‘VIRTUAL COLLECTIONS’ THE WAY FORWARD?
The creation of electronic ‘virtual collections’ of plant group material was one of a number of considered options emerging from the joint NCCPG Plant Heritage* and RHS conference on ‘Growing Heritage’, held recently. Over 80 senior representatives from conservation, horticulture, professional and amateur gardening attended the two-day event, convened to discuss pressing issues affecting garden plant diversity and conservation.
Human resource restrictions and limited budgets in today’s horticultural and plant science practice, plus possible limits to the movement of plant material in national legislation, being framed to confirm with the international Convention on Biological Diversity, warranted a shared electronic platform for interested parties, the conference concluded. Whilst the Convention is seen as a beneficial instrument, delegates wanted to ensure continued freedom in the movement of plant materials for research, plant breeding and education, for the benefit of all in horticulture.
The use of electronic media in sharing information, best practice and for possible co-ordination of lobbying activities, emerged as a recurrent theme throughout the five discussion strands spanning the two days. The Knowledge group was chaired by Rupert Wilson, Principal Data Manager for Science and Learning of the RHS; Education was chaired by Gail Bromley of RBG Kew; Strategy by Peter Wyse Jackson of NBG Glasnevin (Ireland); Enhancing Diversity by Simon Thornton-Wood, RHS Director of Science & Learning, and Best Practice by journalist and broadcaster Nigel Colborn. The discussion groups’ deliberations were summarised by NCCPG Vice Chairman David Goodchild.
A draft Action Plan was discussed by the conference, covering practical ways in which UK horticulture can work proactively and positively with the Convention on Biological Diversity. The final version of the Action Plan, agreed by all parties present, will be launched at the opening of the NCCPG Plant Heritage marquee at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on Monday, 3rd July. The NCCPG Plant Heritage main garden display in the marquee will also highlight issues and themes from the ‘Growing Heritage’ conference, with a display showing the difference between plant availability in gardens from 1750 and 2006.