Percy Thrower

1913 - 1988

Percy Thrower

2013 marks the centenary of Percy Thrower's birth, who is often described as 'Britain's first celebrity gardener'. He became a regular fixture on television and radio from the 1950s through to the 1980s, including the BBC series Gardener's World and Blue Peter.

Percy Thrower was born at Horwood House in Little Horwood, Buckinghamshire, on 30th January 1913, and from an early age he was determined to be a head gardener like his father, who was Head Gardener at Horwood House. Before he became a household name, Percy's career as a gardener included working at the Royal Gardens at Windsor Castle and the Derby Parks Department. It culminated in a move to Shrewsbury, where he became Parks Superintendent in 1946, at the age of just 32. Only intending to be in post for a few years he actually stayed for 28 years, until he retired in 1974.

As Parks Superintendent, Percy was responsible for Shrewsbury's 29 acre park, The Quarry. At its centre lies his floral masterpiece, The Dingle, a beautiful sunken garden landscaped with alpine borders, colourful bedding plants, shrubbery and water features.

His first TV appearance came in 1951 on the programme Picture Page, in which he spoke about a garden he had designed in Berlin on behalf of the Shropshire Horticultural Society. Little did he know that this appearance would propel him into becoming one of Britain's most well loved television personalities.

Percy was offered a regular slot on the BBC radio show Beyond the Back Door, before moving on to the TV series Country Calendar and Out and About. This was later re-named Gardener's World, which he presented from 1969 until 1976, often from the garden of his own home in the village of Merrington, near Shrewsbury.

Percy Thrower was known to millions of children as the Blue Peter gardener. He was their longest serving gardener, appearing in over 100 broadcasts from 1974 until 1987. One of his most well known achievements was establishing the Blue Peter garden at BBC Television Centre.

Outside of his television work Percy was also involved with a range of business ventures, including establishing the Percy Thrower Garden Centre in Shrewsbury, which is still in business today.

Percy received many accolades for his services to gardening. He was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's highest honour, the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1977, and became an MBE in 1984. Alan Titchmarsh has also credited Percy Thrower for inspiring him to take up gardening.

In later years Percy's health declined. However, like the true professional he was, he made his last recording for Blue Peter from his hospital bed, only one week before his death on 18th March 1988. Percy's ashes are buried in the churchyard at Leaton, near Shrewsbury.