Nine new National Plant Collections awarded by Plant Heritage

Nine new National Plant Collections® across the UK have been awarded by the leading garden plant conservation charity, Plant Heritage. These new collections demonstrate the dedicated work of individuals or organisations that are passionate about protecting the diversity of the nation’s rich flora.
 
  • Aloe and Gasteria (hybrids raised by Peter Brandham)
  • Epiphyllum (hybrids raised by Eric Hodkinson), Historic Collections in Derbyshire
 
Hailed as a mecca for cacti lovers, Abbey Brook Cactus Nursery add these to their existing collections

  • Agapanthus (pre-2005 cultivars), Horticultural Collection in Gloucestershire
 
Mike Grimshaw believes it’s important to keep older plants and their strong genetic traits growing
 
  • The Guernsey Nerine Collection, Horticultural Collection
 
The Guernsey group of Plant Heritage has been nurturing a significant collection of the "Guernsey Lily"
 
  • Buxus (spp. and cvs. of Europe, NW Africa and Asia), Reference Collection in Hampshire
 
Specialist nursery Langley Horticulture argues that attempts to control box blight are not as futile as we think
 
  • Francoa, Horticultural Collection in Hampshire
 
Susan Summers can’t believe that this evergreen perennial, perfect for the shady, more difficult areas of the garden is so rarely grown
 
  • llex, Reference Collection in Hampshire
 
A great day out, Highfield Hollies grows Ilex of all sizes and varieties
 
  • Malus (Welsh cultivars), Reference Collection in Wales
 
A veritable Welsh treasure, this orchard grows apples of either Welsh origin or a long-standing tradition of being grown there
 
  • Helleborus (Harvington Hybrids), Horticultural Collection in Worcestershire
 
Webbs Garden Centre pays tribute to local breeders of stellar hellebores, the Nunns

Aloe and Gasteria (hybrids raised by Peter Brandham)
Epiphyllum (hybrids raised by Eric Hodkinson), Historic Collections in Derbyshire


Brian Fearn’s passion for succulents led him to establish Abbey Brook Cactus Nursery in 1956 in Darley Dale, ‬‬‬Derbyshire. More than 60 years later Brian and his wife Gillian have six National Plant Collections®, including ‬‬‬the new Aloe and Gasteria (hybrids raised by Dr Peter Brandham), and Epiphyllum (hybrids raised by Eric Hodkinson) collections. ‬‬‬Brian won the Brickell Award in 2010 for his studies of Lithops, for which he holds a scientific National Collection. ‬‬‬

For almost 40 years, Brian has been growing a group of fascinating and beautiful Aloe and Gasteria hybrids that were raised at RBG Kew by Dr Brandham, a plant cytogeneticist. Peter gave Brian cuttings of a selection of his best hybrids, many of which have striking patterns of spots and lines on their leaves. Brian’s collection of more than 50 of the original hybrids and species is a unique and important resource.‬‬‬

‭Brian encouraged the late Eric Hodkinson, a retired Derbyshire policeman, to carry on his pioneering ‭work hybridising Epiphyllum in the early 1980s. From hundreds of seedlings Eric selected and named 37 good hybrids, most of which were named for friends and two of his best were for Abbey Brook – E. ‘Brian Fearn’ and E. ‘Darley Firestar’. Only a few of Eric’s hybrids came to Abbey Brook because he gave many away to friends and it is not known whether any of the others still exist.‬‬‬‬‬‬

Agapanthus (pre-2005 cultivars), Horticultural Collection in Gloucestershire


Mike Grimshaw became interested in holding a collection of this genus while on holiday in Devon – he was captivated by Dick and Lorna Fulcher’s National Collection of Agapanthus, then based at Bicton College. A subsequent visit to Pine Cottage Plants, the Fulchers’ nursery, inspired him to start his own collection, initially focusing on vulnerable pre-2005 varieties.

