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

Location: Gardens Unit

2017 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
This report documents progress for Project 8020-21000-145-00D, which establishes and maintains the public display gardens and provides educational opportunities at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. In FY17, we made significant progress towards our objectives of collecting, documenting, preserving, and displaying ornamental plant germplasm; disseminating information to stakeholders; developing exhibits and interpretive signage; and providing educational programming. Although vacancies have made it challenging to pursue new initiatives, we have made progress in addressing deferred maintenance to the Boxwood and Perennial Collections by shifting some work to contractors. Progress has also been made in preserving and displaying documented germplasm through renovation of major garden areas that has resulted in acquisition and incorporation of new plants. For example, planting was completed in the renovated Friendship Garden, and we used year-end funds to upgrade paths and walkways. The remainder of the garden will be renovated pending completion of work to renovate the Arbor House restroom facility. The Japanese Pavilion of the Bonsai Museum was also renovated. The incorporation of ground cover plantings and a watering system for those plantings are expected to reduce summer temperatures in the facility, resulting in a better growing environment for the bonsai. We are working on Collection Development Plans to serve as roadmaps for all the major garden collections, and have completed plans for both the boxwood and maple collections. These plans follow the guidelines of the USNA Living Collections Policy, and will serve not only as internal documents to guide curatorial efforts, but also as support for inclusion of some collections into the Plant Collections Network of the American Public Gardens Association. Progress was made in several plant evaluation projects. Unique selections of rosemary and dogwood were sent to nursery and public garden cooperators in previous years, and we continue to evaluate unique plants collected in the High Plains region of the U.S. for use in green roofs and rain gardens. In addition, we provide support and horticultural oversight to research plots established at the Arboretum by scientists in ARS’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory who are comparing insect populations on native and non-native garden plants. Outreach and educational projects included hosting an Aki Masturi Autumn Festival that featured bonsai and Japanese cultural activities and Japanese plants. The Festival provided informal educational opportunities to visitors and focused on Asian plants and their importance in American gardens. We are also planning an inaugural “Oaktoberfest” event in October 2017. These and similar events throughout the year provide unique opportunities for interpreting the gardens, collections, plants, and research to the public.

1. U.S. National Arboretum launches new mobile app. The U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) is located on 446 acres in northeast Washington, DC and welcomes over 500,000 visitors each year, as well as receives millions of hits to its web site ( In order to enhance the experience of our visitors and stakeholders, both live and virtual, the USNA launched a mobile app that allows visitors to plan their visit; find specific plants, collections, and features; determine what‘s blooming; and find their way around the grounds. This new app has already had over 2000 downloads, and, combined with our existing publicly accessible database (Arboretum Botanical Explorer - ABE), ensures that stakeholders have easy, 24/7 access to current and accurate information about our collections, programs, and inventory.

2. Modeling environmental stewardship at the U.S. National Arboretum. The U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) is located on 446 acres in northeast Washington, D.C., making it one of the largest green spaces in the nation’s capital, as well as one of the largest urban public gardens in the U.S. The Arboretum supports and embodies environmental sustainability through its research, education, and demonstration programs has unique opportunities to showcase effective approaches to sustainable urban landscape practices. This year USDA completed construction of a series of rain gardens which demonstrates the sustainable storm water management and serve as a test site and showcase for novel plants to be used in these applications. USDA worked closely with the District of Columbia to support the use of permeable path surfaces tomonitor and control of invasive plants and sustainable management of meadows and turf. These initiatives demonstrates the Arboretum’s goal of serving as a model for environmental stewardship in an urban environment.