One of the roles of the Trustees, who oversee Plant Heritage, is to act as a key contact for the various groups, ensuring the views of the local members are heard at Board level. As a result, one of the trustees Sue Dawson recently undertook at trip to Scotland to touch base with group volunteers and collection holders.
“With responsibility for certain Groups in Scotland and myself a member of the RBG Edinburgh Meconopsis Group and an occasional Himalayan amateur plant recorder, I am well aware of the incredible collections held in Scotland, many of which centre on Himalayan plants, and more of which I shall visit later in the year. It seemed a good idea to me that the expertise in Scotland should be acknowledged as part of Plant Heritage 35th Anniversary celebrations, because for the most part they are geographically isolated from our southern activities, so I took myself off to see some of them.
I started at the furthest north looking at Highland collections who, despite having no local Group or coordinator to relate to, carry on with incredible enthusiasm. At Inveresdale I was welcomed by Duncan and Kate Donald, with whom I spent the whole day, looking at their 400+ Narcissus (pre 1930 daffodils) collection, grown in open ground at their traditional Croft on the shores of Loch Ewe. Their growing space is reclaimed Loch shore line and incredibly stony, but of course the free draining qualities are the essence of open ground bulb production.
The following day a fascinating afternoon was spent with the Head Gardener Kevin Ball at Inverewe Garden, five miles further down the narrow mountain road from Poolewe. This garden (National Trust for Scotland) holds National Collections of Rhododendron subsect. Barbata, R. subsect. Gilschra and R. subsect. Maculifera which are nurtured on the magnificent ”Chinese Hillside”. The early varieties were at their best, and at 80+ years maturity vast specimens covered in bloom towered into the tree canopy in sheltered woodland glades.
On my return journey I visited Brodie Castle (National Trust for Scotland) at Forres on the National Collection Open Day, where Frances Keeton the Head Gardener was pleased to show me all they are doing with their Narcissus (Brodie cvs.) collection. The collection was still in tight bud after a very cold spring but the general garden display was full of magnificent Narcissus of all kinds, and much enjoyed by the visitors on a beautiful sunny day.
Next up was a whistle stop at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where David Knott, Curator of Living Collections gave me an enthusiastic guided tour of the NC epiphytic Rhododendrons (Vireya) and many other amazing wonders housed in the vast and well managed glass houses (they are from Borneo…..not hardy…absolutely fascinating). I encouraged a fresh application for a National Collection of, as yet un-catalogued, desert ferns that a PhD student is currently studying. David Knott was especially generous in his time given that, in the afternoon, he also had an international Rhododendron Conference to address.”
Plant Heritage are very grateful to Sue for undertaking the trip which she did at her own expense.