Young and old join plant charity’s community initiatives
Canna 'Chouchou' and Calendula stellata E Moore
Plant Heritage is leading the way in involving communities both young and old in gardening through its National Plant Collection and Plant Guardian schemes designed to protect rare and threatened garden plants from disappearing.
When Bristol Zoo established its National Collection of Calendula (marigolds) two years ago it was keen to engage with parts of the community hitherto unreached. The Zoo has started distributing seed to schools and other community groups for cultivation and then when the plants have grown displaying them in the Zoo gardens. By so doing it has created the first ever dispersed National Collection. Community groups taking up the challenge include sheltered housing groups, old people’s homes, dementia care units, community gardens, and allotment-holders. Participants in the project have reported an increased sense of self-worth and desire to socialise with others, together with a better knowledge of plants and gardening and greater enthusiasm to have a go themselves. One of the older volunteers felt that the project had made her ‘feel useful again’. Botanical gardens across the world are showing interest in the initiative as a way of increasing community involvement.
Primary schools contributed to the Calendula Collection but Wicor Primary School in Hampshire is the first to take up the Plant Guardian scheme.The School was one of the first in the country to incorporate horticulture and gardening into its curriculum and it now has the youngest Plant Guardians; its pupils are responsible for the very rare Canna Chouchou donated by National Collection Holder, Keith Hayward when they visited his nursery. The children will now be propagating the plants with a view to sharing material with others in the future.