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Plant hunters’ dry shade focus at Chelsea

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Ruscus
Ruscus

Couple inspired by legendary plantswoman

A plant-hunting couple will be taking their inspiration from renowned plantswoman Ellen Willmott and her Mediterranean garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea.

Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones from Crûg Farm Plants will focus on Miss Willmott’s Villa Boccanegra garden, using plants for dry shade from their collections, many of which will not have been seen before at Chelsea.

They will be helped at the show by the villa’s current owner, Ursula Salghetti Drioli.

Miss Willmott’s love for her Italian Riviera garden and her passion for supporting plant hunting expeditions will be central to Sue and Bleddyn’s design and planting.

Unusual planting

Crûg will be showing unusual planting ideas for dry shade and heat tolerance underneath Oreopanax.

Also featured are plants such as Aspidistra, Ophiopogon and Ruscus, plus others mostly collected by themselves on their many expeditions.

They have collected Ruscus from the Mediterranean and beyond, and Oreopanax from South and Central America, particularly Colombia.

Aspidistra has a centre of diversity in northern Vietnam and southern China. Ophiopogon is found in the Himalayas and South-East Asia.

Oreopanax
Oreopanax

Mediterranean inspiration

Sue and Bleddyn have also been inspired by these other famous Mediterranean gardens:

  • Giardini Botanici Hanbury in Italy, also known as La Mortola, established by Sir Thomas Hanbury.
  • Serre de la Madone in France, created by Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote, which grows a huge range of Crûg’s wild collections in its shaded gardens.
  • Les Cedres, or Jardin Botanique Les Cèdres, the largest private botanic garden in Europe. Past owner King Leopold II of Belgium financed the collecting and introduction of countless species of Oreopanax from Colombia, a focus of the Wynn-Jones’ plant passions.
  • La Mouissone in Grasse, a younger garden being developed in a mature olive grove by Lady Lockett, who maintains an extensive selection of Crûg’s collections.

Bleddyn Wynn-Jones said: “We are looking forward to highlighting some interesting star plants for the most difficult of garden environments, dry shade – unusual forms of Ophiopogon, newly discovered species of Aspidistra and Ruscus, planted under the flamboyant architectural foliage of Oreopanax.”


Oreopanax
Oreopanax

Miss Willmott’s legacy

Ellen Willmott (1858-1934) was a gardening visionary, choosing plants for diversity, bold leaf form and architectural structure, rather than exotic blossoms, the fashion at the time.

She was one of two women to be awarded the first RHS Victoria Medal of Honour, the other being Gertrude Jekyll, and the first female to be elected to the Linnean Society.

Plants bearing her name include Miss Willmott’s ghost (Eryngium giganteum) and Chinese plumbago (Ceratostigma willmottianum).

She funded plant hunting trips and many of specimens still survive at Boccanegra under biologist Ursula’s expert care, including the species Ruscus, which will feature on Crûg’s Chelsea display, as will copies of Miss Wilmott’s original notes and planting lists.

For more information visit http://www.crug-farm.co.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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