National collections programs

John Bryan
Mon, 14 Jun 2004 10:00:23 PDT
Dear All:

The question of National Collections should be, in my opinion, something
the American Horticultural Society should foster. If others feel the
same, drop a line to Kay Moss Warner the President at 7931 East
Boulevard Drive, Alexandria VA 22308-1300 or call her at 800-777-7931,
the fax = 703 768-8700 Their slogan is Making America a Nation of
Gardeners, a Land of Gardens. Having National Collections is within
their province. It will take, given the diversity of our land/climates,
some doing, but it should be done. Cheers, John E. Bryan

Jim McKenney wrote:
> Jane, thanks for broaching this topic.
> Believe me, I'm trying hard to keep what follows from becoming a rant.
> When I was a kid, I had this idea that I would start a garden club. Among
> other things, each member would incur the responsibility to maintain stocks
> of one particular plant for as long as they were members actively gardening.
> Years later,  when in the late '60s I had just gotten out of the Army after
> serving two years as a draftee medic and then enduring a family tragedy, I
> needed a change. I grabbed my back pack and took off for the UK and Europe
> for the summer. I visited lots of public gardens, took lots of photos and
> had the horticultural education of my life. After that, things back home
> looked, well, boring. We Americans spend a fortune on horticulture, but I
> don't think we generally get good value for our money.
> Of the many and varied things I saw, the "order beds" at Oxford and Kew
> made a huge impression on me. It's such a simple idea, and such a source of
> intense interest and gratification to a certain type of gardening interest.
> Yet try to fine something similar in an American public garden. We do some
> aspects of this well: for instance, we have institutions which maintain
> important collections such as the bonsai collection at the US National
> Arboretum. My guess is that there are probably only five or six cities in
> the world which can offer anything remotely comparable.
> But by and large, unless there is some mediagenic, star quality to the
> enterprise, American public institutions don't seem to have done this well
> yet.
> Where does the gardener go who wants to see a Heuchera collection, or a
> Buddleja collection, or a tulip collection or an Allium collection?
> Here in the Washington area we have several wonderful public gardens which
> maintain an impressive diversity of plants. But these facilities are
> maintained with a keen eye on the overall aesthetic effect - the ever
> irrepressible American talent for enterprise insures that these gardens are
> always ready to become revenue generating venues for weddings, parties and
> so on.
> Indeed, it's easy to get the impression that these gardens are run not with
> the interests of keen gardeners in mind but rather with the expectations of
> the least-common-denominator of gardening interest. I don't need to be
> reminded that it is the taxes paid by the least-common-denominator crowd
> which makes all of this possible; and I'm a firm believer that it will
> eventually accrue to the good of us all to encourage an interest in
> gardening at all levels.
> But the way we are doing things now presents a strange irony: a lot of keen
> gardeners find our public gardens irrelevant.
> I think a national collections program is a wonderful idea. And it would be
> great if any such program included efforts to establish regional
> mirror-image collections.
> I'm really fired up on this topic, but I'll stop here for now. I hope a lot
> of others jump in with ideas and experiences - especially our UK friends
> who now have years of experience running such programs.
> Jim McKenney
> Montgomery county, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, whose garden looks somewhat
> like a national collection of something.
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