Savile Park’s crocus creator and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens curator, dies aged 84

Crocuses near the moor, Savile Park, taken by Mrs Pat Hubbard.

Crocuses near the moor, Savile Park, taken by Mrs Pat Hubbard.

The man behind the annual beautiful blooming of crocuses in Halifax’s Savile Park has passed away at the age of 84.

Son of a master butcher, Brian Halliwell, was born in Halifax in 1929. He grew up in his family Manor Drive home and attended nearby Heath Grammar School.

After leaving school, Mr Halliwell trained at Halifax Parks Department and was responsible for establishing Halifax’s annual display of crocuses and for planting hundreds of trees in Shibden and People’s Park.

The horticulturist went on the work at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens before travelling south to work as an assistant curator at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, London.

During his 20 years at Kew, Brian oversaw ornamental bedding and the replanting of the Queen’s Garden.

Mr Halliwell potted controversy in Kew’s subtropical planting in the parterre at Palm House when he planted a bedding scheme composed entirely of edible plants.

In the 1970s, he was responsible for amenity planting - helping pioneer mass planting of one plant and one colour per bed.

Mr Halliwell sought pastures new and worked in botany all over the world.

As a teacher to generations of horticultural students, Mr Halliwell taught gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

In retirement he continued to give talks to people interested in horticulture and wrote books on the subject including: ‘Three Centuries of Garden Lists’.

After a long and illustrious career in horticulture, he returned to his hometown of Halifax where he joined the local Antiquarian Society and Historic Buildings Society. Each year, he took pleasure in attending Halifax Choral Society’s performance of Handel’s Messiah at Victoria Theatre.

Mr Halliwell’s funeral will be held on Monday at 10am at St Jude’s Church, Savile Park, Halifax.

Mr Halliwell’s lifetime achievements include:

In 1989, before he retired from Kew, he won a gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show.

Upon overseas plant hunting expeditions in China, Japan and Tasmania, Mr Halliwell was responsible for many plants introductions including Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ named to commemorate the original royal palace built in 1631.

He spent eight years in New Zealand with Christchurch Botanic Gardens where he developed his interest in Alpine flora and lectured on this in Australia, Tasmania, Japan, North America and Europe.

Mr Halliwell tended the Bonsai collection of the Emperor of Japan.

He worked in Rothschild’s gardens in France.

The successful horticulturist became an associate of honour of the Royal Horticulture and served for many years as a Chelsea Flower Show judge - meeting the Queen on several occasions.

Part of his legacy is the recent establishment of a prize for the best student period plant portfolio as part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Diploma course in Garden History in association with the Garden History Society.




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