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Plant Focus

A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

A visit to Gredington

Just prior to the Oak Open Days in the UK in early July 2014, Béatrice Chassé and I visited Lloyd and Sally Kenyon in Gredington, near Whitchurch, in Shropshire.  Getting there was a bit confusing because Gredington actually is in Wales, even if its postal address is in Shropshire.  Go figure, as people say in America.

Upon arrrival, we go for a walk in the garden around the house guided by Lloyd and... Poppy, the Kenyon's labrador.  Lloyd holds a National Collection of the genus Viburnum, specifically subsections Thyrsosma, Lantana, Pseudopulus, Tinus, Opulus. So that will be our first stop. The collection is planted in a part of the Walled Garden.  Funnily, Lloyd started to collect Viburnum in the early 1990s because there were a couple of fragrant ones on the estate and he thought they all were fragrant. In those times, there was a wide choice of Viburnum in the trade.  However, Viburnum can be host to Phytophthora ramorum and therefore they are now much less popular.  Lloyd though does not think that the pathogen kills the shrubs.  He showed us a V. erubescens that died to the ground but regrew vigourously afterwards. See also the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website.  Lloyd and Sally also hold a national collection of Geum.

Viburnum erubescens


In 2003 though, Lloyd started to collect oaks and it is for the oaks that we are here.  We head to the nursery also located in the old Walled Garden.  Sally and Lloyd each have their own polytunnel. Although Sally grows all sorts of interesting, mostly edible things in her polytunnel, the one we are interested in is Lloyd's polytunnel. It contains a bounty of young oaks, all in air pots, extremely well-tended, with an automated watering system.  We spend the rest of the early evening in the nursery looking at the trees.     

The next morning, we are headed for the park where most of the oaks are planted.  The park which is about 100 acres large is dotted with old oaks, mostly Q. robur and also Q. petraea. 

The park is also grazed by about 600 sheep.  Each tree is therefore protected individually by a cage to make sure the sheep cannot damage it.  Having a lot of space, Lloyd plants the trees far apart.  Actually, he leaves them a horizontal spread equal to their ultimate height. In other words, the space between two trees is the ultimate height of both trees divided by two.  The trees are also very well labeled and recorded in DEMETER, the database application developed by Plant Heritage (development in which Lloyd had been involved). 

Labeling at Gredington


Just around lunch we came across a unique Q. robur cultivar that is likely to be very difficult to propagate: Q. robur 'Two Lovers'.  

Quercus robur 'Two Lovers'


The oak collection is on its way to become a National Collection and is well worth a visit.  The IOS will organize an Oak Open Day there in 2015 or 2016.