Tony Russell - Biography
Tony Russell's career with plants and gardens began in 1978 when, soon after leaving school and completing a long distance charity walk from John O' Groats to Land's End, he joined the Forestry Commission in Snowdonia. In 1980 he went to Newton Rigg, Cumbria to study forestry and horticulture and after qualifying in 1983 he took up post as Forester for the New Forest in Hampshire.
In 1989 he was appointed Head Forester of Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, one of the finest collections of tree and shrubs in the temperate world. His areas of responsibility included development and management of the Arboretum, conservation of its many rare and endangered species and interpretation of the collection and its environmental importance to others. By 1999 he had increased annual visitors to Westonbirt from 140,000 to 300,000, making Westonbirt the third most visited garden in the UK at that time (after Kew Gardens and the RHS Garden, Wisley). In 2000, in recognition of these achievements, the British Government awarded Westonbirt, National Status.
Tony left Westonbirt in 2003 and is now widely regarded as one of Britain's leading authorities on trees and shrubs. Over the past fifteen years he has presented many gardening, horticultural and countryside programmes for both TV and radio. His six-part TV series 'The Cotswolds' Garden Trail' was nominated for the 'TV broadcast of the year' at the National Garden Media Guild awards held at the Savoy, London in November 2003. He copresented the TV gardening series 'Roots and Shoots' for HTV and scripted and presented the much acclaimed major TV series for ITV 'Britain's Great Trees' - which was screened during the summer of 2003 and repeated in 2004. Also in 2004 he presented a six-part radio series for BBC Radio 4 entitled 'Plant Invaders'. In 2005 Tony presented two TV series - 'Garden Trail' and 'Forests of Southern England' - both for ITV. In 2006 he worked with the BBC on the TV documentary series 'Save Lullingstone Castle', which was based around the creation of the World Garden at Lullingstone Castle in Kent. This was screened on BBC2 in the spring of 2006 followed by a second series in 2007. Also in 2007, Tony presented the BBC Radio 4 series 'Inspiring Trees'. Since 2008 Tony has regularly appeared on BBC Radio, including BBC Radio 4 (where he can be heard from time to time on Gardeners' Question Time) BBC Wales and BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
Tony regularly writes for several magazines and newspapers - including The Daily Telegraph, BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, The Garden, Country Life, The English Garden, Garden News, Country Gardener, Cotswold Life Magazine and Western Daily Press.
He is the author of eighteen books; 'Westonbirt, A Celebration of the Seasons' published in 1995; 'Cornwall's Great Gardens' 1998; 'The World Encyclopedia of Trees' 2003; 'Trebah - Garden of Dreams' and 'Trees of the America's' 2005;'The Trees of Britain and Europe' and 'Tree Spotting for Children' 2006; 'The Gardens at Spetchley Park' 2007; 'The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle' 2008, 'The Cotswold's Finest Gardens' 2009, 'The Complete Book of Trees' 2011, 'Dorling Kindersley's 'A Nature Guide to Trees' 2012, What's That Tree? 2013, The Finest Gardens in South-west England 2015, The Finest Gardens in Wales 2015, The Hidden Gardens of Plas Cadnant 2015, The Finest Gardens in South-east England 2016 and Batsford Arboretum - A Celebration of the Seasons 2016.
Tony is also editor of the annual publication 'Great Gardens to Visit' and horticultural editor of Discover Britain's Gardens magazine.
In addition to his writing and broadcasting work, Tony runs a thriving consultancy which looks both at promoting British gardens and helping landowners manage trees, forests and woodland. Over the past fourteen years Tony has been horticultural director of the La Chaire Sub-tropical Gardens Restoration Project in Jersey, Channel Islands; lead consultant on the creation of the World Garden' at Lullingstone Castle in Kent (which won the award for the 'Best New Tourism Project of 2006') and lead consultant for the Berkeley family - owners of Spetchley Park Gardens near Worcester - in Spetchley's 400th anniversary year. His brief (successfully met) included doubling the number of visitors to the garden and developing several new initiatives for the site. In 2008 Tony headed up the UK's promotion of the recently discovered Australian 'dinosaur tree' - the Wollemi Pine, which culminated in a silver-gilt medal award-winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.
He is also currently leading a major garden restoration project for the Snowdonia National Park Authority at Plas Tan y Bwlch in North Wales and is also co-ordinator for the North Wales Festival of Gardens, which takes place over two weeks in late May and early June every year.
Since 2009 Tony has been garden consultant to the National Trust and has been helping the Trust establish the first-ever digital inventory of the plants growing within National Trust Gardens. In 2017 he has undertaken work at Chirk Castle and Bodnant and his work at Bodnant will continue through 2018.
Tony is a patron for the Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden Trust and he also sits on the board of Trustees for Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire, where, during 2010 and 2011 he helped successfully guide through a multimillion-£ development project which included an award-winning new visitor centre and a five-acre expansion to the arboretum.
Alongside this work, Tony regularly leads garden & plant based tours both in the UK and overseas. Since 2003 has accompanied groups to Japan, Russia, Estonia, The Arctic, Costa Rica in Central America, India, The Himalayas, Scandinavia, Canary Islands, Madeira, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the Channel Islands, South America and the Amazonian rainforest, Italy, Iceland, China, New Zealand and North Africa.
Tony is married to Rosie and they have two sons, Charles, an actor and Howie, an engineer. They returned to Snowdonia, North Wales in 2013, where they now live and garden on the flanks of the Moelwyn mountains, just inland from Portmeirion and within walking distance of Tan y Bwlch Station for the Ffestiniog Steam Railway. In his spare time Tony volunteers for the Glaslyn Osprey Project www.glaslynwildlife.co.uk and Rosie runs their holiday cottage, which is available to rent throughout the year www.seren-wib.com