New online catalogue holding vital information about rare garden plants launched

27th November, 2023

A new online catalogue capturing images and vital information about over 200 rare garden plants cared for by Plant Guardians has been launched by Plant Heritage, as part of a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

If a plant isn’t commercially available, gardens – and passionate gardeners – are often one of their last strongholds and ensure their continued existence. Plant Guardians play a key role in Plant Heritage’s plant conservation work; they grow and nurture such plants either in their gardens, homes, allotments, greenhouses or even on a windowsill, ensuring that plants at risk of being lost from horticulture are kept safe.

Now, for the first time in the horticultural charity’s 45-year history, information about the rare plants cared for by Plant Guardians is available online, enabling those working in horticulture, amateur gardeners and anyone looking for an unusual plant to access information which is vital to ongoing garden plant conservation. So far over 200 plants are listed, with the aim of eventually listing all 2,252 plants protected by the Plant Guardian scheme. The information has been researched and uploaded to Plant Heritage’s website by volunteers recruited through the Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, which has created hundreds of digital volunteering roles at heritage organisations across the UK.

Click here to explore the new online catalogue or to find out more about becoming a Plant Guardian. To volunteer writing plant descriptions for the new catalogue, contact:

Gill Groombridge, Business Manager at Plant Heritage explains: “If a plant has very limited or no commercial availability it relies on our gardens for its continued existence, and ultimately, its survival. Our Plant Guardian scheme and it’s adjoining new online catalogue is so important as all the key information about rare plants is now recorded an accessible way.”

“The UK is a nation of keen gardeners and we’re incredibly lucky that so many skilled and passionate volunteers help us to ensure that no plant slips through the gaps, and in doing so prevent many rare plants that otherwise could be at risk from disappearing from cultivation from being lost.”

Volunteer Plant Guardians care for a diverse range of rare plants, including Pelargonium ‘Melva Bird’ which can flower into winter, and other rare cultivars such as Dahlia ‘Union Jack’ with its striking striped petals which was first introduced in 1882, and Rosa ‘Lady Stuart’ which was bred in the mid 1800s. All are now listed on the new catalogue and have been assessed as threatened in cultivation by Plant Heritage’s Threatened Plants Programme. But, like all other plants held in the Plant Guardian scheme, they are now protected.

Plant Heritage works to protect plants under threat from climate change, emerging pests and diseases or changing trends. With the help of passionate volunteers, and by working closely with other leading organisations in the horticultural world, Plant Heritage champions and conserves garden plants to ensure they remain in cultivation and don’t become lost from our gardens.

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