National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens

The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, or NCCPG, was formed in 1978 when Christopher Brickell, who was then the director of RHS Gardens at Wisley and persuaded the RHS’s council to host a conference entitled “The Practical Role of Gardens in the Conservation of Rare and Threatened Plants”. His concern was that a unique range of plant species that were cultivated in Britain faced an uncertain future and what this meant in both cultural and biological terms.

Delegates from more than 100 organisations came to the conference and the NCCPG was formed as a result. From the outset they had a mission; “to conserve, document, promote and make available Britain’s great biodiversity of garden plants for the benefit of horticulture, education and science”.

There was no plant finder service in those days so one of the first tasks was to conduct a survey of nurseries to establish which plants grown were readily available, and which were classed as rare and endangered. This survey took until 1982 to complete and in that year the first journal as also published.

Today, through their Plant Heritage programme, the NCCPG are working hard to both protect and preserve the UK’s outstanding plant heritage through many methods including the National Plant Collections® Scheme, their  ‘living libraries’ of individual  endangered species which are cared for by dedicated, specialist growers. They also have nationwide publicity and education programmes and through their 35 regional groups run ‘grass roots’ activities.

The NCCPG’s Demeter Project is a massive computer database that ensures knowledge regarding precious plants is captured and stored securely and consistently updated. All of this, however, costs money, and as they are a self funding, charitable organisation they rely on the funds they raise from sponsors and the national activities they organise, as well as donations from the public and the energy and enthusiasm of their members who work tirelessly in many different ways.

In 1992 the NCCPG were proud and delighted to welcome the Prince of Wales on board as the Patron of Plant Heritage. The Prince is well known for his love of all kinds of horticulture and conservation was particularly impressed with the work the NCCPG was carrying out regarding the endangered plants, many of which he himself grows on his country estate; Highgrove.

Plant Heritage moved in 2007 from it previous base at RHS Wisley to its current home at Loseley Park Surrey, but still retains a close relationship with the RHS. The herbarium, Lindley library and the botany dept at Wisley have the closest relationship today with Plant Heritage and the RHS also hold several national plant collections.

As well as the RHS, the National Trust and the National Trust for Scotland as well as other important bodies in the field of horticulture have nominated representatives on the council. Contact is also maintained with various other organisations via the NCCPG’s National Plant Collections Scheme and between them all it would seem as if the future of our endangered plant species is in good hands.

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