It is with deep sadness we report the death of John Sales in December last year. John was an inspired Head of Gardens at the National Trust for over twenty five years (1973-98), and a true friend of Lydiard Park.
There will quite rightly be many tributes to John’s extraordinary horticultural skill and knowledge which he shared so generously with both warmth and wit. He championed the conservation of historic gardens, practically inventing the idea at a time when gardens were seen as of secondary importance to the country’s historic houses. He was also a champion of professional gardeners, promoting the value and importance of their often decades worth of knowledge and skill.
John got involved with Lydiard Park a few years after retiring from the Trust in 1998 while he was still in great demand as a garden consultant, a leading light in the national garden conservation scene, and described as ‘a national treasure’. Despite his illustrious status, it was typical of his generosity that he answered a call to support the Lydiard Park Restoration Project, joining Swindon Borough Council’s Management Board which oversaw the transformation of the park in 2004-7.
His involvement gave a marvellous boost to the project, enthused the gardeners and opened a whole new world to some of his high powered business colleagues on the board. His level of interest included the identification of plants for the Walled Garden based on illustrations in Lydiard’s 17th century painted window and floral wall panels by Lady Diana Beauclerk which can be seen in Lydiard House.
John and his super wife Lyn retained their interest in Lydiard long after the garden project was officially completed. No garden stands still and John was always looking ahead. His most recent concern has been the need to attend to the aging tree stock in the park and plan for sensitive replanting in keeping with the designed parkland. Let’s hope that as Friends of Lydiard Park we can play our part in making this happen.
Thank you John, you will be much missed.
To discover more about John’s wonderful career you can read his book, Shades of Green My Life as the National Trusts Head of Gardens (2018). It is a fascinating chronicle of the transformation he spearheaded in so many of the nation’s favourite gardens and landscapes.