The South West’s oldest botanic garden has launched a search for long-lost plants – and it’s all about the colour blue.
Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is putting out the appeal on Plant Conservation Day, Wednesday, May 18, in the hope that gardens enthusiasts will be able to help track down plants cultivated by its founder.
Paignton Zoo curator of Plants and Gardens Kevin Frediani explained: “Paignton Zoo was founded as a botanical as well as a zoological garden by a shy, eccentric millionaire named Herbert Whitley. He was a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. He enjoyed the challenge of breeding the colour blue in everything from poultry to plants because it is difficult.
“We want to bring back as many of his cultivars as we can – and we are asking the trade and private growers to help us find them. We know of Primley Blue cultivars of mallow, rosemary and hebe. We have Primley Blue rosemary in our economic garden. But we think there were many more.
“Plant Heritage are helping us – but there could be plantsmen out there with these cultivars in their collections, gardens enthusiasts might have old catalogues from Primley Botanic Nursery. Any information would be of great interest to our current gardens team. I’d be very excited to get my hands on an old catalogue and read about what was grown.”
A cultivar is a variety artificially-developed by horticulturalists – a man-made variation on natural theme. Whitley used the name Primley Blue because his house was called Primley. His fascination with the colour blue was an idiosyncrasy that extended to both animal and plant species. He bred blue bantams, turkeys and even blue chickens – the Coronation Sussex was bred to mark the coronation of 1935.