Friday, August 12, 2011

Labels, Weddings And, Of Course, Ethnobotany

Hi all - starting Monday, I'll be heading back to Ohio for a couple weeks for my sister's wedding, which is very exciting.  Even more so because the gentleman she is marrying is one of my best friends, and I am also honored to be the DJ of the reception.  You're probably thinking, "an ethnobotanist-DJ...a strange but potentially explosive combination."  I know right?  There may be several ethnobotanists in the world and countless DJs, but I just may be the very first and only ethnobotanist-DJ in the entire history of the universe.  I'll give you some time to push up your jaw, which has no doubt dropped significantly after the previous statement.  Ok?  Good.  Obviously, I have made sure that only ethnobotanically interesting flowers will be used in the ceremony/reception, all of which will of course have appropriate labels (yes, even the bride's bouquet will contain a large-sized ethnobotanical label) and if anyone thinks they are going to sneak in with a flower in their hair unlabeled, they are mistaken, as I will have a labeling machine on-site to take care of that.  In addition, I have remixed each song in my set to include some botanical reference, as you can probably guess ethnobotany is not a major theme in love songs or dance music.....yet.

In other news, I thought I'd leave you with a few updates on some exciting progress here at the Gardens to tide you over until I return:

We have ordered 50 more labels (20 of which are the large ethnobotanical labels) for the grounds, so there will soon be lots more for guests and visitors to learn as they enjoy the gardens.

We are also just about ready to order small records labels (aluminum labels that include the accession number + qualifier, scientific name, and source) for each of the plants on the grounds as well.  These labels are like dog tags for plants, which serve to identify them as a specific individual or mass of individuals planted together, and they are more hidden from public view than display labels.  This is because these tags help staff at gardens keep track of their plants and the accession number + qualifier provides the key to unlocking all the information associated with that specific planting in our database, which is a use more internal than public.  So that you can get an idea of what I'm talking about, here is an example of a slightly more detailed records label used at The Holden Arboretum, where I previously worked in the Plant Records office:

Plans are also underway for gradually making the gardens in our center courtyard area native-themed, so I've been researching ethnobotanically interesting native plants that would do well in these areas.  I have found a number of plants that would be great to have, but the challenge is proving to be tracking them down.  If you visit this winter, hopefully you'll be seeing some of the first fruits of that labor.

To make up for the lack of exciting pictures in this post, perhaps I'll include a picture of the ethnobotanist-DJ in action in the first post I make after returning...

Until then!

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Tour Through Our Gardens, But Not A Garden Tour

Over the past several months, among other things, I've been spending time honing the tour of our Gardens that we offer to guests and the public three times each week.  I described in an earlier post about how I was encouraged by the enthusiastic responses from those who agreed to a tour.  I'm very happy to say that responses and feedback from tour participants continue to be extremely positive.  No doubt one of the major reasons for this is because I've especially been working on my technique when it comes to pointing out bromeliad flowers, so that it's pretty much flawless by now.  Here's a rare look at the technique in action during a tour, though a photo doesn't do it justice:

Now you might say, "Rick, no offense meant to you at all because I know just how ridiculously awesome you are (aw shucks : P ) but people on the tour might just be saying that they loved it, especially if they're talking directly to you...I mean they're not just going to tell you straight up that it was boring."  Good point, friend.  I acknowledge that feedback given directly to me may or may not be genuine, but after almost every tour Tracey and Denise, who work at the front desk, are able to corroborate.  Now even if you might be skeptical about that, the most objective evidence of enjoyment I can offer is that I will sometimes reach the hour and a half we have allotted for the tour without covering everything, so I'll inform them of the time and ask if they'd like to keep going, and unless they have activities scheduled, the answer has always been an enthusiastic "yes."  Keep in mind, too, that this is precious vacation time and I am competing with some pretty impressive offerings, such as relaxing on the beach, cooling off in the pool, swimming with dolphins, going snorkeling/diving/fishing, yodeling on the pier (or is that just me?), etc.  The fact that these folks end up being happy to spend more than an hour and a half of that precious time with me on our tour is quite wonderful to see and a concrete affirmation that people are really getting a lot out of it.  Both the front desk and I have collected quotes from our tour participants, so you can get an idea of what people are saying:

"I've stayed at Kona Kai in the past and the Gardens and Tour are why we'll be staying here in the future."
"Well beyond any of our expectations."
"I'll never look at plants the same way again."
"My wife had to drag me along but now I'm really glad she did."
"This was a major highlight of our vacation."

If I had any negative feedback, I would present it, but honestly I don't.  And while the original tour focused almost exclusively on ethnobotany and economic botany, it has evolved to incorporate a number of other areas including history of the Keys and the Resort property, botany at microscopic levels, chemistry, ecology, spirituality, ethics, conservation, biodiversity and global environmental issues.  After the tour, we not only hope that participants will leave with a dramatically new perspective on plants, but also how intricately and actively connected they are with the rest of the world, humans in particular.  That being said, this is much more than what one might call a "garden" tour and I think I've found a better name for it that is much more intriguing and descriptive: a "plants-and-people-but-also-much-more-including-history-chemistry-ethics-conservation-connection-spirituality-biodiversity-environmental-issues-etc.,-and-you'll-learn-so-much-and-be-really-glad-you-took-the-time-because-it-is-ridiculously-mind-blowingly-amazing" tour.....well, maybe I'll see if I can cut out a word or two.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director