Vail gardens win prestigious designation | VailDaily.com

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Vail gardens win prestigious designation

Dan Stark, executive director of the American Public Gardens Association, awards designation as the official Alpine Plants Collection of Colorado to Betty Ford Alpine Gardens’ executive director, Ann Kurronen, center, and horticultural director, Nicola Ripley. The designation includes membership in the North American Plant Collections Consortium, a network of botanical gardens that take official responsibility for collecting and preserving specific plant groups and the genetic resources they represent.Photo courtesy Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

VAIL, Colorado – America’s highest botanical garden is now responsible, officially, for preserving America’s highest native flora.

The North American Plant Collections Consortium, a branch of the American Public Gardens Association, has awarded Betty Ford Alpine Gardens official designation as the Alpine Plant Collection of Colorado.

“We’re proud to be the first and only public garden to receive this prestigious designation,” said Deane Hall, president of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens’ Board of Trustees. “The entire community should be equally proud to be home to such an important collection. Being a member of the NAPCC builds upon Betty Ford Alpine Gardens’ credibility, and, in turn, brings worldwide attention to Vail.”

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, in Vail’s Ford Park at 8,250 feet above sea level, is the highest botanical garden in the United States – and perhaps the world – providing free access to an estimated 100,000 visitors annually. Conserving plants of the American West, its mission is to inspire passion for plants in high-altitude communities through beautification, conservation, education and research programs.

“The gardens is far more than a place to see pretty flowers. It’s also is a unique research center, a botanical laboratory of sorts for one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world at a time of extreme climate change,” said Nicola Ripley, who oversees plant collection and research projects as the gardens’ director of horticulture. “In the world of botanical gardens and native plant conservation, it’s all about curation. This is a stamp of approval for our curation and documentation methods, and it verifies that we meet national standards.”

With designation as the Alpine Plant Collection of Colorado also comes recognition by the national horticultural community, as well as membership to the consortium, a network of botanical gardens that take official responsibility for collecting and preserving specific plant groups and the genetic resources they represent. Member collections may focus on any plant group, large or small, and can include plants that are rare or endangered in the wild or grow in areas with difficult or restricted access, exhibit disease and pest resistance, are adaptable to a range of environmental conditions, and have significant ornamental or historical value.

“Your organization stands among a prestigious group of gardens and arboreta that have committed themselves to the conservation and care of specific plant collections curated at the highest professional level,” said consortium Manager Pamela Allenstein in her acceptance letter to the gardens. “Participation in the NAPCC indicates that you are willing to make your collection available for increased distribution and research, and that you promote public awareness of conservation issues.”

The designation comes after a rigorous application process in which Ripley had to state short-term goals for propagating, verifying, digitally photographing and managing records for the gardens’ entire collection of native alpine plants. Long-term goals include growing the collection to include more of Colorado’s 300 native alpine plant species; developing a wild seed collection program, as well as a database of propagation methods for each plant; and monitoring many of the collection’s threatened alpine plants in the wild.

Ed Guerrant, conservation director for The Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Ore. – and a director of Botanic Gardens Conservation International – travelled to Vail to inspect the gardens and oversee the application review process. He said he was impressed with the work Ripley and her staff are doing to conserve Colorado’s most threatened plant species.

“Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is doing important work on a tremendously important environmental challenge, and doing it at a location where the problem of climate change is likely to be most acute – the high alpine regions – and doing that work very well,” Guerrant said. “The gardens are uniquely suited to hold the NAPCC collection of Colorado Alpine Plants, with respect to climate, existing collections and staff expertise.”

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is a nonprofit organization, and operations and programs are funded entirely through the generosity of donors. For more information, call 970-476-0103, ext. 3, or visit http://www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org.