There are some wonderful botanical watercolours in our exhibition, including one done by the Scottish artist Sydney Parkinson who accompanied Joseph Banks on his trip to the south seas.
Here modern day plant hunter Tom Hart Dyke tells celebrates Parkinson’s story:
I first heard about Sydney Parkinson (1745-1771) many years ago from my granny, who was an inspirational gardener and a watercolourist, as well as a passionate supporter of Parkinson’s work. I had known about Joseph Bankss trip to the Pacific in 1768 with Daniel Solander (who collected plants and animals), but much to my granny’s annoyance, most people have ignored the fact that Parkinson went with them. He was, by all accounts, a very determined man, and would be inundated by the crew with requests for pictures of ants, bugs, centipedes, birds, flowers and landscapes. Sadly, he didn’t survive the expedition and died after contracting dysentery aged only 26. On that trip he drew the Knightia Excelsa or New Zealand Honeysuckle tree (Rewa Rewa is its Maori name). It is an interesting, weird plant from the Proteaceae family. Is it rare in the wild? No, not really. Would it be a top ten plant hunter’s dream to see it in the wild? No, you would probably walk past it. But that’s why I love it. It grows up to 30 metres tall and has coarsely serrated leaves about 10 -15cm long, with velvety yellow and reddish orange flowers. It is monotypic (one of its kind within the genus). Apparently the wood is ideal for cabinet making and the tree is a good source for honey production. It is a total coincidence that we have Knightia Excelsa in Lullingstone garden. I actually got the plant from a nursery in Cornwall. I’ve never been to New Zealand, so I’ve not seen it in its natural habitat, but I will someday.
Tom Hart Dyke is a modern day plant hunter and creator of the World Garden at his family home of Lullingstone Castle, Kent.