Living Collections and Horticulture
Fundamental to any botanical garden is the beauty of its plants and the natural and manmade settings in which they grow. Botanical gardens are designed not only to be aesthetically pleasing but also to serve research, conservation, and educational needs. While one might imagine that research and conservation collections are uninteresting, this is far from the case. Each plant lends its individual beauty to the landscape, culminating in a spectacular display of color, shape, and texture.
To ensure the health and well-being of our living collections, NTBG’s Living Collections and Horticulture Program develops horticultural practices to care for the collections, propagate at-risk plant species, and ensure that the living collections in the gardens have proper curation and interpretation.
The initial step in the process is to determine which plants are to be included in the collections. Guidelines established based on research, conservation, and education initiatives consider any adverse consequences that could result from the introduction of species from other regions. Plant records are maintained that document the origins of plant material and its status in the collections. This and other policies pertaining to management of NTBG's living and non-living (herbarium, library) collections are outlined in the organization's Collections Policy.
The categories of collections in NTBG’s gardens are diverse, requiring a wide range of expertise. For example, many native Hawaiian species had never before been cultivated, making it necessary for horticultural staff to pioneer new propagation protocols. The staff has access to a wide range of facilities, including the state-of-the-art nursery facilities in McBryde Garden and smaller greenhouses in the other gardens; a micropropagation laboratory where in vitro trials are being conducted; and a seed bank, which serves as a repository for genetic resources. All techniques are considered when determining how to give the most at-risk plants their last and best chance for survival.
Beyond the routine care of watering, weeding, and trimming the plants in the gardens, the horticultural staff is developing a number of techniques to protect the plants and enhance the likelihood of survival. An integrated pest management program is being developed that uses ecologically sound strategies to control threats to the plants from insects and diseases. Staff also continue to explore better techniques to recycle plant debris into compost for use in the gardens. Because of the fragile state of some rare species, NTBG has identified the most critical plants to be secured in anticipation of severe storms. Storms and other natural adversities are inevitable. By nurturing the living collections in NTBG’s gardens we are helping to protect rare species from natural as well as human threats to their survival.