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Plant Journeys: An Evening with Naoko Abe, Jamie Compton and Chris Lane

An evening of talks celebrating two new books exploring the historic journeys of plants native to Asia.

In our first talk of the evening, author of ‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms, Japanese journalist Naoko Abe tells the irresistible story of Japanese cherry blossoms, threatened by political ideology and saved by an unknown Englishman. Abe’s book was selected as Radio 4’s Book of the Week and has been the horticultural hit of the spring.

Collingwood Ingram, known as ‘Cherry’ for his defining obsession, fell in love with cherry blossoms, or sakura, after visiting Japan in 1902 and dedicated much of his life to their cultivation and preservation. Ingram became shocked to see the loss of local cherry diversity, driven by modernisation and neglect. Over decades, he became one of the world’s leading cherry experts and shared the joy of sakura both nationally and internationally. Every spring we (and Japan) enjoy his legacy.

For our second talk, Jamie Compton and Chris Lane, authors of Wisteria: The Complete Guide (The RHS Horticultural Monograph on all species and cultivars of Wisteria) reveal the fascinating horticulture, botany and history of perhaps the most glamorous and spectacular of all hardy garden plants.

From the depiction of wisterias in Oriental art through the ages to the introduction of wisterias to cultivation, Compton (former head gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden, and one of Britain’s leading botanists) and Lane (runs Witch Hazel Nursery in Kent, college lecturer, serves on the RHS Woody Plant Committee) share advice on cultivation, propagation and dramatic ways to use wisterias in gardens.

Speaker bios

  • Naoko Abe

    Naoko Abe

    Naoko Abe is a Japanese journalist and non-fiction writer. She was the first female political writer to cover the prime minister's office, the foreign ministry and the defence ministry at Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan's largest newspapers. Her biography of Collingwood Ingram in Japanese won the prestigious Nihon Essayist Club Award in 2016. She has now written an adaptation of the book for English-language readers.

  • James Compton

    James Compton

    James Compton did a PhD at the University of Reading on Actaea. He was head gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden and has served on the RHS Horticultural Board and Herbaceous Plant Committee. He is currently working on the relationships of Wisteria and allied genera.

  • Chris Lane

    Chris Lane

    Chris Lane runs Witch Hazel Nursery in Kent, maintaining five National Plant Collections. He has worked as a college lecturer, serves on the RHS Woody Plant Committee, and has been president of the International Plant Propagators’ Society. He is author of Witch Hazels (RHS / Timber Press 2005).