Plants in the Wild: Talks on Plants in the Wild
Started by: Tim IngramGo to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 13 December 2012, 17:39. Go to bottom of this page.
In the past few weeks we have had a couple of excellent talks on the plants of Armenia, a region where various floras intermingle and some particularly exciting plants grow. The first was from Kit Strange at Kew, who travelled widely around the country and showed us many really interesting plants, so many of which are not in cultivation. The second was from Graham Gough, talking more widely on his travels in the region (particularly Turkey which has such an extensive flora). As well as the plants both speakers showed examples of the isolated Christian churches which lend great drama to the landscape, and show something of the long history of the region.
Both great talks and examples of the amazing quality and value we get in the AGS from members and speakers who have travelled widely. Along with all else the AGS does another huge attraction for intelligent gardeners not at present members. It is really time for some good TV programmes on plants in the wild!!
I couldn't agree more, Tim.
Perhaps it's time for all the national societies to cooperate with resources, finance, expertise and ideas to make films and programmes that would stimulate worldwide interest and encourage new members in each of the participating countries?
If you suggested a programme where the gardeners are locked up on some supposed "desert island" and have to eat the plants, and the more nubile amongst them have to take a shower they'd jump at the suggestion!! Or am I just an old and crotchety viewer?
I must admit, I quite like the idea of nubile gardeners! I don't know if this is fair comment, and it is impossible to say anything without being criticised in one way or another, but having contributed for some time now to the NARGS website I gain the impression of a very well rounded range of interests, centred on gardening but with many very thoughtful and deeply knowledgeable members. Of course the same is true of the AGS but the driving force of the Society is much more centred on botanical and cultural excellence, good in an academic environment but liable to cause a strong division between 'beginner' and 'expert' which is not necessarily effective in attracting new gardeners to the Society. That is a sweeping statement and I have already shot myself down in flames before I've started, but even so I think there is truth in it.
The great benefit of seeing plants in the wild is that one gains such a full impression of their environment, climate, associations and so forth, and programmes that could show this would open the horizons for very many gardeners and wake them up to the plant world in the way that normal gardening programmes don't. This is also the role of the specialised garden societies and I think Cliff is quite right in suggesting that they should combine efforts. Not without hurdles of course, but anything worth doing is worth doing.
Just as a quick addendum to this - Beth Chatto always referred to her husband, Andrew, as the fount of knowledge concerning the ecological requirements of the plants in her garden. His work has now been made available on the internet through the work of Noel Kingsbury and volunteers from the Hardy Plant Society (see HPS Newsletter152, p.24-25, and The Plantsman (New Series) Vol. 10, p.213) and can be accessed on the Beth Chatto website:
The time does seem right therefore for much greater ecological consideration of plants in the media.
If Tony Robinson can make such an enduring series "Time Team" about holes in the ground, surely we can come up with a format that celebrates wild plants. Perhaps we need to produce a draft for a series and then try and get a TV company interested. There are independent companies that go in for specialist areas. Of course it would need a front man - someone with a huge personality and vast knowledge of plants.
My apologies Caroline, but I disagree - the plants should be the personalities - we would require erudition from an unseen, but melodiously-voiced commentator. Many years ago the wonderful Geoffrey Smith fronted a magnificent programme about the alpines of Switzerland that remains the benchmark.
I do not recall having seen Geoffrey Smith's feature, Cliff. How long ago was it? Modern telly demands something - perhaps back to the nubile gardeners, then?
Seriously, however, I believe the Society needs to look at methods of PR to find the next generation of members who may, in the fullness of time, take on the mantle of botanical excellence. In the first instance, we have to work out what will attract them.
Caroline - Geoffrey Smith's programmes were quite a while ago and he made a series on different groups of plants, which would certainly be a good idea again. I could imagine programmes looking specifically at particular types of plants such as bulbs, cacti, alpines (of course!). The combination of plants and their environments could easily build quite stimulating and exciting programmes for that relatively large and informed audience who enjoy Natural History.
Presenters? Well Cliff is right, there would be a need for people who have a strong and extensive knowledge of plants in different contexts, and who have the ability to present this in a way that overcomes the prejudices of television companies and executives (I say this a little tongue in cheek because we are all much the same). There must be many such people around. Steve Newall in New Zealand has a wonderful knowledge of the native flora and gave an extremely entertaining but also informative account at the 2001 Conference at Edinburgh. There are many people who travel and see plants in the wild and combining this with simple hand held video cameras which could make stories of such trips would show some of the detail we all love about plants and their environments. Looking on the internet one comes across very helpful and well presented short presentations on alpines which could readily be expanded into very good practical programmes on growing these plants.
Much depends on people coming together in ways that make these suggestions a reality. There is no reason why such specialised programmes should supplant more general programmes on gardening, but they would show where gardening can really go if one becomes fascinated by plants.
As a quick addendum to all those not addicted to the SRGC Forum - there is a wonderful thread on Saxifraga florulenta in the Maritime Alps by David Sellars at:
This culminates with a superb video of this plant (and others), giving a hint of what could be done more generally on TV on alpines and mountain landscapes. The skill will be in combining the range of talents of film-makers, Natural Historians and story-tellers, plus no doubt the inevitable accountant! Could be fun.
Some of the most marvellous talks we have had on plants in the wild were from Gwen and Phil Phillips, sometimes using two screens to compare close ups and habitat photographs. Why has it taken me so long to discover their wonderful website referred to on the title page of the AGS website? And how come there are no other compilations of photographs taken in the wild like this? It would be great if it were possible to direct viewers to parts of the website like this - so this is what I am doing!