Mr. George Russell, the Yorkshireman who created the lupin as know it, and in his lifetime added more gaiety to the English garden than any other man in horticultural history, died yesterday, aged 94, at Albrighton, near Wolverhampton.
In this year’s New Year Honours he was awarded the M.B.E. for his services to horticulture.
A native of Stillington, Mr. Russell became known affectionately as the Lupin Man after years of tedious work in which he evolved from the original blue and white lupins, endless multicoloured variations.
He first became interested in lupins as a boy of 10 when his father took him to York Gala. More than 40 years later he was attracted to a vase of lupins on his employer’s parlour table.
He was then a jobbing gardener living at South Bank, York, and had an allotment at Bishopthorpe Road.
Dissatisfied with the look of his employer’s lupins, Mr. Russell decided to improve on the flower. After buying a packet of German lupin seeds, he crossed them with his own plants. For more than 15 years he sowed, selected, pollenised and tended his lupins until finally new colours began to show.
Two years ago he told a “Yorkshire Post” reporter: “For those lupins I worked 20 hours a day. It was a whole-time job of keeping ‘em clear of weed, rooting out the not-so-good, watching over the better plants, keeping the bees off some and letting ‘em get Into others.”
In 1932, when results began to show, people came from all over the country to see Mr. Russell’s lupins in bloom in Bishopthorpe Road. Offers of £50 a plant and £5 for a thimbleful of seed were made to him.
For three years he refused to commercialise his gains, but on the assurance of a proper place for his young helper. Sonny Herd, the son of a neighbour, he sold the rights to grow and sell the lupins to a Wolverhampton firm.
Today his likeness appears on packets of lupin seeds throughout the world.
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