Walking down Wood Vale in comfortable North London suburbia the last thing you might expect to come across would be a national plant collection, but that's where you're wrong!
Mona Abboud is the proud proprietor of a fantastically diverse and eclectic collection of Corokia's, as well as numerous other rare and unusual plants from New Zealand, Australia and beyond.
Corokia is a small genus of three species: Corokia buddleioides, Corokia cotoneaster and Corokia marcrocarpa. C. buddleioides and C. cotoneaster readily hybridise, and therefore numerous hybrids are available.
Also visible in her collection are a wide variety of plants indigenous to New Zealand including coprosmas, cordylines, muehlenbeckias, olearias, pittosporums, pseudopanax, sophoras and uncinias.
Even though a native to the Southern hemisphere, the Corokia is highly suited to life in the UK. It can tolerate temperatures as low as -8°C and can be cultivated with moderate watering, a well-drained soil/rock bed and any sunny/light areas.
The Corokia was first introduced to the British isles by the founders of modern botany in the 19th century. But what interested Mona was its horticultural use in the new English garden.
"I am rather saddened by the fact that our 19th century British botanists risked life and limb to bring back these extraordinary plants to our country" explains Mona "and their use just isn't as wide as it really could be!"
Over the last 20 years, Mona has acquired a treasure trove of all forty currently available species and maintains them with superb attention to detail in her 1/5 of an acre plot.
Her garden stands as a lesson in size and variational excellence, with her collections being able to sustain our varied and sometimes volatile seasons.
She’s also a intense advocate of the clean and crisp cut clipped box hedges that are being decimated by the Box Tree Caterpillar.
Mona presents a contemporary ideology that her National Corokia Collection, with its all-round seasonal beauty, paves the way for a more versatile and varied substitute to box.
Examples of this can also be found at RHS Wisley who currently hold five different varieties of Corokia in their collection as a viable alternative to the conventional English shrub.
Mona's passion for the Corokia and helping others discover the plant is much like the friendly knowledge-sharing relationships of our early botanists.
She mentions in her book Corokia, My Adventure that all these characters "created a web of relationships, in which they met, wrote to each other, shared findings, commented on them and sometimes disagreed".
It's this yearning to share her wealth of knowledge, along with her fascinating persona that she bestows on anyone who shares a love for plants, that classes her as a true horticulturist.
If you would like to find out more about Mona and her beloved Corokias, you can visit her garden for a private tour and get advice on how to make the most of your garden no matter the size!