Last week Joe, Ronnie and I headed to Philadelphia, PA for the annual American Public Gardens Association (APGA) Conference. It was my first time attending an APGA Conference and also my first time in Philadelphia. With over 600 registrants from institutions all over the U.S., there were plenty of people to meet and network with. There were also plenty of presentations to attend in multiple fields including: Education, Leadership & Innovation, Marketing & Guest Experience, Horticulture, Volunteer Programs and Donors & Members. In addition to presentations, there were also a number of optional tours of gardens in Greater Philadelphia. The theme of the conference was "More" and for me, it lived up to the theme as there was MORE than enough of interest to choose from to fill up each day. If anything, the theme was too good as there seemed to be no end to the usage of that one word and puns that could be played with it in the weeks leading up to the Conference (see previous sentence). Indeed, it was almost MORE than I could handle! The conference not only served as a great introduction to many aspects of public gardens but provided the opportunity to go more in-depth into areas of particular interest. Below is an example of one of the round-table presentations:
I attended sessions about collections interpretation, augmented reality, marketing, surviving financially in tough economic times, providing visitors with excellent service, implementing a landscape consulting program, managing a volunteer program and sustaining collections in the face of adversity and change. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to learn more about areas in which I have not had extensive experience, as the management of a botanic garden requires knowledge in a number of diverse disciplines. In addition to attending presentations, Joe, Ronnie and I toured Bartram's Garden and Chanticleer, the latter being an especially exceptional garden in my opinion. While there, we were fortunate enough to see one of the most spectacular flowering plants in full bloom - the rare hot-air-balloon-flower plant:
The Exhibits Hall at the Conference was a highlight for me; it allowed us to see some of the latest products/services being offered, try out these products first-hand and meet the people behind the products. We have been looking into making our collections information available to our guests on their mobile devices, so we were especially interested in booths by Guide by Cell, GuideOne and BG-Map, each of which has something to offer in this arena. ESRI also had an exciting program called the Public Garden Data Model on display, which bridges the gap between ESRI's mapping software and BG-Base, providing a much-desired connection between the two. A parade of clearly lost festively-clad musicians accidentally found its way into the Exhibit Hall and livened up the atmosphere before being redirected to the annual Festively-clad Parading Musicians Conference, which was next door:
Overall, it was an excellent experience that has given us many ideas, valuable networking and helpful advice as we continue to lay the groundwork for the Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai during its first official year.
(Photo Credits - APGA)