In the wake of the torch

I first met David and Marjorie Goodchild in 2007 when I had just joined Plant Heritage and our Hampton Court Palace Flower Show exhibit was ‘ROSACEAE’.  To demonstrate the breadth of this plant family the display featured  roses, (obviously) along with apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, geums, alchemillas and David’s speciality – potentillas which had been lent from his National Collection.   I offered to return them to his home in Northumberland while I was visiting family there, so it was my first visit to a National Collection.  Since then I have been back to the Goodchild’s several times; the 2010 AGM garden visit and to deliver membership leaflets and although the garden is fascinating, especially if David shows you his before and after photographs, I have been wanting to go back at the correct time of year to see the Potentilla in flower.

Fast forward to June 2012, my husband was carrying the Olympic Flame in Alnwick, an ideal opportunity to visit at the right time of year, and I was able to fit in a visit on my way back down south.  David and Marjorie’s garden is a delight.  The National Collection is housed in a devoted bed in the back garden near the house and beautifully signed with engraved labels.  A gap between flowering shubs leads into a woodland area housing more Potentilla and a Wisteria clad pergola leads into the third and final area of the garden, the most prolific vegetable garden cum plant nursery that I have ever seen in a private garden.
There are peas and beans, brassicas, chard, leeks and onions and in a poly tunnel, sweet corn, tomatoes and strawberries.

Avid propagators, they grow plants for the local group plant sales and to sell in the village market, which is also an outlet for their excess crops.  And despite being 300 miles further north, everything was three times the size of my plants in Surrey.  The front garden is a collection of unusual shrubs and small trees and when something gets too big, it makes way for a new and exciting replacement.  Discussions were in progress about what to plant to replace a cherry tree which had come to the end of its useful life.

Potentilla gracilis var. pulcherimma

David explained that unlike many Collection Holders, they had become involved with the NE group before deciding to work towards a National Collection and it was a difficult choice of genus.  All around the garden are the beginnings of collections of plants they love; Epimedium, Rodgersia, Philadelphus, and Deutzia.  But they finally settled on Potentilla as much for the variety of the foliage as for the colourful flowers.  Silver, green, silver edged, gold tinged, pinnate to palmate in shape, they are an elegant foil to the generally single, cup shaped flowers of white, yellow, orange, pink or red petals.

David deadheads his plants but explained that if the foliage is also cut back after flowering there will be a new flush of fresh leaves, giving a long season of interest.  A visit worth waiting for, and inspired by the variety of the plant structure I am now wondering how many Potentillas I can get into my garden.  Choose from the following;

And if you are out cheering on the Olympic Torch over the next few weeks, have a look to see if there is a Collection nearby you can visit.  Garden News June 19th featured this idea with a list of dates and locations.  Jim Marshall, (Malmaison Carnations) winner of Best in Show at Hampton Court last year will be opening in Ipswich on July 5th and as they were at HC, they will be looking fabulous.  Before that date, featuring the collections I have visited over the last year, there’s Leeds (many collections including Delphinium at their best) on June 24th, Barnsley (Agapanthus) on June 25th, and Rotherham (Fuchsia) on the 26th.  Have a great summer.

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