Tony Kirkham

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Tony Kirkham MBE VMH is the Head of Arboretum, Gardens & Horticulture Services, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. [1]



Lancashire born Tony Kirkham moved to Surrey to become a forestry apprentice with Tilhill Forestry Nurseries aged 16. After a time spent working in Hamburg learning about tree management within urban and park environments he moved to Kew to study the world-famous Diploma in Horticulture to broaden his knowledge in horticulture.

The only student to be offered a job at Kew upon graduation, he spent the next 14 years managing part of Kew's arboretum. During this time, he completed several plant collecting expeditions in East Asia, including South Korea, Taiwan, the Russian Far East and Sakhalin, China and Japan. to add to Kew's collection and replace trees lost in the Great Storm of 1987.

He currently holds the top job in arboriculture as Kew's Head of Arboretum, Gardens and Horticultural Services where he and his team amongst many other things manage 14,000 trees and share their passion for trees with the visitors to Kew. He is the author of four books and ran the ‘Treeathlon’ to support the Trees for Cities campaign for more trees in urban areas in the UK, and says that “looking at trees anywhere in the world” is one of his hobbies.


In 2009 he was awarded the Associate of Honour by the RHS for his services to horticulture. Only 100 people to hold this award in the British Isles.

Named one of the most influential Londoners in the Evening Standard's Progress 1000: London's most influential people 2016

In 2015 he was awarded Honorary Lifetime fellow of the Arboricultural Association recognising the significant and positive impact he has made to Arboriculture.

William Aiton medal by Royal Botanic Garden's Kew in December 2016 for exceptional services to Kew.

In 2019 he was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH). [2] The award was established in 1897 "in perpetual remembrance of Her Majesty's glorious reign, and to enable the RHS Council to confer honour on British horticulturists." Only sixty-three horticulturists can hold the VMH at any given time, in commemoration of the sixty-three years of Queen Victoria's reign. [3]

He was also awarded the MBE in the Queen's New Years Honours list in 2019 for services to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Arboriculture.

Kirkham sits on many professional committees including the International Dendrology Society, science and education committee, RHS, awards committee and is a vice chair of the RHS woody plant committee.

Trustee of the Tree Register of Britain and Ireland (TROBI), trustee of the Yorkshire Arboretum at Castle Howard and trustee of the Chelsea Physic Garden where he also serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Committee.


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  1. CASEY, CONSTANCE (2012). "OW". Landscape Architecture. 102 (3): 38–40. ISSN   0023-8031.
  2. Curtin, April (2020-05-21). "Meet the man who's helping keep Kew Gardens alive in lockdown". MyLondon. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  3. "Tony Kirkham, MBE" (PDF). Victoria Horticultural Society. 2020.
  4. "Gardenforum News - People - MBE for Kew's Tony Kirkham". Retrieved 2020-07-29.

Further reading

Author of six books:


(New York Times) The Indiana Jones of Plants

(BBC) The oldest living thing on Earth

(The Telegraph) Climate change: why we need to change our taste in trees