Doug Butterill, Elizabeth Gentil, Tom Deans and Reaseheath horticulture at community orchard 1

Reaseheath students honour inspirational Nantwich gardener

Reaseheath College horticultural students have helped honour an inspirational gardener by planting trees in his memory in Nantwich’s community orchard.

Tony Gentil was formerly deputy head of horticulture at Reaseheath and was recognised as one of the country’s leading experts on orchard fruit. After his retirement in 1997 he set up a fruit tree nursery and consultancy at his home in Aston, Nantwich, and also became a key figure in local conservation and horticultural associations such as the Cheshire Landscape Trust, Nantwich in Bloom and Greenspaces South Cheshire.

It was Tony’s idea to launch a community orchard for the people of Nantwich on The Riverside five years ago and there are now over 30 trees on the plot. When the trees become mature their fruit will be picked by visitors strolling in the popular park.

Reaseheath horticulture students and lecturers Anne Harrison and Anthony Saxon plant a rare Aston Town pear

Reaseheath horticulture students and lecturers Anne Harrison and Anthony Saxon plant a rare Aston Town pear

Tony died last year at the age of 70. At a dedication ceremony (Friday 15 Feb) his widow, Mrs Elizabeth Gentil, unveiled a plaque in his honour and delivered three rare local varieties of fruit trees propagated by Tony, a Ferrets Pippin, a Briarfields Pippin and an Aston Town pear.

Reaseheath College also donated six fruit trees and the planting was carried out by Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture students. Other trees in the orchard have been donated by Cheshire Landscape Trust. Nantwich in Bloom has also been involved in the planting.

Paying tribute to her late husband, Mrs Gentil said: “Although Tony was a very modest man, he influenced many people. He was a tireless gardener and was always very much in demand to speak to professional groups.

“He has left us a great legacy. Over his career he did much to help change the face of arboriculture from ‘a forester who does things with trees’ to a respected profession where practitioners’ achievement is measured in the same way as academic achievement – by peer scrutiny.

“I hope that this community orchard flourishes and, like Tony, provides inspiration and fruit for many years to come.”

Former Head of Horticulture at Reaseheath, Tom Deans, recalled his colleague became a lecturer in the department in 1982 and was Deputy Head from 1986 to 1994. He then became Head of Management Studies and taught management and business until his retirement.

He said: “Tony was what we call in the trade a good knifesman – he could propagate anything. He found some of the old varieties of fruit in the area, and in the country, and with his skills he was able to propagate them on to root stocks. Hence we have some of these old varieties now being perpetuated in his memory. I cannot think of a better commemoration for a gardener.”

Main Image Caption: Former chairman of Nantwich in Bloom Doug Butterill, Elizabeth Gentil and Tom Deans are joined by Reaseheath students and staff at the unveiling of the orchard plaque