Irish Heritage Plants.
An update: June 2021:
National Collection of Irish Heritage Plants
The tremendous conservation effort by IGPS members and several Irish gardens has been recognised by Plant Heritage with the awarding of the status of National Collection in June 2021.
Plant Heritage, formerly The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, was founded over 40 years ago to conserve garden plants as there was no single body coordinating cultivar conservation. Around the UK and Ireland there are now 650 National Collections, usually genus based, but other scopes are possible – linked to a particular garden or person perhaps. In Ireland we have National Collections of Olearia at Malahide Demesne, Potentilla fruticosa at Ardgillan Demesne, Arbutus at NBG Glasnevin, Agapanthus and Hosta at Bali Hai Nursery, Nothofagus and Eucryphia at Mt Usher, and Libertia at Dublin Zoo.
You can learn more about Plant Heritage and the work they do at https://www.plantheritage.org.uk
One of the aims of the Irish Garden Plant Society is the conservation of plants with a connection to Ireland – Irish Heritage Plants (IHPs). These may be seedlings found in an Irish garden, or bred in an Irish nursery, or have arisen in Ireland as ‘sports’ – a natural mutation giving maybe a new variegation, or a different flower colour, or even a different growth habit. Irish people working abroad sometimes sent pressed plants – herbarium specimens – back to botanic gardens. This stimulated nurseries and gardens to send out plant collectors. Whatever the connection, between nurseries, plant collectors, gardeners, and garden owners there is a wealth of IHPs to choose from. During 2014 we checked to see how many plants listed in Charles Nelsons ‘A Heritage of Beauty’ were still in trade by referencing through the current RHS Plant Finder. This is a UK based database, and is the simplest way of establishing a benchmark to be measured against in future years.
Excluding the large genera, Malus, Narcissus, Rosa, and Tulipa for now, we checked 2368 plants, and found 559 listed in 2014 as available or recently so. Many IHPs of course are very old cultivars and have died out or disappeared.
We listed all available plants in our IGPS newsletters, and asked members to contact us with what they grow themselves. This revealed plants that are not in trade, but are being passed around as good garden plants often are. We are very keen to spread our net wider, and contact as many gardeners, gardens, and nurseries, as possible.
By end 2018 we had developed a simple spreadsheet recording members or gardens in Ireland growing IHPs. This has enabled us to have a new benchmark of what we are growing.
Currently we have several categories:
598 – total number of Irish Heritage Plants listed as grown in Ireland. This is 50 more than we found listed in our initial 2014 check, but see the next paragraph!
208 – IHPs grown by members but not available in trade (as in RHS Plant Finder 2018). That’s a remarkable amount of material being safeguarded by members, and shows the value of the IGPS in championing such plant conservation.
155 – IHPs grown by members that are listed in only one nursery (Plant Finder again) for sale, with obvious potential to be dropped off their lists – new plants sell well.
129 – IHPs listed in Plant Finder over the years, but not in the latest issue, no longer commercially available.
200 – IHPs that are not listed in Charles Nelson’s ‘A Heritage of Beauty’. This is mainly new cultivars selected or bred since that book’s publication 18 years ago.
339 – IHPs in trade (again as in Plant Finder) but not listed as being grown by anyone in Ireland. That may not mean they are not here of course, just that no one has let us know yet! The biggest caveat here is that it is dependent on the nursery listing them as still having them and more importantly, having them true to type, which can often be a significant problem, especially with herbaceous plants that can seed around, the resultant seedlings will not be true.
2 public gardens have extensive collections of IHPs, the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin (247), and Blarney Castle Gardens, Cork (229).
If you have a particular interest or query on Irish Heritage Plants please contact us as below.
Please read the list of Irish Heritage Plants here and contact Stephen if you grow any of them – we are simply anxious to record where they are grown and will only approach you if you have a plant which is extremely rare – that is that it is not listed by any nursery at present.