The collection that grew and grew

PUBLISHED: 14:20 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 February 2013

Dave Hancock visits a Shropshire estate recognised nationally for its viburnum, thanks to its green-fingered lord and master

Dave Hancock visits a Shropshire estate recognised nationally for its viburnum, thanks to its green-fingered lord and master

Lloyd Kenyon is more formally known as The Rt Hon The Lord Kenyon - as an hereditary peer of the realm. He would also legitimately take the title 'Lord Viburnum'. He holds the National Plant Collection® of Viburnum (subsect: Thyrsosma, Lantana, Pseudopulus, Tinus, Opulus). Broadly described, a viburnum is a shrub or small tree with clusters of small white flowers.
The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG) co-ordinates the National Plant Collection® scheme in Britain and Ireland whereby individuals or organisations undertake to document, develop and preserve a comprehensive collection of one group of plants in trust for the future.
Such an undertaking was not in the mind of Lord Kenyon when he began collecting viburnum in 1993. He says: "I starting collecting them after we had built the new house. We had a few fragrant viburnum around the place and I thought they would all be fragrant."
He chose a walled area at his Gredington estate near Whitchurch, which was formerly a kitchen garden but had most recently been used to house a Welsh mountain pony - his father liked to own them. Lord Kenyon says: "I didn't know how many I would collect or what space they would need but I thought it was best to keep them all in one area."
Having cleared the area, Lord Kenyon began planting whichever different types of viburnum he could find. He says: "There are only two varieties native to the UK, a lot of viburnum are tropical or semi-tropical. Initially, I would find about four or five varieties in each nursery I visited so I was able to build up the collection quite quickly."
By 1998, he had a large enough collection to make enquiries of the NCCPG about becoming a National Plant Collection holder. To qualify, one has to accurately catalogue a collection and maintain records - an annual report detailing additions, losses and research work is required by the NCCPG. It was not until 2000 that Lord Kenyon's viburnum collection gained National Plant Collection status. Around this time, the NCCPG was having computer software developed which would aid collection holders with plant recording. As he ran an electronics business and was familiar with software packages, Lord Kenyon joined the committee of the NCCPG which was overseeing the development of the Demeter software. This led to greater involvement with the NCCPG and he is currently Chairman of the Plant Conservation Committee and on the Board of Trustees.
In October 2001, he had become sufficiently erudite to publish a book on viburnum - the first to deal with this single genus since 1958. He described in detail about 150 species as well as a similar number of cultivars. Viburnum may be found in second-hand bookshops or purchased directly from Lord Kenyon (£7.50 including postage within the UK).
Now numbering about 250 plants, his viburnum collection shows the diversity within the genus. Although most easily identified by their small white flowers, viburnum exhibit other colours. For example Viburnum arboricolum has bright red berries, while Viburnum opulus 'Xanthocarpum' has yellow berries. The bright red stems of V. erubescens var. gracilipes carry the classic small white flowers; while V. koreanum has spectacular red leaves in autumn. The leaves of V. sieboldii BSWJ2837 are a rich green and deeply veined whereas those of V. plicatum 'Molly Schroeder' are pink and white.
Lord Kenyon reports that pests are rarely a problem. He says: "I get some aphids on the plants but fortunately the viburnum leaf beetle has not reached here. Sudden Oak Death is carried by viburnum and Defra come and inspect for it."
With 120 species of oak trees already on the Gredington estate and Lord Kenyon starting to plant 200 more - for future generations - Sudden Oak Death, which does what its name implies, would cause major problems.
You can visit Lord Kenyon's viburnum collection by appointment and although May is often when there are most flowers, June and throughout the summer are good times. Parties can be accommodated and members of Shropshire WI and people from Nightingale House are annual visitors.
Oh, one final thing. Lord Kenyon has discovered that not all viburnum are fragrant - very few, in fact.
The Rt Hon The Lord Kenyon, Gredington, Whitchurch, Shropshire, SY13 3DH. Telephone: 01948 830305. E-mail: lloyd@kenyonl.freeserve.co.uk
Directions: Seven miles west of Whitchurch on the A539.

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The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG) co-ordinates the National Plant Collection® scheme in Britain and Ireland. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, anyone can join the NCCPG for £20 per year. Members receive the journal Plant Heritage, gain access to lectures and plant exchanges plus the opportunity to talk to like-minded gardeners. And, of course, the membership fee and donations help conserve our cultivated plant heritage. For more information, visit www.nccpg.com or telephone 01483 447540.
National Plant Collections® Directory
[image: Directory Cover 1compressed.jpg] in drop box

The 2008 NCCPG directory, which details Collections covering 348 genera, is now available. The directory is free to members and is available to non-members either through branches of WH Smith (priced £5), direct from the NCCPG or by ordering at www.nccpg.com. The price including postage is £6.50.
NCCPG National Plant Collections
12 Home Farm, Loseley Park, Guildford, Surrey GU3 1HS
Tel: 01483 447544
Website: www.nccpg.com

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