In 1958 Be Your Own Gardening Expert started a major innovation in gardening books. In 2008 the Expert guides celebrated their 50th anniversary and the 50 millionth copy in print.They had become the bestselling gardening books in history.
Their creator Dr D G (Dave) Hessayon, the son of a Cypriot landowner, was born in 1928 and grew up in Manchester. He read Botany at Leeds University, where he gained his BSc degree. In 1950 he travelled to the United States, working as the editor of a small town newspaper. In 1953 he went to Ghana as a Research Fellow at the University College before returning to Manchester to obtain his PhD in soil ecology. In 1955 he accepted a position as chief scientist with Pan Britannica Industries, becoming chairman in 1972. It was here that Dr Hessayon formulated the idea for his Expert guides to gardening.
A steady stream of Experts followed the publication of Be Your Own Gardening Expert, each one maintaining the basic formula of down-to-earth writing with pictures, charts and photographs. In the British Bestsellers list for the 1980s there were two Experts in the Top 10. In 1993 Dr Hessayon received the first-ever Lifetime Achievement 'Oscar' at the National British Book Awards. He was also awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Gold Veitch Memorial Medal for his outstanding contribution to the advancement and improvement of the science and practice of horticulture.In 1999 Dr Hessayon was awarded a Guinness World Record Certificate for being Britain's 'bestselling non-fiction author of the 1990s'. In 2012 he was included in the Daily Mail list of '60 truly great Elizabethans' for 'teaching millions of us how to garden'.
Despite his resolve to stay out of the limelight there have been further awards along the way - a Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Garden Media Guild, three Honorary Doctorates and an OBE in 2007. There are over 28 Expert titles in 22 languages, and in Britain their sales continue to dominate the gardening paperback lists. The Vegetable & Herb Expert continues to be the No.1 bestseller. Now an active octogenarian, Dr Hessayon has more gardening Experts in the pipeline and he serves as the Design and Editorial Consultant for the non-gardening Experts. Retirement has to wait.
"I would say that the Expert Books have been the biggest innovation in gardening publications since the death of William Robinson in 1938" - Dr Brent Elliott (Librarian, Royal Horticultural Society)