Home Features Gardens to Visit Lady Anne Berry the lady who donated Rosemoor to the RHS

Lady Anne Berry the lady who donated Rosemoor to the RHS

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The establishment of RHS Rosemoor in North Devon was the vision of a remarkable plantswoman who transformed the estate from a dairy farm to a famous and much loved RHS garden.

Lady Anne Berry, who gave her house, its garden and 32 acres of pasture, Rosemoor in north Devon, to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1988, has died at the age of 99. She had lived long enough to see RHS Rosemoor become one of the most important public gardens in the UK and closely followed its growth over the past decades.

Jon Webster, Curator, RHS Garden Rosemoor said: “We celebrate our 30th anniversary next year, and it is sad to think that Lady Anne will not be joining us. Without her amazing generosity and skill as a renowned plantswoman RHS Garden Rosemoor would not exist. We are incredibly grateful to her for her foresight and vision in giving her treasured garden to the RHS.”

“I will miss receiving Lady Anne’s regular emails in which we chatted about certain plants within her garden. She had a very good memory as to where things were planted and the stories behind them, and was always keen to know how they were thriving or in some cases, sadly not. She always wanted to know about our successes in winning tourism awards or attracting visitors, and was proud that the garden she started was being loved and enjoyed by so many like-minded people.”

Lady Anne Walpole was born in 1919; her father was the fifth (and last) Earl of Orford, Robert Horace Walpole. The first Earl of Orford, Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745) became Britain’s first prime minister in 1721; generations of the family have remained an established part of the British political, cultural and literary world. 

In 1923, Lady Anne’s father bought Rosemoor (originally part of the Rolle estate) as a salmon fishing lodge. In the 1930s, the Stone Garden was created by Lady Anne’s mother using various artefacts from antique shops in Bideford. The lions on the grinding stone and in the wall are believed to be some sort of Rolle emblem. Lady Anne lived with her mother at Rosemoor until World War II when the house was used by the Red Cross as a refuge from the bombing for evacuees from London’s East End. In 1939, she married Colonel Eric Palmer (who died in 1980) and her early married life was spent ‘camp following’ the regiment. 

Lady Anne returned to Rosemoor in 1945 with her family and for a number of years ran the estate as a dairy farm. In 1959, while in Spain recuperating from measles she met the plant collector and gardener Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram of Benenden in Kent, an authority on Japanese flowering cherries; he was a great gardening influence on her and helped her to start a plant collection at Rosemoor. 

She became a wonderful plantswoman, collecting seeds and plants from all over the world to create the amazing garden and arboretum at Rosemoor in Great Torrington. Her extensive travels allowed her to see plants in their natural habitats; she became skilled at propagating material collected during these trips and from the cuttings and seeds made available to her by fellow enthusiasts. In the 1960s Lady Anne joined the RHS and was soon invited to judge woody plants and new introductions. She was also a Founder Member of the NCPPG (now known as Plant Heritage). 

In 1988, after being awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the RHS and appointed a Fellow of the RHS, she donated Rosemoor House, the garden and around 32 acres of pastureland to the RHS and in June 1990 RHS Rosemoor opened to the public.  After leaving Rosemoor she moved to New Zealand with her second husband and fellow plantsman Bob Berry where she extended the arboretum at Hackfalls, Tinoroto to 3,000 rare trees and shrubs over 120 acres.

Lady Anne had kept abreast with all the developments at Rosemoor, from its beginnings to the great variety of different areas to see now, from the rose gardens and long borders, to the Hot Garden which contrasts with the new Cool Garden, the Winter Garden, the Potager and Cottage Garden, the Exotic Garden, the Cherry Garden, the Mediterranean Garden and many other different areas including The Stumpery, woodland and the Woodland Garden, meadows, bog garden, lake, play areas, the learning centre, plant centre and shop.

An autumn visit to RHS Rosemoor should take in the autumn colours of the Bicentenary Arboretum and Lady Anne’s Arboretum which she began in earnest in the mid-1970s, raising many of the trees from seed and keeping a meticulous record of the collection. 

The events planned to mark RHS Rosemoor’s anniversary in 2020 include a Garden Party Weekend in June, followed by family events throughout the summer as well as an exhibition celebrating Lady Anne’s life and how Rosemoor has changed in that time.

RHS Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH.
Tel: 01805 624067 www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Rosemoor

RHS Rosemoor is open every day except Christmas Day, October to March 10am-5pm, and daily 10am until 6pm April-September.

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