The Gardens at Heather Farm attracts visitors with online plant collection

GHFJapaneseBlackPineIn a small triangular garden at the Gardens at Heather Farm is a Japanese Black Pine that was propagated in 1942, decades before it was installed in the garden in 1989.

“It’s a real treasure,” said Garden Manager Brian Larsen, and it’s now one of many unique plants that could introduce plant enthusiasts from all over to this nonprofit garden in Walnut Creek, Calif., through an online presence on Plants Map.

The Gardens at Heather Farm is a community botanical garden located on land that once housed a ranch. The ranch owner’s prized racing horse, King Heather, is remembered in the name of the gardens and nonprofit organization that leads classes and programs for school students, adults and people with disabilities in the community.

Penstemon_20spp.The organization is committed to sustainable practices, and gardeners here do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their plants, a fact that is particularly impressive considering the property houses a rose garden with 1,500 species.

Keeping those roses healthy and pest-free without chemicals is a feat Larsen admits is “pretty intense,” but is aided by a dedicated group of volunteers who put in hours every week to maintain the plants.

In addition to its roses, the garden also includes a large selection of drought-tolerant plants, a collection that continues to take on added relevance as this region of California experiences a prolonged drought.

You can find more than 100 plants on The Gardens at Heather Farms’ Plants Map profile. These plants are marked in the garden with Plants Map’s interactive plant signs and tags, a product that drew Larsen to Plants Map when he set out to replace and improve the gardens’ weathered plant labels.

“They’re durable. They’re going to last for years. And they’re bold without taking away from the plants,” he said.

redsensationcordylineHaving high-contrast, easy-to-read signs is important, since many of the Gardens’ visitors are older and may have impaired vision.

And the added interactivity of having a QR code that any visitor can scan with a smartphone to access that plant’s online profile is key for a garden situated in the heart of Silicon Valley.

“We have to be on the cutting edge of technology,” Larsen said.

Larsen is now inventorying hundreds of plants to add them to the garden’s profile and order additional signs.

Like many botanical gardens, the Gardens at Heather Farm depends heavily on volunteers for help with projects like installing plant signs. That’s where Larsen sees another advantage: For volunteers who don’t necessarily know the horticultural name of every plant, having all of the information—including the plant’s location—accessible with the scan of a smartphone makes sign installation a task that can easily be handed off.

surfernewzealandflaxAnd just like the Florida Tech Botanical Garden has found, a presence on Plants Map can be a tool to help spread the word and make new connections within the community.

“The website angle works really well for us,” Larsen said. “We can have people finding interesting and unique plants on the Internet and coming to see us in person.”

To learn more, visit The Gardens at Heather Farm on Plants Map.