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Horticulture Group Newsletter - May 2012

tomato slice

2 May 2012

This last month has been notable for its rainfall which we hope will signal the beginning of the end to the prolonged drought affecting much of southern England. Precipitation was very evident when the Group joined the Professional Horticulture Group South West to visit two small nurseries in Gloucestershire with very different business strategies reported on below.

May sees the closing date for entries to be submitted for the David Miller Travel Bursary Award. Applications for this award can be made up to 14 May.

On 15 May we will again be joining the Professional Horticulture Group South West in Dorset for a visit to Country Garden Plant Sales, a wholesale nursery specialising in ferns and grape vines followed by a study tour of plant management at the RSPB Arne Nature Reserve. Details

May 18 has been designated 'Fascination of Plants Day 2012'. Numerous events have been planned on the day and in the days around. As our contribution we have organised a visit to Thanet Earth, the largest greenhouse complex in the UK, on 16 May.

Editor

Contrasting collectors

Jekka McVicarThe SCI Horticulture Group joined with the Professional Horticulture Group South West to visit Jekka's Herb Farm on a particularly wet April day. As a result, the first part of the visit was confined to the polythene tunnels and glasshouse although, even here the torrential rain pounding on the roofs made its presence felt. The farm was established around twenty five years ago by Jekka McVicar (pictured right) and her husband. Coming from a career in broadcasting and writing, the derelict farm was purchased with the proceeds of her first book. The herb collection has expanded over the years to comprise around four hundred species from around the world and is still growing.

The McVicars started selling wholesale to customers including Fortnum & Mason and Homebase. A foray into organic tomatoes sold through supermarkets was short-lived, as was growing organic herbs for Waitrose. The couple decided they were more interested in the collection of herbs, their botany and ethnobotany, so instead concentrated on mail order supported by major promotions at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Even this was somewhat accidental. The hot summer of 1991 left them with lots of unsold stock and someone suggested they used these to exhibit at an RHS show. They did so at an October show and won a Silver Medal. They were then 'persuaded' by Mavis Sweetingham, in her usual forceful manner, to do Chelsea. Sixty three Gold Medals later she decided to give up exhibiting and the mail order and concentrate on the collection.

However, Jekka remains interested in how the shows are developing and feels they need to change. Attendance is falling and she feels there should be a greater concentration on plant booths for selling plants at the shows.

Jekka now uses her Chelsea experience to grow herbs for other exhibitors as well as helping other gardens such as Le Manoir to develop their herb collections.

We were shown round a tidy and well-organised nursery (pictured above). Both indoor and outdoor areas are covered by heavy-duty groundcover, essential for weed control as the nursery is entirely organic. Jekka regards this as a basic principle she will not change although we were not treated to the reason why.

PanglobalThe group then moved on to Pan Global Plants, a small nursery situated in the old walled garden of Frampton Court and accessed by a tortuous track between mature trees that showed the scars of numerous encounters with vehicles. The owner, Nick Macer, is primarily interested in plant collecting and the nursery is really a sales outlet for the results of his collecting expeditions and a means of funding the next. The majority of his plants are propagated under contract by other growers so he is able to run the nursery virtually single handed.

As a collector he is very keen not just in obtaining new plants but carefully recording and keeping track of where the plants came from. His collecting expeditions cover all parts of the globe in search of new hardy or semi-hardy species. He will collect anything that looks interesting and has a wide range of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. A particular focus of his collecting has been limes (Tilia) and birch (Betula) species and he has a good collection of the latter with special emphasis on their bark colouration from pure white to dark purple.

Nick does not protect his acquisitions with Plant Variety Rights (PVR), indeed made it clear he was opposed to this on principle. This provoked some discussion on the merits of PVR and the ability to collect royalties verses the high cost of obtaining, marketing and protecting the rights. It is probably fair to say that the majority of species that Nick collects will always be aimed at a relatively small market and will never justify the expense. The trick as ever is spotting the one species that might become a mainstay of the landscape and garden centre trade.

