Last Friday morning, I was invited to speak at the Institute of Directors’ Business Breakfast at the Kent Show, as a ‘warm up man’ for the main attraction, Tom Hart-Dyke. Tom is a natural communicator and has a fascinating story to tell, being a modern-day ‘plant hunter’, searching out rare and exotic species in their natural habitat around the globe. This often takes him into dangerous and uncharted territory, as it did back in 200 when he and a colleague, Paul Winder were searching out rare orchids in the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama.
Tom and Paul were captured at gunpoint by suspected FARC guerillas, and held captive for almost ten months, being moved from camp to camp, and eventually threatened with death ‘in five hours’ time’. Facing potentially his last five hours of life, Tom used the red biro and exercise book his captors had given him to sketch out his idea of the ‘perfect garden’, using the plants he had collected from around the world.
Through an inexplicable twist of fate, his captors returned five hours later and set Tom and Paul free. Sensing that this moment was probably something to do with fate, Tom eventually returned to the UK and created his vision at his family home, Lullingstone Castle.
He was a fascinating and engaging young man whose experiences in his relatively short life far exceed what most of us will ever dream of. You can read Tom’s story for yourself in his book, ‘The Cloud Garden’, or visit the world garden for yourself – see the website here.
(the photo above shows Tom Hart-Dyke (seated) and from left David Philpott, Chairman of Kent IoD; Kevin and Graham Mead, KM Group Managing Director)