A Beacon in the Tempest
Chapter 1: Origins
I Origins 1 CARNATIONS, PICOTEES AND PINKS John Neville Keynes was born in 1852, one of only two children in a middleclass Salisbury family, whose forebears had settled in the town in the middle of the eighteenth century. His grandfather, also a John Keynes (1782–1852), had owned and managed a successful brush factory during the ﬁrst half of the nineteenth century, but his father, another John Keynes (1805–78) chose a more colourful career. Apprenticed to the family brushmaking trade in his early teens, Neville’s father relieved the tedium of processing wood and hog bristles by growing and propagating garden ﬂowers in his spare time. He was winning prizes at local ﬂower shows when still in his twenties and before he had decided to create a business out of his hobby. By 1872 his national reputation as an innovative and successful ﬂoriculturalist was such that the leading English ﬂorists and horticulturalists came together, to celebrate his half century as a prizewinning exhibitor. So popular was he that his fellow gardeners hosted two banquets in his honour – one at the Crystal Palace (in August) and the other at a Fleet Street hotel (in November). At the well-publicized Crystal Palace event, John Keynes is reported to have told an appreciative audience of friends and business colleagues that, as a lad, ‘riding on the stage-coach from Salisbury to Andover, he saw in the coat of a fellow-passenger sitting opposite to him, a bloom of Butt’s Lord Rodney, a purple-ﬂake carnation, of...
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