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Happy 90th Birthday!

April 29, 2020

Contributed by Jon L. Peter, Curator & Plant Records Manager

Some of the best historical records we have from the beginning of RBG are found in the Plant Records office. Currently, we record all plants in a computerized database but for much of our history, a handwritten ledger was used to record the species and provenance of each plant which we received and each was given a unique accession number for tracking those plants through their lifetime.

From our archives we know that the Memorial Garden was one of the first landscapes established at RBG in the late 1920’s and that the construction of the Rock Garden was close behind with opening to the public in 1932.

If we look back at the Plant Records from those early days, we will see a variety of trees and shrubs that were first documented in 1930. The amazing thing is that some of these trees and shrubs are still alive in the garden today, which means in 2020 they are celebrating their 90th birthday. Happy birthday!

Yes, it is true that these accessions may be slightly older than that, if we account for the time they were propagated and grown on at the nursery, before coming to us to be planted in the garden. Since it is difficult to decipher just how old they were when we received them, we will consider their accession dates as their birth dates.

Four of the first five accessions ever recorded are still growing in the Rock Garden today. The first accession, RBG accession 30001 is an ancient conifer species named Cryptomeria japonica. It is impressive that this accession has survived as Cryptomeria japonica can be marginally hardy in southern Ontario. Add that to the fact that this accession sits adjacent to York Boulevard in a highly exposed location and it is even more impressive that we can celebrate the life of this beautiful tree and RBG’s first accession.

Botanic Garden Conservation International (BGCI) defines botanic gardens as institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purpose of scientific research, conservation, display and education. The key to that statement is ‘holding documented collections’ which is what the RBG Plant Records has been doing since its inception.

Help us to celebrate these nonagenarians residing in our beloved Rock Garden. Happy birthday!

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