Obituary: John Treasure

Bernard John Treasure, plantsman: born Church Stretton, Shropshire 11 February 1911; died Stocktonbury, Hereford and Worcester 19 December 1993.

THE NAME of Treasure is familiar to the gardening public through the famous nursery, Treasures of Tenbury, through the series of glamorous Gold Medal clematis exhibits staged for the Chelsea Flower Show and for Burford House Gardens, on the borders of Worcestershire and Shropshire, daily open to the public from early spring to autumn and a mecca for keen plantsmen. John Treasure, backed up by his two younger brothers, and the old Ludlow-based building firm Treasure and Sons, was the instigator of all this.

He was a Shropshire man, born in Church Stretton, schooled at Uppingham and studying architecture at Bristol University. Working in London for the Ministry of Works during the Second World War, he returned to the family firm, which specialises in the restoration of old houses, as their architect, soon after hostilities ended. He was living in a bungalow on the fringes of Tenbury Wells, with a pack of dachsunds and the friend, Ted Baker, who bred them, when I first met him in July 1952. Characteristically, John was hoeing; he loathed weeds (except in his lawns) and you rarely saw any in his borders.

We were soon visiting gardens together. In 1954, nearby Burford House was up for sale. The three Treasure brothers combined to buy it and John settled there for the rest of his life, bar the last two months. It is an early Georgian, brick building with considerable grounds running down to the River Teme and a tributary stream which joins it there. The characteristic red soil of this area has been enriched by periodic flooding (and the introduction of plenty of extra weed seeds).

Treasure designed a new garden. From upstairs windows the empty beds resembled the fluctuating shapes of amoebas. But not for long. His tastes were eclectic, he had a sharp eye for a good plant and he was immensely interested in planting effectively. Clematis were his and my special interest; we learnt about their propagation from cuttings together (grafting had been the normal commercial practice till very recently). He grew and displayed clematis extremely well, often using them as much as ground cover as to climb over and through shrubs.

This led to the establishment, adjacent to the garden, of the nursery Treasures of Tenbury, from which a great many home-raised clematis were sold, as well as a wide range of shrubs and herbaceous plants. After Ted Baker died, the companion of the rest of Treasure's life until the last year was Johnny Haylock, who predeceased him by only a short while. Haylock had an artistic eye and it was he who staged the award- winning clematis exhibits at Chelsea. Treasure's services to horticulture were such that the RHS awarded him in 1983 the Veitch Memorial Medal (instituted in 1870) for the advancement of science and of horticultural practice.

Latterly, Treasure was in considerable pain from his back (a chronic weakness in hands-on gardeners) and he zoomed silently around his garden in an electrically propelled chair (this was the only driving he ever practised). Uninterested in religion, he was a man of the highest principles and rectitude. Always hardworking himself, he expected others to be so, also, and was the kind of gardener in the habit of leaning on his spade to chat with visitors he referred to as having 'the disease'. He was the warmest of friends, generous and with a great sense of fun.

When Johnny Haylock died, John found living alone pretty intolerable and he moved into his cousin Raymond Treasure's establishment, where he quickly settled down. I chatted with him on the phone only last week and he sounded really relaxed and happy.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing