Location: Gardens Unit2010 Annual Report
1. Germplasm acquisition, distribution, and incorporation into collections. 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. 530 plants were accessioned and 1171 plants have been added to the U.S. National Arboretum plant records database in Fiscal Year 2010. A new initiative was undertaken to collect plants in the Black Hills region of the United Sates and surrounding regions of the High Plains to assemble germplasm potentially useful in developing trees and shrubs with enhanced heat and drought tolerance and short stature for planting under overhead utility lines. Herbaceous taxa potentially useful in green roof culture were also collected. This germplasm will benefit the nursery trade as the need to develop landscape plants better able to withstand climate change becomes more urgent.
2. Evaluation of germplasm. Financial support from the Friends of the National Arboretum has allowed for the hire of a plant propagator to support the increase of plants in preparation for distribution and evaluation and to protect germplasm holdings that may have diminished due to attrition. Several potential introductions have been propagated, and two have been sent out for evaluation. This germplasm will benefit the nursery trade by expanding their product line. Rare conifer and azalea cultivars have been propagated to secure germplasm. This germplasm may be of benefit to plant breeders and researchers.
3. Ornamental Edibles exhibit. The U.S. National Arboretum can be used as a vehicle for ARS outreach efforts. The clearest current trend in gardening is the increasing popularity of fruits and vegetables. While it may seem that this might be tied to the economic downturn, survey data reveals that the driving factor is most likely the desire for a greater diversity of fresh produce with unique flavor and appearance. The small garden in the entrance of the National Herb Garden was renovated and transformed into an Ornamental Edibles Exhibit featuring food plants with outstanding ornamental value grown in spring, summer, and fall rotations. This Ornamental Edibles exhibit showed visitors that they can produce vegetables in an ornamental garden without compromising aesthetic value of the landscape. This will result in gardeners growing a greater diversity of cultivars and crops in their landscapes.
4. Dissemination of plant information to the public. 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 Gardens Unit provides major input in increasing the quality and quantity of information on the Arboretum web site, and the web site now serves five million visitors annually. Many nursery firms and gardening sites are linking to our web site. Strong ties to the nursery industry have been established in the creation of the Introduction Garden. Virtual tours and a blog are being added to the site, and gardening information is being expanded. This work helps to create well informed garden product consumers and increase interest in landscape plants to help maintain a strong domestic nursery production industry.
5. Management of invasive plants. Controlling invasive plants continues to be a pressing issue on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum. Another 50 acres were treated to eliminate current infestations of invasive plants in FY 2010. A complete listing of the invasive species present on various tracts on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum was developed to aid future efforts to manage the problem. 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.