WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE SEED-SOWING SOCIETY? PROVIDING THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW PLANTS APPRECIATED BY CONNOISSEURS THROUGH A HIGH-QUALITY SEED "EXCHANGE", WHILST AIDING THE PROPER STUDY AND CORRECT IDENTIFICATION OF PLANTS IN CULTIVATION (AND THE WLD).
IRIS GATESII - a member of the Onocylus section from Kurdistan
With ever-increasing rules and regulations it is becoming very difficult to virtually impossible for keen growers to access seed of
less common plants, directly from the wild. A fine tradition of plant hunting expeditions is largely over. And permission for specialist nurseries and seeds-men around the world to export seed, hard to secure. A small number of expeditions still take place but these are largely restricted to major botanic gardens, who then do not make the seed they gathered or seed of specimens raised from seed collected during these expeditions, available subsequently. Even former staff members of such botanic gardens who hold national collections of particular genera, are not allowed access to material of recent wild-collected origin. I cannot see the logic in this as it is well known that the more widely a plant is share/propagated/grown under a range of conditions in different regions of any given country and in different countries, the greater the chance it has of surviving in cultivation - rather than dying out, which often happens. Such an approach actually hampers, indeed harms the 'conservation' of in cultivation. Limiting the cultivation of a plant to a small number of botanic gardens 'permitted' to attempt to grow it, is bound to lead to an increasing LOSS of plants in cultivation. Botanic Gardens, no matter how famous, do not have a monopoly on
expertise, skilled personal, suitable growing conditions nor limitless resources. Nor do they or government institution have a monopoly of concerns about conserving plants in our gardens or the wild.
I can assure everyone that NOBODY cares more about the flora of the Himalaya (which has been my speciality for 36 years) or plants both in cultivation and the wild (no matter what country) than I do. Nobody (overall) has greater knowledge of the study, cultivation and conservation of Himalayan flora, than I do. Nobody is in a better position to advise as to the BEST way to proceed to PROTECT the environment and plant life of the Himalaya - yet I am not consulted. Why is that I wonder? For more than 50 years Prem Nath Kohli, an Indian nurseryman and conservationist KNEW the best approaches. Since then, I have been best-placed to recommend SOUND, PRACTICAL measures which COULD be taken by governments and international organisations to GENUINELY conserve Himalayan flora. Yet, I am NOT listened to, whilst time, effort, resources and strictly limited funds are LARGELY wasted! For Example, it makes no sense to draw attention to species which far from being "Rare & Endangered", let alone 'Critically So' (which means they are about to become extinct), when most of those categorised as such in the Indian Himalaya are, in REALITY, under no such threat - some are even common & widespread..... But how can local botanists tell whether a particular species is abundant or rare, if they seldom, ever venture into the mountains to find out!! If they cannot RELIABLE identify plants they do so, then the result is FALSE information, which is accepted by International Organisations. A thoroughly unacceptable situation. I am telling the truth.....
Thought to be PRIMULA ALGIDA cultivated in a pot near York, UK
Making better use of what we do have access to
Whilst we cannot do anything in the short-term to redress, what IS a mistaken approach, and we MUST "play by and observe the new rules", we can MAKE BETTER USE OF WHAT SPECIES ARE ALREADY BEING CULTIVATED. This is very much the PURPOSE OF THE SEED-SOWING SOCIETY but indirectly it will help to make a difference in a number of additional ways, which will be explained in detail to members. The example which can be set, is one that other larger societies and institutions can then adopt - so they can play a role in grasping the 'nettle' of plant misidentification.
Some of you might be asking, the legitimate question, don't most specialist horticultural societies, large and small, already have seed exchanges? Don't they operate on a much larger scale with far greater resources? Yes, they do and whilst it is not my intention to belittle either the donors nor volunteers who put a lot of time and effort into such exchanges, with your help, I am in a position to operate a higher quality exchange both in terms of the VIABILITY of the seed on offer and the RELIABILITY of IDENTIFICATION of items. It should always be a matter of QUALITY not QUANTITY. A significant proportion of seed donated to exchanges has been misidentified (just as is the case for commercial sources of seed). This is not deliberate deception, just that most donors simply accept the name of a plant as it arrived with them - whether as seed (from an exchange or commercial source or in the past, seed-gathering expedition) or a specialist nursery. Few are in a position to check whether the plant they raise has been correctly identified or even suspect it might be. They TRUST the identification on the label. Very few people are taught how to RELIABLY identify plants and there are minimal references/resources available to check with anyhow. In a majority of cases a plant will belong to the correct genus (though not always) but that is often as far as it goes.
I was co-founder and am currently Secretary & Editor of the Himalayan Plant Association, which started in 1990. I was Proprietor of Chadwell Seeds from 1984-2016 which operated in association with P.Kohli & Co., India (established in 1928). A small seed exchange has operated through the Himalayan Plant Association most years. I have been interested in identifying plants for more than 40 years and learnt how to correctly and reliably identify plants, understanding ALL aspects, right from introductions from the wild. I do not know of anyone whose grasp of these subjects comes close to mine. I have enjoyed a unique combination of botanical and horticultural training and experience. My informal research suggests AT LEAST 50% of plants from nurseries or seed from both exchanges and commercial sources, labelled as 'Himalayan' species have been misidentified. I have EVIDENCE to support this claim. I wonder if a similar situation exists for plants from other regions of the world?
How can you contribute/help?
Contact Chris Chadwell by e-mail asking for an application form to join. Membership is free. Make an effort to donate seed from your own garden to the exchange (you will be sent information on how to do this).