Plant of the Month

Trillium undulatum, painted trillium, wake robin, birthroot, Melanthiaceae

trilliumThere are approximately 42 species of this stunning genus that are native to North America, the Himalayas and East Asia. The centre for diversity is in the Southern Appalachians of North America. In the UK these plants are prized specimens in woodland gardens. On a recent trip to Georgia and the Great Smoky Mountains I encountered many different species including an amazing mass of this species, the painted trillium, growing in shallow soil on top of a boulder of rock at the side of a trail path. Absolutely stunning.

The name trillium comes from the Latin tri meaning three or triple - for the leaves and other flower parts which are in threes. Undulatum means wavy and indeed this species has wavy edged petals. It is found across the whole of the eastern portion of North America, except in Florida but is locally threatened or endangered. It grows best in strongly acidic, humus rich soils and is found in the shade of the native conifers and broadleaf trees.

The seeds of this species (as well as many other trilliums and spring wildflowers in Eastern North America) are dispersed by ants. The seeds have an elaiosome attached that is usually rich in lipids. Ants move the seed by grasping the elaiosome and then carry or drag the seed to their nest. Having fed the fatty body to the developing larvae in the nest the seed is then discarded in refuse piles. This strategy offers the plant some potential advantages - escape from predation and nutrient rich germination sites. There were certainly plenty of ants in evidence in the forests where the trilliums were growing.

If you'd like to see trilliums growing in their masses in the wild (as well as many other spring beauties), then I recommend a walking holiday in the Great Smoky Mountains in April. Heaven for all plantaholics!

Alison Foster
Oxford Botanic Garden

Medicinal Plant of the Month

Podophyllum peltatum, mayapple, Berberidaceae

podophyllum petatumGrowing alongside Trillium grandiflorum in the forests of the Appalachian mountains are large patches of this spring ephemeral. The mayapple has large leaves with 5 to 7 lobes. Those plants putting up a single leaf will not flower but those that put up two leaves will produce a flower. This white flower has more than 12 stamens with yellow anthers and 6 to 9 petals. The flower is hidden underneath the umbrella like leaves and develops into a green fruit that ripens to orange by late summer. The fruit is a berry with the flesh mainly deriving from the placenta of the ovary.

The botanical name is a contraction of anapodophyllum from the Latin anas meaning duck, podos (foot) and phyllon (leaf). Peltatum refers to the shield-shaped leaf - ie a leaf that is attached on the lower surface away from, and not at the margin of, the leaf.

This plant has long been used by the native Indians for various medicinal purposes. A resin called podophyllin is obtained from the rhizomes of this plant and this resin contains a substance called podophyllotoxin. This is used in combination with aspiring to treat plantar warts but also forms the basis of several anti-cancer drugs. Etoposide, teniposide and etoposide phosphate (Etopophos) are chemotherapeutic agents all derived from podophyllotoxin. Etoposide is used as a first-line treatment for small cell lung cancer and also to treat testicular cancer that has failed to respond to other drugs.

podophyllotoxin formulae.Podophyllotoxin works by inhibiting the assembly of microtubules and thus prevents cells from dividing but the derivatives etoposide, teniposide and etopophos have a different mechanism of action. They have all been found to be poisons of an enzyme known as Topoisomerase II. This enzyme is involved in the formation and cleavage of the backbone of DNA molecules during normal cell division. The poisons cause breaks in the DNA and this in turn leads to cell death.

In addition to being isolated from the American mayapple, podophyllotoxin can also be isolated from Podophyllum hexandrum, the Himalayan mayapple. These plants are in the berberis family and other taxa in this family, including Diphylleia cymosa, also from North America, have been shown to produce podophyllotoxin.

Alison Foster
Oxford Botanic Garden

Horticulture Industry News

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News from our Associates

Society of Biology
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eEvents Calendar

SCI Horticulture Group events are listed here

Other Events of Interest

Society of Biology AGM
3 May, Society of Biology
London, UK

Desert Green
7 - 9 May, Unido, UNDP, FAO
Qatar

Plasticulture for a Green Planet
15 - 17 May, International Society for Horticultural Science
Tel Aviv, Israel

Harnessing Emerging Technologies for Environmental Science
16 May, Environmental Virtual Observatory
London, UK

International Blackcurrant Conference
16 - 18 May, James Hutton Institute
Dundee, UK

