18th January 2010 ‘Intrepid Tales of a modern day plant hunter – A Horticulturally endowed tale’! In 2000 the plantsman Tom Hart Dyke was kidnapped by guerrillas in the notorious Darien Gap, on the border of Panama and Colombia, while hunting for wild orchids. He and a companion, Paul Winder, were held captive for more than nine months. Since his release, Tom has created a World Garden of Plants at his home, Lullingstone Castle in Kent, which is run by his parents. The house was the subject of a BBC2 documentary series. Illustrated talk.
The Arts and Literary Society were treated to an evening of horticultural madness when a thoroughly enthusiastic and garrulous young man, Tom Hart Dyke, regaled the story of his life in plants. It started with his grandmother giving him seeds to plant at the age 3 at his home in Lullingstone Castle and the gift of a greenhouse when he was 13. He progressed to travelling the world seeking orchids and other specimens. Of course, the major part of his story concerned his capture and kidnap in the Darien Gap. His account of these months was both harrowing and amusing but the very real terror was still apparent when he spoke about it.
Later on he showed us pictures of his wonderful and incredible world garden which he has created at Lullingstone Castle. This garden was designed when in captivity during the few hours left before he was to be executed. Fortunately, this did not happen and so this wonderful garden is there for anyone to see. The plants and trees are placed in the country of their origin and are growing magnificently despite the eccentricities of the English climate, although some have to be dug up and put in glasshouses during the winter and replanted in the Spring.
This was a very different evening and thoroughly enjoyed by the audience and the sponsors Norman & Neil(Optometrists) of Clacton on Sea.
Thomas Guy Hart Dyke (born 1976) is an English horticulturist and plant hunter. He is the son and heir of Guy and Sarah Hart Dyke at the family seat of Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent He is the designer of the World Garden of Plants located on the property. The World Garden contains over 10,000 species of plants, many collected by Hart Dyke from their native environments.
Hart Dyke attended primary school at a state school in Eynesford and then transferred to St. Michael’s School in Otford. He attended Stanbridge Earls in Hampshire until age seventeen and then entered Sparsholt College Hampshire, near Winchester, where he studied tree surgery and forestry.
In an interview in 2006, Hart Dyke credits his grandmother (Gran) as having first interested him in plants at age three.
Hart Dyke follows a tradition of Victorian and Edwardian British plant hunters, such as Francis Masson, who risked life and limb to acquire rare species of plant. In 2000, Hart Dyke was kidnapped by suspected FARC guerillas in the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia while hunting for rare orchids, a plant for which he has a particular passion. He and his travel companion were held captive for nine months and threatened with death. He kept himself going by creating a design for a garden containing plants collected on his trips, laid out in the shape of a world map according to their continent of origin.
World Garden of Plants
On his return home, Hart Dyke put his design into practice within the walls of the family’s Victorian herb garden. The story of the creation of The World Garden of Plants was the subject of a BBC2 series, “Save Lullingstone Castle” (KEO Films). This was followed by a second series, “Return To Lullingstone Castle”. In May 2006, Hart Dyke managed to get an Australian Eucalyptus caesia plant (common name Silver Princess) to flower for the first time in the UK.He was inspired by orchids at his first school, St. Michaels, Otford, Kent.
Hart Dyke featured in the PBS Nova program in 2002, Orchid Hunter that documented his return to hunting rare orchids in dangerous terrain in another politically unstable area in Irian Jaya in the rainforests of Western New Guinea.