Project Wilson – Conserving the Heritage


Back in June 2005, the PlantNetwork Tree Forum spent a day considering the legacy of Ernest Henry Wilson (1876–1930) who introduced over 1,000 plant species to cultivation, collected more than 18,000 herbarium specimens, made over 5,000 glass-plate photographs and wrote eight books on plant collecting and gardening. A summary of the workshop, led by Tony Kirkham, Mark Flanagan and David Knott, is provided below.

Why mention a meeting from back in 2005? Recently, a PlantNetwork member got in touch to ask about the workshop and the outcomes that arose from it – and PlantNetwork thought that revisiting a past meeting would be a great way of celebrating our 25th anniversary which is this year.

Did you attend the meeting too? Where you inspired to create a Wilson-themed area of your garden or did you get involved in propagating Wilson’s original plants? Participants in the 2005 workshop agreed to the following plan as part of ‘Project Wilson’, as first described by Mark Flanagan in the PlantNetwork August 2005 newsletter (also available to read below, in full):

  •  develop a database of Wilson’s collections in the British Isles 
  •  initiate a programme to repropagate original Wilson plants
  •  distribute the resulting propagules amongst PlantNetwork members, for planting in key gardens and arboreta around the country
  • celebrate and interpret Wilson’s legacy over the next few years, to mark significant dates in his life.

PlantNetwork would very much like to hear from you if you have been involved in any of these measures. Propagation of the original plants did indeed take place and were distributed to different sites. Did you receive propagated material? How is it faring?

Almost 16 years after the workshop, it is heartening to find out that it is still relevant and topical today.