Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Horticulture Week Custodian Award

Winner - David Richardson, DIrector of Horticulture, Commonwealth War Graves Commission

As director of horticulture at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission David Richardson is responsible for the commission’s worldwide delivery of the highest standards of amenity horticulture in every continent other than Antarctica, in some of the most challenging climatic zones and always under the scrutiny of a global audience. With more than 850 gardeners and horticulturists working across more than 700 hectares, there is no doubt that Richardson has a big job.

Richardson joined the CWGC following a degree in horticulture at Bath University and has worked in various roles during 32 years with the organisation, finally securing his dream role of director of horticulture in 2013.

The commission celebrated its centenary in 2017 and now has the challenges of maintenance of what is now an historic global estate. Richardson led the drive to implement a Heritage Strategy and has subsequently also led the roll out of a conservation-based approach to landscape, using Conservation Management Plans to ensure the whole team fully understands the significance of the estate under its care and plans and works with this being core to everyone’s thinking.

Richardson has led a review of the global horticultural operations which is delivering annual operational savings in Europe of over £1.5 million. He has rewritten the global standards and specifications for horticultural maintenance and implemented for the first time a global Quality Performance marking system used to measure and assess these standards. These provide assurance to the Board of the Commission and also give data to the operational teams helping them better manage both staff and resources.

Current projects include a review of chemical and pesticide use worldwide, auditing current usage analysing alternative products and methodologies together with a complete re-evaluation of the need for both chemicals and fertilisers.

During The First World War centenary period from 2014-18 Richardson provided consultancy advice to ceremonial and operational teams worldwide, ensuring that showpiece sites were in the best possible condition and prepared for the huge numbers, service and royal events. In 2017 Richardson worked with David Domoney to design and deliver a silver medal winning garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show to commemorate the CWGC’s centenary. The project brought together masons, carpenters, blacksmiths and gardeners from all over Europe and over 100 volunteers from the commission.

Richardson is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, has represented the South East Branch and the Amenity Horticulture Sector on Council for the past three years and also sits on the Amenity Forum and London Parks Forum. He has also recently become a member of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners Company. His work has appeared in print in Horticulture Week, The Daily Telegraph and Gardens Illustrated and he is an accomplished public speaker. When he talks about his role, Richardson speaks of "the real sense of duty" he and his colleagues feel as custodians of the graves and memorials of 1.7m servicemen and women who died in the two world wars.

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