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Vol. 13(5), pp. 2-6The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalMay 2012

British Native Orchids Summoned by Royal Decree

Fred Campbell

Fig. 1. HRH Prince Charles, lady in black, Ian Webster (English Tutoring Project), Lady Camilla, and author Fred Campbell at far right.

Fig. 2. Reception for Lady Camilla. Author Fred Campbell (white hair) at left.

It is not often that we get to rub shoulder with nobility, even less with Royalty. In all of my 73 years, the last 50 here in Sweden I have only twice had that honour; back in 2007 when I was together with King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden at a Scout Jamboree, he was the Patron of Swedish Scouting Association and I was an "old" Scout. Then last month, on March 22nd, I was invited as a special guest (one of the 20,000 Brits residing in Sweden) at the British Embassy in Stockholm to meet Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, on the occasion of the 60th Jubilee of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Fig. 1) (Fig. 2) .

Fig. 3. HRH Prince Charles.

Prince Charles (Fig. 3) is a well known figure in the UK not least for his outspoken non-conventional statements (and protests) regarding the environment, both in regard to building architecturally as well as the nature, although many, including myself, completely agree with him on environmental points. The meeting with Prince Charles was a very interesting one, particularly since it revealed great common interests we both share namely, concerns for the Environment, Nature Conservation and wild orchids.

Fig. 4. Highgrove House.

When he bought the Highgrove estate (Fig. 4) in the English county of Gloucestershire back in 1980, he was determined it should be an entirely organic garden and farm. He has spent the last thirty years transforming the Highgrove grounds into what have been acknowledged as some of the most inspired and innovative gardens in the United Kingdom.

His Royal Highness's strict adherence to organic and sustainable methods has helped create gardens which are both magical and intriguing while being environmentally sound; encouraging both plants and wildlife to thrive.

The garden at Highgrove reflects well The Prince's environmental philosophy, "that it is better to work with Nature than against it."

Back in 1980, however, there was no sign of a garden at all at Highgrove. Thirteen years later in the book 'Highgrove: Portrait of an Estate' The Prince wrote: "It was difficult to know where to begin and I knew nothing about the practical aspects of gardening."

His Royal Highness sought the advice of a friend, Lady Salisbury, who was an experienced organic gardener well-known for her work at Cranbourne and at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. She and The Prince laid out parts of the garden with scented plants with advice from Miriam Rothschild, another gardening expert, and one of the country's leading advocates of biodiversity.

Fig. 5. Wildflower meadow at Highgrove House.

One of the first things the Prince did when he bought his Gloucestershire Estate Highgrove in 1980 was to plant a three acre wild flower meadow (Fig. 5). His Royal Highness desperately wanted to protect our native flora and fauna which was in decline due to modern farming methods and thus re-created an experimental wild flower meadow and a host habitat for many endangered species. The meadow now boasts over 30 different varieties of endangered native plants that have naturalized there, including the Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii. These plants have created a rich tapestry of colour and diversity, and Highgrove's wild flower meadow is now world famous.

It is said that it is at Highgrove, or on the Sandringham House, or at Balmoral Castle in Scotland where the Prince feels best at home and able to relax. He was once laughed at for talking to plants but that has not put off the Prince of Wales who is now also counting the flowers in his garden. Reporters from one of the leading UK newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, wrote in a recent article "The Prince knows his plants -- by name and number" -- and revealed how the green-fingered Prince loves to count the orchids in his wild flower meadow at Highgrove.

Fig. 6. The Southern Marsh Orchid. Dactylorhiza praetermissa.

Fig. 7. The Common Spotted Orchid. Dactylorhiza fuchsii.

Fig. 8. Prince Charles relaxing at his home Highgrove.

In one of the last reported counts, Prince Charles had 170 orchids in his meadow, up from a mere 77 the year before. When he bought the Highgrove estate in 1980, there were no orchids at all. All the new arrivals have blown in from the surrounding fields or seeded from hay brought in for the livestock. Debs Goodenough, his head gardener says that her boss counts the tiny flowers, mostly the Southern Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza praetermissa (Fig. 6),and the Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Fig. 7), hidden in three acres of meadows, and delights in keeping a close eye on their progress. She says that only someone who knows every inch of the garden would be able to find the flowers (Fig. 8).

Fig. 9. The Bee Orchid. Ophrys apifera.

During our meeting he proudly announced and bragged that last year that yet a third orchid, the Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera (Fig. 9) had made its welcomed appearance and entrance into the wildflower meadow; yet another rare plant to make a comeback in the British countryside. The Prince of Wales has called for "urgent" protection for native plant life after a new report claimed one in five wild flowers are threatened with extinction.

Plantlife, the conservation charity, where the Prince is Patron, has stated that more than 500 rare wild plants are in danger of dying out in Britain including the Pasque Flower, Anemone pulsatilla, Snake's Head Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris, and Lady's Slipper Orchid, Cypripedium calceolus. The latest flower to go extinct was the Ghost Orchid, Epipogium aphyllum, a delicate saprophytic orchid that has not been seen in the British countryside for more than 20 years. In a new report, The Ghost Orchid Declaration, Plantlife said intensive farming, climate change, development and loss of habitat like managed woodland have caused a decline in well known wild flowers and many seldom survive. The charity said the Government is neglecting wild flowers in its environmental policy in favour of animals that win more public compassion. The Prince of Wales, has rightly stated that "There is no time to lose and I hope and pray that the loss of the ghost orchid will be the wake-up call that we so urgently need."

Plantlife pointed out that none of the Government funding for research into biodiversity in the last two years went towards plants and fungi. Also just three per cent of subsidies paid out to farmers for protecting wildlife in England went towards schemes that encourage farmland flowers. The charity wants the law changed to be advantageous for wild flowers so the area where plants grow is protected, not just the plant itself.

We, as nature and orchid lovers, should be all champions to this cause.

References

Highgrove: "Portrait of an Estate" by HRH The Prince of Wales & Charles Clover.

http://www.highgrovegardens.com

http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/personalprofiles/residences/highgrove/thegarden/

Copyright © 2012 Fred Campbell