New plant conservation centre

The new centre will help conserve important plants found in our gardens © Ed Skinner

The new centre will help conserve important plants found in our gardens

Latest update 25.02.2013 14:35

Rare plants from our gardens across the country will be propagated at a new Plant Conservation Centre that will improve the way one of the most important plant collections in the UK is cared for.   

Opened yesterday by international plantsman Roy Lancaster, the new 2.5 acre facility at a secret East Devon location will bring together plant propagation facilities, plant collection management expertise and facilities for training our staff on all aspects of caring for the important plants in the gardens they look after. 

The opening of the new facilities comes at a time when the spread of new plant diseases in the UK, in particular Phytophthora ramorum which causes Sudden Oak Death, have required an acceleration of emergency propagation to ensure the survival of threatened specimens and the supply of disease-free replacements. 

The £700,000 Centre’s immediate focus will be to build on existing plant conservation work at Knightshayes Court, also in Devon, to help staff and volunteers record and identify the special plants that require priority propagation at our gardens throughout the country.

A lasting legacy

Mike Calnan, Head of Gardens at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust’s portfolio of plants is of immense importance and is one of the most significant collections in the UK.

“The aesthetic, historic and botanical value of the plants is what makes the gardens we look after so special and give pleasure to more than 12 million visitors each year.

“This is the most important plant conservation initiative from the National Trust for more than 60 years and will have a legacy for decades to come.”

We care for over 20 major collections of trees and shrubs including thirty National Plant Collections and hundreds of plants that were first raised or collected in the wild around the globe and planted in National Trust gardens over past centuries.

Roy Lancaster said: “The new Plant Conservation Centre is a hugely important development for the National Trust, creating for the first time a single facility dedicated to the vital work of conserving the important plants in its properties.”

Far-reaching benefits

In addition to the Centre’s work for us, a new bespoke propagation service for major private plant collection owners will be offered for the first time. 

Nursery Manager Chris Trimmer said: “This is an exciting new commercial development for the Plant Conservation Centre. By offering access to our expertise and first class facilities we can contribute to important plant conservation work beyond the National Trust.”

Propagation services are also available to our countryside properties wishing to save or bulk-up rare native species. 

Our gardeners who will be working at the Centre recently propagated and helped save over 300 old Cornish apple varieties now successfully established in the ‘Mother orchard’ at Cotehele in Cornwall.

Charlie Port, who worked at Knightshayes and is now one of the volunteers that will be working at the new Centre, said: “Working in the propagation unit is extremely rewarding.

“I’ve been involved with propagating plants for the Trust for 25 years now and during that time we’ve had thousands of successes.

“I get huge satisfaction from the idea that some of the plants I have handled will be around for hundreds of years to come.”