Plumpton helps out

As the Threatened Plants Project lists and looks for all the rare cultivars in the land, we are so grateful to all the volunteers who are helping. Plant Heritage members in 17 Groups are now listing tens of thousands of cultivars in hundreds of different genera, and Collection Holders are already saving half of all plants identified as threatened. Meanwhile, four people from Plumpton College in East Sussex have been helping Plant Heritage with both the project and Collections research.

Gary Jones, a horticultural lecturer there, has been contacting all the botanic gardens in Britain and Ireland (yes, that’s over 150 of them) by phone, email or letter to ask them for plant lists, particularly of cultivars.

Gary and his TPP paperwork!

As a result we have already identified more than a hundred rare and endangered cultivars growing at Sheffield Botanical Gardens, the Eden Project, St Andrews Botanic Garden and Bristol Zoo Gardens (the full league table ). This work has relied upon initial information from Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)’s Plant search  and Garden Search databases and PlantNetwork ‘s Directory of members.

And yes, we still need more public gardens to join in – so we’ve been talking to the Association of Gardens Trusts and the Professional Gardeners’ Guild . Anyone else with plant records for cultivars grown in Britain or Ireland?

Meanwhile, I hear that three students at Plumpton last year have been helping out our Collection Holders by carrying out research projects on Roger Parsons’ sweet peas in the Lathyrus National Plant Collection , Stewartia for High Beeches’ National Plant Collection , and also Hebe (hebe, hedge veronica or New Zealand speedwell) – as Plumpton works towards having its very first National Plant Collection.

This has interesting origins as it was originally established as a reference collection by the Hebe Society in Cornwall in 1994; rescued plants were propagated and planted by students at Plumpton in 2010 as the Douglas Chalk Hebe Collection, commemorating the founder of the Hebe Society – who had been a former Plumpton student in the 1930s. I’ve just checked the plant list, and there appear to be 33 threatened cultivars, 23 of which have been found in no other garden, which is great news.

Good luck with your future application – and thank you everyone!

New Hebe borders at Plumpton College’s Open Day in May 2011, attended by both Plant Heritage and the Hebe Society
Hebe ‘Highdown Pink’, a hybrid with Hebe speciosa as one parent, from the garden of Sir Frederick Stearn in West Sussex – not listed in the Plant Finder until 2011 although longstanding in this collection
Hebe ‘Violet Wand’, threatened in cultivation and uniquely growing in this garden (two suppliers are also listed in the Plant Finder)

Out of 473 Hebe cultivars previously known to have been grown in the UK, 319 were rare enough to be considered threatened in cultivation. 64 of these are held by current Collection Holders, and 48 in other public gardens – leaving two hundred still to be found. Hebe Society members have just been asked to check their gardens for documented named threatened cultivars, and experts are reviewing the shortlists of threatened cultivars, so watch this space…