Friday September 17, 2021

The Archibald Archive

Written by SRGC


The Archibald Archive - introduction

(further links below)


James Cartledge Archibald, born in Scotland in 1941, began his obsession with plants at an early age, exhibiting plants and winning prizes at SRGC shows. During his school holidays and while at university, Jim worked at the Inschriach Nursery of Jack Drake; a place which has been an incubator for many great plants-folk over the years.


It was not long after leaving Edinburgh University that he decided that his interest in plants was to be central in his life. He began his seed hunting expeditions in the early nineteen-sixties and continued with a thoroughness and intellectual dedication that was to mark his life’s work.

From the 1960s Jim was sending seed and sometimes live material by airmail to that great Aberdeen grower, the late Harold Esslemont, who had tremendous respect for Jim's considered approach to planthunting and for the fine plants found and also for the teamwork displayed by Jenny in their long partnership from the 1970s. Jim and Jenny made a lovely garden in Wales and also exhibited plants – at the last show Jim attended in 2010 they had several outstanding exhibits and won a Farrer medal.

There can scarcely be a single person with an interest in alpine plants and bulbs who is not growing plants derived from the world wide seed collections of the Archibalds either directly from seed from Jim and Jenny's seed business JJA Seeds, or from that seed grown on by a multiplicity of nurseries across the world.

Jim and Jenny Archibald-DavidStephens


The extent of their travels and the scope of their seed introductions is quite enormous. Both with a great eye for a good plant and the determination to travel far and work hard to collect seed, Jim and Jenny made a formidable team, scouring the temperate regions of the world looking for seeds of good plants which they could introduce to our gardens.

Jim could court controversy with his forthright views, often expounded in their seed lists but this was to be expected of an opinionated Scotsman..... It’s in the job description really!

The world of plant-lovers and gardeners was saddened by his death in August 2010.

We dedicate these pages to the work of JCA and the team of JJA, the initials used to identify their seed collections.

Our grateful thanks are due to Jenny Archibald and to Jim’s archivist, David Stephens, for their help in this project.

There is an Archibald Archive thread in the Forum for your comments and contributions about plants you grow from Archibald seed.

Sections planned for the Archibald Archive  :


*Jim: through the eyes of others

*Writings of Jim Archibald

*Seedlists 1984 to 2011; Field Notes  etc   N. B.  See  this section for the master list of JJA seed numbers


*Archibald Plants and Botanic Gardens

*Plants grown from Archibald collections / seedlists




Jim Archibald - The Gap Years

In the years 1961 - 1964 after university and before wandering south to form The Plantsmen Jim started to lay the foundations of his future business ventures.
Indeed, during his school years Jim had a mail order business for exotic butterflies and moths, but that's another story.
Without being too firm about the dates, around 1961, Jim worked at Jack Drake's alpine nursery in the Scottish Highlands and carried on a mail order exotic plant business from his parents' home address.
During this period 1961 - 1963 he issued four and probably five plant lists.
We publish here four of them, although we believe there is a fifth list that precedes these, in Spring 1961 - if anyone has this list,  please let us have a copy.
David Stephens
Click on the name to open the list:   


Prior to 1962   Worked at Jack Drake’s alpine-plant nursery at Inshriach, Aviemore, Scotland, during school and university vacations.    (Studied English language & literature & philosophy : not botany.)


1962             First trip collecting in Corsica in spring ; High Atlas, Morocco, in July & August


1964             Moved to Dorset to lay foundations of a specialist plant-nursery at Buckshaw Gardens, Dorset.


Collecting seeds in Macedonia & northern Greece in July & August.


1966             Joined in Dorset by Eric Smith, propagator in the herbaceous & alpine department at Hilliers of Winchester.


Travelling from January till September through North Africa & Middle East to Iran. March to September : collecting in Iran (main concerns Dionysia and Iris of Section Oncocyclus.). Returned through Turkey & Europe.


1967             Commenced business in partnership with Eric Smith trading as ‘The Plantsmen’, specializing in growing unusual herbaceous plants and alpines.


1967-1975     Mainly involved with nursery business with occasional collecting (e.g. SE Spain with Lyn Weeks in 1970.)


1975-1983     After Eric Smith retired, Jim & his wife Jenny ran the nursery mainly on a wholesale basis supplying more specialized retail outlets such as the RHS Plant Centre Wisley.


1978             Collecting in Colombia with Jenny.


1979             Collecting in Yugoslavia for Helleborus, etc.


1982             Collecting in Morocco with John Blanchard & Mike Salmon.


1983             Jim & Jenny decide to devote all their time to seed-collecting. Short September-December collecting-trip to Europe after winding-up the nursery.


1984-1986     Jim & Jenny spent most of each summer travelling throughout southern Europe & Turkey collecting seeds. About 3 months spent in Turkey each year.


1987             Collecting in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona & New Mexico based with Panayoti & Gwen Kelaidis at Denver.


1988             Jim & Jenny move from Dorset to Wales to start to grow plants again. Last lengthy journey through Turkey.


1988-2010     Progressively more involved with growing plants for seed-production & establishing the garden in West Wales.


1989             Collecting in California, Oregon, Nevada & Utah, based with Wayne Roderick.


1990             Collected throughout southern Europe.


1991             Collected throughout the Andes of central Chile & Argentina, January to March, with Jenny and John Andrews. Collected through southern Europe in summer.


1992             Collected in western USA, based with Stan Farwig & Vic Girard


1993             Collected in Andes of Ecuador & through western USA with Jenny.


1994             Collected throughout the Andes of central Chile & Argentina, January to March, with Jenny & John Andrews; Turkey with Norman Stevens in June.


1995             Collected in western USA with Jenny.


1996             Collected in Drakensberg, South Africa with Panayoti Kelaidis, February-March, and northern Greece with Norman Stevens & Robert Rolfe in June.


1998             Collected in western USA with Jenny.


2000             Collected in Iran with Norman Stevens & Bob Wallis & western USA with Jenny.


2001             Collected in Iran with Norman Stevens & western USA with Jenny.


2002             Collected in Uzbekistan & Kazakhstan with Norman Stevens.


2003             Collected in Turkey with Norman Stevens and Arnis Seisuns


2005             Collected in Iran and Turkey with Norman Stevens


2007             Collected in Turkey with Norman Stevens


2010              Last trip: collecting in Georgia with Janis Ruksans and others

Sections for the Archibald Archive here :

*Jim: through the eyes of others

*Writings of Jim Archibald

*Seedlists, Field Notes etc

*Archibald Plants and Botanic Gardens

*Plants grown from Archibald collections / seedlists

*The Plantsmen Era


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