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What’s in your garden?
20 years ago two gardeners from the Isle of Man swapped some bulbs. This simple friendly act was to be the saving grace for one species of traditional flower which until recently was thought to be extinct.
Edward Huyton from Andreas has been tending his garden for over 20 years and every summer he has enjoyed the same beautiful flowers. He never thought he was protecting a rare species which has since been wiped out in the rest of the British Isles.
“I was at a lecture given by Professor Tooley, an expert who reorganises some of the gardens for the National Trust Properties. He was talking on the Isle of Man and he showed some slides of Lindisfarne in the 1920s.
“These slides showed some of the flowers which had been around at the time but are now believed to be extinct. One of those flowers looked familiar because it was growing in my garden!
“I spoke to the professor after the meeting and he was thrilled. Since then I have been in touch with the National Gladiola Society who have vetted the flowers. It has now been confirmed that my gladiola is indeed the variety thought to have died out.
“It’s a hybrid that was bred in about 1840. It was given to me about 20 years ago by a friend who was the gardener at a big house on the Isle of Man. At the time it was one of the better gardens on the Island, very well stocked. We used to swap plants, as gardeners do and that’s how I came to have it.
“Professor Tooley has done a lot of research and probing into old books, manuscripts and documents to actually prove that this plant is actually what he hoped it was.
“He is highly delighted of course. He has now written a very long paper of about 10 pages long for the Royal Horticultural Society and other important organisations. I guess that will end up in the library at Kew.
“It is a major find for Professor Tooley but for me, having had it in the garden for 20 odd years, it isn’t that remarkable. It is lovely to think I might have saved something from extinction but as far as I’m concerned it’s just another part of the garden really.
“Last Winter I sent some dormant bulbs to the National Trust and they now have 300 plants ready to go into the gardens next year. That’s a wonderful feeling!
“I think there are possibly other gardeners out there who could be nurturing some very rare species. I was given these bulbs with no name so there could be all sorts of things out there just waiting to be rediscovered.”
last updated: 26/08/2009 at 14:27