2024 RHS Veitch Memorial Medal Awarded to Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke of Borde Hill

It was announced on 28th March, that Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke of Borde Hill, West Sussex, have been awarded the RHS Veitch Memorial Medal in recognition for their work in Horticulture. The Veitch Memorial Medal, instituted in 1870, is awarded to individuals of any nationality who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the science and practice of horticulture.
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Borde Hill Garden is set within 383 acres of grade II* heritage parkland in West Sussex which has been owned by the Stephenson Clarke family for over 130 years. Today’s achievement follows in the footsteps of Col. Stephenson R. Clarke, who received the celebrated Veitch Memorial Medal in 1944 for his achievements in advancing and improving horticulture. He sponsored numerous plant hunting expeditions around the world to provide seeds planted at Borde Hill that resulted in its internationally important botanical collection.

Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke moved to Borde Hill in 1988 after the sudden death of Robert S Clarke aged 62 in 1987, just after the October hurricane. For 35 years both have devoted their time and effort to enhance and conserve the collection of trees and shrubs at Borde Hill.

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Andrewjohn trained as a civil engineer and Eleni as a geologist. Eleni was encouraged to do a horticultural course at Brinsbury College and further training at Plumpton College. She built a good network with other gardens and attractions in Sussex, including helping to form the Great Gardens of Sussex and Experience Mid Sussex.

Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson ClarkeAndrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke
Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke

In 1988 the Garden felt neglected and tired, and their first goal was to enhance and extend the colour into the summer months and autumn. Borde Hill was mainly a spring garden and by 6th of June the colour would have mainly finished but would have attracted about 8,000 visitors a year.They employed established designers from Robin Williams the senior for the Rose Garden, Dr Tony Lord for the Mid-Summer Border and James Alexander Sinclair for the borders by the House, Sophie Walker for the Round Dell and Chris Beardshaw for the design of the herbaceous border in the Paradise Walk and Italian Garden.

They also extended the opening from 3 to 7 days a week and from February till November so that in recent years the most visitors have been over 80,000 a year. They continued to open for National Garden Scheme each year as the garden was one of the inaugural gardens to open for the charity on Whit Sunday in 1927.

When Sir Ralph Stephenson Clarke made the garden into a charity in 1965 it included a garden council with members from the RHS, Cambridge Botanic Garden, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew & Edinburgh, and others and they carry on the friendship and exchanging some plants with these and others such as JC Williams and Lord Howick.

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Year on year enhancements to more areas of the Garden and introductions of new planting continue, so in 2018 they planted 50 new magnolias in the Gardiner's Grove with the help of Jim Gardiner, a council member and keen supporter of the garden. Another 80 magnolias were subsequently planted across the garden and woodland. Last year 130 new cherry trees were planted plus thousands of bulbs.

Award Winners - Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson ClarkeAward Winners - Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke
Award Winners - Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke

Andrewjohn & Eleni are supported by the enthusiasm of their Head of Horticulture to propagate the collection, especially the rare and unusual trees and shrubs.

In 1997 the Garden received an HLF grant to extend some plantings and repair some of the Victorian Greenhouses which are used for exhibiting plants and propagation.

Andrewjohn being the 4th generation of Stephenson Clarke to live at Borde Hill is keen to pass his, and Eleni’s, enthusiasm for the Garden to his daughter Jay and son Harry. Jay has moved into the House with her family and is the MD of Borde Hill Garden & Events and Harry is involved in Estate matters.

Borde Hill is open daily until 22nd December. Find out more at: www.bordehill.co.uk

Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP

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