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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Washington, D.C. » National Arboretum » Gardens Unit » Research » Research Project #426365

Research Project: Establish and Maintain Public Display Gardens for Woody and Herbaceous Landscape Plants

Location: Gardens Unit

2014 Annual Report

Objective 1: Collect, propagate, preserve, evaluate, document, display, distribute, and introduce woody and herbaceous landscape ornamentals with enhanced aesthetic appeal, resistance to extreme weather, resistance to pests and diseases, and enhanced ecosystem benefits. Collection activities will focus on native plants due to difficulties with collecting plants in most other countries. [NP301, C1, PS1A] Objective 2: Disseminate scientific and practical information to floral and nursery crop industries, to public gardens, to the increasing number of visitors to the U.S. National Arboretum and its Website, and to the general public interested in gardening. [NP301, C2, PS2B] Sub-objective 2.a. Develop exhibits and interpretive signage that reflect current relevant ARS horticultural research programs, including the scientific mission of the U.S. National Arboretum. Sub-objective 2.b. Develop educational programming to increase awareness of ARS research and germplasm preservation taking place at the U.S. National Arboretum.

The U.S. National Arboretum will continue to serve the public need for scientific research, education, and gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment. This will be accomplished by maintaining outstanding gardens, plant collections, and public displays in an environmentally responsible and aesthetically pleasing manner. New ornamental cultivars and germplasm will be acquired using the Collections Policy and the newly developed Strategic Plan as a guide, and in support of the National Plant Germplasm System. Plants will come from nursery sources, wild-collected, or the USNA research program. Plants with superior landscape attributes will be propagated for distribution and evaluation. Staff will continue to utilize integrated pest management (IPM) in management of their collections and will explore the use or demonstration of other technologies such as solar power, green roofs, rain gardens, and water wise gardens as funds allow. Plant records will be updated and coordinated with GRIN-global, and information will be uploaded to the publicly accessible Arboretum Botanical Explorer database. A new exhibit and educational program, GrassRoots, will be put in place. Educational opportunities will be optimized and implemented to provide formal and informal educational programming through exhibits, signs, publications, web pages, lectures, workshops, and tours. Volunteer and internship programs will continue to be supported.

Progress Report
After weather delays, the construction of the Grass Roots exhibit is substantially complete. The exhibit focuses on ARS and USNA research relating to turfgrass and grain crops and human interaction with grasses. The USNA hosted a record 22 interns this year. Volunteers worked the equivalent of 7.0 FTEs. Interns are now being utilized in multiple collections to broaden their experience while at the USNA. The USNA also hosted the annual Volunteer Recognition event for the area public gardens that have volunteer programs. Completion of design was delayed by permitting, but construction is expected to begin before the end of 2014. Several plant collection trips have resulted in an adequate stock of seed to grow the plants that will be used in the stream restoration work so the area can also serve as a germplasm holding. The USNA hosted the Shirley Meniece Horticulture Conference, an annual training conference of the Garden Club of America. The conference began just three days after the government shutdown ended in October, and was quite successful despite the challenges this uncertainty created. A total of 22 lectures, demonstrations, and tours were completed by 19 USNA staff for this event. A major objective of the Gardens Unit is to enrich the living plant display collections at the U.S. National Arboretum by incorporating documented germplasm into these areas. Collection Development Plans are being drafted for each of the collections managed by the Gardens Unit to outline future acquisitions. Several plants, including rosemary and dogwood, are being propagated for distribution to cooperators for broader evaluation. Plants collected in the High Plains region in 2010 are being evaluated for use in green roofs. The nearly half a million visitors to the gardens and collections of the U.S. National Arboretum could potentially learn about the work of ARS. The new Arboretum Botanical Explorer has greatly increased public access to the holdings of the USNA. Controlling invasive plants continues to be a pressing issue on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum. This work helps to preserve existing germplasm in the gardens and collections of the USNA, protects woodland and meadow habitats on the grounds from degradation, and provides a model for management of invasive plants that may be useful for other land managers.

1. ‘Petite Jade’ Japanese Laurel Released. The Gardens Unit released ‘Petite Jade’ Japanese laurel, a compact form with glossy green leaves and a tightly mounded habit. This plant is well-adapted to shady locations and is evergreen, with ornamental red berries in autumn.