PETER SEABROOK, The Sun’s legendary gardeningExpert, never forgot the moment he discovered how much fun it was to grow a plant.
Aged just six, he dug a handful of seeds into his grandfather’s wartime allotment and watched them grow into beautiful multi-coloured sweet peas.
The Sun’s legendary gardeningExpert Peter Seabrook and tulips at Hyde Hall
Peter and Queen Kate Kabengle (six) in 2010.
Peter Seabrook in 1976 when he replaced Percy Thrower on Gardeners’ World
And 80 years later, through his Saturday column in The Sun — which he began writing in Silver Jubilee year, 1977 — he was still sharing that passion for plants and vegetables.
Peter taught generations of people how to love their gardens, including three millions of schoolchildren. gardening.
When he started writing for Britain’s biggest daily newspaper Peter was already a worldwide media star, with gardeningShows on American TV and the BBC
He wrote more than 2,300 columns for The Sun over 45 years. He never missed one week.
When he died of a heart attack on Friday, aged 86, he had been making plans to build The Sun’s biggest-ever exhibit at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Her Majesty, who he presented with a posy every year at Chelsea, was one of his biggest fans, along with Beatle George Harrison and acting legend Barbara Windsor — whose gardenHe looked after him.
Marquee bursting full of flowers
Yesterday, tributes were paid to the man they called “the greats of gardening” “Britain’s favourite gardener”.
Peter John Seabrook, son of a tool-grinder in a ball bearing factory, was brought up on his grandfather’s farm at Galleywood, near Chelmsford, Essex.
He discovered that sweet peas could be a profitable business venture.
By the time he was 15, and still at school, he could afford to pay £60 — a fortune in 1951 — to fly from Southend Airport to Holland to visit the world’s biggest flower market, Aalsmeer, near Amsterdam. At 86, he was still making that trip to search for new varieties of plants to share with his readers.
1952 was his first time to Chelsea Flower Show. He left Chelmsford to attend school.
Peter said: “When I went into the marquee full of flowers it just blew me away. I can still remember it as if it was yesterday.”
He graduated from high school with very little education but that didn’t stop him from getting his first job. gardeningWork for a 200-year-old local company that owned 40 pet animals. garden shops.
Peter put his amazing constitution down to those early years when he was digging from 7.30am to 5pm for six days a week — and cycling ten miles a day to and from work.
He quit to take a two-year diploma at the Essex Institute of Agriculture, where he also built up his encyclopaedic knowledge of plants — and also met his wife Margaret, who was on the same course.
Peter purchased his first push-mower while he was in the area. It was a Ran-somes Ajax 12in circular with a half a-100weight.
He was a young man and had to do National Service. He enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps
In 2020, Peter’s wife Margaret succumbed to Alzheimer’s.
Scott Windsor, Peter and Barbara Windsor at Chelsea
Amazingly, nearly 80 years later, he still used that same mower to maintain the two 40 foot lawns at his Chelmsford residence.
Peter was so meticulous about maintaining his lawn, he mowed each section of 12in three times to ensure perfect cuts.
He was a young boy who had to serve National Service. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps to learn two skills that would prove very useful.
Peter said: “They taught me to type and paid for me to go to lessons in floristry.
“Little did I realise that, decades later, I would use those florists’ skills to make posies of flowers I’d grown in my garden to give to the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show.”
After National Service he returned to horticulture, just as Britain’s new gardenThe boom in centres was immediate.
Peter had hoped that he could be his own boss nursery. However, the company rejected his application to convert a 12-acre parcel into an office. gardenCentre was denied
He wasn’t alone to be affected. He often spotted mistakes in a weekly trade magazine and wrote to the editor saying he could do a better job — and was hired.
Peter used the same tactic to get his first radio broadcast. This eventually led to TV. Peter appeared on Saturday afternoon gardeningShow Dig This!
