Plant Heritage are a plant conservation charity, based in Guildford, that encourage horticulturists, botanists, and gardeners to grow, propagate, share, and conserve a wide range of plants to protect and safeguard the variety of plants we have available to grow and enjoy. This year, Plant Heritage are celebrating their 40th anniversary, so to mark the occasion they asked garden designer Jackie Currie to create an exhibit for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, to publicise the value of Plant Heritage’s work.
Plant Heritage are a self-funding charitable organisation with limited resources, but thanks to the efforts of their staff and trustees, as well as the dedication of the growers of over 600 National Plant Collections across the country, the actual value of this charity’s work is priceless! It’s often assumed that a plant, once it’s released for sale, is held in vast numbers and will always be available for us to purchase forever more, but this is seldom the case. Plant stocks are often lower than you might expect; many plants that are popular one minute can fall from favour the next, so unless nurseries and gardeners grow, propagate, and share plants, there is no guarantee that we will be able to find a particular plant in the future.
Plants are valuable to us in so many ways – some plants produce compounds which are essential components in medical treatments, a plant may produce delicious fruit or vegetables, or a particular plant might be a valuable garden plant, which flowers earlier or later, or flowers for longer. A plant might be special as it copes when grown in a particular soil type, or a plant might be valued for its ability to survive extended periods of cold, heat, drought, or wet weather.
National Collection holders are passionate growers of a particular group of plants, these range from National Collections set up to honour a particular plant breeder, for example Sarah Cook’s National Collection of Irises introduced by Sir Cedric Morris, or National Collections set up to safeguard plants from a particular location, such as Linda Heywood’s National Collection of Echium Species and Cultivars from Macaronesian Islands. There are many collections of fascinating plants like Nigel Hewitt-Cooper, of Hewitt-Cooper Carnivorous Plants’ National Collection of Drosera, Jackie Currie holds a National Collection of Allium Species, Cultivars, and Hybrids, and Julian Reed holds a National Collection of Hardy Polypodium Cultivars, while Jonathan Hogarth holds a National Collection of Small and Miniature Hostas.
Jackie Currie is herself a National Collection Holder as well as a garden designer, so she was the perfect choice to design and build the Plant Heritage exhibit for the horticultural calendar’s most prestigious event, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Having said this, Jackie had quite a challenge before her: the Royal Horticultural Society contacted Plant Heritage just five weeks before the Chelsea Flower Show was due to open when an exhibitor pulled out due to the effects of the unseasonable cold weather this spring – so Jackie had just five weeks to come up with a design, source the plants, and create an exhibit! Jackie had to fit in her full-time day job as well as organising the display, so she’s had a very busy time! Thankfully, Jackie was ably assisted by Plant Heritage’s Show Manager, Gill Groombridge.
Plant Heritage’s Chelsea exhibit was entitled, ‘The Heart of Plant Heritage’, as the National Plant Collections are at the heart of Plant Heritage’s conservation work. The exhibit featured plants from 25 different National Collections, including roses borrowed from Mottisfont Abbey’s National Collection of pre-1900 Shrub Roses! Mottisfont Abbey’s National Collection of Roses was established by Graham Stuart Thomas in the 1970s, this magnificent rose collection is home to many old, and rare varieties of rose. Without the dedication of the renowned plantsman Graham Stuart Thomas, and the support of Plant Heritage and the National Trust, who now maintain this plant collection, these roses may otherwise have become extinct and lost to us forever.
Plant Heritage’s Chelsea exhibit also featured an Acer from the National Collection at Westonbirt Arboretum, lavender from Downderry Nursery’s National Collection of Lavender, as well as Alliums from Jackie Currie’s National Collection of Alliums.
The RHS judges were impressed with the Plant Heritage exhibit, presenting the display with a Silver-Gilt Medal, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018.
If you’re interested, you can support Plant Heritage by making a donation or becoming a member. Plant Heritage members enjoy many benefits including invitations to attend talks and workshops arranged by a network of local groups across the country, visits to gardens, specialist nurseries, National Plant Collections, and Plant Heritage’s Specialist Plant Fairs, where you can buy a wide range of rare and unusual plants. Members can take part in Plant Heritage’s Annual Plant Exchange, and twice a year members also receive the Plant Heritage Journal, which is full of interesting articles about plants. As a member and National Collection Holder myself, I can tell you that Plant Heritage is a lovely, friendly society; by joining and attending the meetings, you’re sure to make some great friends! For more details of Plant Heritage membership, please click here to visit Plant Heritage’s website.
This article was first published in the August 2018 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.
Other articles that may interest you…………
To see a selection of Jackie Currie’s National Collection of Alliums, please click here.
To see an overview of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
For information about the new introductions from David Austin Roses for 2018 – 2019, with a detailed description of each new rose’s perfume, please click here.
To take a tour of the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, which was designed by Mark Gregory for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
To take a tour of the Silent Pool Gin Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.