A. Horticulture

Horticulture is the one common activity linking all collections of living plants. Good horticultural practice is crucial for the maintenance and utilisation of plant collections, and it should be emphasised and accepted that botanical horticulture is a special area of horticulture requiring a distinct set of skills. All users of plant collections rely on the horticultural expertise of collection holders to acquire and maintain collections. Poor standards in horticulture are detrimental to all the other activities carried out in botanic and similar gardens.

Horticultural skills vary considerably and reflect the diversity and complexity of the gardens and plant collections that horticulturists work in. Whilst some skills are common to all areas of horticulture, some are specific to certain types of garden and botanical collections. For example those skills needed to maintain an estate or extensive parkland are largely different to those needed to maintain a botanic garden, glasshouse or research collection. Recognition of the diversity of skills needed, detailed knowledge and experience in caring and developing collections is largely not understood outside the industry and is an important factor that horticulturists should promote.

In developing, maintaining and curating healthy plant collections, horticultural staff play a key role in satisfying the requirements of diverse user groups, including science, education, conservation, training and amenity. As well as successfully cultivating a wide diversity of plants, horticultural staff involved in collections-based gardens need to be familiar with a broad range of other activities, including plant records, propagation, landscape design, interpretation and numerous aspects of legislation and plant acquisition procedures.

Horticulturists should encourage the use and appreciation of collections by improving plant labelling, increasing access, promoting communication with users, appealing more to children, explaining issues of collections’ management and presentation, creating more interesting and/or appropriate designs and features and trying to make the collections and layouts more relevant to the people who use them.

PlantNetwork aims to promote the highest standards of horticulture in the cultivation and use of plant collections.

PlantNetwork has:

  • held 12 conferences which either exclusively, or largely, focussed upon horticultural subjects
  • organised 14 meeting’s of the Glasshouse Forum and Tree Forum dealing with the cultivation and maintenance of plants
  • organised 10 training days providing direct tuition and training in the cultivation of plants
  • recently established the Propagator’s Forum, which acts as a catalyst for the dissemination of information and expertise amongst its membership
  • held a number of training days and workshops focusing on collections’ policies including policies for acquisition and quarantining
  • promoted the importance and the highest standards of record keeping primarily through eight meetings of the PlantNetwork Plant Records Group
  • Initiated a wide ranging survey of the training, and conditions of employment of horticultural staff and recognition of their skills

To maintain these achievements, PlantNetwork will:

  • establish and maintain the cultivation and propagation database
  • publish Guidelines on Legislation, Import Practices and Plant Quarantine for Botanic Gardens and Kindred Institutions
  • continue to organise workshops dealing with the cultivation and maintenance of plants
  • act as a forum and catalyst for the dissemination of information and expertise amongst its membership and other appropriate bodies
  • encourage training of young horticultural staff by promoting national and international staff exchanges, especially through the Heritage and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme
  • take a direct interest in horticultural education and training
  • generally promote and encourage high standards in horticulture
  • promote the importance and the highest standards of record keeping; this will be achieved primarily through the PlantNetwork Plant Records Group (see Policy E)
  • seek to work with others to improve interpretation
  • encourage horticultural staff to collaborate with landscape architects, where appropriate, in the development or redevelopment of new features or areas
  • promote a better understanding of the status (and through that the terms and conditions of employment) of horticultural staff and recognition of their skills
  • encourage an appreciation of the value of integrated working practices within a team (internal and external) rather than in isolation
  • encourage collection holders to make their collections more attractive through better design as well as by increasing the number of plants that are educationally and scientifically valuable
  • work in collaboration with, and mutually raise the profile of, other specialist groups involved in plant collections in Britain and Ireland

Many of these aims can be achieved through training workshops and conferences – see Policy D Training.