Peter Smithers

The Spy, Politician, Diplomat, and Gardener

Today is the birthday of Peter Smithers, who was born on this day in 1913.  Sir Peter Smithers, was a British politician and diplomat, but also an award-winning gardener. He worked as a British spy during World War II. Smithers was said to have inspired the fictional character of James Bond.
His obituary stated that:

"Flowers were ... important to him. [He said] "I regard gardening and planting as the other half of life, a counterpoint to the rough and tumble of politics."

Smithers learned to love the natural world from his nanny.
When he was in his 50s, that Smithers was finally able to focus on horticulture and botany full-time. Smithers loved rhododendrons, magnolias, tree peonies, lilies, and wisteria. He developed a garden that didn't require a ton of work - along the same lines as Ruth Stout.
He wrote:

“The garden is planted so as to reduce labor to an absolute minimum as the owner grows older.”

Thanks to Smither's travels, the Royal Horticulture Society asked Smithers to write his gardening memoirs. The book was a part-autobiography and part-garden book.
Smithers had observed gardens in England, Mexico, Central America, and Switzerland. Smithers shared stories from his incredible career - like the time he was serving in naval intelligence in Washington when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. And, George Coen commented,

"[Smithers is] as comfortable talking about [his career] as he is in explaining the behavior of wasps in a flower garden."

And, Smither's followed certain basic principals to help ground him as he pursued the hobby of gardening. All gardeners could benefit from Smithers's wise advice. He wrote:

"[The garden] shall be a source of pleasure to the owner and his friends, not a burden and anxiety."

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Peter Smithers
Peter Smithers

Leave a Comment