Sparsholt College named as Plant Heritage’s latest National Collection® Holders

Sparsholt College’s nationally renowned Horticulture department has added to its long list of accolades. Plant Heritage, the world’s leading garden plant conservation charity, has named the College’s apple cultivars, Malus domestica, as one of the latest additions to their National Plant Collections.

Bred and grown in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight pre-1960, Malus domestica are a geographically defined collection containing many rare apple cultivars, 13 of which are classed as ‘Threatened in Cultivation’ by Plant Heritage. The apple trees are grown without the use of chemical controls in an established orchard on campus, maintained and studied by Sparsholt’s horticulture students.

Horticulture expert and lecturer, Chris Bird not only believes that this title is greatly beneficial to the conservation of plants, but also to the students who observe and use the apples as part of their courses. Chris said: “The knowledge and understanding of handling and preserving a Plant Collection demonstrates high quality skills which go on students’ CVs. When they eventually progress from Sparsholt into the industry, they already demonstrate desirable expert qualities.”

Sarah Quarterman, CEO of Plant Heritage, says: ‘This new tranche of National Plant Collections illustrates why we value the diversity of plants – in particular, their historical value to our culture. We are grateful to these Collection Holders for their dedication and the work they have undertaken to bring these Collections into being, and for conserving them for future generations.”

There are currently over 600 National Collections across the U.K including Sparsholt College’s full-status Malus domestica. The main part of this Collection was presented to the College by the Federation of Hampshire Horticultural Societies in 1987 in celebration of their Silver Jubilee, as a living feature for students to use, study and cultivate. Moving forward, the College aims to add further geographically recognised cultivars introduced prior to 1960 to the Collection, including ‘Sir Douglas Haig’ and ‘Lord Kitchener’.

Sparsholt College has a long-standing relationship with Plant Heritage, partnering in 2016 to win a Silver medal at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The College has a long history of Chelsea medal success achieving six Gold medals, three Silver-gilt medals, five Silver medals and three Bronze medals since 1998.

A number of Horticulture courses are offered at Sparsholt College, from Apprenticeships through to the FdSc Horticulture with Plantsmanship and Design. A leisure programme also provides ample opportunity for those looking to try their hand at a new skill or develop a long-held interest.