Plant Heritage Win Gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021!

Garden Designer Jackie Currie and Plant Heritage won a Gold Medal for their ‘National Plant Collections Everywhere!’ exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021!  This stunning exhibit showcased plants from National Plant Collections grown inside living rooms, glasshouses, gardens, and allotments, across the UK.

Aspidistra elatior ‘Akebono’ from Philip Oostenbrink’s National Collection of Aspidistra, pictured alongside Peperomias from Sally Williams’ National Collection of Peperomias, and Spider Plants from Mercy Morris’ National Collection of Chlorophytum, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Crassula from Amanda Whittaker’s National Collection of Crassula. Pictured on Plant Heritage’s Gold Medal exhibit, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 210.
Jackie Currie pictured with the Gold Medal Plant Heritage exhibit she designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021. This display shows how plants from our National Plant Collections are grown indoors as houseplants, inside glasshouses, and outdoors as garden and allotment plants.

One of the stars of the exhibit was the Salvia caymanensis, grown by John and Linsey Pink who hold a National Collection of Salvias.  Salvia caymanensis is endemic to Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands; it’s one of 21 species that are only found on these islands.  This species had not been seen since 1967 and was thought to be extinct.  However, conservationists working on the Darwin Initiative-funded Biodiversity Action Plan concluded that the disturbance caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 could have triggered dormant seeds to germinate.  A reward was offered and ‘Wanted’ posters displaying pictures of Salvia caymanensis were distributed.  The campaign was successful – a motorist delayed by roadworks spotted a single plant growing by the roadside.  Salvia caymanensis is a short-lived plant but a prolific seeder.  Seeds were collected and new plants were propagated.  This plant’s future has now been safeguarded, thanks to the sharing of plant material – plants are grown on the Cayman Islands, seed is stored inside the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place; plants are grown at Kew, and by National Collection Holders’ Linsey and John Pink, in Hampshire.

Linsey and John Pink with Salvia caymanensis, a rare salvia from the Cayman Islands. This is one of many plants in their National Collection of Salvias.

Andrew Gaunt holds the National Collection of Hedychium (gingers).  Andrew supplied plants to researchers at CABI in Surrey.  Hedychium is an invasive plant in Azores and New Zealand; CABI scientists are looking for pests and diseases that would weaken or kill these plants.  Nothing has been found to date.

Andrew Gaunt and Alan Titchmarsh, pictured with the Plant Heritage Gold Medal exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021.

When only a single plant strain is cultivated, these plants are very susceptible to pests and diseases.  Panama Disease (caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense) is threatening the world’s banana plantations.  Grocers sell numerous varieties of most fruit and vegetables, however 99% of exported bananas are all the same type – Cavendish.  Cavendish bananas are vegetatively propagated – these banana plants share the same genetic information.  If one Cavendish banana plant succumbs to disease it can quickly spread and devastate the entire plantation.  The John Innes Centre in Norwich have been studying plants from Andrew Gaunt’s National Collection to determine whether Hedychiums might have a fusarium resistance gene that could help the banana.

For Andrew, the star of his Hedychium at Chelsea is Hedychium deceptum, a rare and rather striking red flowered Hedychium, a native plant of Northern India that used to be known as Hedychium rubrum.  Botanists at the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley named Andrew’s plant as Hedychium deceptum by referencing plant material collected a century ago.

Andrew Gaunt showing Alan Titchmarsh the Hedychium on the Plant Heritage exhibit, designed by Jackie Currie for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021.
Gill Groombridge pictured with Penstemon smalii ‘Violet Dusk’ on the Plant Heritage exhibit, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021.
The Plant Heritage team join their President Alan Titchmarsh in front of their Gold medal winning Plant Heritage exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021. Left to right: Andrew Gaunt, Steve Currie, Vicki Cooke, Lorraine Cooke, Alan Titchmarsh, Jackie Currie, Jim Marshall, Gill Groombridge, Linsey Pink & John Pink.

Two thirds of our cultivated plants are threatened with extinction.  Plant Heritage need our support to continue their work.  Why not become a member?  Plant Heritage members enjoy a tantalising programme of activities including talks, exclusive garden visits, and workshops, plus the Plant Heritage Journal.  Plant Heritage Membership would make an excellent gift.

A shortened version of this article was first published in the November 2021 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

For more articles about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021, please click here.

For more articles about Plant Conservation, please click here.

For gardening advice for November, please click here.

To see my calendar of Online Gardening Talks, please click here.

To see my calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Plant & Seed Swaps, please click here.

To read more articles about Plant Heritage, please click here.

For articles about Jackie Currie, please click here.

To see all of my RHS Chelsea Flower Show articles, please click here.

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