The collection was started nearly 10 years ago by my brother William and me. Of the 28 species of Diascia described by botanists Hilliard and Burtt, our collection has included 20, though some are exceedingly difficult to keep, and at any given time we have about 15 species on hand.
Diascias in the garden in late summer
With only one reference tool to use, it was very difficult positively identify the plant material we acquired, especially as the labeling did not always marry with the Hilliard & Burtt study. But in 1992 we had a stroke of luck. Through Derry Watkins, a keen plantswoman and owner of a nursery in Wiltshire called 'Special Plants' we hosted a visit by Dr Kim Steiner from Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. Kim was doing further botanical work on diascias for Kirstenbosch and was able to give us verification of a number of species that had been mislabeled or just puzzles until then.
Cultivars flooded into Garden Centres for several years, but many proved to be very tender and/or hard to keep alive. We currently hold about 70 cultivars in our collection, many of them from the work of Hector Harrison.
Here in Northumberland we suffer more from winds than severe cold, and the collection is housed in a cedar greenhouse and an aluminium coldframe throughout the winter. It is propagated each spring and the display beds are re-planted. In common with all collection holders, we try to keep careful records of the collection and spread the word about the value of these plants. There is always a lot to do.
Some of our activities to date have been:
1995 - William appeared on an episode of Channel 4's 'The Garden Club' talking about the collection.
1998 - we took the National Collection to Hampton Court Garden Show where we were part of the Plant Heritage Tent sponsored by BBC Gardener's World Magazine. William gave a talk to a large audience about how to propagate and look after Diascias.
2000 - I wrote an article published in 'Plant Heritage', the magazine of the NCCPG. It appeared in the autumn issue together with pictures William took, and forms the basis of these information pages.
2000 - I completed a study of the colour shades of the flowers using the RHS Colour Charts.
2000 - Slide show of diascias put together for talks
2001 - We plan to get a photo library of all our diascia collection as well as spending more time on botanical descriptions. New beds will be created in which to display the diascias.
Latest update 05 March 2001
Christine Boulby Copyright © 2001 All rights reserved