National Collection Holders' Conference 2016

The first Conference in 16 years for National Collection Holders took place on 23 November at RHS Wisley, with over 100 attendees. Collection Holders and local Collection Co-ordinators travelled from all over the UK to exchange ideas, share best practice, and learn from expert speakers in plant health, conservation, taxonomy and plant breeding.

Above from left: Sarah Quarterman, CEO of Plant Heritage; Sophie Leguil, Plant Conservation Officer; John David, Head of Horticultural Taxonomy at the RHS, at the NCH Conference 2016

Chaired by John David, Head of Horticultural Taxonomy at the RHS, this gathering of dedicated plant experts included individual enthusiasts, nurseries, National Trust gardens, botanic gardens, private estates, universities, local government and parks authorities. Between them they hold a wealth of horticultural knowledge and specific expertise surrounding their Collections, covering over 300 plant genera.
Plant Heritage's Plant Conservation Officer, Sophie Leguil, commented: 'National Collection Holders are at the heart of Plant Heritage's conservation work, as they guarantee a safer future for many of our garden plants. This conference has offered a formidable opportunity to bring together the community of Collection Holders and facilitate the exchange of ideas, and I am absolutely delighted by the enthusiasm this conference has generated.' 
The Conference focused on the challenges facing National Collection Holders - particularly the increasing levels of pests and diseases, issues around what makes a plant worthy of conserving, and how to implement succession planning, for example, when a Collection Holder has to give up their Collection.
Key speakers at the Conference included:
Andrew Gaunt, Plant Health and Seeds Inspector from the West Sussex Animal and Plant Health Agency, and NCH for Hedychium
Simon Toomer, National Specialist for Plant Conservation at the National Trust
James Armitage, Principal Scientist - Horticultural Taxonomy at the RHS
Graham Spencer, owner of Plants for Europe Ltd, the UK's leading plant breeders' agent.
Sophie Leguil, Plant Conservation Officer at Plant Heritage 

Later sessions included talks from five National Collection Holders, including Brian Whitton on the virtues of Corydalis as a garden plant; Mona Abboud on her fascination with the 'undervalued and unknown' evergreen shrub Corokia; Josh Egan-Wyer of Pershore College on how using QR codes and NFC tags on the Penstemon Collection improves student learning; Sarah Cook on showingIris Sir Cedric Morris Introductions at Chelsea; and Jonathan Hogarth on achieving success at RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows with Hosta (small and miniature).
There were also displays from Melcourt Composts and the RHS Herbarium team, as well as the opportunity for training on Persephone, the online recording system for National Plant Collections.
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