Executive Board 2020 to 2021

We are always interested in hearing from people who would like to join the PlantNetwork Board, act as advisors or help in any way to deliver our objectives. If you would like to get more involved, please contact the PlantNetwork Coordinator for an informal chat. Enquiries from members and non-members welcomed.

Simon Toomer (Chair), National Specialist for Plant Conservation at National Trust

Simon originally trained in environmental biology and forestry, Simon Toomer has worked as a forester, land management advisor and arboriculturalist in both private and local authority sectors. In his current role is the National Trust’s national consultant for plant conservation including plant health and biosecurity, collections management and plant records. Simon was formerly  Curator and Director at Westonbirt, overseeing the management and development of one of the finest tree collections in the World.  He is a professional member of the Arboricultural Association and a member of the Plant Conservation Committee of Plant Heritage.

Ros Burnley (Co-Vice Chair), Director at Adrow Ltd

Ros Burnley, Adrow

Ros is a Director of her own company, Adrow Ltd. She works as a consultant for clients on grant funding applications, business planning and strategy. She is a qualified project manager and coordinates partnership projects specialising in skills and teaches horticulture. Ros has a degree in biological sciences and an M.Sc in horticulture. She started her career in the nursery stock industry before undertaking two horticultural internships in the US at the Morris Arboretum and the Holden Arboretum. Ros was Plant Conservation Officer at Plant Heritage where she oversaw the National Plant Collection® scheme and became passionate about conservation of cultivated plants and collections management. She went on to establish GreenSpace North West, a forum for parks managers in the region.  Ros became a keen advocate for green space and the benefits it can provide to local communities. Ros became interested in skills and training and took a post with Lantra, the Sector Skills Council for the land based sector. She worked with land based industries at a strategic level on skills, including career development, apprenticeships, qualifications and skills registers. She has managed grant funded skills projects and believes in the power of skills and training to help both individuals and businesses.

Nick Lightfoot (Co-Vice Chair), Garden & Collections Manager, Ness Botanic Garden

Nick is responsible for developing and delivering strategic objectives at Ness which include garden master planning, plant collection policy, collection management and a new glasshouse project. Ness is the University of Liverpool’s botanic garden and Nick leads a team of nine staff and approximately one hundred volunteers.

Nick has previously worked in a private garden designed by Thomas Mawson and more recently for the National Trust. His qualifications include the RHS Master of Horticulture and an MA in Garden History. He originally trained as an archaeologist and has a BSc in Ancient History & Archaeology.

Rob Brett, Curator of Royal Horticultural Society Garden Hyde Hall

Rob Brett, RHS

Rob joined the RHS as Curator of Hyde Hall in April 2015 and oversees 28 horticultral staff and the management of the 365 acres. Prior to this, Rob was at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge where he was responsible for the setup, delivery and management of an up to date and comprehensive plant growth facility.

Rob trained at the Welsh College of Horticulture and has a Kew Diploma in Horticulture and an MSc in Environment and Development Education from South Bank University. He started his career in landscaping before moving to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where after completing the Kew diploma was recruited to assist in the management of the orchid collections. He then became Supervisor of Glasshouses at Cambridge University Botanic Garden, where he also taught adult education programmes and then moved to The Eden Project, as horticultural curator for temperate collections.

Natalie Chivers, Curator, Treborth Botanic Garden, University of Bangor

Natalie gained a MEnvi in Environmental Science from Bangor University before training with the Royal Horticultural Society and Gothenburg Botanic Garden. She then studied for an MSc Plant Conservation at Bangor before starting as Curator in August 2015.

As Curator of the Garden, Natalie has the responsibility for managing the living collections, which comprise over 2000 species. Her key areas of responsibility include planning the future direction of the collections, overseeing the sourcing and documentation of new and diverse species, driving the landscaping and design of the garden and promoting the use of the collections for research and teaching.

Stephen Herrington, Head Gardener, The Newt in Somerset

Stephen is Head Gardener at The Newt, having previously been Head Gardener at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens in West Sussex, Head Gardener at National Trust Nymans and Curator of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. He has worked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and trained at Tresco Abbey Gardens and RHS Garden Wisley. Stephen holds a BSc (Hons) in Horticulture and Plantsmanship from Glasgow University.

Don Murray, Director of Organic Horticulture, Garden Organic

Don joined Garden Organic Executive Team in October 2020 as Director of Organic Horticulture, after being Director of Horticulture at The Newt in Somerset. Prior to this, Don was Head of Landscapes and Horticulture at Mount Stuart and Head of Horticulture at the Eden Project, Cornwall where he played a key part in the transformation that turned Eden into the amazing gardens they are today.  Before joining the award winning Eden Project Don was Director of Horticulture at Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses. He has broad horticultural experience maintaining and developing both modern and historic gardens.

