Gardening Talks

Horticulturist Caradoc Doy is available as a gardening speaker and garden tour guide. Caradoc is a gardening storyteller revealing many fascinating stories behind the plants and histories within interesting and beautiful gardens. Caradoc travels widely throughout the British Isles and is based in the estuary town of Topsham, near Exeter which is ideally situated to guide groups around some of the stunning south west gardens.

Please contact Caradoc with your booking dates and tour enquiries.

Gardening Talks

Caradoc also travels widely to give interesting gardening talks and demonstrations. Listed below is his current list of illustrated talks. He is also happy to talk on a wide range of other gardening subjects if requested in advance, and is sometimes available at short notice to cover for illnesses or cancellations.

Please contact Caradoc for rates and availability.

'Between 1840 and 1912, the nurseries of James Veitch & Sons sent 23 plant collectors to numerous countries discovering hundreds of new plants we still grow today.'

Plant Hunters & Pioneers

This talk is a brief history of a remarkable nursery which sent twenty-three plant collectors to many countries, mainly during the Victorian period.

William and Thomas Lobb, Richard Pearce, John Gould Veitch and Peter Veitch, Frederick Burbidge, Charles Maries, Ernest Wilson and others all worked for the Veitch nurseries of Exeter and Chelsea.

This talk highlights some of the well-known and interesting varieties introduced by these pioneering plant hunters who discovered many hundreds of new species.

So successful were they that there is scarcely a garden in the British Isles that does not contain a plant derived from their introductions.

Blue Orchid & Big Tree
Blue Orchid & Big Tree

The Lobb Brothers and Their Famous Plants

Two intrepid Cornish brothers, William and Thomas Lobb were such successful plant collectors that most gardens or homes can boast of containing a 'Lobb plant'.

William (1809-1863), travelled widely in South and North America, bringing many well-known plants to the British Isles including the Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), while Thomas (1820-1894) collected plants in Singapore, Java, India, Malaya, Borneo and the Philippines for the new fashion of greenhouse-growing.

Because he has so much information on the Lobb brothers, Caradoc can also offer talks on either William or Thomas separately.

Caradoc has recently contributed a section to a book about the Lobb brothers, Blue Orchid & Big Tree by Sue Shephard and Toby Musgrave, published in 2014.

Copies available from Caradoc Doy.

"Many thanks for coming to talk to us. You gave us a fascinating insight into the life of Charles Darwin, what intrepid explorers they were in those days. We appreciated your relaxed style which was both interesting and educational with your amusing anecdotes thrown in."

Charles Darwin's Famous Plants

In December 1831, HMS Beagle set sail from Plymouth on what was to be one of the most important scientific voyages of the century.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was not first choice as naturalist for this important trip.

However, his work and insights led him to discover many new and important plants, and his journal of the voyage established him as a popular author.

This talk illustrates some of his most interesting botanical finds, details his experiments with plants and tells some stories of his trip.




Lilium regale

Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson

Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930) was one of the greatest ever plant collectors. His first two, highly successful trips to China were on behalf of James Veitch & Sons of Chelsea.

Later he moved to America to work at Harvard University.

The primary objective of his first trip was in search of the Dove Tree (the 'Pocket-handkerchief tree' Davidia involucrata) but he also discovered 400 new plants including Lilium regale (pictured).

His many discoveries earned him the title 'Chinese' Wilson and he went on to botanise in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India and Africa. By the end of his career he had introduced approximately 1,000 previously unknown plants.


Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii'

Charles Maries, The Plant Collector

Charles Maries (1850-1902) was from Warwickshire and introduced many well-known garden plants from his trip to Japan, China and Taiwan between 1877 to 1879.

He kept an interesting journal of his adventures and many of his finds, such as Abies mariesii, Davallia mariesii, Hydrangea macrophylla 'Mariesii', Platycodon grandiflorum 'Mariesii' and Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii' (pictured), bear his name.


Begonia boliviensis

Richard Pearce, The Plant Collector

Plymouth-born Richard Pearce collected plants in South America including the lovely Azara microphylla, Eucryphia glutinosa, Hippeastrums and the gorgeous orchid Masdevallia veitchiana, which was found growing at an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,600m).

Today's tuberous begonias are descended from Begonia boliviensis (pictured), introduced by Pearce. This talk illustrates other finds of his from Chile, Patagonia, Peru and Bolivia.


