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Duchy College researcher receives RHS award

Published: April 22, 2016

Duchy College Rosewarne event

Duchy College Rosewarne Horticultural Research Assistant, Ros Smith, has been awarded the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society ‘A.J. Waley Medal’ for helping to protect critically endangered species of Rhododendron.

Ros has worked tirelessly developing the micro-propagation process at Duchy College Rosewarne in recent years.  The lab has transformed the prospects for the successful conservation of threatened rhododendrons in the UK, which have become attacked by disease, ready to repopulate our parks and gardens.

Ros’ painstaking work was previously featured on the BBC’s ‘Great British Garden Revival’, and involves taking apart the bud of the flower and implanting it in a fortified gel substance, which then sits in a growing room, where it is kept at a constant warm temperature under lights for sixteen hours a day. It can take up to eighteen months for the shoot to grow just a few inches until it can be hardened off and planted out.

Ros said: “I’m incredibly proud to receive this award, it’s a real honour. The work we do here is of national importance, a lot of the plants we are working with were originally introduced to this country from the 1850s, and includes some very rare hybrids. We work very hard to try and conserve the plants from various threats such as disease, climate change and old age.”

Ros has been invited to attend the RHS Main Rhododendron Competition taking place at RHS Rosemoor at the end of April to receive her award.

Curriculum Lead for Agriculture at Duchy College, Rob Dunn, said: “We cannot underestimate how important Ros’ conservation and research work is for future generations. Ros should be incredibly proud of the pioneering techniques she’s been using to conserve and protect the species, and the specialist knowledge that she shares with our students here at Duchy College Rosewarne. I’m so pleased that her hard work and dedication has been recognised in this way.”

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