The JC Raulston Arboretum has been slowly creating one of the most significant collections of Aucuba in the US (about 75 taxa currently) with the thought of possibly becoming a national collection via the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC). We already hold a NAPCC Cercis (redbud) collection and are part of a multi-institution magnolia collection. To that end, I decided to visit the UK's national aucuba collection held by Linda Eggins in the Midlands of England.
The UK's National Collection Scheme is run by Plant Heritage (National Counsel for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens) whose mission is to:
"...conserve, grow, propagate, document and make available the amazing resource of cultivated plants that exists in the UK."
Unlike the NAPCC program in the US which relies on public gardens with high curatorial standards and a proven track record, the UK's program utilizes both public gardens and individuals. Linda Eggins' aucuba collection is an example of why working with individual gardeners can be so beneficial.
Linda has an excellent collection of Aucuba japonica with a focus on some of the older cultivars although new ones exist in her garden as well. She has undertaken a trip to Japan to see aucuba in the wild and in gardens and has done extensive research on the earliest introductions and catalog listings of aucubas from the late 1700's to see if current cultivars can be matched to the old descriptions.
As we walked through her lovely garden looking at her aucuba and the rest of the garden which she crafted with her late husband, it was gratifying to see that she took her part in the National Garden scheme so seriously. With a few cuttings of older selections to match up with ours and some newer ones - I'm very excited about 'February Star', a Great Dixter cultivar and Linda's own 'Clent Wortley Hall' - we retired to the house to look into the research she had compiled. I'm looking forward to potential future collaborations.
Another UK wide program is the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). This program encourages people to open their gardens on specific days with the proceeds (generally 5 pounds per garden) going to support a range of charities. John Grimshaw took me to visit the open garden of Matthew Pottage in Withernsea on the east coast of England near Hull. Matthew is a young phenom who was hired a couple of years ago at age 25 to be the garden manager at RHS Wisley, one of the premier gardens in the world.
Technically the garden is at his parent's house but his mother assured me that the garden was all Matthew's since he did not have his own yard to garden. The Wisley flair for combining unusual plants in beautiful ways and creating lovely palettes of color was in ample evidence. The small suburban garden had its own tiny walled garden, a wild garden, vegetable garden, shade and water gardens as well as a more typical English cottage garden with climbing roses and masses of color. There was even a touch of the formal to the garden.
The sky is definitely the limit for Matthew and I'm hoping we can convince him to come visit us for a lecture or workshop in the not too distant future.
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Check out all the happenings at http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum