The South American Comber Collection

Jon Keen, Gardener Jon Keen Gardener
Harold Comber

The first Head Gardener at Nymans was James Comber. His son, Harold (1897-1969), followed in his father’s footsteps, working as a gardener at Nymans initially, then going on to study at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. This placed him in good stead to lead plant hunting expeditions to far-flung South America and Tasmania.

Harold Comber on a plant hunting expedition
Harold Comber on a plant hunting expedition
Harold Comber on a plant hunting expedition

Plant Hunting Expeditions

In the mid-1920’s he led two expeditions to the Andes of Chile and Argentina where he collected 1,200 species of plants, some of which we continue to grow at Nymans and are part of our Plant Heritage Comber Collection. 

" The open air life is suiting me well, and although at 6000ft it is very cold at night and windy, I slept quite comfortably outside with two blankets and a canvas, better than in the tent where the noise does not permit me to sleep!’"
Jovellana punctata flowering in the Wall Garden
Jovellana punctata
Jovellana punctata flowering in the Wall Garden

South American Plants

Many of our South American plants have exotic flowers in a hot colour range like Desfontainea spinosa ‘Comber’s Form’, while cooler combinations can be made with yellow-flowered shrub Cestrum parqui and mauve-flowered perennial Jovellana punctata. We've over 100 different genera in our South American collection, ranging from coniferous and broadleaved trees to shrubs, climbers, perennials, bulbs and ferns.

Berberis negeriana
Berberis negeriana
Berberis negeriana

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Nearly 100 years on we maintain the relationship with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where Harold studied. They generously share the product of their own seed collecting expeditions which helps us to build our collection, with plants gathered from the different climate regions of Chile and Argentina. Some of these plants, such as Berberis negeriana, are critically endangered in the wild due to habitat loss but are thriving in the haven that's Nymans.

Nymans Eucryphia x nymansensis Nymans Silver
Nymans Eucryphia x nymansensis Nymans Silver
Nymans Eucryphia x nymansensis Nymans Silver

Eucryphia x nymansensis

We've also recently introduced into the trade Eucryphia x nymansensis ‘Nymans Silver’  which is a variegated form of a hybrid between two species of Chilean shrub. This was discovered by Alistair Buchanan who is descended from the Messel family who created the rich and beautiful gardens at Nymans that you help us to conserve for all to enjoy today.