Mount Stewart’s very first Plant Hunter’s Seminar

Friday 21 and Saturday 22 September 2012

Bleddyn Wynn Jones, Kenneth Cox and Roy Lancaster
(c) Lesley McCauley

A Plant Hunter’s Seminar was held at Mount Stewart on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 September. This inspired idea was dreamed up by Paul Stewart (Garden and Propagation Manager at Mount Stewart), as he and Neil Porteous (Head Gardener for all the National Trust gardens in Northern Ireland) and Bleddyn Wynn Jones of Crug Farm Plants in Wales, sat around the table at Crug Farm having a glass of wine. Neil and Paul had gone over to Crug to collect plants for Mount Stewart gardens. Well, the ball rolled until it all happened at the weekend.

The speakers were Roy Lancaster, OBE VMH, Kenneth Cox and Bleddyn Wynn Jones. Lady Rose gave a short speech welcoming everyone and provided some background and the speakers each gave 2 powerpoint presentations with fabulous photos of amazing plants and places.

Roy’s title was ‘East, West, Which is best’ and he spoke about his experiences plant hunting both in Sichuan, China and also the Siskiyou Mountains in Oregon and northern California. As everyone knows he is extremely knowledgeable and an excellent and interesting speaker. Kenneth spoke about the history of plant hunting in Western China and explained the rivalry between George Forrest and Frank Kingdon Ward. It was fascinating with lots of detail, some gruesome and some amusing, gleaned from these men’s correspondence with their sponsors and each other.

Schefflera fantsipanensis. Planted this year in the Italian Garden. From Crug Farm.
(c) Lesley McCauley

Bleddyn talked about his exploits in Korea and in northern Vietnam and showed the wide range of plants he and his wife have collected there and have available at Crug.

It was pointed out that many of these plants are now to be found in Mount Stewart so you can see Schizophragmas, Scheffleras and so much more without the expense of a trip to the far east. He showed pictures of the leeches hanging from the leaves of these plants so Mount Stewart would be a much more pleasant place to see them.

Neil closed the Seminar with a heartfelt vote of thanks to the speakers, Lady Rose, the audience and all concerned. He asked if there would be interest in having another such event next year and the overwhelming response was a very positive yes please from everyone. A wonderful two days.



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