Plant Heritage covers an extensive geographical area, and the 58 Scottish Collections particularly are spread over a huge country, so that even within a “local” Group one can travel for three hours to see a Collection. While England was having a Bank Holiday weekend, I travelled up to this year’s All-Scotland Groups meeting. Hosted by Strathclyde Group in the capable person of David Ferguson, Property Manager for Greenbank House and Garden, it was held at this National Trust for Scotland’s town demonstration garden just 6 miles south of Glasgow. Hot and cold drinks and buffet of course after course, furnished by local members, were greatly appreciated, and interesting spare plants were being given away by more than one Collection Holder.
The Threatened Plants Project has been working with three of the Scottish Groups so far, running two workshops for Dumfries & Galloway and Grampian and Tayside, who are currently listing 7 genera (containing 411 cultivars!). The South East Scotland Group inventively decided to donate an extra amount in order to fund some student work at the Edinburgh Botanics, and Katarzyna Goral and Jessica Roberts, career changers just finished their first year of the HND/BSc in Horticulture with Plantsmanship there, have been learning quickly and steaming through a huge amount of TPP work for us – keeping me very busy with email and phone supervision for the past two weeks. Together we have listed many Scottish National Collection genera and even made a start on some Irish ones. In total: 21 genera listed (1,117 cultivars); 54 genera collections-checked, and within these 934 threatened cultivars newly identified. 24 of these last have already been found at RBGE, and four in other Scottish National Collections.
In addition I had previously identified 38 threatened cultivars in the four RBGE sister gardens (17 uniquely held); 20 in five out of the first nine National Trust for Scotland gardens to be searched (of which 11 were unique); and 29 at St Andrews Botanic Garden (14 unique).
Meeting Collection Holders was a highlight of the day. Abutilon (Larkholm), Clianthus & Sutherlandia (Dunskey Gardens, Portpatrick) and Primula auricula (alpine, Angus Plants, Angus) home-grown Plant Heritage experts each quizzed me about the project; as well as enjoying Duncan Donald’s talk on his quest for hundreds of heritage daffodils (Narcissus pre-1930s daffodils, Wester Ross).
To look at just one genus, Greenbank holds a thriving National Collection of Bergenia (jauntily known as elephant ears) – they’re even running trials for Gardening Which?
Out of 134 Bergenia cultivars known, 63 are threatened. 29 grow here. All three Collection Holders have 40 between them (also see Essex and Cambridge University Botanic Garden). Only 20 are in other gardens checked, leaving 18 not yet found – Critical in cultivation.
After another of the illustrated talks, from Ewen Donaldson, General Manager of the Glasgow Botanic Garden, I wanted to visit their stunning Collections of orchids, ferns including Dicksoniaceae tree ferns, and begonias in their beautifully refurbished glasshouse, Kibble Palace, and tantalisingly drove past on the way home, but that will have to wait for my next visit – when I also hope to head for another recommendation, of Echeveria in an amazing location overlooking the sea on the Isle of Skye.
Until then, thank you Scotland for the beautiful sunshine, and memorable views of lochs, glens, rainbows in the mist, seaside and heather-swathed hills.