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Leading botanic lights added to guide

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: May 28, 2009

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WELL–KNOWN Westcountry names from the world of gardening have been added to the pages of a dictionary celebrating the top people in the field through the ages.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography includes information about 56,949 people who have shaped the landscape of the country over the centuries. The print and online tomes are freely available in nearly all libraries across the country.

Devon additions include James Barnes (1806-1877), who was head gardener at Bicton, near Budleigh Salterton. For nearly three decades he was one of the leading professional gardeners of his age.

Lord Rolle employed Mr Barnes at Bicton in 1831, where he worked with hothouse plants and on the lawns and flower beds. He produced seeds from monkey puzzle trees, recently introduced to Britain from South America, and planted an avenue of them at Bicton.

Also included is Edward Solomon Hyams (1910-1975), the pioneer ecological gardener and promoter of British vineyards. In 1960 he acquired a Devon hillside garden at Landscove, which he used as the basis for his book An Englishman's Garden, published in 1967.

The two men join more than 1,000 notable historic figures who also lived in Devon.

The Cornwall contingent includes brothers William Lobb (1809-1863) and Thomas Lobb (1817-1894), as well as John Charles Williams (1861-1939) and Emily Stackhouse (1811-1890).

They join 800 other important people from Cornwall already in the biography.

The Lobb brothers came from Egloshayle and went to school at nearby Wadebridge.

They went on to work in the celebrated Carclew garden of Sir Charles Lemon before joining the Veitch nurseries at Exeter. William was sent on a remarkable three-year expedition to remote parts of South America. He travelled alone in the forests and returned in 1844 with specimens including thousands of monkey puzzle tree seeds.

After a trip to South America, the Veitch firm sent him to the West Coast of North America, from where he sent California redwood seeds. While his discoveries made his employer rich, he died alone and forgotten in San Francisco.

William was sent East, to the Malay peninsula, Burma, and India, where he found specimens of a famed blue orchid. After injuring his leg in the Philippines, he returned to Cornwall where he lived at Devoran, near Truro, a virtual recluse.

John Charles Williams was part of a Cornish landowning and political dynasty who acquired Caerhayes Castle, near St Austell. He was a leading patron of plant- collecting expeditions to China and the Himalayas.

For Emily Stackhouse it was the native plants of Cornwall that held her interest. She grew up at her family's estate at Trehane, Probus. Ms Stackhouse studied the wild flora of the surrounding countryside, which she recorded in beautiful botanical drawings. She died in Truro in 1870.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is also published in print with some 63 million words crammed into 60 volumes.

Both the online and book version are published by Oxford University Press.

The online version can be found at www.oxforddnb.com

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