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The National Collection of Geum

The National Collection in Brickwall Cottage Garden

There are two raised beds at the top of the garden which were originally intended for vegetables but instead have been filled with geums.  One is a stunning sight for most of the late spring and summer and is full of chiloense cultivars.

(see photo right ~ click it to enlarge)

Chiloense bed
Chiloense cultivars


The other (see photo left) has a mix of lower growing coccineum and rivale cultivars.  This has not been so successful and there will be a re-think in the spring of 2012.  It is too hot and dry there and the plants would do better in a more shady position.

 

In other parts of the garden geums are grown in conjunction with other plants:

In the foreground (of the picture right) are seedheads of Pulsatilla vulgaris and the blue flowers of a polemonium.  Behind the pulsatilla are Geum 'Bell Bank' and Geum 'Dawn' with some chiloense cultivars on the right - a mixture of Geum 'Rearsby hybrid', 'Mandarin' and 'Prinses Juliana'.

Geum border

In a shady bed are several rivale cultivars:

 
Marmalade

Shown left are Geum rivale 'Marmalade' in the foreground with Geum rivale 'Kath Inman' behind.  This should have variegated leaves but my plant only produces one or two leaves with some variegation. The plants in this bed had been there for 3 - 4 years and were becoming woody and growing into each other.  This autumn (2011) they were all dug up and divided - some being re-planted and others potted up for sale in the nursery.

 

In the Beginning

Collection holder, Sue Martin, began growing geums about 20 years ago not long after moving to Frittenden. The first one she bought was Geum montanum from Washfield Nursery in Hawkhurst - a source of so many fantastic plants.  At the time Sue was planting a yellow border and the geum seemed perfect for this spot.  However, not knowing much about geums at that time Sue didn’t realise that this is an alpine plant and didn’t like sitting in heavy Wealden clay and it soon disappeared.  The next geum was much more successful.  This was Geum ‘Prinses Juliana’ - a lovely double orange which flowered for months on end and added a touch of excitement to the erstwhile ‘yellow’ border.  And so, whenever Sue saw a geum on a plant stall she bought it and so a collection began.

As Sue’s interest in the genus grew she made contact with the then collection holder, Alison Mallett and went down to Devon to visit her.  When Alison decided she could no longer cope she asked Sue if she would like to apply for collection holder status herself and three years ago this was granted.

Maintaining the Collection

The plant collections are overseen by the charity Plant Heritage, originally the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, (NCCPG),  which was set up in 1978 in order to protect the plants we grow in our gardens, many of which might otherwise be lost to cultivation.

In order to qualify for National Collection status the applicant has to have 75% of the plants listed in the RHS Plant Finder of that genus. These need to be well established in the ground and there should be 3 of each.  At Brickwall Cottages the geums are grown throughout the garden, and wherever possible specimens of each cultivar are given different conditions, e.g. shade, semi-shade, or full sun.

Plant Heritage requires that Collection Holders submit an annual report.  In addition to this Sue keeps her own records.  At the end of winter she assesses the condition of each plant and replaces any that have not survived or do not look healthy.  Each week during the flowering season she records which plants are in flower.