Alan Titchmarsh presents award to Harpenden plantswoman

CONSERVATION charity Plant Heritage has conferred its top honour on a Harpenden woman who holds three national collections.

Margaret Easter, of Wroxham Way, received The Brickell Award at the Hampton Court Flower Show on Monday following the opening of the Plant Heritage marquee by gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh who is president of the conservation group (pictured above).

She has been growing and researching thymus (thyme) for 20 years and her collection was awarded scientific status in 2004. She also holds smaller national collections of the herbs savory and hyssop.

The Brickell Award, which Margaret only learned she was receiving a week earlier, is presented annually in recognition of outstanding work being undertaken by a national plant collection holder with scientific status.

Professor Mike Alder, chairman of Plant Heritage, said: “Our distant ancestors recognised the medicinal and culinary value of thyme and it has been in use and cultivation for several thousand years. As a result there is a bewildering complexity of naming and misidentification.

“Margaret has made a very major contribution to unravelling this and putting the study of thymus on a sound scientific basis. The Brickell Award is a tribute to her dedication, energy and sheer determination over many years to develop mankind’s knowledge of this important herb.”

Margaret’s collection includes examples of species from the UK and Europe as well as cultivars and there are around 250 in total. She is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on the genus and is a prolific publisher of research into the nomenclature, care and cultivation of thymus.

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In 2006 she was invited to Beijing by the Chinese Academy of Forestry and Beijing Forestry University as adviser for their project to introduce thymus species and cultivars to China.

In addition to her many academic publications, Margaret has written The Thyme Handbook for Plant Heritage.

Margaret said this week: “The medal is absolutely gorgeous and it recognises the work I have done. You have to go the extra mile with with your scientific status to receive it.”

n Margaret is opening her garden at 23 Wroxham Way in aid of the RNLI from 2pm to 5.30pm this Sunday, July 10. Admission is �2 and plants will be on sale.