Public Gardens as Museums - The Croton Collection

Published on April 25, 2024

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“A museum is a non-proft, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for education, study and enjoyment.”
- International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 2022

Public gardens have many functions: as beautiful spaces and places for sensory enrichment and tranquility, to provide environments that are supportive of psychological and physical well-being, as resources for horticultural and biological education, as settings for art, culture, and social events, and as repositories of historical landscapes and plants.

Whether intentionally designed or randomly assembled, gardens contain plants that are usually categorized by their genetic relationships, cultivation requirements, places of origin, uses, or display qualities. Public gardens are museums that conserve and exhibit living plants. Pinecrest Gardens staff identify and curate collections and are involved in their protection and preservation.

Education and public outreach also play large roles. A public garden can gain national accreditation and recognition as a museum by the American Alliance of Museums and join the ranks of the organization’s many well-known institutional members. The rigorous application process involves significant planning and commitment.

At Pinecrest Gardens, plants are comprehensively identified and inventoried. Additional information, such as whether a species is threatened or endangered, its country of origin, and its garden history is recorded in a botanical database. The data is useful for Pinecrest Gardens educational programming, for visitors, and the horticultural staff. Some of the plants are easily sorted into collections. Palms or succulents are examples, or perhaps the fine old-growth Bald cypresses in the lower gardens. One plant species that has been a part of the Pinecrest Gardens landscape for many years and is recognizable to visitors is the Garden Croton, Codiaeum variegatum.

Colorful crotons became extremely popular in South Florida landscaping during the nineteen twenties and thirties. Plant breeders developed dozens of varieties around the same time as the creation of Parrot Jungle in 1936. Pinecrest Gardens still displays many fne crotons, where two spectacular varieties, Milky Way and Fire Breath originated. Like many other gardening fads, the popularity of crotons has waxed and waned over the years. Some varieties that fell out of commercial production are preserved in the gardens and nurseries of dedicated hobbyists and occasionally can be found as survivors on older residential properties.

Pinecrest Gardens is planning to identify, inventory, and expand its fne croton plantings to develop a nationally recognized collection. This is but one step on the lengthy path towards museum accreditation. Pinecrest Gardens now has a full-time collections specialist who will substantially assist with defining what we have, composing a Croton collections plan, and creating a collections management strategy, all as part of raising the Pinecrest Gardens landscape and horticultural status.

With generous funding support provided by The Abbott Family, and Stan Smith Foundation, in 2022 Pinecrest Gardens invested in the tools necessary to build a collections development program. And in 2023 with a donation from the Pinecrest Garden Club, the Pinecrest Gardens team consulted with experts to help identify many croton varieties. Additional club and private donor funding will help in the acquisition of plants to expand the Pinecrest Gardens display collection.



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