Founded in 1978 (and now counting such names as HRH The Prince of Wales, Alan Titchmarsh, Sir Roy Strong and Roy Lancaster among their trustees), Plant Heritage is at the forefront of making sure the plants found in gardens across the country are as diverse as can be. If you’ve ever walked through a garden centre and bemoaned the lack of variety, you’ll know just what we mean. Plant Heritage – and their members – are the people working to bring back all those exciting cultivars that, for one reason or another, have faded into rarity. And it’s not just our own gardening ambitions that are behind the need for the conservation of these plants – many are a link to history, as important as any stately home or antique.
One of the main ways Plant Heritage ensures the continued survival of plant varieties is through the National Plant Collections, of which there are 650 sites, and counting. “These special ‘living libraries’, grown in private gardens around the country, ensure that plants (and all the knowledge associated with them) are kept safe and thriving for future generations to enjoy,” explains Gill Groombridge, business manager at Plant Heritage. “You don’t need a huge garden to look after a National Plant Collection either – some are held in the tiniest of spaces and can be found on indoor shelves or in conservatories, although of course there are some collections – especially trees – which naturally need more space.”
Even if you can’t take on the responsibility of caring for a collection, it’s far from the only way you can support Plant Heritage’s quest for garden diversity. Membership to this worthy cause starts at just £36 a year, and you’ll be able to attend talks, workshops and demonstrations as well as plant sales of all those unusual varieties you’re after. You can even become a Plant Guardian, registering your own rare specimens on a much smaller (but still incredibly important) scale than the National Collections, leaving gardeners like us ever-thankful that a particularly stunning plant never did disappear.