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 firstname.lastname@example.org Montgomery county, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, whose garden looks somewhat like a national collection of something.