Graham Stuart Thomas was born in Cambridgeshire in 1909 to a family of amateur gardeners and musicians. He was interested in gardening from an early age and began formal training when he joined the staff of the Cambridge Botanic Garden in 1926. He spent three years there, gaining knowledge of a diverse range of plants and attending lectures on botany.
He then went on to commercial horticulture, working first at the Six Hills Nursery in Stevenage (specialising in alpine plants), then at Hilling's wholesale nursery in Surrey. There, he met Gertude Jekyll, who encouraged him to work with herbaceous perennials. By the 1940s, Thomas was also associated with old roses. He recognised that many older varieties were being lost, and became interested in conservation. The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens was formed in the post-war years.
Thomas became involved with the National Trust in the late-1940s, and in 1955 became the Trust's first garden advisor. He designed or re-modelled several National Trust sites, including Claremont, Knightshayes and Shugborough, all of which showed the influence of Gertrude Jekyll. The rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey is acknowledged as his greatest achievement.
He also published several books, including The Old Shrub Roses (1955), Shrub Roses of Today (1962), Climbing Roses Old and New (1965) and Perennial Garden Plants (1976). He was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Veitch memorial medal in 1966 and the Victoria medal of honour in 1968. He gained an OBE in 1975 and the Rose Society's Dean Hole memorial medal in 1976. The National Trust gave the founders' award in 1996. Graham Stuart Thomas died in April 2003 in Surrey.Bibliography
Buczacki, Stefan ‘Thomas, Graham Stuart (1909-2003)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006) [ accessed 29 June 2009]