Tom Hart Dyke has a bit of a thing about plants. You might call it an obsession. You might call him certifiable, in fact. But it's a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large ramshackle country estate and an obsession with plant collecting could want for only one thing - in Tom's case it's a walled garden containing examples of plants collected from every corner of the globe. Tom's infectious enthusiasm for anything with chlorophyll in it and the hugely ambitious World Garden project he has undertaken at his family home, Lullingstone Castle, in Kent are currently being documented in a 12-part television series for BBC 2. The first six parts ("Save Lullingstone Castle") were shown in spring 2006, and the second six episodes ("Return to Lullingstone Castle") will go out in spring 2007 to coincide with publication. Tom's attempts to set up the World Garden aren't exactly straightforward. For example, you might imagine that the easiest way to start preparing the ground inside the walled Elizabethan garden, which he transforms into the main part of the world garden would be to enlist the help of a few people and a lot of hard digging.
Well not for Tom, who enlists instead two large pigs, who do indeed do a great job of turning over the earth and fertilising it with great organic manure. But the problem is that they keep escaping into the Hart Dyke family burial plot next door where they start digging up Tom's ancestors...The point of the WorldGarden is to both to bring together a truly amazing collection of plants from every continent and so to show the global origins of the plants we all grow in our gardens. It's already establishing itself as a tourist attraction of some note as well as an educational resource. This is a book for all those who bought Tim Smit's "Lost Gardens of Heligan". It's stuffed full of fascinating botanical information as well as the story of Tom's hapless struggle to overcome huge logistical nightmares. It's a riveting, hilarious story of English eccentricity in full bloom.
Tom Hart Dyke is a plant collector whose enthusiasm for orchids led him to the Darien Gap in Central America where he was captured (with his travelling companion Paul Winder) by FARC guerrillas and held hostage for nine months. They book of their experiences, The Cloud Garden, was a Sunday Times bestseller in hardback.