Dr Fay Newbery

Fay is a Plant Pathologist, currently focussed on plant disease diagnostics

What do you do?

I work for the RHS in the summer months when the Gardening Advice Service is at its busiest. I really enjoy looking at people’s photographs and plant samples to try and diagnose why their plants aren’t looking healthy. Once the cause is known, we can send out advice on how to treat the problem.

During the winter I spend a lot of time looking for unhealthy wild plants and identifying and recording the fungi that cause plant diseases. I’ve been extending my skills recently into the fungi that cause disease on lichens.

Although I enjoy working with the levels of precision needed by scientists, I also enjoy presenting science to non-specialists through teaching and the production of online materials.

“I’ve always been fascinated by categorising and sorting things. The identification of plants, and the organisms that damage them, makes good use of those skills and gives me immense satisfaction.”

Why is your team’s research important?

When you spend time building a garden, whether it’s as big as Kew Gardens or a pocket of plants on a balcony, you want to see your plants thrive. The Plant Health team’s research, advisory and teaching work helps people to be successful by spreading the word on how to prevent and treat plant health problems.


Undertaking a PhD in my early fifties was one of the highlights of my life. Having your adult children at your graduation is even better than having your parents there. My work on a single disease on oilseed rape gave me the skills I needed to learn about diseases on garden plants.

Find out more about my work as a Plant Pathologist.


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.