Tony started his career as an apprentice at Tilhill Forestry Nursery in Frensham in 1974. In 1976 he attended Merrist Wood Agricultural College where he gained his NCH in Arboriculture and the RFS Certificate in Arb. He worked in Germany as a climber for Kusche und Frotscher based in Hamburg. In 1978 he started at Kew as a Diploma student for 3 years where he gained the Kew diploma at honours. In 1981 he was appointed manager of the North Arboretum from where he progressed to become Head of the Arboretum and Horticultural Services in 2001.
In 1985 he was a member of an expedition to Chile collecting seeds for the collections in the arboretum at Kew. Since the destruction of many of Kew's oldest trees in the Great Storm of 1987 he has spearheaded the restocking of the collection. In some instance using specimens collected on collecting trips to the far east. Countries visited include: China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the Russian far east and Sakhalin Island.
Kirkham has an infectious enthusiasm for his subject and is best known for his appearances in the BBC series 'A Year at Kew' and 'The Trees That Made Britain'. He also lectures to students at Kew as well as other professional & interested groups and is an examiner for the RFS Professional diploma in Arboriculture. Tony sits on various professional committees, including The RHS woody plant committee and the bursary advisory committee. The IDS Science and education committee and the horticultural advisory board of QuarryHill Botanical Garden in California. He is a trustee of TROBI, the Tree Register Of the British Isles.
Robert Kirkham, Tony's son is following in his father's footsteps by taking part in The Royal Parks apprenticeship, started in 2011. He is currently based at Richmond Park.
In 2009 he was awarded the Associate of Honour by the RHS for his services to horticulture. Only 100 persons hold this award in the British isles.
Kirkham sits on many professional committees including IDS, science and education committee, RHS, bursaries committee and the woody plant committee.
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