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29 Jul 2022

Meet the PLANTS project teams

8 people stand or sit around a stone urn filled with plants in a garden. A large house is in the background. There are 6 women and 2 men. All wear navy National Trust for Scotland fleeces.
The PLANTS (‘Plant Listing at the National Trust for Scotland’) Project, an ambitious three-year undertaking to record the approximately 100,000 individual plants across 39 major Trust gardens, is now underway!

Throughout 2022, two regionally based inventory teams (North and West) are carrying out audits on plant collections at gardens across their respective regions. The teams are supported by a central administrative team, and a third East regional inventory team will begin work in 2023. Here is a rundown of the PLANTS project team. If you spot them in your next visit to a Trust property, pop over and say hello!

Central team

Two men and a woman stand next to each other in a garden, smiling for the camera. Behind them is a climbing rose covered in white flowers, and pink and purple flowering plants surround them as well. All wear navy National Trust for Scotland jackets.
PLANTS project, Central team (from left to right: Anna Florence, Colin McDowall, Robert Hutchinson)

Curator of Plant Collections

Dr Anna Florence is the Trust’s Curator of Plant Collections and has oversight of the project as a whole. Having accurate plant records is hugely important in managing the Trust's plant collections, assisting in everything from disease outbreak management to visitor engagement. With a background in agricultural research and lecturing, Anna is excited about what the data produced by the project can tell us about the Trust's collections, which in turn will enable the Trust to better preserve them and share their stories with our visitors.

Project Manager

Dr Colin McDowall is responsible for the day-to-day management of the PLANTS project. Colin has previous experience coordinating collections management projects; prior to this position, he was involved in ‘Towards a National Collection’, a five-year, £18.9 million project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council but based at Historic Environment Scotland.

The idea of working on the PLANTS project particularly appealed to Colin. He started growing vegetables at the young age of seven and a love of horticulture has been blossoming ever since. While not monitoring the audit schedule and managing relationship with Trust properties, Colin is a professional gardener and has worked for the last three years at a private estate in the Borders. He also has personal ties to the National Trust for Scotland; as a child, Colin lived only 30 minutes away from Greenbank Garden and would visit as much as possible.

Data Manager

In her new role as Data Manager, Claire Ramsey will be responsible for overseeing the quality of data and images created over the course of the PLANTS project. Before joining the Trust, Claire spent the past decade working in archives, most recently specialising in maps and plans, and before that in county record offices.

As somebody with a background in the heritage sector, Claire is particularly excited about being able to support the Trust in documenting the history of its plant collections and the gardens in its care. One of her earliest garden memories is of visiting Inverewe Garden during childhood holidays; for Claire, visiting Inverewe always felt like stepping into a different world, and the magic hasn't worn off as an adult!

Project Administrator

Robert Hutchinson is the PLANTS Project Administrator. He studied Environmental Science and has previously worked for the Woodland Trust and Warmer Homes Scotland, the Scottish Government’s national fuel-poverty scheme.

Robert is passionate about wildlife conservation and protecting the natural world, and feels that the project is a fantastic opportunity to highlight and gather data on plant species held within Trust collections that may be vulnerable to extinction in the wild. He’s very much looking forward to working closely with his colleagues in the wider team as the project progresses!

West team

Three women stand next to each other in a garden, smiling for the camera. All wear bright blue National Trust for Scotland t-shirts. A variety of green- and red-leafed shrubs surround them. A stone garden urn stands on the right.
PLANTS project, West team (from left to right: Lucrezia Rossi, Fran Culverhouse, Jennifer Hollywood)

Team Manager

The West region is managed by Jennifer Hollywood, who will be coordinating the work of her team as they travel around different gardens in Dumfries & Galloway, Ayrshire, Argyll & Bute, and the Greater Glasgow area. Jennifer has already made use of a range of resources to help her team tackle the challenge of recording a vast number of plants, including archives, hand-drawn maps, tree inspection records and, most importantly, the invaluable knowledge of gardeners!

Before joining the team, Jennifer worked as a gardener at Greenbank Garden in Glasgow. The PLANTS project particularly appealed to Jennifer because she enjoys working out the names of plants, and looking in detail at different botanical characteristics. She’s therefore keen to help create an accurate and up-to-date record of our collections. For anyone interesting in getting into horticulture, she’d have one piece of advice: do it when you are young and fit!

Inventory Officers

Prior to joining the Trust as a PLANTS Project Inventory Officer, Lucrezia Rossi was a Zoology student at the University of Aberdeen and also worked part-time, both as a waitress and as a gardener.

Lucrezia has always been interested in the natural world, and the PLANTS project immediately appealed because she is enthusiastic about creating a plant-record database that can be used to tackle important issues, such as the spread of disease. Lucrezia is also eager to get the chance to visit as many Trust gardens as possible, expanding her plant knowledge as she goes.

Lucrezia isn’t opposed to the idea of having ‘weeds’ in her garden; in fact, she feels that foxgloves have some of the most beautiful flowers she has ever seen! Lucrezia would recommend that anyone passionate about gardening and plants should consider getting involved in community gardening and voluntary work as a way of pursuing their interest.

Fran Culverhouse has a strong interest in plant taxonomy and she’s therefore eager to get to know the Trust plant collections in her region. Prior to joining the Trust as an Inventory Officer, Fran was responsible for running one of the nurseries at Kew Gardens, propagating a wide range of plants and managing a team of staff, students and volunteers.

Fran wasn’t always interested in gardening though. She grew up in a flat in London and therefore wasn’t particularly exposed to the idea. However, she had the chance to join a Prince’s Trust course as a teenager and she asked to do something outdoors for work experience; two years later, Fran had joined Kew Gardens as a trainee and her eyes were opened to the world of plants! For Fran, practical gardening experience is the most valuable and important thing she would recommend to anyone starting out in the field.

North team

Two women stand next to each other in a garden, smiling for the camera. Both wear bright blue National Trust for Scotland t-shirts. The lady on the left wears a dark baseball cap. A variety of green- and red-leafed shrubs surround them. A stone garden urn stands on the left.
PLANTS project, North team (from left to right: Philippa Holdsworth and Valeria Soddu)

Team manager

Philippa Holdsworth is the Inventory Team Manager for the North region, covering Angus, Aberdeenshire and the Highlands. She’s had a long career in IT involving software development and training, but from 2016 she began studying horticulture and gradually shifted towards gardening. Philippa is therefore delighted to get the chance to merge her IT and horticulture skills.

Gardening is in Philippa’s genes: at least three generations were involved in market gardening on her father’s side of the family. Philippa is passionate about protecting biodiversity, and she is particularly aware that there is a need to underpin any conservation effort with data. She also loves ‘Planting the Natural Garden’ by Piet Oudolf and Henk Gerritsen and can get very excited about coming up with planting combinations, as they clearly do!

Inventory Officer

Valeria Soddu was a Plant and Soil Science undergraduate at the University of Aberdeen before taking on her role as Inventory Officer. The opportunity to spend time outdoors identifying plants was really appealing to Valeria, and she’s looking forward to working at Inverewe Garden later in the year.

When looking back on early gardening memories, Valeria can recall growing a sweet potato plant in primary school (on her own initiative) – she can still remember being told off by her teachers for watering the plant instead of following the lesson.

Valeria would advise that anyone interested in getting into horticulture spend time volunteering at a local garden; it’s a great way of working out which branch of this fascinating field you most enjoy!

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