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June 2011

Crocus sale has Californian connection

Last Saturday I went to the Crocus Chelsea sell-off sale at their nursery in Windlesham, Surrey - a terrific opportunity to buy up the surplus plants that they'd grown for Best in Show Cleve West's and Gold Medal winner Luciano Giubbilei's show gardens. Crocus, one of the country's leading mail order nurseries, grow superb plants even when they're not doing Chelsea so the car came back full.

In my excitement I picked up three unlabelled plants, two of which were easy to find on Crocus's excellent website because I knew roughly what they were. The third was more of a mystery. But not for long - turns out it is Mathiasella bupleuroides 'Green Dream'. I fell for the beautiful pink stems and grey-green foliage.

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Thanks to www.crocus.co.uk for the photograph

According to Crocus, it was discovered in Mexico by Californian botanist Mildred Mathias after whom it was named. I love knowing things like that about a plant I've bought. It's like knowing about the artist of a painting you own - it brings it to life. I hadn't heard of Mathias but now I've done some homework, I'm in awe - what an amazing woman. The botanical garden at UCLA, Los Angeles, is named after her quite rightly as she was Director here for many years of her life.  Above all, she sounds fun and adventurous at a time when women were expected to stay at home.

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Born in 1902, Mathias devoted her life to botanical studies, travelled to Amazonian Peru and Ecuador, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar, Costa Rica and, of course, Mexico, as well as bringing up a family of four children. Her biography leaves one breathless.

"During the summer of 1929, Mildred, in her Model T Ford, which she could repair herself, and with two female companions, traveled across the western United States to visit numerous populations and type localities of Umbelliferae... Her expertise on umbellifers earned her early international recognition in taxonomy, and in 1964 she was elected as the first woman president of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists... In 1956, Mildred Mathias was appointed director of the Botanical Garden at UCLA, and served as such until retirement in 1974, providing tireless service to horticultural organizations in California and around the world, as well as generating a huge following of landscapers and amateur gardeners plus admiration from public and private gardens throughout the world."

I haven't space to list all her achievements let alone all the countries she visited plant collecting but you can read the full biography of Mildred Mathias on the Botanical Garden's website. In the meantime, I'm off to plant my beautiful Mathiasella to give my garden some Chelsea style.