See also: Plants that changed my life - The Horticulturist | Other articles and papers | Memorial Lectures | Obituaries

Professor David Robinson BSc(Hort), MS, PhD, VMM, FI(Hort).

1928 - 2004

Education and early experience

David Robinson worked in horticulture all his life. He obtained his Bachelors degree in horticulture from Reading University, his Masters degree from Cornell, USA and his Doctorate from Queen's University, Belfast.

He gained practical early experience on a fruit farm near Pershore and a vegetable farm at Musselburgh, East Lothian. He worked as Horticultural Adviser in South Co. Down, Northern Ireland for the Ministry of Agriculture (1950 - 53). However, the late 1940s and early 1950s was a time of great food shortage in Europe and Governments were pouring money into horticultural research. New Research Stations were being set up in a number of countries and so in 1953 he was appointed Deputy Director at the newly formed Horticulture Research Centre in Loughgall Co Armagh. His first major job was to help clean up the weed problem in fruit crops. His research into the many chemical tools that were becoming available at the time established him as an expert in this field. However, he had at the time no training in research methods or statistical analysis and felt that he was in a job for which he was inadequately trained. This was soon to change.

As David later wrote:

I knew early in 1954 that the well endowed W.K. Kellogg Foundation was giving grants to people in Britain to provide further training in the USA for agricultural graduates. I happened to be in London in March 1954 and by pure chance I passed by the headquarters of the Foundation. I still don’t know what gave me the courage but I walked in, asked to see the Director (without an appointment) and told him I wanted a Kellogg Foundation Grant to study at Cornell University in New York State for a year. At the time I worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in Northern Ireland, a most bureaucratic organisation, and when I returned all hell was let loose for the Ministry felt (understandably) that they and they alone should decide who would benefit from Kellogg grants. Anyway I was released for a year and spent 1954/55 in the States where I learned a great deal about research and plants. The US had not suffered from the War the way Europe had and it was an exhilarating time. [1]

Move to the South of Ireland

David remained a research worker at the Horticultural Centre, Loughgall, Northern Ireland until 1964. During that period he had been invited down south to the Republic of Ireland on a number of occasions to give advice. John Daly, the father of the RTÉ gardening expert Gerry Daly had invited him on several occasions in the 1950s to come and lecture to the fruit growers in Wexford on his research into weed control. At that period there was virtually no contact between the horticulturists of the North and South. It was as a result of these trips down south that he eventually got the post as Director of Horticultural Research in the Kinsealy Research Centre, Agricultural Research Institute (now Teagasc) in the Republic of Ireland. He remained in this post for almost 25 years (1964-88). 

Other educational work and society memberships

David was External Examiner for BSc, MS and PhD degrees at University Colleges Dublin and Cork, the Dublin and Tralee Institutes of Technology, Bath University, England, Wye College, University of London and the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

He was a Past President of the Horticultural Education Association of Great Britain and Ireland (1971 - 72) and represented Ireland on the Council of the International Society for Horticultural Science from 1964 to 1990. He was also chairman of BASIS (Republic of Ireland). BASIS was an independent organisation from interested sections of the agrochemical industry aimed at raising standards of handling, storing, utilization and dissemination of information on agricultural pesticides. David was on the Editorial Board of Scientia Horticulturae (1970-1989), Associate Editor of Crops Research Journal (1982-1989) and on the Editorial Board of Chronica Horticulturae (1992-1995).


David was the author of over 120 scientific publications, mainly on weed control, and joint editor of three books on horticultural science.

Earlscliffe garden

His 7-acre (28,000 m2) garden, which is maintained with minimal outside help, has been designated one of Ireland ’s National Plant Heritage Gardens and was awarded the highest accolade (two stars) in the Good Gardens Guide (Ebury Press).[2]

Journalism and media appearances

David Robinson was a regular panel member on the Irish RTÉ Radio One "Ask About Gardening" show with Gerry Daly answering impromptu gardening questions phoned in by listeners.  For a 4-year period he was a presenter on the ‘Green fingers’ Television programme which was transmitted by BBC and RTÉ.  He wrote on gardening topics for a number of Irish and UK newspapers, journals and magazines, including the Farmer's Journal and The Irish Garden. He also judged at national and international garden festivals. He published over 100 scientific papers and was joint editor of three books. He visited over 70 countries on horticultural missions, was an invited speaker at conferences in all five continents and was Guest Professor in Urban Horticulture at the Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany from 1992 to 1999.  


David Robinson was employed as an overseas consultant by a number of organisations including FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation), Department of Foreign Affairs, Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO) and the Irish Horticultural Development Board. Countries involved included Lesotho, Swaziland, Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Malta.

He carried out garden/plant reconnaissance tours in the Caribbean, Borneo and Sweden, and led gardening tours to these and many other countries including  New Zealand, Australia and Majorca.  He lectured on cruise ships and led shore excursions in the South Pacific, Mediterranean, Canary Island, around Britain and the Madeira/Caribbean/Azores areas


His work in horticulture was recognised by many awards including the coveted Gold Veitch Memorial Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society, Honorary Life Membership of the Royal Dublin Society and of the International Society for Horticultural Science. He was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 1972 to study Japanese Gardening. He was also given the Fellowship and the Distinguished Horticulturist Award from the Institute of Horticulture and in 1996 was elected to the Institute's Hall of Fame. He was elected a Fellow by the American Society for Horticultural Science, the highest award offered by that Society.

David died in March 2004 and his wife, Muriel, died in April 2016. They are both survived by their daughter, Karen, son, Ivan and their respective families. [3]

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Other pages related to David Robinson

Plants that changed my life - The Horticulturist
Other articles and papers
Memorial Lectures


  • [1] Lecture given to the Howth Peninsula Society, September 1998
  • [2] Good Gardens Guide, Edited by Peter King, 1999, Publisher: Bloomsbury Pub Ltd; Pocket edition (November 1999), ISBN: 0747540098
  • [3] Further information can be found in the obituary written for the International Society for Horticultural Science, Chronica Horticulturae, Volume 44 - Number 2 - 2004. A copy can be found here:

This page was last updated on 27-Jul-2023 .