Henry Eckford (horticulturist)

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Henry Eckford (17 May 1823 - 5 December 1905) was the most famous breeder of sweet peas,[1] transforming the plant from a minor horticultural subject into the queen of annuals. Liberty Hyde Bailey called him "the prince of specialists".[2] In 1888 He moved to the town of Wem in Shropshire. It was in Wem that he perfected the breeding of his Grandiflora sweet peas, which in size of bloom and general performance were a great improvement over previous varieties.


  • 1823 - born in Stonehouse, near Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • 1839 - apprenticed in the gardens of Beaufort Castle near Inverness (estate of Lord Lovat).
  • 1854 - became head gardener at Coleshill, Berkshire (gardens of Earl of Radnor).
  • 1854-1870 - experimented with the breeding of dahlias, pelargoniums and


  • 1870 - in charge of the garden of Dr. Sankey at Sandywell, Gloucester. Here he was particularly encouraged in plant breeding work.
  • 1879 - major work on sweet peas commenced.
  • 1888 - moved to the town of Wem, Shropshire.


In honour of Henry Eckford the town of Wem (specifically the Eckford Sweet Pea Society of Wem) holds each year in July a sweet pea show. In this there is a section for old fashioned varieties, always including many bred by Henry Eckford.

Henry Eckford was a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, and was awarded the Society's highest award, the Victoria Medal of Honour.



  1. ^ Rice, Graham (2003). The Sweet Pea Book. Timber Press. p. 143. ISBN 0-88192-595-0. 
  2. ^ Bailey, Liberty Hyde (1902). Cyclopedia of American Horticulture: Comprising Suggestions for Cultivation of Horticultural Plants, Descriptions of the Species of Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers, and Ornamental Plants Sold in the United States and Canada, Together with Geographical and Biographical Sketches. The Macmillan Company.