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Plant Heritage awards five new National Plant Collections

by | 05 Nov 16 | News

plant heritage

Leading plant conservation and membership charity Plant Heritage welcomes a further five Collections into its flagship nationwide scheme.

The fabulous five include:

  • Two collections of Camassia – bulbous hardy perennials with show-stopping starry blooms in spring/early summer
  • Wisteria spp & cvs. – spectacular climbers thriving in a cool Cumbrian garden 700ft above sea level
  • Narcissus, Backhouse Heritage Daffodils – an historic group of plants rescued from extinction by a dedicated family descendant of the Backhouse family
  • Malus domestica cvs. bred and grown in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight pre-1960 – a geographically defined collection of apple cultivars looked after by horticultural students at Sparsholt College

Sarah Quarterman, CEO of Plant Heritage, says: ‘This new tranche of National Plant Collections illustrates why we value the diversity of plants – in particular, their historical value to our culture. We are grateful to these Collection Holders for their dedication and the work they have undertaken to bring these Collections into being, and for conserving them for future generations.’

Camassia: Sheffield

Stella Exley first saw Camassia bloom in a woodland garden over 15 years ago and has been collecting the hardy perennials ever since. Most of the cultivars were bred in North America and Holland and they thrive in Stella’s nursery (Hare Spring Plants), located in the damp foothills of the Pennines. She is keen to promote the garden-worthiness of the genus to a wider audience – for instance, they do not attract slugs and snails.

Stella’s Collection incorporates bulb material from the previous Collection Holder, the late Margaret Owen MBE, and she continues to work with Owen’s garden executor to identify Camassia on site. She keeps her Collection in individual pots and in a range of environments, from deep shade and dappled woodland (where they flower for longer), to open, sunny sites, and a mixture of both. The different aspects allow Stella to see how they perform, so she can offer relevant advice to other growers.

Camassia: Shropshire

The National Trust at Attingham Park also holds a National Collection of Camassia, donated in 2015 from the estate of the previous Collection Holder, the late Margaret Owen MBE. Camassia are historically important to Attingham Park, as the 8th Lady Berwick, the last of the Berwick family to live there, particularly admired them in her Spring Garden. In 1970 she gave Margaret Owen a small number of the plants, which became the beginnings of the Collection. Attingham Park is working with renowned plantsman Chris Sanders at Owen’s garden ‘The Patch’ to locate missing cultivars, which will then be relocated to the Park’s walled gardens.

Wisteria spp. & cvs.: Cumbria

A glimpse of Wisteria cascading from the roof of a purple-painted cottage inspired Fiona Butcher’s horticultural obsession. She began her Wisteria Collection in 1999, and now they fill her sheltered Cumbrian garden, 700 feet above sea level, some planted in the ground and the rest in pots. With limited space for large, free-growing specimens, Fiona’s aim is to create a collection of bonsai Wisteria. Growing plants from seed is a problem as they take around 10 years to flower and don’t come true from seed. As a result, Fiona has perfected air-layering and grafting to propagate her plants.

Narcissus, Backhouse Heritage Daffodils: Fife

Caroline Thomson describes her passion for Narcissus, Backhouse Heritage Daffodils, as ‘in her DNA’. A direct descendant of the Backhouse family, the Collection began when Caroline’s mother raised concerns that many of the daffodil cultivars bred by three generations of Caroline’s forebears in the Backhouse Family, from 1869 to 1962, were seemingly lost to time and barely surviving (although the RHS Daffodil Register lists 956 Backhouse cultivars, most are sadly lost).

In a race against time, Caroline contacted family members, private growers, the RHS and other horticultural organisations around the world to help collect missing plants and identify others. Currently the Collection, based at Rofsie Estate in Fife, comprises 84 Backhouse Heritage Daffodil cultivars. Looking forward, Caroline hopes to continue the family tradition by registering new hybrids.

Malus domestica cvs. (bred and grown in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight pre-1960): Hampshire

This collection of local apple cultivars from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is held by Sparsholt College near Winchester. The main part of the Collection was presented to the college by the Federation of Hampshire Horticultural Societies in 1987 in celebration of their Silver Jubilee, as a living feature for the students to use, study and cultivate.

The Collection contains many rare cultivars (13 are classed by Plant Heritage as ‘Threatened in Cultivation’), and the college intends to add further geographically recognised cultivars introduced prior to 1960 – they are particularly keen to acquire ‘Sir Douglas Haigh’ and ‘Lord Kitchener’.

The trees are grown without the use of chemical controls in an established orchard, and are maintained by horticultural students from the college. An ongoing programme of budding and grafting ensures the cultivars are conserved (and any excess plants are available for exchange or sale).


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