Derbyshire stately homes' plant collections are educating the nation's gardeners

Guardians of plant collections at two stately homes in Derbyshire are helping to educate gardeners across the country.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 9:39 pm
Yucca loquat at Renishaw Hall.
Yucca loquat at Renishaw Hall.

Renishaw Hall has nurtured an extensive display of Yuccas while Hardwick Hall has raised several species of the exotic-looking Eucomis.

David Kesteven head gardener at Renishaw, said: “I have been looking after the Yuccas for the past 20 years since Trevor Key gave his collection to the estate. They are not easy plants to like, they are tough, sharp and spiky. When they grow to be up to six foot tall and flower, the spikes are forgiven.”

Many of the plants raised from seed more than 25 years ago are now tree sized. And a plant bought in Tesco supermarket in 1979 to start the collection of Yucca elephantipes has shot up to 5ft.

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Flowering Eucomis. Photo by Chelsea Wild

There are four species of Yucca regularly grown in English gardens and Renishaw Hall is home to 24 more unusual species which come from western USA and Mexico. To help the plants feel at home, the back wall of the Yuccary which houses them in the hall’s orangery has been painted to resemble the Arizona landscape.

The Yuccas regularly flower with tall spikes of cream bell shaped flowers but never set seed due to the absence of the Yucca moth which is required for pollination.

Hardy outdoor plant Eucomis has historically been grown in the west and east courtyard at Bess of Hardwick’s stately home. Head gardener Ian Hunt said: “Material for the collection came from various sources such as private individuals and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.”

Hardwick Hall lists 20 species and sub-species of the plant, which is native to southern Africa. Ian said: “Eucomis are easy to grow in pots in a greenhouse and Eucomis comosa and Eucomis bicolor are hardy outdoors in most UK climates. They like free draining soil and plenty of sunshine.”

Eucomis cultivated at Hardwick Hall.

Both displays at Renishaw and Hardwick are included in the National Plant Collections, which provides a reference library for gardeners, plant breeders and garden designers as well as highlighting the conservation of historical collections.

A total of 95,000 plants in 650 collections are incorporated in the National Plant Collections which is overseen by the charity Plant Heritage.

Abbey Brook Cactus Nursery at Old Hackney Lane in Matlock has five inclusions in the National Plant Collections. These are for Haworthiopsis, Lithops spp, Ephiphyllum hybrids raised by Eric Hodkinson, Aloe and Gastera hybrids raised by Peter Brandham and Echinopsis (Abbey Brook hybrid and Schick collections).

*Have you grown a rare or unusual plant that is not currently available commercially or hasn’t been consistently available to buy from garden centres or nurseries?

Plant Heritage is calling for garden and plant enthusiasts to enter its Threatened Plant of the Year 2021 competition.

Anyone can enter this competition and cultivars from any plant group can be entered, provided the entry requirements are met.

Those shortlisted will be displayed at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival in July (Covid-19 allowing), where the winner will be crowned and will receive the Threatened Plant of the Year 2021 trophy, a winner’s certificate and a special plant label.

The competition runs until Saturday, May 15, 2021. To find out more and to enter, visit www.plantheritage.org.uk/conservation/threatened-plant-of-the-year-competition