Harry Hay

Lee Poulsen wpoulsen@pacbell.net
Mon, 19 Jan 2004 00:17:32 PST
Oh my gosh, if you ever get an invitation to visit Harry Hay's gardens, 
take it! I had the great opportunity to visit him and his plants for an 
entire afternoon (which wasn't nearly long enough to more than just 
glance at everything he has planted).

We were in the UK for a wedding and sightseeing, and Paul Chapman very 
graciously arranged a visit to Harry Hay's on my last day there. (This 
was only a few days after the record-breaking day when the temperature 
in London reached or exceeded 100° F for the first time since they 
started measuring temperature in London several hundred years ago.) As 
David says, Harry's collection is mindblowing. We had spent a day some 
days before this visiting Kew Gardens, and while it is very nice, and 
the various greenhouses and alpine houses are fantastic, I was slightly 
disappointed at the grounds themselves, especially when compared to 
botanical gardens I've visited such as the Huntington Gardens here in 
California or the ones in Perth, Australia; Honolulu, Hawaii; 
Singapore; Kandy, Sri Lanka; or Kirstenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa, 
to name just a few that are amazing in my unlearned opinion. I would 
have to say that Harry's place far outshines what is on display at Kew. 
(It was also quite amusing to listen to Harry complain about Kew not 
being as helpful and interested in material he has provided them in 
recent years compared to further in the past.)

Paul knows all the details, but apparently Harry has been doing this 
ever since the construction of the M25 London Orbital (is that the 
correct name for the freeway loop that encircles London similar to the 
Beltway that encircles Washington, DC?) took half his land when he was 
a pig farmer. They paid him quite a bit for it and he set about 
collecting and growing just about every bulb imaginable as well as a 
number of other plant and tree species (such as 25-30 different species 
of Eucalyptus trees that are now quite tall and growing in the ground 
outside!). Harry seems to have corresponded with every famous and 
well-known plant personage the world over. As well as traded with them 

Anyway, I happened to take a few general pictures of his place as well 
as one of him and his wonderful wife. There is also a not very 
flattering, yet very candid shot of Paul Chapman and Harry showing what 
it's typically like visiting Harry in his gardens. Paul knows his age 
exactly, but I believe Harry is 80 years old or more and still runs 
around the entire acreage like he was in his 20s and knows every detail 
about every plant there. And if he likes you, he keeps digging up 
offsets or breaking off seedpods of truly unique species and handing 
them to you. So be sure to come prepared with your import permit in 
hand should you get this opportunity and want to take those treasures 
back with you to your home country. (He also liked the fact that I as 
an American still used and comprehended the good old English system of 
measurements instead of the French's metric system!)

Anyway, Harry should be declared an international treasure himself, 
IMHO. The images are located on the wiki on the Places page under 
"Harry Hay's gardens" 

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena area, California, USDA Zone 9-10

On Jan 18, 2004, at 3:51 AM, David Victor wrote:
> Dear Alberto & Diane,
> Yes, Harry is the most amazing man with the most amazing garden.  His 
> collection of bulbs is just mind blowing and had been built bit by bit 
> over many, many years.  And he's still at it every day.  Oh that I can 
> keep as enthusiastic when I'm his age!
> Best regards,
> David Victor

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