Garden and greenhouse experts to protect saffron crocus

British horticultural scientists are working to protect the future of a plant used to make a valuable spice.

Leicester University is helping the European Union funded Crocusbank project in its efforts to create a stock of saffron crocuses in order to help maintain diversity, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) revealed.

The plant, which is grown commercially in Europe, Iran and Kashmir is vulnerable to disease and flooding, with the risk heightened by the fact that most large-scale operations are using clones.

The initiative is seeking out small growers who may have their own unique heirloom strains in the hope of protecting the plants by keeping them in a seed bank to ensure that they are not lost if a farmer goes out of business or his crops suffer some sort of disaster.

As well as looking after existing varieties, the scheme is attempting to reproduce the saffron crocus from its wild ancestors and create new variants that are more disease and flood resistant.

In other news, the RHS has revealed that a Norfolk garden and greenhouse attraction has opened its doors to the public for the first time in five years.