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Lives and Legacies: Hugh Johnson

Hugh has been scribbling about gardens and gardening as “Trad(escant)’ since he started The Garden magazine for the RHS in 1975. For fifteen years he was editorial director, also co-founding The Plantsman.

In 1973 he wrote The International Book of Trees, and rewrote it 40 years later, when, as he says, ‘I knew what I was talking about’. Hence its new title Trees – A Lifetime’s Journey through Forests, Woods and Gardens. Then In 1979 came his prodigious The Principles of Gardening. Penelope Hobhouse called it ‘the one gardening book I couldn’t be without’.

Hugh has donated to the Archive a collection of manuscripts of his books, his Trad’s Diary and his articles for the New York Times. This evening he and Christopher Woodward will draw on them to recall forty years of gardening progress, from the dire situation in 1974 when professional gardeners thought the end was nigh to a time when more ambitious gardens are being made than in the nineteenth century.


  • Hugh Johnson

    Hugh Johnson

    Hugh Johnson is known worldwide for his wine books (The World Atlas of Wine, The Story of Wine and his annual – since 1977 – Pocket Wine Book). Gardeners may know him better for his great book on Trees (first published in 1973, revised as Trees – A Lifetime’s Journey through Forests, Woods and Gardens in 2010.

    Hugh was responsible for converting the old Journal of the R.H.S. into The Garden in 1975, and a few years later, with David McClintock, founding The Plantsman. His magnum opus, The Principles of Gardening, was published in 1979. Penelope Hobhouse wrote of it ‘If I could only have one gardening book this would be it’. His monthly gardening column, now blog, Trad’s Diary started as his editorial in The Garden, giving a more personal voice to the R.H.S. organ. Naturally when the Tradescant Trust was founded two years later he was an early supporter.

    Over 42 years ‘Trad’ has chronicled and commented on plant and garden fashions and personalities and a miscellany of ideas. When he was appointed an O.B.E. in 2006 it was for ‘contribution to wine-making and horticulture’. He has spent more time on the latter.