Plant records and more: Sculpture by the Lakes achieves prestigious botanic garden accreditation

In our third blogpost in a series commemorating the achievements of Hortis gardens, we travel to the UK, where Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorset attains official Botanic Garden status.
Waheed Arshad, PhD
September 20, 2023

Dorset’s sculpture park and art venue, Sculpture by the Lakes, has been recognised for its exceptional quality gardens and plant conservation efforts by achieving official Botanic Garden Status – an accreditation held by only 83 gardens in the world.

BGCI standards and accreditation process

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) recognises gardens which conform to the highest international standards and make significant contributions to plant conservation. Sculpture by the Lakes joins just seven other gardens across the UK which hold the accreditation, including The Eden Project and the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

BGCI has a list of ten standards that gardens need to achieve in order to gain accreditation. These include, amongst others, Leadership and Strategic Direction, Plant Conservation Activities and Collections Management – the last one being one of the key areas where a documented collection in a recognised plant records database is essential.

Our plant records management

Garden Director at Sculpture by the Lakes, Monique Gudgeon, said: "Hortis came along at just the right time for Sculpture by the Lakes, providing a flexible and intuitive database that even the most technologically challenged person could master in a relatively short space of time – and that was very much me!

The fact that I can pull up the database on my smartphone anywhere in the garden is ideal. It makes checking or adding data so easy, as well as mapping and adding images. I think Hortis is an essential part of any collection.

The BGCI accreditation is testament to years of hard work and dedication by our team, and I’m so proud that we’re officially the only garden in Dorset – and 8th in the UK – to achieve such a renowned mark of status."

Using Hortis for plant collection management at Sculpture by the Lakes

Conserving critically endangered taxa

Sculpture by the Lakes has been working with global leaders in plant conservation to develop a comprehensive collection of critically endangered conifers for research, visitor education and enjoyment. Among its species is Picea koyamae, which originates in Japan and has less than 1,000 left growing in the wild due to its vulnerability to multiple threats including typhoons, fire, and climate change.

The sculpture park is also home to a grove of Coast Redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens, originating in northwest USA and under threat from increased urbanisation and logging.

I’m incredibly grateful to my committee of specialists, including Tony Kirkham MBE, ex-Head of Arboretum at Kew Gardens; Borde Hill Gardens Head of Horticulture Harry Baldwin; and consultant dendrologist Tom Christian, one of the UK’s leading experts on conifers.

Monique continued: “Achieving the accreditation was an emotional moment for me, as it recognises many years of hard work in making our gardens the best they could be. The credentials we hold prove that Sculpture by the Lakes serves its purpose as a true asset to nature and the environment.

Sculpture by the Lakes also houses a National Plant Collection of Forsythia.

Patricia Malcolm, Head of Membership and Conservation Services at BGCI, added: “Our accreditation scheme exists to motivate and empower gardens, large or small, to do more for plant conservation and increase their impact on visitors.

It’s fantastic to see Sculpture by the Lakes lead by example and use the structure of the accreditation scheme to elevate its plant conservation efforts.

This article was adapted from the original press release.

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