After the booklet was abruptly canceled, Peter was left with 60,000 copies. It was a booklet Peter had bought to accompany a no longer existing TV program.
He was quickly made a regular. gardening expert on 1970s BBC lunchtime show Pebble Mill At One — and Peter craftily called his weekly slot Dig This! which enabled him to sell the books he didn’t sell.
Peter’s biggest TV break came when Percy Thrower, legendary presenter of Gardeners’ World, was sacked for promoting commercial products.
Peter said: “Percy was a gardening god. He’d been presenting the programme for 25 years and they replaced him with a nobody — me. It was like Gary Lineker being taken off Match Of The Day.”
Peter quickly reached eight million people weekly and was the ideal candidate for The Sun’s 1977 search for a new Gardening editor.
His first Sun column was titled ‘Dig This!’Peter said: “By the time I joined The Sun, I had quite a following on TV and radio.
“I couldn’t go anywhere without being asked questions, even on holiday on the beach. It was terrible for my family but it was my job.”
At The Sun he once got 50,000 entries for a competition to win a mower — far more than for a Sun contest to win a Jag.
Peter had a wicked sense humor and once answered an anonymous reader who wanted to know whether Viagra could be used to help with wilting of plants. “There have been reports that it could help, but the cost would be too stiff for general use.”
He also loved telling how he ended up in Barbara Windsor’s bedroom after she had wolf-whistled at him in the street — only to be asked to trim the wild-growing geraniums in her window box.
As well as having fun, Peter took his job seriously and was only person in Britain to hold the three top awards for services to horticulture — the Victoria Medal of Honour, the RHS Associate of Honour and the Harlow Carr Medal. In 2005, he received the MBE for his services to horticulture.
Peter was awarded an MBE in 2005 for his services to horticulture.
Peter with his trusty Ajax mower
Peter’s friend and colleague for 45 years, Sun royal photographer Arthur Edwards, said: “Peter was in his element at Chelsea Flower Show. He took such pride in his exhibitions and they became a firm favourite of the Royal Family. The Queen absolutely adored him and always had a big smile whenever she saw him.”
Peter, from Chelsea, created award-winning Sunflower Street gardens displays.
In 2005 a pair of nesting blackbirds moved into the display, and just as the Queen arrived the birds began slugging it out, making a gaping hole in the top of the display — which amused Her Majesty.
Peter designed a floral pyramid 10ft tall with 10,000 plants for Chelsea 2020.
When Covid forced the show to be cancelled, he rebuilt it at the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at Hyde Hall in Essex, where he sought solace after his wife Margaret’s death from Alzheimer’s the same year.
Since then, Peter has turned the Hyde Hall plot into The Sun’s Floral Fantasia garden, and just before his death he and his assistant Molli Christman planted thousands of bulbs for this summer’s colourful display.
Peter was passionate about fighting against green bins. He encouraged people to grow vegetables. gardenWaste is going to compost. His last column can be viewed on Saturday. It is a campaign against plans for banning peat in. gardening.
“Adored By All”
The Sun’s Editor-in-Chief, Victoria Newton, said: “Just before his death, Peter was helping children at a school in Essex to grow oak saplings from acorns to plant for the Queen’s Jubilee Canopy.
“He was adored by all, from the Royal Family and celebrities to ordinary people who wanted his help to grow plants, even if they had the smallest plot or no gardenNone at all. Peter was their gardener. He will be missed at The Sun office, where his cheerfulness and ability to bring in flowers or apples for us to try and enjoy our days, will be greatly missed.
“Peter was devoted to Margaret, his wife of 60 years who died during lockdown in 2020 after suffering Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia for nine years.
“He created a verbena plant in her memory and raised £7,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society. Our thoughts are with his daughter Alison, son Roger and grandchildren Tom and Rachel.”
Arthur Edwards, his friend, said that: “Peter was a wonderful colleague. A man with the greenest of fingers, he was a thoroughly decent, witty and warm person. He will be much missed.”