Celebrating 40 years in horticulture at Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Demonstration and display supervisor Pete Kerley has been presented with a medal by the Royal Horticultural Society after 40 years of service to the horticultural profession.
Pete began working at the garden as a trainee in 1976, but even before then he was planning a career there.
He said: “I decided at the age of 11 that I wanted a career in horticulture. I started working on a local market garden holding and when I got to 15 they had just started doing something called work experience. They said where do you want to go, and I said the Botanic Garden. I came here for a week.
“I think I was the first work experience lad they had. I was given a day or two in several sections. I remember leaf raking and tamping down in the glass houses.
“I suppose there’s not many people who know what they want to do when they’re at school, but I was fairly set.”
Pete, who grew up in Swavesey, said he took an interest in plants from a young age. He said: “We had quite a large garden at home in which we planted mostly vegetables and I had a couple of yards for myself where I had some strawberry plants from my cousin, who was a fruit grower.”
When Pete started working at the Botanic Garden it was free to enter. People could apply for keys to enter the garden on Sundays.
At that time, the Winter Garden was one of very few in the country. Pete said: “We’re always thought to be one of the pioneers of winter gardens. This one was developed in 1977-78, just after I arrived, and I was working along with the garden supervisor who had a lot of artistic flair. As a young lad I was there planting for it, and as time went on he allowed me to plant among his original design.”
Pete says the Winter Garden is his favourite area, bordered by his favourite plant, a winter-flowering daphne. He has introduced it to the glasshouse for its scent, which complements the orchids now on display.