Nelson Leader : February 21st 2013
28 THE NELSON LEADER, FEBRUARY 21, 2013 GARDENING See us for a FREE consultation and find out how OPTIFAST can work for you LOSE WEIGHT FAST The serious solution for weight loss 5045722AA Heidelberg Language and Philosophy School Regina Bergholz PhD, MA For further details, personal consulting and first appointment (free of charge) contact: ,firstname.lastname@example.org *027 922 4268 Early Bird 10% OFF! ww w.heidelberglanguages.co.nz • Language Courses : • German • French • Indonesian • Intercultural Communication • Literature Courses • Personal Coaching • Philosophy and History Classes • In-house Training (Private & Business) • Private Lessons (tutorials) • Small Groups (quatorials) 5149422AA CARPE DIEM New in Nelson Tasman Botanist sowed gardens of today Favourite plant: Lilium regale, one of Ernest Henry Wilson's famous plant introductions from China. Photo: STEPHEN MCCARTHY By STEPHEN MCCARTHY Avery large percentage of our garden trees, shrubs and flowers come from the moun- tain vastness of western China, and a large percentage of these were the introductions of perhaps the most productive and famous of plant hunters, Ernest Henry Wilson or Chinese'' Wilson as he was known. In 1899 he was sent to China by the famous English plant nursery of Veitch and Sons who had asked the directors of the Royal Botanic Gar- dens, Kew, to recommend someone suitable to collect plants and seeds of western China on their behalf. The knowledge of the marvellous richness of the Chinese flora had been very slowly built up but it was often only known from garden plants and the comparatively scant collections of government officials and clergy. Chinese exclusive policy had previously hindered any real exploration of the interior. Wilson was born in Gloucester- shire in 1876 and as a young teenager took an apprenticeship with a nursery in Solihull. At the age of 16 he was appointed to work at the Birmingham Botanic Gar- dens, took further study at the Bir- mingham Technical College and received the Queen's Prize for Bot- any. He then joined the Royal Bot- anic Gardens at Kew, enrolling in the Royal College of Science. When Veitch and Sons enquired of Kew for a suitable person to col- lect plants in China for them, Wil- son was selected for the job. The area of Yunnan was not selected at random for plant collec- tion. Augustine Henry, a British Customs Officer stationed in China and an amateur plantsman, had demonstrated just how rich the area was in plants suitable for western gardens, by his collections which he had sent to Kew Gardens. Henry's prophetic worry, even then, was just how much of this horticultural treasure trove might be lost forever to cultivation and clearing of forests unless someone was sent to assess and thoroughly explore it. On Wilson's arrival he made his way to Yunnan and a pre-arranged meeting with Augustine Henry, who previously had observed the Dove Tree Davidia involucrata with its large papery white bracts. Henry had not been able to collect seed of the plant which was first discovered by Pere David, a Cath- olic missionary priest with a penchant for botany. Both described the tree in such glowing terms that Wilson's prime commission from Veitch and Sons was to find a speci- men and send seed back home to England, which he did. Wilson spent a total of 11 years collecting in China for Veitch and Sons on four separate expeditions. By his own records he collected a staggering 65,000 specimens, com- prising 5000 species and seeds of over 1500 different plants. More than a thousand of these introduc- tions were quite new to Western gardens. Among these were some of our favourite garden plants such as Clematis montana Rubens'', the Beauty Bush Kolkwitzia amabilis, Lilium regale, Acer griseum per- haps the most beautiful of all maples, Meconopsis integrifolia, and of prime importance to New Zealanders, the original kiwifruit Actinidia chinensis which was pre- viously called chinese gooseberry, plus many, many more. He wrote a very detailed account of his Chinese travels A Naturalist in Western China in two volumes, first published in 1913. These two books are exceedingly interesting reading, containing not only descriptions of new plants but geography and geology, animals and birds, local plant products, agri- culture, Chinese gardens and gardening techniques and much more. The two volumes were repub- lished in 1986 as part of the Plant Hunters series by Cardogan Books, London ISBN 0-964313-49-0. Wilson and his wife Helen tragi- cally died in a car accident in the United States of America in 1930. He will always be remembered by horticulturists as one of the world's most successful and prolific plant hunters.
February 14th 2013
February 28th 2013