National Skimmia Collection
Did you know?
Most skimmia plants are either male or female, with berries developing only on the females. This means you need both sexes to get berries, as the males provide pollen. A few forms have hermaphrodite flowers and can grow alone. These include Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana, and its cultivars 'Robert Fortune' and 'Chilan Choice'.
The skimmia collection is centred in the Kangaroo Pen and Farm Walk, close to the Walled Gardens and Winter Garden. There are also groups in the Specimen Beds, the Winter Garden itself, in the beds around the Chapel lawn and in a National Collections bed by the Stables restaurant.
What is a National Collection?
Loss of variety within horticulture in the 1970s led to the foundation of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG - now called Plant Heritage). The Council set out to conserve the rich garden flora of the British Isles by forming National Plant Collections. The idea is that each collection is as complete a representation of a genus or section of a genus as possible, incorporating both species and cultivars. Today there are some 650 National Plant Collections representing around 350 genera. Wakehurst holds four National Collections.
There are four well-defined species of skimmia that grow in the wild, all originating in Asia. They are evergreen shrubs, with dark green, oval leaves. After nearly a century of confusion, scientists in Kew's Herbarium managed to work out the relationships between the species. With cultivars (varieties of a plant that have been created or selected intentionally and maintained through cultivation), accurate naming still poses problems but work is ongoing to unravel these complex associations. For example, 28 of the 53 known named cultivars of Skimmia japonica subsp. Japonica have been identified.