Unveiling of Cactus and Succulent project 

Askham Bryan College opens desert oasis with a ‘Cactus and Succulent’ conservation and workshop project 

Askham Bryan College unveiled its new cactus installation in its glasshouse facility today.  The permanent fixture has been constructed over the last four years and features over 124 cacti and succulent species in the college’s glasshouse temperate house along with over 4114 varieties from South America and North America to Africa in the adjacent learning workspace.  Many of the plants and materials have been privately donated with further support from the British Cactus and Succulent Society (BCSS) which promotes the protection and survival of cactus plants.  The college plans to use the new installation as a resource that delivers education on plant health and biodiversity.

Steve Bassford, Lecturer of Arboriculture and Horticulture at Askham Bryan College says, “We are expanding our curriculum beyond indigenous species and onto more exotic subjects.  The new installation, as well as the workshop, invites learners and educators alike to understand the significance of the cactus and its environment. We hope this raises awareness about cacti upkeep as the plant is threatened with illegal theft resulting in incorrect and endangerment. The cactus plays a role in sustainable pollination and lends to understanding the preservation and conservation of plants from different climates, lands and conditions. The addition of this to the college is an invaluable resource for anyone studying horticulture as well as geography, biology, plant science and more.”

Askham Bryan College’s horticulture programme is hoping to extend its teaching to include ecosystem conservation beyond England. The addition of the cactus installation and workshop lends to lessons about self-sufficiency and production of exotic plants from seed sowing to propagation, grafting and finally collection. The college’s horticulture team hopes the vast collection, which gets bigger by the day, will make the college the largest centre in the north of England for learning about cacti and succulents.

Peter Cowdell, also known as ‘Cactus Pete’, has worked closely with the college on the project and cacti selection. He is a visiting tutor who delivers workshops about cactus and succulent care and preservation. He planned, designed and sourced the installation with Steve Bassford, Steve Greenaway, Askham Bryan College’s nursery manager and lecturer and the Horticulture department and continues to serve as a consultant on the project.

Peter says, “As a cacti and succulent enthusiast, I am grateful to partner with the college on this massive conservation project. The facilities and staff made the rehoming of the cactus and succulent possible. We hope that by extending our resources, there will be a wider interest from the public for a deeper appreciation and stronger understanding of the plants’ importance to our ecosystem.”

In addition to its college curriculum, Askham Bryan College will design short courses for adult education and seek to partner with other educational providers who would like to use the installation and workshop for their teaching.

Askham Bryan College Video