With the passing of David Way the Kent Group has lost one of its founding and most distinguished members. David contributed so much in so many ways to horticulture in Kent, not only within the gardening community and HPS but in his professional capacity working on fruit growing at East Malling Research Station.
My memories go back to regular Kent Group committee meetings held in his and Anke’s lovely house and garden at Hunton. Here we planned many successful meetings and events for the Kent HPS, notably a Summer Weekend in June 1992 at which Graham Gough, then at Washfield Nursery, gave the afterdinner speech: ‘And now for something completely different’. Sixteen members’ gardens were open to HPS visitors who came from across the whole country. Among the displays at the hotel in Ashford we made one of umbellifers, and it was David who suggested I write about the family for the HPS Booklet series, which has encouraged my interest ever since. His interest in penstemons led to ‘The Gardener’s Guide to Penstemons’ written in collaboration with Peter James, and a talk in July 1995 from the President of the American Penstemon Society, Dale Lindgren, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Nebraska, who was visiting the UK. The excellent cultivar of Penstemon digitalis, ‘Husker Red’, was one of the new American selections mentioned. And who in more recent years will not have visited David and Anke’s garden, Southover, in February to view the ever-growing collection of snowdrops and other winter flowers, which captivate any committed gardener eventually, however resistant they may be to galanthophilia. Several very good selections came to us from David and Anke, including the bold early Galanthus ‘Reverend Hailstone’ and distinctive long-pedicelled G. ’Percy Picton’, and of course G. ‘Hunton Giant’.
David always studied and collected plants with that detailed scientific and perceptive eye that underlined his professional life and training at Cambridge University Botanic Garden and RHS Wisley. He made use of these same qualities as Chairman of the Kent HPS, while his unique connections with gardeners across the Channel led to the organisation of trips abroad for the Group. His knowledge and eye for detail inspired confidence in all of us around him and must have contributed to much of the success and growth of the Group from its founding in 1988.