Obituary: Alan Hardy

BRITISH HORTICULTURE, ad-mired as it is throughout the world, would never have achieved such distinction without its tradition of dedicated amateur plantsmen, devoting nearly every free moment to their consuming passion. Alan Hardy was just such a figure.

Inheriting the 1,500-acre Sandling estate in Kent from his father, he acquired a tremendous depth of knowledge of trees and shrubs, especially the rhododendrons that thrived in the 27-acre woodland garden developed by his grandfather, Laurence Hardy, from the turn of the century.

He was a true fanatic about both species rhododendrons and hybrids, some of which he bred himself. His flowers won many awards despite the fact that Sandling, exposed as it is above the cliffs near Folkestone, is one of the coldest and windiest spots in south-east England and as such not easy to garden. From the age of 30 he was invited to sit on many of the Royal Horticultural Society's committees and became a leading figure in the rhododendron world, acting as a judge at shows. He was the founder chairman of the Kent Garden Trust and in 1993 was awarded the RHS's coveted Victoria Medal of Honour, which can be held at any one time by only 63 people - the number of years that Queen Victoria reigned.

But his interests were by no means confined to the one plant: he loved gardening in all its variety. A lifelong love of daffodils was sparked when, as a boy of seven, he was given his first bulb by Lionel Richardson, the renowned Irish breeder. Hardy would eventually become a breeder himself and a respected authority on the flower, always ready to lavish praise and sound advice on this and all aspects of gardening.

His principal occupation was running the estate and its farm: his pedigree cattle and sheep, like his flowers, often won prizes. Aware from an early age that he was destined to take over the estate, he prepared himself in typically thorough fashion. After joining the Coldstream Guards towards the end of the Second World War, he worked briefly on a dairy farm, then gained qualifications in agriculture and animal husbandry at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester.

Soon afterwards he lost a lung through tuberculosis. This setback meant, among other things, that he was never able to go on plant- hunting trips to distant parts of the world, although he always felt that he was with the collectors in spirit and could scarcely wait for their return to inspect and discuss what they had found.

His never lost his enthusiasm and courage - qualities he needed in abundance in 1987 when the October hurricane felled more than 800 trees in the woodland garden, destroying the canopy that shielded the under-story of acid-loving shrubs. It seemed at first that all the family's work in building the garden over 90 years had been wiped out overnight, but he and his wife Carolyn, whom he married in 1953, were determined to clear the mess and restore the plantings.

The fallen timber had to be manhandled out of the garden and the resulting bonfire continued day and night for two and a half years. Today the garden is well on the way to restoration, partly through the great generosity of friends in donating new trees and shrubs, in the true spirit of gardening camaraderie that Hardy so valued and exemplified.

Carolyn Hardy, too, is well known in the world of horticulture and is a vice-president and former chairman of the National Gardens Scheme: Sandling was one of the original gardens opened to visitors for charity when the scheme was launched in 1927. The couple made a splendid team in all aspects of their lives. They had two daughters, and Hardy was gratified that both have followed in their parents' footsteps, one managing the estate farm with her husband, the other working in Sandling's walled garden.

He had an engaging, teasing sense of humour. Among his fellow enthusiasts he would introduce himself as "the gardener from Siberia" - a reference to the notorious weather conditions at Sandling. But he would never have considered leaving it. The estate was the focus of his life's activities and achievements, and he loved it with an enduring intensity.

Gerald Alan Hardy, plantsman: born Sandling, Kent 4 April 1926; married 1953 Carolyn Evanson (two daughters); died 4 February 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week