The Caerhays Garden Diary has been contributed to by four people. For more history of the Caerhays Estate, Caerhays Castle Gardens and the contributors themselves please view the Caerhays website or read ‘Caerhays Castle’ by Charles Williams published by Pasticcio in 2011.
Charles H Williams
Charles the current owner and curator of Caerhays Gardens and lives in the castle with his wife, Lizzy. He also owns Burncoose Nurseries; a retail internet plant mail order business based on part of the Caerhays Estate near Redruth. Burncoose exhibits at Chelsea Flower Show each year. He is a committee member of the RHS Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group and has published articles on magnolias and other ornamental plant collections at Caerhays. Charles started writing in the Garden Diary in February 2015 and now adds ongoing daily pictorial insights into the garden and estate.
F Julian Williams (father of Charles H Williams)
Julian inherited Caerhays in 1955 and taught himself about the botanical importance and history of the garden from the Caerhays archive and reference books. In his tenure in the 1960s and 1970s many of the rhododendron species collected in China 50 to 60 years earlier came into their prime. Julian also produced a number of new magnolia hybrids and laid the foundations of what was to become, in 2011, a Plant Heritage National Collection of Magnolias. After 2007 the onset of alzheimers prevented him continuing the diary.
Charles Williams (great uncle of Charles H Williams)
Charles took over Caerhays in 1939 at the start of the war and much of his time was spent at the House of Commons as an MP and Privy Councillor. Charles was however a keen hybridiser of rhododendrons and spent much of his spare time at Caerhays with a scythe rescuing the garden from wartime neglect. His entries in the diary from 1940 record his competitiveness in flower shows and his knowledge of plants.
John Charles Williams (known as JC and great grandfather of Charles H Williams)
JC started writing in The Garden diary in 1897. The early entries record his interest in daffodil breeding. Between 1902 and 1932 the diary describes the arrival of vast numbers of Chinese species of rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and other ornamental trees and shrubs which were then unknown in Western Europe. Seeds of these new species were sent back by the great plant hunters, George Forrest and Ernest Wilson, whose expeditions were sponsored either wholly or as part of syndicates by JC. The diary records some of the planting out and first flowerings at Caerhays of many of these plants. These were exciting times to be gardening at Caerhays but JC was an intensely private person who disliked publicity of any sort and would probably be horrified to see his personal account of the garden here being made available for all to see. JC was a founder member of The Garden Society in 1932 and the Rhododendron Society in 1916. The latter celebrates its centenary in 2016 as the RHS Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group. JC’s obituary, written for the RHS Garden Journal, can be read on the Caerhays website.
During the period over which The Garden diary was written there have been only four head gardeners at Caerhays. They are mentioned frequently in the diary:
John Martin 1897-1922
Charles Michael 1922-1956
Philip Tregunna 1956-1996
Jaimie Parsons 1996-