Vegetable plant breeder Dawson honoured

Dr Peter Dawson - vegetable plant breeder and managing director of British-based company Tozer Seeds - has been awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH) by the RHS.

The award can only ever be held by 63 people to commemorate the 63 years of Queen Victoria's reign.The award winners must also be British horticulturalists who live in the UK. It is the highest accolade bestowed by the RHS and recognizes outstanding work within horticulture.

Dawson joined four other new recipients of the VMH - former National Trust head gardener and RHS Rosemoor adviser Michael Hickson, Hillier chairman Robert Hillier, Ashwood Nurseries owner John Massey and the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury - at a special event at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show held earlier this month.

Dawson was presented the award by HRH the Countess of Wessex and the new RHS president Elizabeth Banks. He said: "I was very pleased to be awarded the VMH by the RHS in recognition of my efforts as a vegetable plant grower and for the work I have done for the RHS. It is a great honour."

Dawson's work has involved a lifetime of vegetable breeding - as well as voluntary roles within the RHS, such as serving on numerous committees and the main council.

He took over the Tozer Seeds business from his father Dr Dermot Dawson, also an eminent vegetable breeder, and has built up the business from a small local firm to a mediumsized business with several additional international divisions. Tozer Seeds now has a turnover of more than £10m and sales offices in Spain and North America.

Dawson's passion and expertise for plant breeding has resulted in many of the varieties of vegetables we still see on farms and in supermarkets today.

He was solely responsible for breeding the world's first hybrid parsnip and also the first hybrid celery in the UK. Both his Javelin parsnip and Victoria celery remain market leaders today.

The new vegetable Flower Sprout, which was launched in Marks & Spencer stores in February this year, was also the brain-child of Dawson. His vision enabled senior plant breeders at Tozer Seeds to take the product forward, refine it over the intervening years and eventually place it on supermarket shelves.


Dawson's work with the RHS has seen him serve on several committees including the Fruit and Vegetable Committee, Vegetable Trials Committee, Fruit and Vegetable Show Schedule Committee and the Science and Horticultural Advice Committee.

He has remained closely involved with the work of the RHS, holding the position of chairman of the Fruit and Vegetable Committee from 1988 to 2000 and chairman of the Trials Committee from 1987 to 2001.

He was also invited to stand for election to the RHS council, elected in 1989 for a five-year term and re-elected for a further five years before standing down in June 1999. He served on the Audit Committee for 13 years, with the last five as chairman.

In 1996 he was awarded by the Institute of Horticulture for outstanding service to horticulture. He continues to serve on RHS committees and is president of the Cobham Garden & Horticultural Association.

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