Christine Walkden invites you to become a Plant Guardian


Copyright; HTA

Would you like to adopt a rare plant and be responsible for its survival? Plant Heritage, the leading garden plant conservation charity, is inviting ‘Plant Guardians’ either to register rare plants in their own gardens or to adopt ones that have been found elsewhere.

Rather like a search for buried treasure, it is hoped that the call to register threatened or rare plants will lead to the discovery of historic gems hitherto lost to view, which can then be propagated and shared with other gardeners, and so flourish on into the future.

“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 done,” said Christine Walkden, BBC The One Show’s resident gardener, who is spearheading the campaign.

Early volunteers to become Plant Guardians range from children as young as twelve to horticultural experts like Dr. Tim Upson the new RHS Director of Horticulture, who has registered two rare lavender plants, one of which he himself collected in Morocco.

The back stories of plants registered so far suggest the untapped riches the scheme may soon uncover.

Sandra Tognarelli’s Pelargonium ‘ Pink Raspail ‘ for example, can be traced back to the 1920s when it was housed in the conservatories of Pyrford Court near Woking, the then home of the Earl and Countess of Iveagh. When the house changed hands in 2001, the conservatories were dismantled and the plants destroyed. However Ron Smith had successfully propagated cuttings received from a one-time Head Gardener at the Court. Eventually one of these  cuttings made it into the hands of another Ron – Ron Evans in Nottinghamshire , who was delighted to be reunited with a plant he had known many years before when his father too had been Head Gardener at Pyrton – in the 1940s.

Member, Edna Squires, has registered a truly historic Begonia coccinea which was originally discovered by William Lobb when he was plant hunting in Brazil for the Veitch Nurseries in 1841. Meanwhile Tom Hart Dyke, a modern day plant hunter, has registered something which he hand-collected in Tasmania – the world’s smallest gum tree, Eucalyptus vernicosa.  And for the more daring amongst prospective guardians he has also registered the world’s deadliest plant Dendrocnide moroides or “Queensland Deadly Stinger”.

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Sandra Tognarelli and Tom Hart Dyke with Eucalyptus vernicosa

If you feel you would like to do your bit to preserve our national plant heritage and you think you have a rare plant in your garden- first check the name of the plant and then look it up in the RHS Plant Finder to confirm it is rare – ie listed by two or fewer nurseries. You may then register with Plant Heritage as a Plant Guardian.

If you still want to help but haven’t got a rare plant then you can request a free plant through the charity’s annual plant exchange.

To discover more about the scheme, or to register a plant and join Plant Heritage visit the website

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