Curator's Inspiration

Curator's Inspiration

While England abounds with some of the most magical gardens on the planet, it too is rich in garden centers and specialty nurseries. After learning about a unique nursery in Severn Valley of Gloucestershire, I knew I had to visit during my annual trip to England this July. Pan Global Plants ( is owned and operated by plantsman, Nick Macer. In many ways this nursery emulates Dan Hinkley’s famous Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, Washington (which has been sold and relocated). Pan Global Plants also has beautiful gardens that showcase the treasures found in the nursery.

Nick Macer is a real collector. He has amassed his holdings through his professional connections as well as from his collecting trip to Morocco, Mexico, and beyond. While he grows many herbaceous plants, woody plants are his specialty. His collection of species and cultivar maples is impressive.

He is promoting many of the stripe-barked maples including Acer ‘White Tigress’ Some authorities list this as a selection of Acer tegmentosum. This medium-sized maple has green bark with pronounced white striations. We have a wonderful specimen growing in the Hydrangea collection. He too listed a rare Himalayan maple, Acer sterculiaceum, which has striking new red foliage. This fall we added Acer sterculiaceum ssp. franchetii to the front of the Science Center.

For broadleaved evergreens he sells Daphniphyllum himalaense ssp. macropodum. This plant was virtually unknown to American horticulture until about 10 years ago. At a close glance it resembles a rhododendron, but it also has shiny foliage with distinct pink petioles. Alkaloids in the stems protect it from being eaten by deer and it thrives in very dry shade. At the Scott Arboretum, we have plants growing in the Terry Shane Teaching Garden, Sproul Observatory, and Kemp Hall.

Of course, at Pan Global there were plants that I covet and hope to add to our collections some day. Desmodium yunnanense has rounded, velvety silver leaves with pendant pink-purple flowers. Carpinus fangiana is the pi`ece de re’sistance of the hornbeams. The long multi-bracted fruit clusters hang downwards like long tails and the newly emerging foliage is a striking red. Carrierea calycinum is a Chinese native with lantern-like flowers and is a close relative of the equally rare, Poliothyrsis sinensis.

I have no doubt the next time I visit the United Kingdom I will see many ‘old favorites’ as well as new and exciting gardens and nurseries where I can find inspiration for great plants in the Scott Arboretum and the Delaware Valley.

Andrew Bunting
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