Rare chance to enjoy national plant Collection of myrtles

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Garden lovers are being offered a chance today to visit a unique garden in Haywards Heath which is home to a National Plant Collection of myrtles.

Leading cultivated plant conservation charity, Plant Heritage,is giving people an opportunity to visit the National Plant Collections of Myrtaceae and Gongora orchids at 9 Harlands Close, Haywards Heath today (Sunday April 6).

The Collections are owned by Drs Gary and Maria Firth who are opening their garden from 1pm to 5pm. Refreshments will be available.

Myrtles, a favourite of royal ladies since Victorian times, are renowned for being difficult to grow in the UK, being only semi hardy in some parts of the country although the Firths have overcome this through their meticulous care, giving visitors an exceptional glimpse of these plants.

Plant Heritage plant conservation officer, Mercy Morris said: “Gary and Maria are cramming a wealth of plant diversity into their small garden, and dramatically increasing the number of collections in West Sussex!

“They are demonstrating one of the prime functions of the National Collection Holder: that of sorting out the nomenclature and creating a reference collection for others to use.”

Speaking before the open day, Plant Heritage President Alan Titchmarsh said: “This initiative is a fantastic opportunity for garden lovers in West Sussex to discover some of the beautiful and diverse plants held in their local National Collections.

“Plant conservation is as much about passing on the knowledge as it is about growing the plant.

“This is only the second time the Collections have opened solely in support of the charity,” he added.

Gary and Maria will be on hand to answer queries throughout the day, so whether you’re an absolute beginner or seasoned plantsman visitors will be able to take away some valuable advice.

The National Plant Collections Scheme is the flagship of Plant Heritage and is the prime mechanism for ensuring the survival of cultivated plant species and cultivars.

The Holders are volunteers, be that private individuals working in their back garden or Head Gardeners on a large estate.

They are all passionate about their plants and keen to share their knowledge.

Myrtles first became popular with the royal family when Queen Victoria planted a sprig at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Later her daughter Princess Victoria carried a sprig from the bush in her bridal bouquet.

It is a tradition that has been carried on ever since with every royal bride - including Kate Middleton when she married Prince William - carrying a piece of myrtle in the bridal bouquet.