Mount Fuji-Yama

John Gould Veitch, The Plant Collector

In 1861, John Gould Veitch (1839-1870) was the first official Western plant collector allowed into Japan and given the honour of ascending Mount Fuji-yama, where he found some important new plants.

Although his movements were strictly controlled, he was still able to send home many plants previously unknown outside Japan including maples, lilies, and attractive conifers which were received with great excitement.

Later he collected further ornamental plants from Japan, the Philippine Islands, Australia and the South Sea Islands.



Calanthe Veitchii

The Story of Veitch Orchids

Nineteen of the Veitch nurseries' twenty-three plant hunters collected new orchids.

As well as developing an important Orchidaceae collection, one of the firm's horticultural firsts was the creation of the world's first official orchid hybrid.

This was achieved by John Dominy, who is credited with raising (1854) and flowering (1856) Calanthe Dominii and many others, including Calanthe Veitchii (pictured).

His success led to the breeding of hundreds of new orchids as well as the establishment of a new branch of horticulture, highly controversial in Victorian Britain where it was regarded as 'tampering with nature.'

He taught his hybridising method to his colleague John Seden, who is credited with raising over 500 new orchids.

This talk follows the efforts of Veitch's plant collectors in searching out new species, the early development of Veitch orchids and the awards they generated.


The Peace Olive Branch

The Olive

The olive is a powerful 'Tree of Peace' and has long been associated with immortality, having a strong symbolic and spiritual significance throughout history. Caradoc has been growing olives in the UK since the early 1990s and has brought the variety Olea europaea 'Peace' into cultivation.

In recent years olive trees have gained in popularity as an ornamental garden plant. Interestingly, the oldest olive in Britain is now over 100 years old.

This talk recounts some of the stories connected with the olive through the ages and outlines its uses and symbolism.

Caradoc also gives advice on growing olive trees in the British Isles today.


"In 1912 Sir Harry Veitch played a leading role in organising a one-off show... which later morphed into the Chelsea Flower Show and became the first horticulturist to be knighted."

Sir Harry & The Nurseries of James Veitch & Sons

Sir Harry James Veitch F.L.S. V.M.H. (1840-1924), was involved with the famous nursery dynasty of James Veitch & Sons' from an early age.

During his lifetime, he witnessed the sending out of all of the twenty-three Veitch plant collectors. In fact he sent twelve of the explorers out himself under instruction to search out and return interesting plants for British gardens and greenhouses.

Many of these plants are still in our gardens today.

Sir Harry was an extraordinary botanist, horticulturist and businessman and a generous supporter of gardening charities and the Royal Horticultural Society.

In 1912 he played a leading role in securing the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea for the first Royal International Horticultural Exhibition to be held in Britain since 1866, served on many committees and was knighted in the same year for his outstanding contribution to horticulture.

The following year the Royal Horticultural Society used the same venue for the Great Spring Show, better known today as the Chelsea Flower Show.






















Last updated 8th August 2016

Gardening Talks with Caradoc

Caradoc is a gardening storyteller. As well as discussing important personalities, plant collectors and beautiful plants, his talks also give an insight into the social history of the time. His talks appeal to the gardener and non-gardener alike. Caradoc travels widely throughout the British Isles giving talks and garden tours.

The South West of England contains some of the country's most beautiful gardens.

Enjoy them more on a guided tour with Caradoc Doy.

Veitch Historian

Caradoc has been researching the history of the Veitch Nurseries of Exeter & Chelsea for many years and is available for bookings to give illustrated talks about this remarkable family business and their plant hunters.

Growing Olives in the British Isles

Olive Tree

European Olive - Olea europaea 'Peace'.

Caradoc has been growing olive trees since about 1990 and introduced a tough variety into cultivation Olea europaea 'Peace,' also known as the Peace Olive.

Currently stock is very limited. Please make contact should you be interested in a Peace Olive tree.

Online Shop

Click here to see a range of items for sale from Caradoc Doy including the re-print of Hortus Veitchii, olive tree feed and greetings cards.

Please visit the online shop for that special gift.

Useful Links

Some useful links to some of the world's leading botanic gardens, plant societies, garden history societies and horticultural associations.

Caradoc Doy ~ Devon-based Horticulturist, Veitch Historian, Garden Consultant and Garden Tour Guide