A living plant library in Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 19:00 21 February 2011 | UPDATED: 20:35 20 February 2013

Chrysanthemums at a collection in Hertfordshire

Chrysanthemums at a collection in Hertfordshire

Preserving the legacy of hundreds of plants, Plant Heritage is the world's leading cultivated plant conservation charity. Philippa Pearson finds out about their work and what the local Hertfordshire group have to offer

EACH year seems to bring an exhaustive parade of new plants, mostly launched in baffling numbers at horticultural shows. The newest shape, boldest colour, most intensively bred and must-have plant dazzle before our eyes in a bewitching spell of temptation.
I love the excitement of seeing all the latest offerings in the plant world, but here is a heartfelt plea to not forget about all those excellent oldies: good garden plants that have been around for decades, which perform well in gardens and still have the capacity to outshine their newer companions.
Previously known as the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG), Plant Heritage is our knight in shining armour to help preserve and conserve our cultivated plants.

Good detection skills and having lots of space are some of the key qualities to being a National Collection holder

The National Plant Collection scheme is a living plant library with over 650 different plant collections in Britain, each one dedicated to a specific genus and each one very different. If youve ever read the RHS Plant Finder youll know that each genus, or family, varies in numbers; some like Dahlias have thousands of plants in the group and others, such as Lily of the Valley, have just a handful of plants. Collection owners with the help of Plant Heritage seek out plants in the family they look after to add to, conserve and preserve them for the future. If this didn't happen, some of our garden plants would sadly fade into extinction.
Good detection skills and having lots of space are some of the key qualities to being a National Collection holder. Many cultivars are not readily available or commercially produced any more and plants have to be sought from research and detection work. In the past, small independent growers would compile catalogues containing hundreds of garden plants, sadly now lost forever.
Some growers didnt even record their work so plants they hybridised and introduced are even harder to track down. There are more than 650 National Plant Collections in Britain and individuals or organisations undertake to document, develop and preserve a comprehensive collection of one group of plants in trust for the future. Almost half of the collections are in private ownership and include allotments, back gardens and large estates. Collections are also maintained by local authorities, universities, agricultural colleges, schools, arboretums, botanic gardens and nurseries and some by English Heritage and The National Trust.
By becoming a member of Plant Heritage, among many benefits is the opportunity to visit privately managed collections, not usually open to the public, enjoy workshops and volunteer with the work of maintaining collections.
You also get the chance to join a local organisation and the Hertfordshire & Bedfordshire group meet regularly at the Verulamium Museum in St Albans and have a thriving programme of talks, garden visits and plant sales throughout the year. 2011s programme includes a workshop on plant conservation, how to photograph gardens, a talk about historical vegetables and salads and a poetry evening with prose about gardens. Highlight of the year has to be the Grand Plant Sale in April held in the historic walled garden at Luton Hoo. A chance to acquire rare and unusual plants, this important but pleasurable contribution to conservation work keeps plants thriving in gardens.

By becoming a member of Plant Heritage, amongst many benefits is the opportunityto visit privately managed collections

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire have seven National Plant Collections and visits to these and other collections are part of the groups programme of events. By joining the local group, says Group Secretary Helen Haran, people have access to see collections and to hear about the plants from the collection holders.
Sometimes, members are inspired to start their own collection no matter how small their land: Judy Barker grows her chrysanthemum collection on an allotment near London Colney, Helen explains, and we used to have someone who kept a collection in a very small back garden before they moved away.
Such is the dedication of those devoted to their plants.

Join Plant Heritage

12 Home Farm, Loseley Park,
Guildford, Surrey GU3 1HS
01483 447540

Hertfordshire & Bedfordshire Group

To find out more about the groups activities, contact Helen Haran, Group Secretary: helenharan@mac.com

Where to see a national plant collection

Visits are generally by appointment only, please contact collection holders to arrange.

Akebia: Mrs H Wainstein, c/o Plant Heritage Head Office

Chrysanthemum (Korean, Rubellum & hardy spray): Mrs Judith Barker, London Colney, Tel: 01727 822564, Email: judy.barker1@btopenworld.com

Hyssopus and Satureja: Mrs M Easter, L W Plants, Harpenden.Tel: 01582 768467, Email:mail@thymus.co.uk

Rosa spp. & cvs: Royal National Rose Society, Gardens of the Rose, Chiswell Green Lane, St Albans AL2 3NR, Tel: 0845 833 4344
E-mail: mail@rnrs.org.uk, www.rnrs.org.uk

Salix (biomass cropping): Dr Ian Shield, Plant and Invertebrate Ecology Division, Rothamsted Research Station, Harpenden AL5 2JQ, Tel: 01582 763133 Ext 2630, E-mail: ian.shield@bbsrc.ac.uk, www.rothamsted.bbsrc.ac.uk

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