When Philip Miller, chief gardener of the Chelsea Physic Garden, collected a sample of Lavandula x intermedia subsp. intermedia in the summer of 1731, he could scarcely have imagined it would still be in a collection some 300 years later. Yet today, pressed and labelled, Miller’s specimen is the oldest entry in the herbarium collection at RHS Wisley. What’s more, Lavandula x intermedia is widely grown, being especially good for oil extraction. In this lies the brilliance of pressed flowers and herbaria specifically: they provide a window on the past and a view of what the future might look like.
With about 90,000 pressed plant species now housed at RHS Wisley’s state-of the-art science building Hilltop, the Wisley herbarium is not the largest in the UK but it is unique. “RHS Wisley’s is special because it contains only cultivated or ornamental plants,” explains keeper Yvette Harvey. “There are around 400,000 ornamental plants being grown in the UK and we intend to acquire as many of these as possible. We’re actively increasing the collection.”
Herbaria began in 17th-century Bologna, when Luca Ghini, a physician, decided it was better to refer to pressed flowers than drawings in winter. He established the first herbarium as a teaching aid. Since then, herbaria have provided the benchmark for species identification.
Worldwide there are now roughly 3,000 herbaria collectively housing 300 million specimens. At RBG Kew, where total acquisitions number between seven and eight million – the full number will become known when digitisation, a mammoth task, is complete – the herbarium is the ultimate point of reference. Any seed entering the Kew’s critical Millennium Seed Bank for example, must also have a full pressed entry in
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Project Giving Back has announced that it will be continuing its support of gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2025 and 2026. Speaking at the opening of the 2023 Gardens For Good Causes Exhibition at the Garden Museum in London, Project Giving Back’s CEO, Hattie Ghaui, said: “I am thrilled to confirm we will be supporting even more gardens for good causes at RHS Chelsea Flower Show until 2026. As we move into our third year of funding, it feels like PGB is still in its adolescent years and we wanted to give it time to mature into adulthood. We know from having to turn down some incredibly strong funding applications over the past couple of years that there are so many wonderful stories waiting to be told. We’re all excited to see how the creativity of charities, designers and wider garden teams continues to unfold and look forward to welcoming more partnerships into the PGB family.”
Foxgloves (Digitalis) are popular in cottage garden planting schemes, loved for their spires of bell-shaped, bee-friendly tubular flowers. Most foxgloves are biennial, meaning they put on root and foliage growth in year one, and then flower and set seed in year two, before dying. However, some varieties of foxglove are short-lived perennials.
Buying someone a bouquet of flowers is a sure way to bring a smile to their face, as well as brighten up an entire room. They make an ideal gift and it’s now easier than ever to give them, thanks to the numerous online flower delivery services that make it easier to send flowers from afar.
Marjoram or sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a half-hardy perennial sub-shrub in the Lamiaceae or mint family. It has small rounded leaves and white tubular flowers in summer and early autumn that attract bees and other pollinating insects. Marjoram originates from the Mediterranean and Turkey.
It’s always a pleasure to speak with our neighbors in Canada, and it’s clear the community garden movement there is alive and thriving. Judy Stafford and Naomi Kulhawy are two of Kin Park Community Garden’s biggest supporters, with Judy as executive director and Naomi as the farm director.
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