Who was Reginald Cory?
Reginald Cory (1871-1934) was a successful entrepreneur who used his personal wealth to pursue a more creative passion: gardening. The gardens and arboretum at his home, Dyffryn House, are both an expression of contemporary landscape design and an outdoor showcase for his exotic collection of plants and trees.
Cory inherited Dyffryn with a large fortune from his father, John Cory, who had established a highly lucrative shipping and coal exporting enterprise. This business included a network of refuelling stations across the British Empire which functioned as service stations for coal-powered steam ships.
As well as following in his father’s commercial footsteps, Cory continued to develop the landscape and gardens at Dyffryn.
To complement his own knowledge as a keen plantsman, Cory called on the services of Thomas Mawson (1861-1933), a leading landscape designer, to advise on the layout and aesthetic elements.
It is clear from historical accounts that the partnership between Mawson and Cory was a highly creative one. Mawson wrote in his diary: ‘We felt at liberty to indulge in every phase of garden design which the site and my client’s catholic views suggested’.
New plant discoveries
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a time of frantic plant discovery and acquisition, and avid collectors like Cory were keen to get their hands on the most unusual and novel plants available.
As well as sponsoring plant collecting expeditions by some of the leading botanists of the day, Cory took part in a number of trips himself. These included expeditions to South Africa, The Caribbean and the Atlas Mountains.
His financial support for these expeditions meant that, as a subscriber, he received a share of the resulting plants. This included many plants grown from seed and collected by Ernest Wilson, the famous botanist, during his 1901 China expedition.
A legacy of plants
Cory’s reputation and influence was such that he became a leading Council Member of both the Royal Horticultural Society and the Linnaean Society. He developed a particular interest in dahlias – a previously rather overlooked group of plants – and was personally responsible for establishing horticultural trials that led to a wealth of new varieties and a renaissance in popularity for the genus that lasts to this day.
Many of the oldest trees still growing in the garden and arboretum at Dyffryn are survivors from Cory’s day. As well as these ‘originals’ Cory’s plant legacy flourishes in the pallet of plants chosen by today’s gardeners to maintain the Dyffryn’s spirit of place.