Sara Redstone, Plant Health & Quarantine Officer, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Sara Redstone, RBG Kew

Sara’s role at Kew includes leading a small team responsible for managing the Quarantine Unit and science glasshouses, dealing with incoming and outgoing plant material. The Unit is one of a number of single points of entry used at Kew to ensure incoming material complies with relevant legislation, including plant health, CITES and the CBD. She provides technical support and assistance to staff, helping them maintain and improve the health of the Living Collections at Kew and Wakehurst. Sara works with curatorial staff to develop appropriate policy and procedures and to manage biosecurity risks associated with Kew’s activities. A key aspect of her role involves developing and delivering teaching and training to  staff, students and external groups about invasive alien species, biosecurity, plant health, quarantine, the CBD and CITES. Sara’s horticultural qualifications include BSc (Hons) Plant Science; MSc Plant Biotechnology, Kew Diploma(Hons).

Will Ritchie, Curator, National Botanic Garden of Wales

Will Ritchie

Will is the Curator at the National Botanic Garden of Wales with responsibilities for horticulture, development of the living collections and Waun Las National Nature Reserve. As a member of the senior management team he is also involved in the delivery of Growing the Future, a five-year programme which aims to promote and develop horticulture in Wales by providing training and knowledge transfer opportunities. Will was previously Curator at Glasgow Botanic Gardens and has worked in botanic gardens and universities in the United Kingdom, United States and Oman.

Will trained at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and gained a BSc (Hons) in Horticulture with Plantsmanship. In 2012 he completed a MSc programme in Horticulture at the University of Arkansas, specialising in breeding and taxonomy.

Ann Steele, Head of Heritage Gardening (Policy), National Trust for Scotland

Ann has botanic garden and nursery experience but has spent the majority of her career with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), beginning as a volunteer at Inverewe Garden, returning later to work her way up to her current lead role as part of the Trust’s Conservation and Policy team. She has worked directly with most of the Trust’s gardens at different times, though with a focus in the west; this led to her becoming the Trust’s plant health and biosecurity lead, following outbreaks of Phytophthora there, and also to becoming a member of the  UK Government’s Plant Health Advisory Forum. In 2016 Ann was invited to review the Trust’s gardens and identify priorities for action and investment. This has resulted in a number of significant initiatives for the organisation, the most public one being its pilot Garden Apprenticeship Scheme.

Christopher Weddell (Interim Treasurer), Senior Gardens Adviser at English Heritage

Christopher Weddell, EH

Christopher is a Senior Gardens Advisor at English Heritage, which encompasses the setting and monitoring of standards of garden presentation and curation at English Heritage’s garden sites, advising and supporting garden teams and property staff, and leading on support for plant recording, garden volunteers and garden health and safety.  Christopher has also spent time working for the National Trust, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and the Royal Horticultural Society amongst others.

Rupert Wilson, Principal Data Manager, Horticultural Information & Advice at Royal Horticultural Society

Rupert Wilson, RHS

Rupert joined the RHS in 2001 after working for several years in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Reading where he managed the herbarium database. He leads a team of six staff whose diverse roles include the upkeep of the plant records at Wisley, compilation of the RHS Plant Finder, providing training and first line support of the RHS Horticultural Database and ensuring consistency in the data held and publications from across Science.

Rebecca Slack (Non-Exec), PlantNetwork Coordinator

Rebecca joined PlantNetwork in 2018 as the Coordinator. Her role includes the day-to-day operation of PlantNetwork and is the main point of contact for all enquiries.

After 15 years working in the higher education and research sector, Rebecca returned to her roots in plant sciences by retraining as a horticulturist at RHS Harlow Carr and RHS Wisley. The PlantNetwork Coordinator role allows Rebecca to combine her two interests: gardens and organising!

Matthew Jebb (Honorary President), Director of National Botanic Gardens of Ireland Glasnevin

Matthew  is an Irish botanist and taxonomist specialising in the  plant genera Squamellaria, Myrmecodia, Hydnophytum, Myrmephytum and Anthorrhiza, as well as the carnivorous plant genus Nepenthes.

Matthew was Chair of PlantNetwork from 2004 – 2015.

The Articles of Association require one third of Board members to retire at each AGM, these are the longest serving members; they may stand for re-election if they wish to do so. Nominations to join the Board are invited in advance of the AGM. Nominees should be  nominated by two PlantNetwork members. Contact office@plantnetwork.org for more information.