The National Plant Collections. The year 2020 in review

7th April, 2021

Though 2020 didn’t turn out like anyone imagined, the work involved in setting up and managing National Plant Collections continued apace.

The extra time spent in gardens over this year has perhaps made people think more about their plants. We have never had such a good response to our Missing Genera campaign, which encourages people with a passion for plants to bring together a National Plant Collection of their own. There have been enquiries about nearly all of the plants featured in 2020. The 'ugly ducklings' this year are Oriental poppies, Berberis and Elaeagnus – surely there is someone out there keen to take on these plant groups?

Over the five years we have been running this campaign, we have highlighted 38 different plant groups; five of these are now the subject of new National Plant Collections and we have received proposals for a further 14, which are currently working their way through the system.

The Plant Collections Committee has also had a busy year. There were 35 new National Plant Collections accredited in 2020, up from 28 in 2019. There has also been an increase from last year (18%) in proposals for new collections. New tree collections for 2020 include Metasequoia, Mespilus, Liriodendron and Eucalyptus. If indoor plants are more your thing, then there were two collections set up of spider plants, Chlorophytum, one in Kent, another in Warwickshire. For those with an interest in historical collections, the plants associated with Marwood Hill Gardens in Devon now have their own collection, as well as collections of plants named for Ellen Willmott and Winston Churchill.

What has also been great to see this year is the number of collections that have come through that have built on the work of previous collections. It’s so important that collections can be passed to a new holder when the time comes – both the plants and the knowledge about them. In 2020, seven collections were accredited after being handed on – from historic Hosta, passed to Ben Matthews from Una Dunnett, to the Scilla (Chionodoxa) collection of Dr Alan Dickinson, now held by Helen Knowles. We look forward to seeing how these collections develop.

By December there were 666 National Plant Collections in total – we think this is the highest number ever! Thanks of course must go to the hard work of all the collection holders and local coordinators who make all of this possible. We hope that, at least in terms of National Plant Collections if nothing else, 2021 is as good as 2020.

eg: plant genus, common name, county, collection holder name.