Mike says, “Many of the older, larger varieties are less commercially attractive and increasingly difficult to source. Older plants tend to have stronger resistance to pests and diseases and it’s important for breeding to keep these plants and their strong genetic traits growing.”

The Guernsey Nerine Collection, Horticultural Collection


Nerine sarniensis (often called the “Guernsey Lily”) originates in South Africa. The red and orange flowering bulbs grow in the mountains of the southern Cape. The flowers of the shocking pink Nerine bowdenii are better known in the UK because the bulb is easier to grow. However, the sparkling flowers of N. sarniensis offer a fantastic variety of colour and form.

Sarniensis means “from Guernsey” - Romans called it the Island of Sarnia. How the link between the South African bulb and the Channel Island was made is lost in botanical legend and is still a matter of debate. Theories range from a shipwreck to its introduction by a political prisoner during the Civil War.

Whatever the truth, nerines have been cultivated there for more than three centuries and are still grown for cut flowers. The Guernsey group of Plant Heritage has been nurturing a significant collection of varieties believed to have been grown commercially and bred in Guernsey. They organise the Nerine Festival each October.

Buxus (spp. and cvs. of Europe, NW Africa and Asia), Reference Collection in Hampshire

Langley Horticulture, the specialist box nursery in Liss, would argue that attempts to prevent and control box blight are not as futile as the media would have us believe. They aim to reignite the nation’s interest in Buxus and prove that there is life after blight. The National Collection at Langley was withdrawn in 2015 when the owner sold the nursery. Andrew Napier, a box enthusiast, has been working with Ashley Brunning, the new owner, to revive and develop the old collection.

Francoa, Horticultural Collection in Hampshire

Francoa, or “bridal wreath”, is a rarely grown genus that consists of herbs endemic to Chile. Susan Summers has built a collection of this little evergreen perennial in her garden in Hampshire and cannot believe that so few people have heard of, or grow, it. “Francoa has hardly any pests,” she says, “and is great for the shady, more difficult areas of the garden.” Two of the rarest varieties in Susan’s collection - F. sonchifolia ‘Doctor Tom Smith’ and ‘Molly Anderson’ - are also safe in the hands of Plant Guardians® and are being grown and shared across the UK by Plant Heritage members as part of the charity’s annual Plant Exchange.‬‬

llex, Reference Collection in Hampshire

‭Highfield Hollies was established in 1992 to grow large hollies for gardeners looking for an instant impact. Despite finding many cultivars difficult to obtain, the business expanded to growing Ilex of all sizes and varieties. It served a large cross section of the public, from royalty to cottage gardens, and is now a recognised National Collection. Highfield no longer operates as a nursery. It does, however, propagate hollies to order and offers opportunities to explore the gardens, groves and woodland, with light refreshments available. Talks, wreath-making and topiary courses are also on offer. ‬‬‬

Malus (Welsh cultivars), Reference Collection in Wales

Growing in the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire is a veritable Welsh treasure – a heritage orchard packed with apple cultivars of either Welsh origin or having a long-standing tradition of being grown there. Now recognised as a National Collection, this living library of genetic material aims to encompass all known Welsh dessert, culinary and cider apple varieties and to preserve that heritage for future generations. The garden spreads the word about the glorious diversity of Welsh apples at its Apple Weekend every October.‬‬‬

Helleborus (Harvington Hybrids), Horticultural Collection in Worcestershire

Webbs Garden Centre in Worcestershire is honouring local breeders of stellar hellebores, Hugh and Liz Nunn. The ‬‬‬Nunns named their hybrids Harvington after the Worcestershire village in which they began raising the plants about ‬‬‬
‭20 years ago.

Their daughter Penny continues to raise the breeding lines of Harvington hellebores, producing 200,000 plants each year. Harvington hybrids are strong and reliable because they are grown outside rather than under protection, which means they transfer easily into the garden.‬‬‬

 
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