Garden Tag. No, I am not talking about everyone’s favorite childhood game, but rather plant name labels. One of the most common questions/criticisms I receive of the Gardens is the lack of plant labels. As a fellow plant nerd, I want to know the names of plants as well, and I love that our visitors are geeked and are interacting with the plants they are experiencing. What people do not know is the behind the scenes work it takes at botanic gardens making that label happen.
One of the things that makes Wellfield Botanic Gardens a living museum is our plant collections. Like art or natural history museums, a public garden maintains a collection, and associated inventory records, of museum property on public display; for us, museum property = plant collections. Anyone who has worked retail, or any business, knows the massive effort required to keep an accurate and up to date inventory of what the organization has on hand.
Whole inventory systems must be created to manage business holdings, and the same holds true for a living museum. Let’s say Wellfield purchases a plant. We plant it and create a plant label for it, but the label gets lost some years later due to any number of factors (it gets moved accidentally or gets lost and replaced in the wrong place-believe me, it happens often enough). If no record was kept behind the scenes, how is one to remember the plant’s name? The answer is simple if there is a functioning database and inventory system/protocol in place.
As a young, small organization, Wellfield spent the first few years of its life focusing on building and planting our Gardens. Concerns and capacity to track the dynamic changes of a living system were secondary to the efforts of constructing a community asset. The Gardens is to the point now where information infrastructure is critical to operating. Resources are being focused on building this behind the scenes system to track plant material, so more plant labels may be created and maintained for the public’s curious eyes and minds.