CUTTINGS

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The Independent Online
Mrs Davies writes from Islington, north London, to ask how she can get hold of seeds of comfrey. She doesn't say what sort of comfrey, but the most generally grown one is Russian comfrey, Symphytum x uplandicum. This is a perennial, which grows about 3ft high and is the type that organic gardeners use to make liquid feeds. It is high in potash. You steep the leaves in a vat and use the resulting liquid diluted with water. The seed, though, is quite difficult to germinate. Each seed seems set to a different clock, so they break through in ones and twos over a long period. In this instance, I'd forget seed and buy a plant. As comfrey is so vigorous, you can quickly increase stock by splitting and replanting clumps in early autumn. But seed is available (pounds 1.50) from Suffolk Herbs, Monks Farm, Coggeshall Road, Kelvedon, Essex CO5 9PG (01376 572456).

There are now nearly 600 national plant collections in this country, held by private individuals, nurserymen or managers of public parks, who amass as many types as possible of one particular plant - irises or aquilegias, willows or oaks. John Drake's collection of aquilegias is open tomorrow (2pm-5.30pm, admission pounds 2) - a rare opportunity to see a superb collection. The National Plant Collections Directory lists all the collections in Britain, with opening times and details of the number of plants held. The directory includes articles on foxgloves, lavender, honeysuckle and Jacob's ladder, written by the collection holders. The directory is available from good bookshops (pounds 3.50) or direct from the National Council for the Preservation of Plants and Gardens, The Pines, Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QP. Add 50p for postage and packing.

The Yorkshire Gardens Trust, together with the University of York, has arranged a one-day course, to be held on 24 July at King's Manor, York, on the Reverend William Mason, an important figure in gardening in the 18th century. The Rev Mason, a Yorkshireman, was the biographer of Thomas Gray (he of the "Elegy"), friend of Horace Walpole and author of an influential poem of the age, "The English Garden". One of his most important commissions was Nuneham Park, in Oxfordshire, which he modestly claimed to have designed with "a Poet's Feeling and a Painter's Eye". The conference marks the 200th anniversary of his death. Tickets (pounds 25, to include lunch) are available from Mrs Arnold Rakusen, Yorkshire Gardens Trust, Ling Beeches, Ling Lane, Scarcroft, Leeds LS14 3HX. Please enclose a stamped, addressed envelope.

A big pot of millennium money (pounds 21m) went to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, so that it could set up a millennium seed bank at its country outpost, Wakehurst Place in Sussex. There are about 250,000 different species of flowering plants in the world. The seed bank aims to collect and conserve seed of all wild plants growing in the UK, as well as about 25,000 of the world's most endangered plant species. So far, Britain is the only country that has plans to conserve its native flora in this way. Kew still needs to raise more than pounds 5m to fulfil its ambitious scheme. For pounds 15 you can sponsor a species. The ultimate birthday present? For more details contact Lucy Grubb at the Kew Foundation, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, or call 0973 102 000.

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