Graham Blunt made ‘Exotics for the Garden’ an Evening for Laughter as well giving us a very serious message on CITES
The Gardeners who braved a much less-than-exotic August evening were treated to a very entertaining talk which had most if not all of us laughing enthusiastically. However, Graham Blunt (of Plantbase Nurseries, Wadhurst, E. Sussex) had a number of serious messages: firstly, on the further effects of the changes to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) coming in on 14th December 2019 particularly, for the purposes of the evening, in relation to the trade in all plants, flowers and seeds and how the extended implementation will affect the import of all such flora (plants, trees, seeds, fruit and vegetables) into the UK. For those interested further in the effects of CITES, there is even more on the internet : start with DEFRA’s “Don’t’ Risk It” campaign https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-urged-not-to-bring-plant-pests-and-disease-into-the-uk (updated April 2019 so the information is current). Also Border Force has a leaflet on the internet but it has not been updated since 2016 so look out for a new one. Graham cited the devastation that has been wreaked in Italy by the presence of the Xylella plant disease in continental Europe. It has not reached the UK (and its thousands of broad-leaf trees), but it could without the provisions of CITES .
Basically, Graham’s message is if it’s a plant, or part of a plant, or will be a plant, don’t import it, and certainly not without certification – the fines for doing so without the essential certificate are hefty so do not bring in even a sprig at the end of your holiday. And don’t buy on the internet unless the foreign seller has provided the necessary certified permission – you will be fined for so doing.
Graham also mentioned the Nogoya Protocol which, simply put, means that the country of origin should be the beneficiary of a plant used for whatever purpose – such as pharma companies. For example, Madagascar made nothing from a plant used by big pharma who made millions.
Somehow Graham, who had brought a number of his exotic plants with him to the talk, managed to make such an important subject as CITES hugely enjoyable, often by including his personal experiences of caring for the exotic plants that he grows himself in the UK and in which his nursery trades. By such means, for instance, as filling up his dry, wood-lined bathroom for overwintering. Whilst he would not necessarily expect us to do the same he went on to weave his magic telling us how to look after any exotic plants we may already have – we had with such phrases as “Crocks (in the bottom of pots) are a waste of time and more than that, they are a haven for slugs so get rid of them – after all the pots have holes in” and “castrate your cannas” after flowering to bring on more flowers. We also heard his enthusiasm for plants such as cacti, succulents and exotics which can be grown outdoors, in fact some of them, such as cannas, should be planted in the ground outdoors rather than in pots as they are much less likely to freeze in the ground where only the top centimeter or so is frozen.
Altogether, Graham’s enthusiasm was infectious and everyone greatly enjoyed his humorous approach to being a grower and seller of ‘Exotics’.