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National Collections Weekend - RHS Rosemoor
Written by {Penny Ross} @ June 7, 2010 4:54 pm


After a week of May frosts and generally inclement weather, Devon's national collections weekend dawned bright and clear .  Visitors were treated to a spectacular display of 27 National Collections, plus sales of plants from some of the collection holders and from more than 20 specialist nurseries.

Several displays were represented by informative display boards and superb photographic images eg. Diane Rowe's collection of Dierama spp, and John Carter's Water Irises and Caltha;   others, such as Lady Pru Quicke's Magnolia collection and the Knaphill Azaleas by beautiful floral sprays in vases. Cut foliage of the Pittosporum collection from Bicton College showed the many diverse species which make up this genus, while Jo Hynes's Cyclamen collection was represented on stunning display boards showing the wonderful marbled foliage on many of the species. Display boards with lovely photos of Kenneth Ashburner's  Betula (Silver Birch) showed how well these trees stand out on featureless winter days.

Several of the collection holders were on hand and happy to chat to visitors about their collections -  Chris & Lorraine Birchall with their collection of Rhodohypoxis and x Rhodoxis,  boasting lovely flowering displays in large terracotta pans and  Malcolm Pharoah from  Marwood Hill Gardens with the collections of Astilbe, Tulbaghia and Iris ensata .  Dick and Lorna Fulcher’s collection of Agapanthus was represented by a fascinating selection of variegated agapanthus - of  special interest to gardeners is an example of a variegated cultivar which is (uniquely) deciduous and not only hardy, but also floriferous.  Apparently the plant was selected at Notcott’s garden by a gardener called Fred and was for many years known as ‘Not Fred’ before the commercial imperative took over and it was re-named ‘Silver Moon’ (!)


Drs John and Jean Twibell were in evidence with their national collections of, respectively, Artemisia and Nerium OleanderArtemisia  are  remarkable for their aromatic charms and culinary uses:  these include the aniseed scented French Tarragon (A. dranunculus) and wormwood,  A. absinthum, traditionally used in the potent absinthe and as a bitter note in Vermouth, and more recently in Harry Potter’s  ‘Draught of the Living Death’.   Artemisia annua also has an important medicinal use in modern anti-malarial therapy as the search for new non-resistant drugs intensifies.  As yet the active component, which represents around 1% of the dry weight of leaf material, cannot be synthesised, and John has been involved in Cambridgeshire based trials to develop improved varieties with a greater concentration.

Howard and Sally Wills brought with them a magnificent collection of Sempervivum and Jovivarba, a significant proportion of which had received the Award of Garden Merit in last year’s RHS trials.  Visitors were especially fascinated by the Wills’ other collection of Phormium – not only the live plants in pots but also the striking technicolor images produced by scanning leaf material on a flat-bed scanner.

Rosemoor  holds two national collections within its gardens: Ilex and Cornus and a large and interesting exhibit of cut foliage was assembled by members of staff.  Several members of the Society enjoyed a Saturday morning later in June going around the collection of Cornus kousa with our President and Rosemoor's curator, Chris Bailes and enjoyed his wonderful talk on the subject.  Jonathan Hutchinson, who helps maintain Lady Anne's garden at Rosemoor was also in evidence with impressive collections from his collections of Scadoxus and Veltheimia & Urginea.  Finally there were  superb displays from David Cann's Ruscus collection and from Edmund and Rita Heaton's collections of Sisyrinchium, Olysnium, Solenomelus and the Tigridieae tribe

Special thanks to collection holders from beyond the Devon area who brought with them the collections of Papaver orientale and the Super Poppy series, held by Water Meadow Nursery and from Somerset, the Passiflora collection and a selection of Paeonia from Kelway’s nursery.

Many thanks to Georgina Craig for her hard work as always in organising this exceptional event and to everyone who helped bring the weekend together, especially Edna Squires and Howard & Sally Wills.  Thanks also to the people who manned the Devon Group publicity stand.
Derek Burdett did a fine job in organising the 20 or so nurseries from Devon and neighbouring counties.

Thanks to Patricia Stout for the photographs and to Malcolm Pharoah who helped to write this account. For much more information about all of the collections' displays, please see our Autumn Newsletter.


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