Edible Alliaceae
16 - 19 May, International Society for Horticultural Science
Fukuoka, Japan

Fascination of Plants Day
18 May, European Plant Science Organisation
Worldwide

Mineral Nutrition of Fruit Crops
19 - 25 May, International Society for Horticultural Science
Chanthaburi, Thailand

Plum and Prune Genetics, Breeding and Technology
20 - 25 May, International Society for Horticultural Science
Davis, USA

Soilless Culture
22 - 25 May, International Society for Horticultural Science
Shanghai, China

World Potato Congress
27 - 30 May
Edinburgh, UK

European Botanic Gardens Congress
28 May - 2 Jun, Greek Botanic Gardens and The Hellenic Botanical Society
Chios, Greece

International Peat Congress
3 - 8 Jun, International Peat Society
Stockholm, Sweden

Processing Tomato
9 - 11 Jun, International Society for Horticultural Science
Beijing, China

New developments in food science: realising the potential of 'omics' technologies
13 Jun, Food and Environment Research Agency and The Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
York, UK

The Arb Show
15 - 16 Jun, Arboricultural Association
Cirencester, UK

Vaccinium and Other Superfruits
17 - 22 Jun, International Society for Horticultural Science
Maastricht, The Netherlands

Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
18 - 22 Jun, International Society for Horticultural Science
Guangzhou, China

Organic Fruit Symposium
18 - 21 Jun, International Society for Horticultural Science
Leavenworth, USA

The Landscaping Show
19 - 20 Jun, The British Association of Landscape Industries
Kenilworth, UK

Centenary of the founding of The Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge
20 Jun, John Innes Institute
Norwich, UK

Biological control of fungal and bacterial plant pathogens
24 - 27 Jun, Envirochange
Reims, France

Virus Diseases of Ornamental Plants
24 - 29 Jun, International Society for Horticultural Science
Ski and Grimstad, Norway

Postharvest Symposium
25 - 29 Jun, International Society for Horticultural Science
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

National Plant Show
26 - 27 Jun, Horticultural Trades Association
Kenilworth, UK

Investing in Peatlands - Demonstrating Success
26 - 28 Jun, British Ecological Society and International Union for Conservation of Nature
Bangor, UK

Roots to the Future
27 - 29 Jun, International Society of Root Research
Dundee, UK

Vineyard Mechanization and Grape and Wine Quality
27 - 29 Jun, International Society for Horticultural Science
Piacenza, Italy

Woody Ornamentals of the Temperate Zone
1 - 4 Jul, International Society for Horticultural Science
Ghent, Belgium

Symposium on Horticulture in Europe
1 - 5 Jul, International Society for Horticultural Science
Angers, France

Seed, Transplant and Stand Establishment of Horticultural Crops
1 - 5 Jul, International Society for Horticultural Science
Brasilia, Brazil

Improving the Performance of Supply Chains in the Transitional Economies
4 - 7 Jul, International Society for Horticultural Science
Cebu, Philippines

Physical Chemical Properties Of Plant Protection
5 Jul, Chemical Regulations Directorate
York, UK

Nematodes as Environmental Bioindicators
5 - 6 Jul, Association of Applied Biologists
Ghent, Belgium

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Applications in Agriculture
9 - 12 Jul, International Society for Horticultural Science
Valencia, Spain

Germplasm of Ornamentals
16 - 20 Jul, International Society for Horticultural Science
Beijing, China

Irrigation of Horticultural Crops
16 - 20 Jul, International Society for Horticultural Science
Geisenheim, Germany

Fruit for the Future
19 July, James Hutton Institute
Dundee, UK

Fruit Focus
25 Jul, Haymarket Media
East Malling, UK

If you would like to advertise a forthcoming event please contact charne.green@soci.org

Horticulture Group Contact Details

For submitting ideas or to volunteer to be part of a committee or a group, please contact:

Chairman - Peter Grimbly
Meetings Secretary - Alison Foster
Minutes Secretary - Margaret Waddy
Newsletter co-ordinator - Sue Grimbly scihortigroup@btinternet.com
Group Contact - Charne Green charne.green@soci.org T: +44 (0)20 7598 1594


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