By their very nature, all living collections are in a constant state of change, with new plant arrivals replacing inevitable losses due to disease and old age.
As such it is vital for the long-term survival of the collection to plan ahead. This is particularly true at Westonbirt, where many of the trees we plant will not mature for fifty years or more.
How do we know what to collect?
With thousands of species to choose from, the first question we have to consider is what species do we want to have in the collection and why?
At Westonbirt we have an Accession Statement to ensure the collection is developed in such a way as to ensure it delivers our three overall objectives: conservation, recreation and education.
- Selection of plants for conservation is mainly focused on rare and endangered plants from around the temperate zones of the world
- Selection of aesthetically pleasing trees and specimens that ensure continuation of our Grade One Listed landscape help create a beautiful landscape visitors can enjoy
- Selection of species with particular stories and relationships with Westonbirt supports our extensive learning programme which seeks to provide first-hand connections with trees - which we hope will lead to greater appreciation and stewardship of trees
These lists also allow us to focus our collecting trips on particular areas or plants that we do not currently grow within the collection.
Collecting new specimens
Development of the Collection requires plant collecting and Westonbirt works in conjunction with Bedegbury, our sister collection in Kent, and with organisations like the Millenium Seed Bank.
To date we have been out to Serbia, Japan and North America. Given the cost of such trips, partnership working is an important aspect of the work as it helps reduce duplication of effort.
Our Aquisition Policy explores how we collect new material for the collection and is our main supporting document with regard to the Convention on Bio-diversity. The main element is to ensure that any material collected is done so with the relevant written permissions in place and with a purpose once back in the UK.
Increasingly, we are looking at how we can develop our collection so that it can cope with climate change. This involves deciding which of our current plants may be vulnerable and which new plants we should grow to replace those that may not survive a hotter, dryer climate.
This is particularly important in the context of our landscape heritage, as the original creators of Westonbirt used a very specific range of plants. Loss of these plants has the potential to really change the Westonbirt landscape.
Find out more about how Westonbirt is responding to climate change.