Plant hunters on the job



It was with many a pang of nostalgia that I read about Britain’s National Trust plant hunting survey. Eighty significant gardens owned by the Trust are being visited by teams of gardeners and volunteers equipped with GPS devices running special mapping and data recording software. According to the press release I was just sent,

A photo will be taken of each plant, a GPS grid reference will be recorded using the Magellan MobileMapper CX running DigiTerra Explorer 5 software and each plant will be identified by experts.


Phase one of this focuses on gardens in Devon and Cornwall, among others, and specifically mentions the Killerton and Knightshayes gardens. I visited both of these in 2004, among many other gardens in Southwest England. Knightshayes is where the Trust now keeps its propagation gardens. At top you can see gardener Karl Emeleus recording rhododendron details at Killerton. Above is the summerhouse at Killerton, and below is a view of gardens at Knightshayes.


The idea is that almost 75% of the plants in all these gardens will be documented and then propagated for replacement and replenishment. Many of the plants in these gardens were brought back to England by passionate plant collectors over the last 400 years, and there are plenty of exotic specimens. The survey also includes all the kitchen gardens.

I don’t know a damn thing about the Magellan MobileMapper CX or the DigiTerra software that will be running on it, but it all sounds kind of cool. Seems like a fun way to keep track of all the plants I’ve ever seen and lusted after. Certainly many of them were seen when visiting the estate gardens of Southwest England—though when we toured them it was late summer, not the best time. We saw some pretty impressive borders, all the same. Here’s another view of Killerton. As with Amy’s garden, it is not the individual plants so much as the profusion.


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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


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