On Thursday 5th August, we welcomed Plant Heritage to the College to celebrate the awarding of a plaque for our plants named after Sir Winston Churchill, which have achieved a National Plant Collection status. We are the first Cambridge College to achieve such an award.

Out of 691 plant collections in the country, only 12 are multi-genera and this is the only one to be named after a person with no horticultural links and also have all the plants named after them. Our collection contains 15 genera and 17 cultivars of the 29 plants named after Sir Winston, and it was initially started to commemorate 50 years since the opening of the College with the breeding of a new rose in 2010.

Although the weather failed to live up to expectations on the day, the awarding of the plaque was witnessed by a group of Plant Heritage Members, College Members and friends, and we enjoyed speeches from John Moore, our Head of Grounds and Gardens, Tamsin James, our College Bursar, Jim Marshall, a retired National Trust Garden Advisor and now Chair of the Plant Heritage Conservation Committee, and Richard Gant, a committee member from Plant Heritage.

When it came to having plants named after him, our archives show Sir Winston took great interest in the requests and always looked for assurances both as to the grower’s reputation and the quality of the plant. On one occasion when a grower wished to name a potato after him, he requested it was tested by the Department of Agriculture’s Registration Scheme before he would put his name to it. The grower declined the request, and so while you will not be able to eat a potato bearing his name, there is at least the Winston apple (a Cox’s orange pippin crossed with a Worcester Pearmain), of which we have three trees in our Storey’s Way gardens.

Speaking of the award, John Moore said “We started the collection in 2010 and it has been a challenging but rewarding process tracking down lost plants from around the world and the search still continues.  It is only very recently that Plant Heritage introduced a new collections category of Historic Collections. Gaining this status recognises our high standard of horticulture, the importance of the collection and helps to safeguard the plants for future generations.”

The collection can be viewed on open days which are held through the National Garden Scheme or by appointment by contacting John Moore. Photographs from the day can be viewed here.