The 2017 Autumn bulletin is now available for you to download here.
25 years of the National Plant Collection of Polemonium
For those of you who do not know, I (Diane Nichol-Brown) keep gardening diaries with detailed notes, so here are some details from 1992 when the National Plant Collection was applied for and awarded.
On Saturday 11th February after sowing seeds in the morning, at the NCCPG meeting at the Hancock museum on ‘Soils’ by Ann Pickering, I talked to Christine Liddle, the Collection Co-ordinator about applying for the collection, filled in the form that evening and sent it back to HQ at Wisley. I also worked on some watercolour botanical illustrations that evening.
I visited many nurseries throughout the year to track down more Polemonium, and gardens including a guided walk of Newby Hall with Mr Compton in Garden Heritage week on Saturday 25th April, Howick Hall and Bide a Wee (Mark Robson) on the May group garden visits, Larch Cottage Nursery on the group coach trip in July and RBGE twice in September.
On Sunday 14th June I helped Molly Walker on the Information stall at the NCCPG plant sale at Blagdon Hall, bought 2 more Polemonium accessions and 2 packets of seed and sold most of a trayful of Polemonium pauciflorum I had sown in February for the plant sale. Two days later, on the Monday, Eric Robson and a Tyne Tees film crew came to Ebchester to film the collection, which was shown on the Thursday – I still have the video, and David is going to digitalise my extensive video records for me.
On Wednesday 11th November, Mr John Main from RBGE gave an interesting talk at Kirkley Hall, and he brought me a plant I had seen in the gardens, and I gave him 3 accessions he did not have for the rock garden in exchange.
Finally on Wednesday 11th November I received a letter and sign board from Graham Pattison confirming the collection – I phoned Susie White who had applied for her collection, but she had not received hers at the time. Mr Pattison asked for an annual report, so I got the typewriter out, and send it off the next day in the post -no emails and internet in those days.
After the AGM on December 12th at the Hancock museum, I received a letter from Graham Pattison about my enquiries in the collection report, in which he suggested I contacted Blooms of Bressingham to ask about some plants they had listed, so planned for a journey to Norfolk in the spring.
That sort of activity has continued every year, with a move to Trimdon Grange with David in 1998, award of Scientific Status in 1999, publishing the monograph with help from the North East group in 2000, several exhibits at Hampton Court, Gardeners World Live, Tatton Park, and two trips to Colorado.
In addition to botanical illustrations, books, articles, slides and photos of the plants, we have acquired china plates, a Moorcroft vase, mugs, tea tray, silk hankies and tee shirts, which can be seen in our tea room and entrance corridor with overflow in the upstairs corridor, Polemonium bedroom and en suite bathroom.
This year so far we have re visited RBGE, and exchanged more accessions and acquired an up to date accession list, sorting out some mis-named plants for a plant nursery in Canada, applied for plants from the Plant exchange, given 2 talks, and sown all the seed available from Jelitto to assess germination rates and trueness to type.
David has repaired our mist unit propagator and built new plant sales beds in the cottage garden.
We borrowed the Brother printer to improve our existing labels, and hope to add some new ones soon.
We are going to Hampton Court in July to help out this year, prior to going back with a display of 21st century introductions and Fragaria vesca next year and will be working on an update to go with the monograph published in 2000.
We will take some plants to Kirkley Hall Plant Sale in June as usual, and will have a plant stall at Blagdon in July.
We will also be selling plants and displaying information about the Plant Heritage Plant Sales in May at Haltwhistle Plant Fair on 20th May, and Leighton Hall, Carnforth on 21st May.
The garden at Trimdon Grange is open 2-5 on Sunday 25th June, and by appointment at any other time.
We would like to thank all the members of the North East Group who have helped in the last 25 years, as well as all the staff at HQ.
Dianne and David Nichol-Brown
On 11th Feb 2017, Robert Unwin, one of the foremost authorities on alpine plants and trilliums, came from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh to talk to us about his plant collecting trip to the eastern USA in 2011.
The trip was mainly, but not exclusively, focused on collecting trilliums. The RBGE already had a collection of trilliums but they had all come from cultivated stock, and they recognised a need to collect wild specimens in the campaign to preserve biodiversity.
Our first meeting of the 2016/17 season was truly fascinating. Sophie Leguil, the Plant Heritage Plant Conservation Officer, travelled all the way from her home in northern France to talk to us about the history of plant conservation, why it’s important and what’s happening to promote it throughout the rest of the world.
Frankie is a dab hand at growing tender and exotic plants and has managed to pack a wonderful range into a small garden. It truly is an inspiration to the rest of us as to what can be achieved.
The move to the indoor sports hall at Kirkley Hall has proved to be a huge success. Not only do we get to set up the day before, but we can stay warm and dry whatever the weather. This year was once again a very respectable turnout despite the wet, grey and miserable day.
Saturday 14 May 2016
Ray gave an entertaining and informative talk based on recent visits to this area. He and Joyce like to combine relaxation and absorbing local life with plant hunting, and his talk was interspersed with beautiful photos of the stunning scenery and landscape, sunsets over the lakes, local people going about their lives – as well as architecture and historic ruins.
On Saturday 9th April 2016, Martin Fish came to talk to us about judging for the RHS. I mistakenly thought it was going to be about judging for the RHS In Bloom competition, but it wasn’t – it was about judging at the RHS shows – Chelsea, Tatton Park, Harrogate and so on.
Martin has been a professional gardener since leaving school, when he was apprenticed to the local Parks department. After his apprenticeship finished he did a spell in College and soon became head gardener at Rufford Abbey, which he left to start his own nursery. After 20 years of running his nursery he branched out into lecturing, writing and local radio, and was soon invited to be President and then Director of the Harrogate Flower Show, which kept him occupied for eight years.
Although he had shown at RHS shows himself when he ran his nursery, it was at Harrogate where his relationship with the RHS really began. He now regularly judges show gardens and nursery marquees at any RHS show in the country.
Many years ago, judging at RHS shows was riddled with nepotism with the prizes being won by the judges’ friends rather than on merit. Because of this, several years ago the RHS made a concerted effort to make judging fair, open and honest.
Strict criteria are applied to every decision made, and each judge goes through rigorous training to gain their accreditation – which also has to be renewed every three years.
Awards given range from ‘no award’ through bronze, silver, silver gilt, all the way up to gold, but unfortunately no medals are awarded any more, just certificates (though they do come with a small cash award too).
Judging is always done before the Show opens. In the case of Chelsea, that means at 7am on Monday morning!
Judging criteria for nursery marquees includes things such as
For the show gardens, there are nine criteria:
Judging is done in groups of 4-6 judges, and each decision they make is voted on. There are also three moderators per show, who are there to make sure that judging between the different groups of judges is consistent.
The standard of entries is so high that even the tiniest flaw, such as a wrongly labelled plant, or too many buds and not enough flowers, can mean the difference between a Gold and a ‘no award’.
Or ‘Mushrooms and toadstools – the deadly and delightful’. SPOILER ALERT! – we never actually found out how to tell the deadly from the delightful. You really just have to know your mushrooms.
This was an odd time of year for a talk about fungi, since most of them fruit in the autumn, but Gordon had managed to find one which was in fruit – the scarlet elfcup (pictured), which actually used to be a rare mushroom but can now be found fairly commonly in Northumberland.