6 Sept 2019

Our Garden Horticulturists – Dawn Moore

Bruce Langridge

Accurate record-keeping is vital for any national botanic garden.

We need to know what plants we have, where they grow and where they come from. Lots of our visitors want to know too. So we’re lucky to have such a good Plant Records Officer in Dawn Moore. To give you an idea of what she does and who she is, she’s kindly agreed to be the fourth in a series of blogs about our team of horticulturists.

Where were you brought up Dawn?

My early years were in West Bromwich in the West Midlands and my childhood was spent in various places in South Wales – Cardiff, Swansea and Gower. I then trained and worked as a nurse in Bath for 14 years.

What brought you to the Garden?

I wanted a change of career and trained as a horticulturist at Cannington College in Somerset. This led to a student placement here in the Garden in 2002, when I helped with the initial digging in the Double Walled Garden, then was given the responsibility of planning and planting the colour corridors there.

How did you become the Garden’s plant records person?

I knew a bit about databases and computers and the opportunity arose – a well-documented plant collection is a vital role of any botanic garden. The role of Plant Records Officer had been vacant for a while  so there was a big backlog when I started doing this in 2005.

What does the job involve?

I help out with a lot of horticultural admin and ordering but the main focus of my job is entering records of our plants. I record material when it arrives, be it plants, seeds or cuttings, and record their origin including if and where they were collected from in the wild. In the 14 years that I’ve worked here, I’ve accessioned over 15,000 specimens and right now I can tell you we have 58,000 listed, living, individual plants in the Garden. For those in the know, we used BG-BASE when I started before we moved onto our current IrisBG database in 2013. Garden visitors and web browsers can now access this on what we call our Garden Explorer https://gardenofwales.gardenexplorer.org/.  By clicking this link, you can find out where to find over 3600 taxa (plant types) across 1203 genera and 197 plant families.

These plants also need labels to tell visitors what they are. This is my job too, and I have to be very careful about plant nomenclature – the rules and regulations that govern how species names are written.

I’m also about to roll out a new way for our horticulturists to help me update the record keeping. Don’t be surprised to soon see our gardeners tapping plant details into computer tablets and swiping barcode labels.

What’s your favourite plant Dawn?

I love trees for their architectural form and my favourite is the Japanese maple Acer palmatum, such as the ‘Atropurpureum’ varieties you can see in Japanese and Wallace Gardens. But my favourite part of the Garden is the Double Walled Garden because of the way I have seen it develop.

Can you tell us something about yourself which may be a surprise?

I used to do a lot of am dram at Mumbles Open Air Theatre in front of Oystermouth Castle when I was younger. I was also one of the child actors, alongside Catherine Zeta Jones, in a production of the King and I at Swansea Grand Theatre in 1981.