James Lye was born in Market Lavington, Wiltshire, in 1830, and died in Easterton in 1906. He began his horticultural career at the age of 12, as an apprentice grounds man at Clyffe Hall, and became Head Gardener 11 years later, to the then occupier the Hon. Mrs Louisa Hay.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century he became famous for raising and introducing fifty to sixty cultivars, many of these bear the now recognised Lye ‘Hall Mark’ which is a rich creamy white tube and sepals with a dense wax like texture. A number of these are still in cultivation today and form part of the James Lye Fuchsia Collection.
James was also known for his skill in growing his fuchsias in the style of ‘Pyramids’ and was a very keen exhibitor. His fuchsias were popular exhibits but he also showed other plants and vegetables at the various shows around the county.
After James’s death his fuchsias remained highly regarded, and in 1929 the cultivar “Clipper” was Highly Commended by the Royal Horticultural Society.