Conservation Hedges:

Modern-Day Arks


  • Martin Gardner Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
  • Tom Christian
  • William Hinchliffe Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
  • Rob Cubey Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh



In May 2014, the first planting of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) conservation hedge took place, when the Reverend Anne Brennan planted a tree which had originated as a cutting from the ancient and historic European yew, Taxus baccata, in the churchyard of her church at Fortingall, Perthshire. This is one of almost 2,000 plants that will eventually form a conservation hedge of significant scientific and conservation value. The International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP), based at RBGE, has actively sought other opportunities to establish conservation hedges via its network of ‘safe sites’, using a range of different conifer species. This initiative is being driven by the potential for relatively large numbers of genotypes from a single threatened species to be stored in a linear space. It is well established that seed banks have a great capacity to store large amounts of genetic diversity, so we should simply consider conservation hedges in a similar manner. These super-hedges cram relatively large amounts of genetic material into a small space, capturing a great range of wild traits and potentially contributing to the restoration of wild populations. To date, conservation hedges have been planted at five separate locations at RBGE’s Edinburgh Garden as well as at four ICCP external ‘safe sites’. Although this article focuses on the establishment of conservation hedges using conifers, we have also highlighted some conservation hedges that comprise non-coniferous species.

Author Biographies

Martin Gardner, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Coordinator of the International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP) at the Royal Botanic Garden

Tom Christian

Consulting Plantsman

William Hinchliffe, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh


Rob Cubey, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Plant Records Officer


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How to Cite

Gardner, M., Christian, T., Hinchliffe, W., & Cubey, R. (2019). Conservation Hedges: : Modern-Day Arks. Sibbaldia: The International Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, (17), 71–100.