1. The Nerine Collection
The Nerine Collection has its roots in the very early days of the Guernsey Branch of the NCCPG (now Plant Heritage Guernsey) when it was decided to establish a living collection of our ‘National Flower’ on the island. The collection has grown through donations and purchases and can be considered as two collections – those of historic significance to Guernsey – and of imported historic cultivars. The greater part of the collection is of the winter growing Nerine sarniensis (The Guernsey Lily) and cultivars and hybrids thereof. These are frost tender and are well suited to our mild winters.
The first local cultivars were acquired in the early 1990’s and have been added to right up to the present time. We willingly accept donations of Nerines from any source and in any quantity no matter how small and always do our best to record their provenance. These Nerines, mainly descendants of the early 20th century cut flower trade, rarely have names. There is a surprising amount of variation and some are not found elsewhere. In part this is a result of the commercial breeding done on the island by Caledonia Nurseries and others.
From the early days of the collection bulbs of named cultivars were bought in from the UK, particularly from Ken Hall of Newchurch Nerines on the Isle of Wight who had acquired a share of the famous Tony Norris collection at Welland. We still purchase bulbs from Ken but try to concentrate on the ‘old’ cultivars that are vulnerable as new cultivars take their place on his benches.
We aim to have 3 pots of each cultivar and have approximately 250 pots of ‘local’ and 2000 of named cultivars representing several hundred distinct cultivars. From these we select the best to show to the public at the annual ‘Nerine Festival’. Started in October 2000 this has been traditionally held at Candie Gardens but in 2019 moved to Guernsey Gardens. We occasionally have a display in November when the late flowering hybrids are showcased. PHG grows on surplus bulbs of many cultivars for sale at the Nerine Festival. Together the collection and sale stock occupy approximately 500 square metres of glasshouse.
Traditionally, PHG proudly presents a Nerine named after her to the wife of the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey, as our Patron.
In 2017 the Nerine Collection of Plant Heritage Guernsey was awarded National Collection status by Plant Heritage. It is unusual for a group to hold a National Collection and is a testament to the hard work and dedication shown by the committee and numerous helpers over the years, and of course to those who recognised its importance nearly 30 years ago. The faces may change but the plants grow on.
2. The Camellia Project
Camellias in Candie Gardens, Saumarez Park and Sausmarez Manor, all open to the public, have been recorded, mapped and photographed over the last few years. Many of these were grown at the Caledonia Nursery, which was set up in the 1850’s and owned by the family of John de Putron, the first secretary of the NCCPG Guernsey. The Nursery is now a private property.
In addition there is a collection of camellia cultivars, which was planted in the grounds of Government House in 1997 to celebrate ten years of this Society. The choice was based on a two-volume work, published privately by Beryl Urquhart in 1956 and 1960. These books have full colour paintings of 36 cultivars and the majority of these were planted. We are hoping to source the remaining varieties from Chiswick House in London, the neo-Palladian home of Lord Burlington.
A few of these camellias suffered severe damage in the 2013 snow storms from trees falling on top of them. They were heavily pruned and are beginning to recover. Keep a look out on our Facebook page each March or April to see photos of them as they regrow.
In November 2016 there was one more addition to this collection of a wonderful red flowered camellia. It is a cutting from one of the oldest camellias on the island, originally on the site of the old prison, which has now been planted by our previous patron, Lady Corder in Government House gardens. The original tree dated back to the time of Elizabeth Fry’s prison reforms in the early 19th century, but as yet we have not discovered its name.
The current work involves collating all the records of the camellias from the various sites with the photographs on one database.
3. The Pelargonium Project
This collection has grown from one which was originally put together by Mary Douglas, a long time member of Plant Heritage Guernsey, who has now died. It includes many rare and historic cultivars and so we are taking cuttings each year for sale in Guernsey to keep these older varieties alive.
4. The Setting up of the Caparne Iris Project
William John Caparne FRHS came to Guernsey in 1896 with his daughter, after establishing himself as a horticulturalist to supplement his income from teaching art at Oundle school. In 1890 he had ventured into the world of hybridisation, especially of the genus Iris. Between 1898 and 1904 he introduced some 40 of what Caparne termed ‘Intermediate Bearded Iris’ and in 2000 Plant Heritage Guernsey decided to try and form a conservation collection of those 40 Iris bred by Caparne in Guernsey.
Locating and obtaining examples from the plant list has proved to be a lengthy process, as the rhizomes only seem to be available outside the UK, in USA and Eastern Europe.
By 2003 eleven cultivars had been identified, a difficult task as Caparne’s paintings were in private hands. In 2003 they were planted in the garden of the White House in Herm and flourished around the swimming pool. To secure the collection it was decided in 2010 to have a duplicate collection in Guernsey planted in Candie Gardens. However, on a visit to Herm it was found that with changes there, the importance of the Iris had not been recognised and they had been planted around the garden without labels. Pete Cumming, with the help of Caroline Timms, identified seven cultivars at flowering time and brought some rhizomes back to Guernsey, where they were planted in a private garden. The plants flourished, but only four individual cultivars have been identified to date. Rhizomes from the entire stock were potted up by Plant Heritage Guernsey in 2017 and again in 2019 and are now in their glasshouse. Further identification will take place as the plants flower each year.