National collections programs

David Fenwick
Sun, 13 Jun 2004 15:44:35 PDT
>>>>>>One of the things that most intrigued me at Dave's was the greenhouse
he had created on one of his
holdings. He had built and designed it out of mostly recycled materials and
it works really well for him. When he has time maybe he will tells us about

Hi Mary Sue and all,
Mary Sue, you got the Nat. Collections spot on, but there are also plans to
add Eucomis with Galtonia, and Freesia (Anomatheca Group) by the end of the
year; and Kniphofia in two or three years time.

Firstly and before describing my home from home I'd like to add that
information about NCCPG National Plant Collections can be found on the NCCPG
website at, and under the heading ''National Collections''.

About my ''home from home''; well it is cited on a local authority
allotment; and this is basically a rented piece of land about 24m x 9m in
size for growing vegetables, fruit and flowers. Rent and water rates cost
about $30 per annum.

I have two allotments, one beside the other, one houses my Kniphofia
collection and one my National Collection of Crocosmia with Chasmanthe. The
reason they are on allotments is because of space and management. Space
because the collections well outgrew the 17 x 15m that I have here at home
and management because Crocosmia and Kniphofia are easily fieldgrown in my
area. The allotments are on a south facing hillside in Plymouth, UK.

All the bulbs are grown in 10cm high timber edged beds, and this means I can
used stamped lead nailed into the wood as a permanent labelling system; and
this comes in very useful indeed. Plants are grown through membrane, and the
membrane is permanently covered with 10cm of woodchip. Thus weeds aren't a
problem, and neither is watering as the woodchip cover reduces the frequency
to just 3-4 times per annum, and the ground is kept cool and moist, which is
what the plants desire in summer. Obviously the woodchip also provides a
degree of frost protection in winter. Soil nitrogen loss isn't a problem as
the woodchip is kept off the soil by the membrane, however, nitrochalk is
added to counteract acidity and to help the woodchip decompose. When the
woodchip is fully decomposed it is used in a compost mix and more fresh
woodchip is added to the beds.

Another recycling feature is of course the tunnel, my second home, and which
also includes TV and CD powered by recycled car batteries and 240V inverter,
I never miss a 'soap'!!! However and more importantly this also means I can
take my laptop to the allotment, which is essential when entering botanical
data collected from the plants nearby, another aid to collection management.

The tunnel, which is more like a greenhouse in section, is about 8m long and
4-5m wide, ten upright 8cm square timbers hold the flat roof which is
covered in roofing felt, and is just over 2m high. Another ten shorter
timbers hold the clear visqueen (builders polythene) sloping sides of the
tunnel. The vertical sides are a little over a meter in height and are
covered along the length of the tunnel with double thickness blue debris
netting rescued from building sites. It's just like green horticultural
netting only that it's blue; and there's nothing wrong with blue, most
plants like blue light.

The netting gives absolutely perfect ventilation and wind filtration, and
this is the key to the design of the structure and I've found that many SA
bulbs are best grown with the best ventilation possible. I first found this
out when I once sited a greenhouse on decking where the majority of the
ventilation came through the floor. Back to the tunnel, rainwater is
collected from the flat roof by guttering and this fills three very large
barrels inside the tunnel.

All the wood for the tunnel came from either building sites or from a recent
shipwreck. Roofing plastic, debris netting and lead flashing (for labels)
was also recycled from building sites as was all the plastic beading for the
roof of the tunnel and wheelbarrows.

The tunnel is also filled with four rows of wooden benches which run
parallel with the sides, built from recycled timber by myself and my helper.
I have an autistic lad who helps me, and who I look after for fours hours
each week.

Woodchip for the beds is also from a recycled source, as here tree surgeons
have to pay for its disposal at the local refuse tip. Thus they deliver it
to me free.

Normally, it's a case of the more plants you get the more they cost to look
after, and the more time it takes. Not here.

Best Wishes,

The African Garden
NCCPG National Plant Reference Collections of
Crocosmia with Chasmanthe, Tulbaghia and Amaryllis
96 Wasdale Gardens,
Estover, Plymouth, Devon. England.
Tel:  44 (0)1752 301402

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