Published: 28 February 2014
The Plant Guardian Scheme
Plant Heritage has launched an innovative plant conservation project spearheaded by Horticultural expert and BBC The One Show’s resident gardening expert, Christine Walkden.
Christine Walkden
Plant Heritage has launched an innovative plant conservation project spearheaded by Horticultural expert and BBC The One Show’s resident gardening expert, Christine Walkden.
The Plant Guardian scheme is aimed at anyone who would like to get involved in garden plant conservation but doesn’t have the space or time to own a National Plant Collection. If anyone has a rare or threatened plant in their garden they can sign up as a Plant Guardian, so that there is a formal record of the plant. The plant can then be propagated to ensure its future conservation. So far, the charity has discovered some very rare, old cultivars that were thought to have disappeared which can now be reproduced and hopefully added to National Collections for safe keeping.
Speaking for the launch, Christine said she was delighted to be at the forefront of the project saying: “This is an ideal opportunity for the man in the street to ensure we save rare plants so that future generations can enjoy and appreciate treasures of the plant world as we have”.
Tim Upson
Since launching the scheme the charity has been delighted with the number of plants registered by its members including a number of very rare lavender plants by Tim Upson,  recently appointed new RHS director of Horticulture. Tim registered Lavandula dentata var. candicans ‘Agadir’ which he collected from Morocco, being impressed with how attractive the plant was. He was surprised that it is not listed in the RHS Plant Finder. His other Plant Guardian, Lavandula angustiifolia ‘Nana atropurpurea’ has only one other listing with National Collection Holder, Simon Charlesworth.
Tim says he hopes the scheme will complement the National Plant Collection scheme and create a stronger conservation network across the UK. “We know many threatened cultivated plants may still be grown in the nations back gardens but lost to our collective knowledge. It’s exciting to think and hope that the Plant Guardian scheme may help to rediscover some of these plants and ensure their future conservation.”
To become a plant guardian members need to know the name of their plant and if the plant is deemed rare. They can do this by looking in the RHS Plant Finder. If the plant is listed in two or less nurseries it can be registered as a plant Guardian. But if you would like to become a plant Guardian and don’t currently have a plant, don’t worry – members can request free rare plants through the charity’s annual plant exchange. To discover more about the scheme, register a plant and join Plant Heritage please visit the website. Alternatively you can contact the National Office on: 01483 447540.

Plant Guardian Case Studies


Sandra Tognarelli
Pelargonium ‘Pink Raspail’ can be traced back to the 1920’s when it is known to have been housed in the conservatories of Pyrford Court, near Woking, then home to the Earl and Countess of Iveagh, where it covered the walls to a height of 3 metres.
When the house changed hands in 2001, the conservatories were cleared and the plants destroyed. However, Surrey PH member Ron Smith had been given a few cuttings from the then head gardener, the late Bob Strudwick, in 1984 and has propagated it ever since by taking cuttings and sharing them with PH members. The Pelargonium has been featured in the annual Plant Exchange and thus its continued existence is guaranteed.
This Pelargonium has been propagated by several members of the Surrey group and has featured in the charity’s annual Plant Exchange. Member, Steve Thompson took a piece home to Nottingham where he propagated it and passed to friends including a retired nurseryman and horticulturist in the East Midlands group, Ron Evans.
Ron was delighted to renew his acquaintance with the plant, as his father had been head gardener to Lord Inveagh at Pyrford Court in the early years of the Second World War. Ron is sadly no longer with us but his plant, having made the journey back to its original family custodian, lives on.

Pelargonium ‘Pink Raspail’

Edna Squires, PH member

Begonia coccinea was originally discovered by Victorian plant hunter William Lobb in 1841 whilst on a plant hunting expedition in Brazil for Veitch Nurseries of Exeter. Edna acquired her plant 20 years ago from Bristol Botanic Garden when she was doing research for a display at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on Lobb. The plant only has one listing in the trade, and that nursery has not seen it for many years. Edna takes cuttings of her plant every year and offers these in the Plant Heritage annual plant exchange, something she plans to do until it no longer qualifies as threatened and she believes her ‘job done.’

Gillian Spencer, PH member

Gillian fell in love with this scented snowdrop Galanthus ‘Trumps’, at a snowdrop sale held at Myddelton House, home of the famous gardener, writer, botanical artist and plant hunter Edward Bowles. Gillian was keen to own a plant which she knew the provenance of, so was delighted d to finds Galanthus ‘Trumps’ which she bought from former head gardener at the Garden House in Devon, Matt Bishop. Matt discovered the Galanthus in the Suffolk garden of John Morley. The cultivar is not currently available in the RHS Plant Finder, Gillian is hoping to propagate this plant by doing some twin scale propagation and sharing her success with other members.

John David, RHS Chief Scientist
John has Haemanthus ‘Hairy Terry’, which is a plant resembling H. albiflos, except its leaves are deciduous and very hairy – a combination not found in any known species of Haemanthus. He has asked all kinds of people what it might be, even the experts at Kew, but no one seems to have an idea. He suspects that it is a hybrid and was given it by the late Terry Jones who gave him some bulbs when visiting his garden in 1985.
[Haemanthus ‘Hairy Terry’]John believes he is the only person with this plant and has given a plant to the National Plant Collection holder for Haemanthus, Jonathan Hutchinson. Because there is so much uncertainty around the plant’s parentage, John is planning to give it a cultivar name to try and ensure that it does not get lost and forgotten. His proposed name is Haemanthus ‘Hairy Terry’, which recognises both the distinctive feature of the plant and its origin.
Tom Hart Dyke, Modern Day Plant Hunter and National Collection Holder of Eucalyptus
Tom has registered as Plant Guardian for the world’s smallest gum tree which is incredibly rare in this country in its ‘true form’. Hand collected by Tom in SW Tasmania in 1999 the Eucalyptus vernicosa is very difficult to grow in the UK and at present Tom has only managed to successfully grow two plants. Otherwise known as “The Varnished Gum” Tom is hoping that by registering this plant in the Plant Guardian scheme others will be able to propagate it and thus support his National Collection.
For the brave plant enthusiast looking for something a bit quirky, Tom has also registered the world’s deadliest plant, Dendrocnide moroides, "Queensland Deadly Stinger". This is exceptionally rare in cultivation -  albeit dangerous!
Reported by Chris Allen  

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