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Trends in Horticulture

Advances in horticulture have had a major positive impact in the best zoos and botanic gardens. All the new concepts for improving displays and management have required advancement in horticulture. I believe no other investment returns so great a benefit on a dollar-for-dollar basis.


Horticultural Specialization

This field has become increasingly specialized in the re-creation and maintenance of highly realistic natural habitats for immersion displays. The damage that can be done by animals in naturalistic displays and by visitors in hands-on educational areas can be tremendous and requires special skills on the part of the horticultural staff.

A related specialty is the knowledge of both potentially toxic and nutritious browse plants for zoo animals. Demonstration and ethnic gardens also add educational opportunities and the level of cultural resonance.

Some zoos have Curators of Horticulture, placing the plant collection and horticultural operations on par with animal curators and husbandry operations. The involvement of horticultural staff is important in the flow of design ideas.

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Immersion exhibit animals and plants. Woodland Park Zoo Photo: Jon Coe

Planting over building.


Northern Trail at Woodland Park Zoo showing specialized planting covering a display building. Photo: L. Sammons


Zoo-wide beautification, especially in non-exhibit public precincts, has resulted in improved visitor appreciation and return visitation. For example, changing seasonal displays encourages multiple visits.

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Geranium flowers.


Seasonal display. Photo: Jon Coe

Zoo Botanic Garden

Many zoos with outstanding horticultural collections and operations have gone on to become registered botanic gardens. This requires excellent record keeping and acquisition and de-acquisition programs, as well as notable plant collections, education and conservation programs.

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Botanical display.

Plant collection. Photo: Jon Coe

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