Plant Heritage celebrates its 40th birthday with a beautiful display at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Leading garden plant conservation charity Plant Heritage dedicates its 40th anniversary display at RHS Chelsea Flower Show (22-26 May) to the National Plant Collections®, which are at the heart of its conservation work.

Garden designer Jackie Currie (who holds a National Plant Collection of Allium) is designing and building the display, along with Plant Heritage’s Shows Manager, Gill Groombridge. Titled ‘The heart of Plant Heritage’, its focal point is a large Acer representing the Collection at Westonbirt Arboretum, underplanted with a woodland garden filled with gems from the National Plant Collections – including a reference Collection of Epimedium.

To celebrate Plant Heritage's anniversary, the number 40, sculpted in willow by Buckinghamshire-based company Water Willows, will nestle at the front of the woodland garden.

The display showcases the diversity of National Plant Collections with 25 different collections being included. The different categories of National Plant Collection are highlighted - historic, horticultural and reference and also scientific status, awarded as a result of a high level of research into the plants by the collection holder.

Jackie’s Allium collection is highlighted, as well as the scientific National Plant Collection of Lavandula from Kent’s Downderry Nursery. The purple shades of both plants will pop against a backdrop of historic roses from the collection at the National Trust’s Mottisfont Abbey.

Mottisfont is the masterpiece of plantsman Graham Stuart Thomas, one of the most important figures in 20th-century British horticulture. Thomas created the rose garden in the 1970s to give home to his own collection and many old varieties that may otherwise have become extinct. Mottisfont’s pre-1900 shrub roses were one of the first National Plant Collections to be awarded by Plant Heritage in 1985.

Jackie Currie, displayed for the first time at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2017, will showcase a wide range of alliums from her allotment in Surrey. Keen to research and document the growing requirements of ornamental alliums, Jackie holds one of the newer collections, gaining accreditation in 2015.

Simon Charlesworth’s vast library of lavender species and cultivars at Downderry Nursery, illustrates a reference collection, but also one that was awarded scientific status by Plant Heritage in 2009 for its commitment to the research of all aspects of lavender. Examples of lavender oil distilled at the nursery will be on display, as will a variety of unusual lavender.

Conserving the diversity of cultivated plants is essential to all our futures. The plants grown in National Collections or by Plant Guardians may contain potentially important genetic material. They carry the legacy of generations of plant collectors and breeders who have built our nation’s rich and unique horticultural landscape. The work of Plant Heritage spans 40 decades and in the light of climate change and an increasingly urban society, which values horticulture as important to its health and well-being, the charity’s work is as important now as it was in the 1970s, when the charity’s founders identified that a significant part of the nation’s rich horticultural heritage was at risk of disappearing.

As a small charity Plant Heritage relies on the generosity of sponsors to make this display possible. We would like to thank Floral Tours and Burpee Europe Ltd for their sponsorship, and Melcourt, Water Willows and Burgon & Ball for their contributions. We also thank the National Plant Collection holders involved, for helping us to showcase the dedication and passion of all our collection holders.

Image captions and credits

1. Jackie Currie with her alliums
2. Downderry Nursery Lavender display at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016
3. Rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey © National Trust Images - Marianne Majerus

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