Gardening with Daphne: Plant Heritage is not to be missed

lovely pines: There is a national collection of yew at Bedgebury National Pinetum.
lovely pines: There is a national collection of yew at Bedgebury National Pinetum.

Statistics have shown that many plants that were once common in the UK half a century ago are now rarer than some endangered animal species, and some are already extinct.

Plant Heritage is a charity that was set up to encourage the conservation of such species, hybrids and cultivars grown in Britain, and as such, organises and funds the National Plant Collections Scheme, which collects and grows plants in private gardens, allotments, local parks, botanic gardens and historic estates.

This ensures that plants which may otherwise not exist in a few years’ time will still be available in the foreseeable future, not just for historical and ornamental purposes, but also for medicinal uses and research.

Examples of such plants are the rare lily ‘Eileen North’, which is held in Perth by Madeleine Tinson, and iris Louisiana, already almost extinct in its native area, which is now being saved for posterity by Mark Haslett in Essex. There is a National Collection of taxus (yew) at the Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent which assists the vitally important research to develop varieties with a higher taxol content – the chemical so vital for the treatment of certain cancer conditions.

To find out more about Plant Heritage, visit their website at www.plantheritage.com, which also give details of how you can join the organisation.

As a member, you automatically become members of your local group, which organises regular rare and unusual plant sales, talks and workshops, and visits to gardens, nurseries and National Plant Collections.

You also receive an annual National Plant Collections Directory and two journals a year full of interesting material; and you can get involved personally by receiving and growing free unusual plants through the Plant Exchange Scheme.

You will also receive free seeds from Johnson’s World Botanics range when you join. Their full range will be in retail outlets from this month and Johnson’s have recently linked up with Plant Heritage to support their Threatened Plants Appeal; a donation of 25p will be made from every sale of a packet of their lathyrus (sweet pea) ‘Pink Pearl’.

For a keen gardener looking to extend his or her interests and activities, this is an organisation surely not to be missed.