Kiwi horticulturalists honoured in UK

GREEN THUMBS: Dahlia breeder Keith Hammett.
GREEN THUMBS: Dahlia breeder Keith Hammett.

New Zealanders Keith Hammett and Peter Ramsay have been honoured by Britain's Royal Horticultural Society, one of the world's leading horticultural organisations.

West Auckland dahlia breeder Hammett was among those awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal for outstanding contribution to the advancement of science, art or the practice of horticulture.

Waikato horticulturalist Ramsay, this year's winner of the Peter Barr Cup, was honoured for his contribution to the advancement and enjoyment of daffodils.

It was the second New Zealand win in two years, after John Hunter, of Nelson, took it out in 2012, also for his work with daffodils.

Ramsay is the sixth Kiwi to be awarded the cup since its inception in 1912.

Hammett had worked tirelessly growing, promoting and publicising dahlias, the society said.

He was an international ambassador for the genus, having grown dahlias since the 1950s.

It is the second time in four years he has been honoured by the society.

In 2009, he was awarded the Reginald Cory Cup, the first time in three-quarters of a century that the award had come to New Zealand.

He originally studied botany at the University of Southampton in England and followed with a PhD in plant pathology, but regarded the creation of ornamental plants as an art form.

His dahlias have won top awards at society trials and were featured in the Chelsea Flower Show.

They are renowned for their vibrant flowers with dark central discs.

Ramsay, of Matangi, near Hamilton, was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in the 2007 and the Gold Medal of the American Daffodil Society in 2008.

He and wife Lesley are National Daffodil Society of New Zealand life members.

More than 100 varieties of his daffodils appear in the society register of cultivars. His flowers are widely grown and shown in Britain.

He was in London to collect his honour.