National Plant Collections of Aster novi-belgii, Chrysanthemum, Delphinium, Phlox, Primula auricula and Solenostemon are to be found at Temple Newsam Estate on the outskirts of Leeds, managed by Leeds City Council. Five more collections (Deutzia, Hemerocallis, Hosta, Philadelphus and Syringa) are held at Farley Hall so from Spring through to late Autumn there is a collection worth visiting in Leeds. Last week I was taken on a tour by Mark Darwell and James Davis, custodians and gardeners of the Temple Newsam collections.
The Dephinium border was a symphony of blues with highlights of white and tints of pink, and not a nibbled leaf in sight. The collection scope is the elatum cultivars and is kept in a double border on a slightly sloping sight, which presents a fabulous vista when you enter from the gate at the bottom.
The Aster and Chrysanthemum plants were building up steam for later in the season and the Primula auricula were resting in cold frames after putting on their show in the spring, particularly early this year. Still in the greenhouse was the Solenostemon collection with its huge variety of leaf form and colour, typified in the name of one of the cultivars ‘Paisley’. I was particularly interested to hear about two cultivars developed by the team at Temple Newsam. One, with a definite cruciform shape on the leaf is called after the location, which was at one time had connections with the crusading Knights Templar. Another is called ‘Ella’s Fire’ after Mark’s daughter. The Phlox collection is in temporary bedding while the permanent beds are being cleared of eel worm and had also suffered a ‘Chelsea Chop’ courtesy of the local pigeons who have developed a taste for the plants.
The enthusiasm of Mark and James as they talk about the plants would inspire the most luke warm of gardeners and I came away with a very different view of municipal gardening.