RHS Gardens welcome new National Collections

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced that the five RHS gardens are to become custodians of one of the UK’s biggest National Collections of pelargonium thanks to a generous donation from current collection holder Fibrex Nurseries.

The National Collection of Pelargonium is the largest of its kind in the world – numbering more than 1,400 accessions – which will be divided by group between RHS Gardens Bridgewater, Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall, Rosemoor and Wisley.

Heather Godard-Key of Fibrex Nurseries, says: “We are absolutely delighted to see this collection move to the RHS, and we are confident now that it has a long and secure future ahead. Although we are very proud of the collection held here at the nursery, it has never been in the limelight as our location means we simply don’t see the numbers of visitors that the RHS gardens do. Our hope is that this will help to raise public awareness to the astonishing variety of pelargoniums that is available and for more people to be able to enjoy them.

The entire collection goes on display for the final time this summer at Fibrex Nurseries in Warwickshire, where visitors can view all the species and cultivars together free of charge from May to September 2021. The transfer of the collection has already started with a number of propagated plants now settling into their new homes. Some of the more rare and challenging pelargoniums will make the move after this growing season. Some are believed to be the only examples of their type in cultivation and cannot successfully be propagated.

Dr Tim Upson, RHS Director of Horticulture, Education and Communities, adds: “We couldn’t be more thrilled that Fibrex has entrusted such an important and beautiful collection to the RHS. It is a unique opportunity to put these pelargoniums in front of an audience of more than 2 million annual visitors to the RHS Gardens, and help even more gardeners appreciate this fascinating and diverse group of plants. It is an honour to continue the incredible work Fibrex has done over the years to bring this collection together.”

Pelargoniums have a long history of cultivation in the UK with the first species P.triste brought to the UK in the 1630s. RHS Garden Wisley will become home to Species, Species Hybrid, Mini/Dwarf Stellar, Zonartic and Dwarf pelargoniums, while Scented Leaf and Variegated Leaf types will go to RHS Garden Rosemoor.

Rosebud, Miniature, Single and Double types (including Deacons) can be found at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, where this year they will enhance container displays by the entrance and other areas of the garden. The dry climate at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, is the perfect home for the drought-tolerant Ivy Leafe, Irene and Unique types, which will become an integral element in summer seasonal planting across the garden.

RHS Garden Bridgewater becomes home to the largest group of more than 200 Regal pelargonium cultivars along with Decorative, Angel and Dwarf Regal groups. They will be planted in pots en masse in the Frameyard to showcase its diversity.

Fibrex has also presented its National Collection of Hedera to RHS Garden Wisley (pictured above). The 390 varieties will be added to the garden’s collection. Curator, Matthew Pottage, is delighted with the collection where it will not only flourish but also be able to be appreciated by many more people.

Both National Collections were originally started by Hazel Key of Fibrex Nurseries, before being passed on to her daughters, Ursula Key-Davis and Angela Tandy, to continue her legacy.

The Pelargonium collection was started in 1958 and was granted National Collection status in 1987. The ivy collection, comprising both species and many hybrids of the native Hedera helix, was originally started as companion plants for the pelargoniums at shows, and earned National Collection status in 1996. The RHS currently holds 20 National Plant Collections at its gardens, including Crocus, Cornus, Viburnum and rhubarb.

Photo credits: Banner image and pelargonium top left ©Fibrex Nurseries; Middle: RHS Garden Wisley, ©Reckless Gardener