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A new way to share the gardens of the Preserve

Every plant holds a story. As gardeners, it is our responsibility to understand, record, and share these stories.

Beneath the beautiful surface of a garden you will find a framework of records supporting individual plants and the landscape composition as a whole. The gardeners at the Preserve take detailed notes on everything happening in the gardens throughout each season: accessions, plantings, pruning, pests, fertilizing, irrigation, projects, and more. You never know what small details may be crucial to understand in the future. Over the years we have amassed many notebooks full of this information.

It is my job, as the Preserve’s Plant Recorder, to consolidate and organize all our data into a format that allows us to easily access it to inform future decisions at the gardens. We are doing this work to preserve the past, know the present, and plan for the future.

To accomplish this, we are using a plant record software program called IrisBG to create a database of our plants here at the Preserve. IrisBG catalogs our accessions and keeps track of information such as where the plant came from originally, when it was planted, where in the garden it was planted, and what amendments were made to the soil.

All the woody plants and long-living perennials in the gardens will, over time, receive a small metal tag with an engraved number, that corresponds with a unique number given to the plant in the database, called an accession number. This will allow someone unfamiliar with the plant to find it in the gardens by using the information stored in the database, or allow someone to find more information about the plant by looking it up in the database using the number from the tag.

Last winter, my first year in this position, I started working through past years of data from the Asticou Azalea Garden provided to me by Mary Roper, the Garden Manager. This winter I will continue to add data from past years while also keeping up with current accessions and beginning the process of mapping and tagging, with my focus still on the plants at the Asticou Azalea Garden. I am hoping for some favorable weather in January and February as I ground-check our database plant location information in the garden, making sure each plant is in fact planted where our notes say it is.

This work of entering data into a digital database will not only help staff at the Preserve to manage the gardens, but will also allow us to share more with you. Beginning in 2021 we plan to start the process of sharing some of our plant database information with you through the IrisBG Garden Explorer program. Through this program you will be able to view maps of our gardens and look up individual plants to learn more about them. Launching this program at the Preserve will be a large undertaking, so we plan to start with a selection of information available at the beginning and add to it over time.

I highly recommend checking out some of the gardens around the world that are currently using the program at

Grace Brown, Lead Gardener - Asticou, & Plant Recorder

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