UK: National Plant Collection of Astilbe yields Brickell Award 2020

Malcolm Pharoah has been awarded the prestigious Brickell Award 2020 for his National Plant Collection of Astilbe held at Marwood Hill Gardens.

The Brickell Award (named after Plant Heritage’s founding member and current Vice-President Chris Brickell) recognises excellence in cultivated plant conservation.

A small, socially distanced award presentation took place on Friday 24th July 2020 at Marwood Hill Gardens, where Malcolm was presented his Brickell Award by Jon Webster, Vice Chairman of Plant Heritage’s Plant Conservation Committee. Lucy Pitman, Plant Heritage’s Plant Conservation Officer, Beth Smith, Collection Holder of Phlomis, Matt Brewer, new Head Gardener, and Patricia Stout, Property Manager both from Marwood Hill Gardens, were also in attendance. You can view the presentation here.

Malcolm started the Astilbe collection in the 1970s, when he worked as Head Gardener at Marwood Hill Gardens. In 1991 it was awarded full National Plant Collection status, and now, 30 years on, Malcolm has collected eight different species of Astilbe and over 200 cultivars - many of which are rare – all growing in the gardens near Barnstaple, north Devon.

This collection, and now the Brickell Award, is the result of three decades of dedicated work by Malcolm, as well as close collaboration with colleagues, and other Astilbe collection holders across the country. Malcolm has also worked with breeders across Europe to exchange different cultivars of Astilbe, and this, alongside his deep and ongoing commitment to cultivated plant conservation, has done much to restore and recover long-lost cultivars of Astilbe.

Matt Brewer, head gardener at Marwood, Jon Webster Vice Chair PCC & Curator RHS Rosemoor, Ann Fowler who helps With Collection at Marwood, Beth Smith NCH Phlomis, Malcolm Pharoah Brickell 2020 winner for Astilbe. (Patricia Stout from Marwood Hill Gardens was also in attendance).

Astilbe 'Betsy Cuperus'. A thunbergii hybrid raised by B Ruys in Holland in 1917. Award of Merit Holland 1917. Highly commended RHS Trial 1970. Credit: Plant Heritage

Astilbe At Marwood Hill Gardens. Credit: Plant Heritage

Vicki Cooke, Conservation Manager, Plant Heritage says: “Malcolm has been a pivotal member of our Devon Group since 2007, and has served on the committee for 10 years too. His ongoing passion and dedication for conserving garden plants is just what the Brickell Award is all about, and we’re thrilled to honour his work and Marwood Hill’s beautiful Astilbe collection, in this way”.

Also known as ‘false goatsbeard’, Astilbe produces elegant plumes of flowers, from shades of rosy-pink to pure white, in late spring and summer. Astilbes are easy to grow shade-tolerant plants and can be found in a variety of sizes from small plants that fit perfectly in a border, to much taller varieties that can reach an impressive 2 metres in height.

Malcolm Pharoah, National Plant Collection Holder of Astilbe and winner of the Brickell Award 2020, says: “I am delighted to have won this year’s Brickell Award. I’ve loved Astilbe for many years, and throughout my career I’ve cared for and grown as many varieties as possible, as well as researching new varieties. Our collection at Marwood Hill Gardens is looking particularly striking at the moment, as our Astilbes are in full bloom, so we hope that lots of visitors will be able to come and share our enjoyment of them soon.”

For more information
Plant Heritage

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