Gardening guru set up a successful firm before becoming a media regular
Published 10/01/2010 | 05:00
John Cushnie, who has died aged 66, was known to the public as a regular and respected panellist on Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time and as a contributor to RTE and the Daily Telegraph, but made his living principally through a landscape gardening business based at his home in the North.
John Alexander Mont-gomery Cushnie was born on May 14, 1943, and was brought up at Lurgan in Co Armagh.
When he was a young boy, his father -- a supervisor in a factory that made spectacles -- divided the family's garden in half, giving one half to John and the other to his brother Tom, with the injunction that they should look after their respective plots.
According to family lore, John -- unlike his brother -- made a stunning success of his half.
After schooling at Lurgan College, John went on to Greenmount College of Agriculture and Horticulture, Co Antrim, but did not immediately make gardening his chosen vocation.
Instead he spent 10 years as a civil servant, working for the Housing Executive in Belfast, concerned with the provision of council houses and the maintenance of city parks, before setting up his own business, which was called Cushnie Landscapes.
Employing up to a dozen people, Cushnie took on contracts throughout Britain for both private gardens and local authorities.
A man of great energy and enthusiasm, he concentrated on practical matters and had little time for passing fads, instead preferring to create traditional gardens.
Soon he found himself invited to appear on BBC Radio Ulster.
It was the to be the beginning of a second career for Cushnie, who for 15 years was a regular panellist on Gardeners' Question Time.
Among his many admirers was BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer, who said that Cushnie "laced every programme with warmth and joy", and praised his wit and his "unrelenting sympathy for fellow gardeners".
Cushnie became a regular columnist for the Daily Telegraph's Saturday gardening supplement, while also contributing to a range of specialist publications, among them the magazines Gardens Illustrated and Gardeners' World, Ireland's Homes Interior & Living and the Belfast News Letter.
He gave frequent talks, workshops and after-dinner speeches in Northern Ireland and across Britain, and published a number of books -- including Shrubs for the Garden and Trees for the Garden (both 2004); How to Propagate (2006) and How to Prune (2007). He was also co-author of Gardeners' Question Time Plant Chooser (2003).
More recently he had taken the role of the 'Hedge Man' on Radio 2's Chris Evans Show and also presented Greenmount Garden for BBC One in Northern Ireland, offering tips to the viewers and instructing them about the practical jobs to be done in the garden.
Other television appearances of Cushnie's included BBC One's Room With a View and RTE's Greenfingers.
John Cushnie, who featured on Gardeners' Question Time two weeks ago and had a column in the Daily telegraph on January 2 looking forward to the New Year and making resolutions, died suddenly from a heart attack on December 31.
He married, in 1969, Wilma Taylor, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.