Executive Board 2021 to 2022


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.


Ros Burnley (Co-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.


Stephen Herrington (Co-Chair), 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.


Nick Lightfoot (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.


Heather Birkett, Senior Gardener, Acorn Bank, National Trust

Heather is experienced at managing historic gardens and currently leads the Garden team at Acorn Bank as a Senior Gardener for the National Trust. In addition to ensuring routine maintenance, environmental compliance and health and safety for all users of the gardens, Heather is also responsible for recording of the specific plant collections including apples and herbs as well as facilitating research, developing and managing a large volunteer team and apprentice, increasing the staff team and creating diverse, valuable programming.

Looking after a significant collection of 175 apple varieties, Heather has a good understanding of orchard maintenance skills and deliver a broad range of programming and events for visitors, designed to inspire and enable people to grow their own fruit, including tours, drop-in sessions, apple-tasting days, selling the harvest, selling trees grafted from the Acorn Bank collection, community juicing days, grafting and pruning workshops and Apple Identification events. Interpreting gardens is an area of particular interest for Heather.


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.


Alison Crook, National Curator of Plant Collections, National Trust

Alison is the National Curator for Plant Collections at the National Trust, leading a team which provides plant curation, collections and conservation support, to all 200+ gardens and parklands.  The National Trust holds 24 National Plant Collections and many more property collections of historic, cultural and botanic significance.  Alison’s areas of responsibility are:  plant curation and collections management (including identification, verification, research, documentation and standards);  plant propagation and nursery management (including oversight of the Plant Conservation Centre);  and the development and integration of various plant collections and nursery management systems.

Horticulture and plants are a second career, following 18 years in financial services, from legal paperwork and accounting, through to the management of large IT and process change projects, including policy, system and procedure development, budget management, planning, and risk management.


Philip Esseen, Curator of Botany & Horticulture, Chester Zoo

Phil curates the extensive plant collection at Chester Zoo and is responsible for managing and developing the gardens, tropical houses and wider landscape of the zoo. He manages a team of 20 horticulturists. As Chester Zoo’s Mission Statement is ‘Preventing Extinction’, plant conservation is a major focus for the collection, which includes five National Plant Collections of threatened species. Phil and his team are also involved in overseas field work and propagation of native plant species for re-introduction and population reinforcement. The core zoo itself covers 125 acres, and planting is designed to represent key geographical zones from around the world.

Phil has a BSc. (Hons) in Botany and a BLD (Hons) in Landscape Design from Manchester University, and has previously worked as a Landscape Architect, Nature Conservation Officer, and Local Authority Parks Manager.


Piers Horry, Garden & Outdoor Manager – Bath Portfolio, National Trust

Piers is the Garden and Outdoor Manager for the National Trust in Bath, which covers the management of C17th baroque Dyrham Park, the historic Deer Park, Grade 1 listed Prior Park and the World Heritage Bath Skyline. Piers has worked for the National Trust for over 10 years and managed gardens at Hughenden Manor, Hatchlands Park and Clandon Park. Previously Piers was an ecological consultant in the private sector.

Piers has a BSc (Hons) in Ecology and is a professional member of Arboricultural Association and Chartered Institute of Horticulture.


Don Murray, Freelance Consultant

Don is a Freelance Consultant presently helping to establish a new not-for-profit foundation for landscape professionals to deliver projects that reach the highest environmental impact, with the lowest carbon footprint. Don’s past roles include Director of Organic Horticulture at Garden Organic, Director of Horticulture at The Newt in Somerset; 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 Curator 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.