Perennial is the UK’s only charity dedicated to those who work in horticulture, and their families, when times get tough. The Gardeners’ Benevolent Institution (now Perennial) was founded on 17 January 1839 at an annual dinner for ‘nurserymen, florists and amateurs’, held in the Crown and Anchor Tavern on Arundel Street, London.
From the outset, the Institution aimed to provide a source of income for gardeners, typically Head Gardeners, in retirement, recognising that those who had worked all their lives as low-paid workers on estates and public gardens had no means of looking after themselves in their later years and often lost their tied property on retirement.
By the mid 1840s it was already having a major impact and an annual fundraising dinner was established, to which ‘celebrities’ of the day were invited to attend to encourage donations and rally support from landed gentry and royalty who employed large numbers of gardeners. Robert Peel and Charles Dickens were numbered among the keynote speakers of the period, the latter famously saying in his opening address of 1852;
“…His gains are not great and knows gold and silver more as being the colours of fruit and flowers than by their presence in his pockets. He is subjected to that kind of labour which renders him peculiarly liable to infirmity and when old age comes upon him, the gardener is, of all men perhaps, best able to appreciate the benefits of the Institution…”
The Institution remained a pension granting body for 100 years until state pensions were introduced in the early 20th Century. At this time the focus of the charity shifted to providing accommodation for aging gardeners, running a care home and retirement housing. Financial assistance broadened to include emergency grants for those with disabilities and help extended to those working in other branches of horticulture, which were growing in importance. Now Perennial’s help extends to landscapers, gardeners, designers, grounds maintenance staff, green keepers, tree surgeons, groundsmen, British seed and turf growers, those involved in intensive production horticulture, parks and gardens staff and many, many more.
You may not have heard of Perennial before, however you may have very well visited one of their gardens.. Across England, Perennial now manage 4 highly-acclaimed gardens - one of which being just a stones throw away from my Yard, The Laskett Gardens!
2023 is a very exciting year for the Laskett Gardens because it is the first year Sir Roy Strong's garden opens to the public! Until now the garden has only been open to the public on a group or private appointment basis.
Across April you can visit on the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th to 11th to enjoy their Celebration of Tulips, followed by opening every Tuesday and Thursday until the end of October.
On your visit to The Laskett's you may even recognise some terracotta pots!