John Lonsdale was born in 1959 and raised in Sheffield, England - the home of the world's finest silver cutlery, Sheffield Wednesday, and "The Full Monty". His childhood interests mainly rotated around various sports but definitely didn't include being dragged around numerous rose nurseries every Sunday afternoon. However, the latter must have had a deep but sub-conscious effect, which came back to haunt him later, albeit manifest rather differently. He went to University in Newcastle upon Tyne and gained a Double First Class Honors BSc in Biochemistry & Microbiology and a PhD in Microbiology. After much thought he became a Microbial Biochemist and has spent the past 18 years attempting to discover novel antibiotics in the pharmaceutical industry.
John is married to Eleanor and has three girls, born in 1983, 1985 and 1996. The older ones are very interested in plants ("If I dug that up how much could I sell it for?"). Fortunately the little one seems genuinely interested and was last year heard telling a couple of older ladies at Longwood Gardens about the various events involved in pollination. They were very impressed. "Edgewood" is also home to four beautiful outdoor cats, vital to the integrated pest management that is practiced.
Interest in plants started to surface when John bought a small house with a small garden, following graduation and a move to the south-east of England. 'Alpines' seemed a natural fit and from that day his interest grew. He was a very active member of the Alpine Garden Society and enjoyed growing and showing plants in pots at many of the AGS national and local shows. He was awarded the AGS Gold Merit Medal in 1995. In the UK he specialized in Primulaceae, particularly Dionysia , Primula and Androsace , also cushion saxifrages, and had an interest in hardy bulbs, including a representative collection of Cyclamen . All plants were grown in pots because it facilitated showing them, and greenhouse or cold frame cultivation gave an element of control over growing conditions. In this way it was possible to grow a large number of exciting and challenging plants in a relatively small area, thus overcoming the space limitations of a typical English garden, whilst mitigating against a climate generally unsuited to outdoor cultivation of many choice 'alpine' plants.
The space issue was nullified with a move to the USA in 1995 and purchase of a property of a little over 1.5 acres in Exton, SE Pennsylvania. The new house and garden came with an added bonus - a wonderful climate for growing in-character hardy plants, especially bulbs, and many other flowering trees and shrubs. The passion for cushion plants was left in the UK as the summer heat and humidity of Exton very firmly tips the balance in favor of their close friends, the opportunistic fungi. Focus switched to 'proper' gardening and the only plants grown in pots in the two greenhouses are seedlings and a few tender plants such as certain Cyclamen species. The garden has matured well after nearly 8 years, and many choice plants have settled in and made an impact, including numerous trees and shrubs. Cyclamen, Corydalis, Narcissus, Crocus, Fritillaria, Iris and Erythronium are favorite bulbs, together with extensive plantings of woodlanders, especially Helleborus, Cypripedium, Hepatica, Epimedium and Trillium . There is also a large and actively propagated collection of Daphne . Propagation is vital to the well-being of any successful garden and John sows in the order of 450 pots of seed each year, mainly from bulbs. After many years, there is still very little to compare with the thrill of seeing a freshly germinated pot of seedlings.
John is an active member of a number of horticultural groups, including the Daphne Society, Alpine Garden Society, Cyclamen Society, North American Rock Garden Society, Scottish Rock Garden Club, AGS Fritillaria Group, The Crocus Group, Aril Society International, the Species Iris Group of North America and several internet-based discussion groups such as Alpine-L. He has contributed articles to the publications of a number of these Societies and also lectured widely about many of the plants mentioned above.
His biggest regret - there just doesn't seem to be anywhere in the garden suitable for roses.........