‘I caught gardening bug from my son’

Ann Can, a Plant Guardian and passionate plant propagator based in Devon.

Ann Can, a Plant Guardian and passionate plant propagator based in Devon.

While most people are influenced by parents or peers, passionate gardener Ann Cann caught the growing bug from her son. “Although interested in gardening from an early age, it was only when my son David became interested and started bringing all these unusual plants home that my sister and I fell also under their spell,” said Ann, who has a small, windswept hilltop garden in Crediton, Devon.

One of the plant societies she joined 25 years ago was conservation charity Plant Heritage, and  she started propagating unusual varieties from her garden for its branch plant sales. In 2013 she decided to catalogue all the plants in her garden on her computer. On checking her list against the RHS Plantfinder, an online database of garden plants in cultivation, she found many of her plants had two or fewer stockists, with some not available anywhere.

“This was when I became a Plant Heritage Plant Guardian,” said Ann. The charities Plant Guardian members register and care for individual garden plants known to be rare or threatened. The first plants she registered were Hebe lavaudiana from New Zealand and shrubby gum weeds Grindelia chiloensis and G. integrifolia from South America.

“I was amazed when the number of threatened plants reached over 100!” said Ann. “My favourite is Hebe lavaudiana a shrubby evergreen from southern New Zealand. It grows over a sunny wall and is so beautiful in spring.”

She also loves Klasea lycopifolia syn Serratula lycopifolia, a tall stout plant with white, thistle-like flowers. “Although I have no formal training I love propagating plants and am willing to try anything, from cuttings or seed. It’s so important these special plants are not lost to cultivation.”

Grow your own

This rare hebe is ideal for wall tops

This rare hebe is ideal for wall tops

This 20cm-50cm (8-20in) tall evergreen shrublet is only found growing on the Banks peninsula in New Zealand’s South Island where it inhabits rocky granite outcrops and exposed cliff faces. Threatened in the wild through habitat loss and over grazing by goats, it’s also rare in UK gardens. Clothed in small, red-edged leaves it produces dense clusters of pale pink flowers in spring. Generally hardy, it needs an open, airy, sunny, well-drained position and is effective on wall tops, pots or troughs. Lightly shear off spent flowering shoots to keep plant neat.

Available from: www.botanicaplantnursery.co.uk
Tel: 01728 747113

How you can be a plant hero

You can help preserve unusual plants in your garden! The Plant Heritage charity works to conserve the nation’s garden plants through the National Plant Collection Scheme and Individual Plant Guardians, and is looking for Garden news readers to get involved with its crucial work.

Contact collections@plantheritage.org.uk for more information or visit www.plantheritage.org.uk.