September 17, 2009 | Gardens Ambassador Volunteer, Visitor Services

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." ~William Shakespeare

Ambassador Jan here! Wanna know a little secret of mine? I actually do not know the names of ALL the plants at Denver Botanic Gardens. That’s right. I’ll give you a minute to get over the shock….

Fact is, there are about 14,500 taxa (differently named species and/or cultivars) at the Gardens. Furthermore, about 3,000 plants are accessioned (acquired for the collections) each year —they may not necessarily be brand-new-to-DBG taxa, though some are. As a botanist by education and a passionate gardener for a lifetime, I have a mental database of thousands of plants and/or taxa so far and my batting average is about 85% when it comes to identifying the plants that you inquire about. (No doubt my average would be better if I had been schooled in the Western states, LOL.) No matter… I am happy to announce that class is officially IN SESSION.

The thing is, I want to assure you and encourage you that it is OKAY not to know.  What’s important is that we remain curious and inquisitive and that it leads us to new understandings and knowledge. And, as some experts assert, our curiosity may lead to a longer life. You may be interested to know that when you ask me to identify a plant that I do not already know, I learn WITH you. This is a powerful thing and I NEVER forget the name of a plant if I have sought it for us both. You won’t forget it either. I thank you for that.

So I have a challenge for you (and me): find me or any of our other wonderful Ambassadors in the Gardens and ask us to identify a plant for you. If we can’t pull it out of our collective hats, then we will learn it together using any of the many resources at the Gardens. Be sure to check out the Gardens brand-new online High-Altitude Gardener database. Find tons of plants using the regular or detailed search--you can even post your own photos and make comments about them!

And that, my friends, is the wisdom of mutual discovery. That’s how we – you and I – flourish, too. See you in the Gardens!


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