As The Onion might headline it, ‘Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship garden grows more plants than other gardens’. The truth is that RHS Garden, Wisley has by far and away the most variety for anyone to see – not just the easiest or newest, but really showing you what different cultivated plants can do. They were one of the first to have a National Collection in 1978, and their heathers, crocus, epimediums, rhubarb, currants and gooseberries (oh, I’m getting hungry) are still going strong.
My last report to Wisley was only two years ago. At that time 56 genera had been assessed for threatened plants, and there were already 7 pages’ worth at the RHS’ four regional gardens, not including their Collections. 34 out of the 56 genera were represented.
Wisley also gave us our first plant in active conservation through the project, threatened Pulmonaria ‘Red Freckles’, with material for propagation supplied to specialists from the Hardy Plant Society in 2012. This is now being grown by 8 people and on a nursery for bulking up and relaunch to the trade, so conservation success!
In the Threatened Plants Project’s latest assessment (yes, I’m back – and we get to keep Sophie too), Wisley alone accounted for 48 pages of listings. These comprise 2,333 threatened plants, of which over a thousand are uniquely held – not found growing anywhere else. 122 genera are represented.
To put the numbers in context, this is out of 14,000 threatened plants identified to date in 222 genera across our garden plant heritage in the UK. Typically, nearly half are held by National Collection Holders, but at Wisley “only” 286 cultivars are in Collections – the rest are everywhere in the Garden.
The reason we compiled their report was because Sophie and I were asked to speak to the horticulturists a couple of weeks ago, alongside their Principal Data Manager from Horticultural Informatics, Rupert Wilson. Of course, we use their data from the start, as the Plant Finder helps us to gauge availability in the trade. On the day, about 40 attended, we had some good questions and it will be interesting to see how the results are used, now that threatened plants are highlighted in their own database on the front page of BG-Base for each plant record at RHS Gardens.
So keep your eyes open as you enjoy your next visit – and thank Wisley for taking care of 17% of our threatened plants in the UK!