Peter John Seabrook, one of gardening’s most influential communicators, an exceptional plantsman and champion of horticulture, died on 14 January aged 86
Peter Seabrook was raised at Galleywood, near Chelmsford in Essex and began growing plants while still a young child. At the age of 16 he went to work for Cramphorn, then an agricultural marketing company, and then spent two years gaining a diploma in horticulture at Writtle College, before being called up for national service. On his return he developed his career by becoming a Director at Cramphorn and then working for peat company, Bord na Mona.
In the late 1960s Peter Seabrook began to pursue his freelance career as a horticultural journalist and presenter following his first appearances on television with a weekly slot about vegetable gardening on Pebble Mill at One. In 1976 he succeeded Percy Thrower as the chief presenter of BBC Gardeners’ World. For 20 years he also intermittently presented the American public television programme The Victory Garden, which began in 1975. He became so familiar to the American audience that he reported being mobbed by American tourists at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
His first book was Shrubs for your Garden
(1973), but his biggest success was with the Dig This! Vegetable Guide
(1975), which sold nearly a million copies and was eventually revised as Peter Seabrook’s Complete Vegetable Gardener
. He also wrote books on trees, garden plants generally, garden design, and Starting from Scratch
(2004), a manual on reclaiming derelict gardens. Peter Seabrook was a regular contributor to many gardening publications and in 1977 began a weekly column as gardening correspondent for The Sun
In this capacity he exercised an immense influence on domestic gardening and during his 45 years with The Sun
he wrote more than 2,300 columns and never missed a deadline. At the same time he did not shrink from controversy, and his views on the use of peat in particular embroiled him in long debates.
For many decades Peter Seabrook was a regular exhibitor at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
and facilitated many displays with The Sun
and latterly with other seed and young plant companies promoting new and exciting plants. He also managed the Floral Fantasia displays at RHS Garden Hyde Hall
, Essex which have become a popular attraction at the garden.
A strong supporter of charities and gardening in schools, Peter Seabrook championed initiatives that introduced many children to the joys of growing plants and learning where their food came from. He was also involved with many organisations and was presented with numerous accolades including the RHS Associate of Honour in 1995 and the Victoria Medal of Honour in 2002. In 2005 he became an MBE. He was a founder of the Garden Media Guild, created in 1991, and in 1993 he became the first recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Peter Seabrook and his late wife Margaret were held in great affection by the gardening world, and plants named after them include the verbenas Glandularia SEABROOK’S LAVENDER
(‘Sealav’) and ‘Margaret’s Memory
’, the sales of which support the Alzheimer’s Society.