UK: Eight National Plant Collections join Plant Heritage scheme

Eight new National Plant Collections join the Plant Heritage conservation scheme, including two for Cornwall’s Eden Project and a collection inspired by the Missing Genera campaign.
  • Aucuba japonica – a shade-loving shrub that fell from fashion
  • Ginkgo biloba – inspired by the Missing Genera campaign.
  • Kniphofia (2 collections) – Cornwall’s Eden Project champions the red-hot poker
  • Narcissus (by Rev G H Engleheart) – a dispersed collection held by members of Suffolk Plant Heritage
  • Narcissus (Springfields) – showcasing Spalding’s bulb-growing heritage
  • Peperomia – a popular houseplant now almost lost in the wild
  • Santolina – an easy going, sun-loving genus
Plant Heritage CEO Sarah Quarterman comments:

'We are delighted to welcome these new Collections, which continue to develop and broaden our conservation of cultivated plants. It's particularly pleasing to see a collection arising from our Missing Genera campaign and another dispersed collection, which shares plants and knowledge among a group rather than an individual. We are especially pleased to welcome a new organisation, the Eden Project, into the Plant Heritage family."

Aucuba japonica (Reference) – Birmingham
This Collection was transferred from one held by Linda Eggins at Clent, which she began in the 1970s. When Linda downsized her garden, cuttings from the Collection were propagated at Winterbourne House at the University of Birmingham. These plants are now planted in display beds on the main university campus. This is the only Aucuba collection in the Plant Heritage scheme and is a valuable reference, for although the shrub was once widely grown, the current availability of A. japonica cultivars has steadily declined to the point of extinction in some cases.

Ginkgo biloba and cvs. (Horticultural) – Worcestershire
Grown in pots in a sheltered garden, the Ginkgo Collection comprises 135 cultivars – and is expanding rapidly. Collection Holder Tony Davies started growing the genus two years ago, after he became aware of the lack of a National Collection in the UK through Plant Heritage’s Missing Genera campaign.

Tony is keen to show gardeners the diversity of Ginkgo, and to provide a reference for the identification of cultivars (a large number of errors in naming is suspected). Although his plants are currently container grown, they will be transferred to an open site in the long term. He also aims to increase the variety of plants he holds, and would like to acquire those classed as ‘threatened’, such as ‘Bryson City’, ‘Compacta’ and ‘Hect Leiden’.

Kniphofia species, subspecies and varieties (Reference)

Kniphofia cvs. and AGM species (Horticultural) – Cornwall

According to Eden Project Seed Bank specialist Fern Carroll-Smith, they have wanted a National Collection for some time, and saw the opportunity when redeveloping a bed called ‘Bright Sparks’, designed to celebrate their horticultural students and apprentices. ‘Kniphofia was the obvious choice for a bright, colourful border,’ says Fern. ‘It’s important for us to support Plant Heritage and we wish to preserve the beautiful variety of Kniphofia cultivars, as they are prone to going in and out of fashion.’

The genus is native to South Africa and Eden Project is taking care to ensure it flourishes in the world-famous garden. The Cornish climate is mild and the bed is sheltered from prevailing winds. Back-up plants are kept in a propagation nursery, and if winter is particularly hard the plants can be transferred to heated and unheated greenhouses.

The aim is that Collections will be a valuable reference for the future, and to be useful for – and linked with – Eden Project's conservation efforts. They intend to collect seed from species in South Africa and Europe to gather material of species not common in cultivation, and will be working with Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden to achieve this.

Narcissus cvs. introduced and registered by Rev G H Engleheart (Historical) – Suffolk
This is a dispersed Collection held by members of the Plant Heritage Suffolk Group, with the aim of conserving the work of daffodil breeder Rev George Herbert Engleheart (1851-1936). A prolific amateur breeder, Rev Engleheart introduced over 700 Narcissus cultivars during his lifetime, including favourites such as ‘Seagull’, ‘Horace’ and ‘Beersheba’.

To source and research this many plants would be a daunting task for one person, but with a dispersed collection the work is shared among a group of plant enthusiasts. The Collection is spread across eight Suffolk sites: seven are members' back gardens, and the eighth is Columbine Hall, a large estate.

The Suffolk group will propagate the Collection by natural bulking of new bulbs, supplemented by twin scaling, a technique that they have been using successfully for many years and which they are keen to share with other group members to promote conservation skills.

Narcissus, Springfields Collection (Historical) – Lincolnshire
Spalding in Lincolnshire has a long history as a centre of bulb growing, and daffodil production is still an important part of the local economy. It is this connection that lies behind the Springfields Narcissus Collection, maintained by Springfields Horticultural Society (SHS). It includes varieties that have originated from various centres of research, and were once sited at HRI Warwick University site at Kirton, near Boston. Around nine years ago the Collection was moved to the world-famous Springfields Gardens in Spalding.

The plants are displayed in open ground in a dedicated area, grown in Grade 1 Fen Silt, and will form a specific part of the Springfields Exhibition Gardens, which are open to the public all year round.

Peperomia cvs. (Horticultural) – Derbyshire
Peperomia is an evergreen perennial and popular as a houseplant. Most originate from South America, have simple heart-shaped leaves and greenish-white flowers. Collection Holder Sally Williams has grown Peperomia since she was a child, and her fascination with the genus continues. The leap into starting a collection began when she tried to track down P. caperata cultivars – and found them impossible to find, despite having RHS AGM awards. Plant Heritage has identified 22 out of 29 cultivars listed in the Plant Finder as threatened in cultivation. Many have no known growing locations and may well be impossible to acquire.

Sally says: ‘There is also a lot of confusion surrounding the identification and naming of Peperomia - in fact, it appears to be widely accepted that there are many more P.caperata cultivar names for sale than there are different plants! I have found myself doing lots of research to clarify names, and sometimes have to wait for a plant to flower before I can confirm exactly what it is.’

Sally’s Collection is kept in her stone-built home, which offers north light and dappled sunshine. She plans to display the Peperomia in the greenhouse on open days, through which she hopes to make the genus more widely known.

Santolina, Western European spp. & cvs (Horticultural) – Suffolk
Held by Botanica hardy plant nursery in Suffolk, the Santolina Collection has been established for 10-15 years. Plants are displayed on a sunny bank of low-nutrient soil, and attract many compliments from visitors to the nursery. The plants are easy to grow but do not tolerate wet or waterlogged soil and need regular trimming to avoid becoming leggy. This Collection began with one plant - S. ‘Lemon Fizz’ - which sparked an interest in Botanica owner Jon Rose. ‘At the time there was no National Collection, and I felt I should take on the challenge and champion this charming, easy-going plant that seems to have become rather unfashionable.’ Jon plans to study and photograph Santolina in the wild and document the genus in more detail.

For more information:
Plant Heritage
12 Home Farm,
Loseley Park,
01483 447540

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