Born in post-war England, Liz was lucky enough to be brought up in HongKong and Singapore amongst many exotic plants. At an early age she knew that plants delighted and fascinated her and that whatever she did in the future would involve them.
Coming “home” to England and a completely different range of plants and animals was a revelation. The British plants were wonderful and very varied but much less blowsy and obvious. A whole new world for her to explore and to learn about! This culminated in a mind-blowing time as a student at Exeter with Prof. John Caldwell and his inspirational botanists and ecologists, and the wonderful plant collection housed on the campus.
Her first full time job was with the Field Studies Council as Botanist at Flatford Mills Field Centre – teaching plant ecology in a wide range of habitats in Suffolk and East Anglia. It was tough but was an excellent experience that has stood her in good stead all her working life.
She then took a leap in the dark and emigrated to Australia (as one of the last of the £10 scheme) in her search for adventure and different plants. She was lucky enough to be appointed as biology tutor at St. Hilda’s College, Melbourne University which provided her with a place to live in. She then managed to persuade Prof. John Turner that he would like to have her as a postgraduate student, doing ecological research, and to give her enough teaching in the Botany Department to subsist on. Wonderful field trips and her rather daunting, unforgiving, area of research taught her much about herself, Australia and its unique flora and fauna (especially the snakes). She has always been very grateful for the experience and added several new state records to the flora of Victoria. Tasmania also provided some amazing botanical opportunities and sights.
On returning to England, she decided to teach; once suitably qualified, she taught in a Kent grammar school for 20 years. During this time the syllabuses moved away from plants and there were many new biological developments that she had taught about but longed to experience for herself.
She left teaching and went to work in research in the soft fruit breeding section at East Malling Plant Research Station (then Horticulture Research International). This included tissue culture work which in turn led to a position at Shell Research – experimenting on frost hardiness and growing Eucalyptus and Acacia trees in pots of jelly, so that they could eventually be sent off and grown into forests all over the world for paper pulp or renewable energy. She had re-found her botanical roots! When the unit closed, she went back to part-time teaching to keep the wolf from the door!
Throughout her life she had frequently tried to paint flower and plants as a hobby but had always been frustrated by the 2 dimensional appearance of her pictures. She had not had any formal art training as she had to do latin instead of art, at school! This changed in 2000 when she enrolled in the English Gardening School’s Diploma Course in Botanical Art, under the tutelage of Anne-Marie Evans. This venture into painting was one of the best things she had ever done and she gained her Diploma in 2002. She continues to enjoy botanical painting and developing artistically.
Helping to found, and belonging to, the Hampton Court Palace Florilegium Society, has been an immense pleasure and anchors her botanical art, as well as providing a purpose and some wonderful artists as friends and colleagues. It was in the Florilegium that she was encouraged to develop her ideas for botany short courses for botanical artists, and was encouraged to write her book – "Botany for Artists".
Latterly, she joined IAPI and thoroughly enjoys the institute’s lively and varied meetings which are an excellent admix of botanists and artists working together. She is currently involved in their educational subcommittee considering all aspects of the teaching of botany to artists (a subject that has already engaged her for almost a decade); a subject that is now gaining momentum as more botanical artists acknowledge their need for sound botanical knowledge to underpin their paintings and illustrations.
Botany and plants in general are still her raison d´etre and great joy.
59 London Road,
River, Near Dover,
Kent CT17 0SG, UK
Tel. 00 44 (0)1304-824257
BSc Honours Botany at University of Exeter, Devon.
MSc by research at University of Melbourne, Australia.
Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching (PGCE) from Christ Church College, Canterbury, Kent.
Diploma of Botanical Art from the English Gardening School, 2002