JARS v52n1 - In Memoriam: John Basford

In Memoriam: John Basford

John Basford, an internationally respected horticulturist, Head Gardener for the National Trust for Scotland at Brodick for 33 years, and an early member of the Scottish Chapter, died Oct. 2, 1997. He is survived by his wife, Joan, two sons and a daughter. Three friends have written of their remembrances of him:

"...John, a horticulturist of international repute, had that rare ability of being able to share his encyclopedic knowledge with others in a practical and friendly way. He enjoyed travelling and giving lectures to enthusiasts round the world; his enthusiasm, delivery and general presentation were a hallmark that made him renowned as a speaker and advisor. His witty comments were matched by his photographic skills that not only fascinated his audiences but also enhanced his writings on trees, shrubs and gardens. In his long and distinguished career both in the private sector and for 33 years with the National Trust for Scotland at Brodick, he imprinted his unique hallmark as the 'Basford' way of doing things...Nigel Price, the current Head Gardener, [recently] emphasised just how important John's work had been to the development of the gardens at Brodick, which are now internationally renowned for their rhododendrons and tender trees and shrubs. Many will recall being met by John on the pier at Brodick and being guided around the castle grounds in a most courteous and informative way. Others will remember the help and assistance he gave in providing seeds and plant material to many North American gardens, activities which led to his receiving an Honorary Life Membership of the ARS...It was characteristic of John to play a major role in the success of the 1996 ARS Convention in Oban last year and was presented with the ARS Silver Medal at the meeting. He was proud of this achievement...As you stand on the [Brodick] Castle terraces and look across the formal gardens the work of John's 33-year stay is all around you; in the layout of the gardens, in the variety of plants that run like a tapestry around the borders or spill over the walls and in the rustling leaves of the massive eucalyptus trees as they sway in the south westerly wind. It is a fitting memorial to a superb plantsman and gentleman."

Mervyn Kessell and John Hammond

"One of the finest rhododendron gardens anywhere in the world is at Brodick Castle, on the Isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland. For 33 years, as Head Gardener for the National Trust for Scotland, John Basford cared for, loved, and expanded the magnificent collection. Although he retired in 1991, he was then appointed to the Trust's national Garden Committee, and in this position continued to help oversee gardens all over Scotland. Early this past summer he was still an enthusiastic and knowledgeable participant in the Trust's work. Jordon and I were visiting with John and his wife in mid-June, in Scotland, and he seemed as vigorous and active as ever.

"... During his many years of work and care [as Head Gardener at Brodick], the Brodick collection grew to more than 260 species, and too many hybrids to count. The plants are gloriously displayed along hillside paths between the castle and the sea, with magnificent trees and woodland flowers beneath them. There is a formal walled garden, sloping lawns and bluebells; one treasure is a pond nestled among primulas and ferns. I especially remember the first time John showed us about, and the delight with which he pointed out plants he especially loved. And not just plants - he bounded up a ferny hillside, insisting we follow. There was a surprised mother blackbird, sitting on her nest among the ferns!...His legacy will be long-cherished by all of us who love plants, and especially rhododendrons."

Martha Prince