1990. He also completed his RHS Master of Horticulture.
In 1995, Clennett undertook an MSc at Reading University on plant taxonomy and on completing this he became gardens manager.
He continued his studies and became the first Kew horticulturist to complete a PhD with the Open University. Text that he wrote during his studies was encompassed in a Kew book on Erythronium.