Dispatches from the Czech Republic – Curator-Horticulturist Laura Caddy

June is a wonderful time to explore the E. H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden, with its glasshouse and rock outcrops furnished with colourful plants. Located along the north-eastern section of the Botanical Garden, straddling the area between the amphitheatre and Rainforest Garden, the Alpine Garden is known for its plant diversity more than any particular group of plants. In less than 4% of the total area of the Garden, the Alpine Garden holds 40% of the Garden’s total diversity. This results in a collection filled with natural treasures, including a wide array of families that are not duplicated elsewhere in the Garden. Laura Caddy, Curator-Horticulturist of the Alpine Garden, oversees the collection.

UBC Botanical Garden is proud of the significant improvements that Laura has brought with careful consideration and skill to the Alpine Garden. Laura also looks after the Garden’s institutional seed sharing program (Index Seminum), which involves the processing, packaging and distribution of both locally-wild-collected seed and seed collected in the Garden. A surprising proportion of the plants in the Garden’s collection are Index Seminum derived.

In May, Laura attended the Czech International Rock Garden Conference, which was attended by 160 people from 18 countries. The five-day event included tours of nine diverse gardens, and a variety of formal and informal presentations. Some people may ask, “Why is rock gardening relevant?” and “Why go all the way to the Czech Republic to study rock gardens”? As global warming threatens biodiversity, rock gardening is an amazing way to grow and cultivate plants that grow well among rocks. Rock gardening can be successful on a small scale, and rock gardens can be created that are both sustainable and beautiful. In the mid-1980s the Czech Republic became a leader in rock gardening, by advancing innovative techniques and creating stunning displays of rock-garden plants. In the New York Times article: Why You Should Try Crevice Gardening: This is the Future, Margaret Roach describes how authors, Kenton J. Seth & Paul Spriggs took inspiration from the modern pioneers of crevice gardening—the Czechs. Early trend setters and experts in crevice gardening, Czechs have led the way in inspiring and pushing boundaries in rock gardening. In Laura’s own words, “To be able to explore such gardens and plant collections in person was incredibly valuable and inspirational.”

International conferences and gatherings provide excellent opportunities for horticulturists to continue learning and growing in their fields. A key benefit to attending any meeting is the people one meets. Laura reflected that “the collective knowledge held by the participants, which included other alpine/rock garden curators, was incredible. I look forward to exploring collaborations with them in the future. One of the many amazing people I met was Marcela Ferreyra, and hope to one-day join one of the plant tours she leads in Patagonia.”

As the Garden works towards its sustainability goals, one factor that plays deeply into our planning is building on our water-wise collections and practices. While there is still room to improve our water usage across the Garden, the Alpine Garden excels in creating a balance between addressing water scarcity and continuing to grow and improve the collections.

If you would like to support future professional development within the Garden, please donate and support the Mission and Vision of UBC Botanical Garden. Donate now

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