Where does one start with memories of David? He was unique – prodigious memory for anything connected with plants especially roses, known throughout the world for his flamboyant flower arranging amazing knowledge and wicked wicked wit, generous to a fault, but also exasperating and infuriating.


Anyone who has been on one of his overseas trips will agree that his name opened doors and they were privy to places that would otherwise be denied. My most memorable holiday was in 1999, the pre conference trip to Italy and, after the International Heritage Rose Conference in Lyon, the post conference trip around France. There were 18 of us including David which made for one happy family and friendships that have lasted till this day. David was determined to fit in a visit to Hex Castle in Liege, Belgium. So after a day’s trip across France we arrived – and what a garden we saw, personally escorted by the owner Comte d’Ursel, who was obviously full of respect for David who on two previous occasions had demonstrated flower arranging through the ages there.

Being closely involved with David while putting together a book on his life took over two years of my life, but a time that I will always regard as precious even though I sometimes felt like tearing my hair out. David had absolutely no interest in anything technical or mechanical and my husband, John or his brother John were often called on to set up his TV to interact successfully with his DVD. We would try to sit him down to look at the pages I had put together to make up the book but he couldn’t sit still for long enough and would quickly lose interest. Thus it wasn’t until he had a hard copy in his hand which the publisher sent him that he actually saw what the completed pages would look like. ‘Not enough pictures!’ he said. ‘Needs more colour!’ Which would have been fine except that I had just spent a week doing the index after David had rung – ‘The publisher wants an index. You can do that, can’t you!’ So, after calls to Margaret Furness and Jim Manifold, both of whom were accomplished photographers and much closer to Renmark than I, and scouring through photos I already had, extra pictures were put into the margins.

Getting photos for David’s book meant that we accompanied him on many of his journeys to groups who had asked him to demonstrate flower arranging. I am sure that none of them realised just how much effort David put into the organisation of these arrangements. Racing around his enormous garden collecting just the right flowers for the right container, then packing them all so that they survived the journey intact, took an inordinate amount of time. Then when he arrived all the stems had to cut before placing them in buckets – the right bucket for the right arrangement. It was only after that when the audience watched David at work and were entertained by his expertise, that they saw his final effort. No wonder he was then exhausted!

I have many plants in my garden that came from David and so he will always be alive for me as I wander around greeting beautiful reminders who were given to me by friends some of whom have left this world but never my heart.

Sue Zwar, June 2019.

An arrangement at Ayres House. David was very critical of the colour of the curtains! He liked a black background for his flowers. 
David & Comte d'Ursel with the Plaque of Merit awarded to Hex Castle by WFRS in 1998. Behind them is a beautiful specimen of R. glauca.



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