(1) - (3) © Bristol Zoo Gardens, (4) © Jessica Johns
The Bristol Community Plant Collection
To create the first national plant collection of annual plants in the UK
Bristol Zoo Gardens, with the support of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, have set up a new exciting project that tackles plant conservation with the help of nine community groups from around the city.
Most gardeners have heard of Plant Heritage's National Plant Collections, but what is not obvious is that certain groups of plants are under-represented in the National Plant Collections scheme. One such group is hardy annuals; they create a number of challenges due to cross-pollination if they are grown together and the perception that they are "easy" by those considering creating collections. The result is that despite containing some of the most exciting plants that grow in a UK garden, they are neglected when compared to perennials in terms of their presence in conservation collections. By making this project a dispersed collection, these challenges are easier to manage. A dispersed collection is a botanical collection of plants that are managed centrally but that are grown on a number of different sites.
Calendula, commonly known as a pot marigold, was chosen for this trial as it is well known as both a popular garden flower and also for its medicinal value. Bristol Zoo Gardens wanted to grow a mixture of species (to support the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation) and varieties. Although there are a huge number of varieties available commercially, only two species of the plant are available. Since the start of the project, Calendula species seed from the Botanic Garden attached to Bayreuth University in Germany and six species from the US Department of Agriculture research department have been received and grown for the project, bringing the total to eight.
Very quickly a number of groups either were approached or found out about the project and asked if they could be involved. These groups have grown 30 plants for a display in the zoo in summer 2012 and keep plants on site to harvest the seed later in the year. All the groups have been provided with training from Bristol Zoo Gardens staff, growing equipment, information packs and site visits to give advice and support throughout the spring and summer.
The project appears to be the first of its kind because it is a dispersed collection and also engaging community groups to be part of the growing process. It is hoped that by involving community groups a greater understanding of Calendula and plants in general will be gained. And, most importantly, that individuals and groups can take a very active part in plant conservation right here in Bristol.
WAZA Conservation Project 12014 is implementd by Bristol Zoo Gardens. Other stakeholders involved in the project include Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Plant Heritage – UK and the community "growing partners".
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