One of the best-known local horticulturalists was Graham Stuart Thomas, who lived in Horsell and was the National Trust’s Gardens Advisor.

He was born in 1909 in Cambridge where his family were keen horticulturalists and his interest in plants is said to stem from his being given a fuchsia as a present when aged six, and by eight years old he had decided to make a career in gardens.

He joined Cambridge University Botanic Garden at 17 years old and was entitled to attend university lectures on horticulture and botany, his only formal education on the subject.

In 1930 he joined the Six Hills Nurseries in Stevenage before becoming manager in the following year of Hilling and Co of Chobham. During this time he cycled through Guildford and Godalming to Munstead to meet Gertrude Jekyll, to whom he had written, for afternoon tea. She invited him to pick anything from her garden and became his mentor until her death in 1932. Graham Thomas records that tea was thin white bread and butter and preserves and small cakes.

The next stage in his career was becoming a partner at Sunningdale Nurseries where he established his entire collection of roses, many of which had gone out of fashion.

His connection with the National Trust went back to the 1940s and he became their official garden advisor in 1965. He helped to design over a hundred National Trust gardens, but his pride and joy as that at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire where the roses are still a wonderful feature.

In 1975 Graham Stuart Thomas was awarded an OBE for services to the National Trust and during his lifetime was also awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Veitch Memorial Medal and their Victoria Medal of Honour among several awards. Not surprisingly, several plants were called after him, including a David Austin Rose, which has become one of the most popular of today’s roses.

He was a talented illustrator, many of his books containing his own illustrations. One of his main hobbies was music: he composed music and sang with the Euterpe Singers, a local madrigal group.

Graham died in Woking Victoria Hospital in 2003, aged 94, having moved to Kettlewell Close in 1975, one of the gardens described in his book ‘Three gardens’. We were told by a gardener at Mottisfont Abbey that Thomas’ ashes were scattered on the lawn there – a peaceful resting place for a very quiet, unassuming man to whom horticulture owes much.