Michael Myers: Mountain Flowers of Eastern Europe - Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Romania

Date: 1pm-2pm, May 2, 2021

Michael D. Myers
Dip Hort (RHS), HND, BSc (Hons), MSc, MHort (RHS), CBiol, MSB, MCIHort, FLS, PGCE

I have had a long association with horticulture in the North of England and in particular the Harrogate area, having spent my pre-college placement working as a volunteer gardener at Harlow Carr Gardens under the direction of Phillip Swindells. This was followed by a HND in amenity horticulture at Askham Bryan College.
In 1986/87 I worked on the rock garden department at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden, Wisley as part of my sandwich year for my HND. The other six months was spent in the landscape office at Nottingham Recreation Department, Woodthorpe Grange, where I assisted in the implementation of planting and hard-landscaping schemes (including play areas). Whilst still a student between 1988 and 1992 I would also work in the holidays as propagator for Olands Plants, Sawley Nursery, near Ripon.
My interests have always been torn between the academic and the practical. Whilst at Leeds University reading plant biology I won both the IoH ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition’ and the Leeds Naturalists’ Prize for best second year student in botany. My dissertation with Dr David Harberd (of Pleione fame) looked at hybridity in Dactylorhiza. My interest in orchids led in turn to a fascination with mycorrhizal associations leading to a Masters’ degree in fungal technology (mycorrhizas) at the University of Kent and two years of an unfinished PhD at the University of Sheffield in the laboratory of Prof. Sir David Read FRS. After nearly a decade in education I started my own small, garden design and build business alongside part-time lecturing work and specialist plant sales.
Between 1996 and 2006 I ran the course ‘Plants and Gardens of Yorkshire’ from Harlow Carr which enabled students to visit Yorkshire gardens and some of the National Plant Collections® in the region. During this period I began to teach the RHS Certificate at Harlow Carr for Craven College and this has subsequently led to my current role as a horticulture lecturer at Craven College in Skipton. I teach a wide range of courses including RHS practical and theory courses and City and Guilds qualifications to students with learning difficulties at Ripon Walled Garden. I also work as a horticultural advisor at RHS shows and a consultant for City and Guilds horticulture qualifications.
Whilst my horticultural interests had always been primarily plant orientated (I have been a member of the Alpine Garden Society and the Hardy Plant Society for many years) I started to appreciate the role of hard-landscaping in garden design whilst self-employed. One of my favourite local gardens is York Gate, primarily because of its fusion of plantsmanship with bold, creative hard-landscaping. My garden which is greatly influenced by several local gardens has opened for NGS and other charities in the past but due to expansion and several ongoing building projects it may be some years before this is possible again.
I was involved in the renovation of the Aysgarth Edwardian Rock Garden in 2002 for which I had to implement a development strategy that would be successful over the course of the funding period (September to May). The renovation of Aysgarth Edwardian Rock Garden was filmed by Tyne Tees who made a two part programme called ‘The Secret Garden’ in 2003. I have also been involved with other TV programmes and have written for several magazines and local newspapers including ‘The Garden’. Several articles have followed botanising trips to Corfu, Crete, The Czech Republic, Cyprus, France (Maritime Alps), Madeira, The Philippines, Poland, Romania (Transsylvania), Slovenia and elsewhere. These trips have been primarily to photograph and study alpines in the wild, particularly those genera included in the National Plant Collections that I previously held - Anemone nemorosa, Hepatica and Primula marginata. I have grown alpines since my teens and first showed at an alpine show in 1987, I recently returned to showing, allowing me to gain my AGS silver medal (after over 30 years!), I now have four silver bars (nearly five) and so the next milestone will be a gold medal.
Until recently I was a member of the IoH Northern Branch committee and was chairman of the Yorkshire Branch of NCCPG (now Plant Heritage) between 1993-1996 and 2005-2007. I organised the NCCPG national AGM and Primula Conference in 1994 and was proactive in developing the rare and unusual plant fairs that have become the trademark of Plant Heritage in Yorkshire. For several years I created marketing stands for the Yorkshire Branch of NCCPG at the Harrogate Flower Shows where we have won several Silver-Gilt and Gold medals. More recently I have been involved with the Craven College show gardens which have achieved six successive gold and two premier gold medals for our garden design and horticulture students.
I represent Craven College on the Skipton in Bloom committee devising new features and planting schemes within the town including a cenotaph garden based on a poppy design, bulb planting schemes and narrow boat-shaped planters that promote the local canal. In 2012, with students, I created a Diamond Jubilee community rose garden which won the Yorkshire in Bloom Best Community Project Award.
I have a keen interest in winter colour and grow over 400 varieties of snowdrops along with many other winter interest plants (I discovered the worlds’ one-time most expensive snowdrop Galanthus plicatus 'E.A. Bowles' at Myddelton House in 2002 - it sold on e-Bay for £357 early in 2011).
I completed a RHS Master of Horticulture qualification in 2014 for which I wrote my thesis on ‘Recent Breeding and Cultivation Advances in the Genus Hepatica’. The thesis was subsequently published as an article in the Alpine Garden Society Bulletin and as a book in Italy. I have since also written a book on Galanthus for the same Italian publisher.
I have always considered my horticultural interests to be eclectic and diverse and I am always open to new ideas. As I frequently tell students there is no such thing as a bad plant only bad gardeners.