Plant collection review

Do you know the true value of your collections and what they mean to your visitors?

Mark Richardson, botanical consultant and Janelle Hatherly, education specialist bring together skill sets that are often located in different people or parts of an organisation.

As objective unbiased ‘auditors’ with curatorial expertise, we can look at what you already have, identify living collection and interpretation issues and provide valuable and cost-effective solutions. Having both worked in organisations like yours, we appreciate that simple solutions are generally the best and give value for money.

Consider engaging us for services, including:

  • A review of the purpose and cost-effectiveness of all collections
  • A review of current garden themes and identification of key ‘take-home messages’
  • An assessment of existing (and suggestions for new) face-to-face & non face-to-face interpretation methods
  • Recommendations for collection improvements
  • Recommendations to improve collections maintenance and plant records
  • Recommendations to make collections more environmentally sustainable
  • Recommendations to add Education for Sustainability (EfS) to your public programs
  • Workshops resulting in a succinct report and summary of recommendations
  • An effective living collections policy as well as thematic/interpretation plans, signage manuals etc
  • Tailored training sessions on plant specifics with appropriate learning strategies 
  • Workshops facilitating organisational vision, values and strategic planning

Here are some issues botanic gardens and zoos face today. How does your organisation rate?

Issues for the organisation:

  • Mission statements and values do not translate into key objectives and clear ‘take home messages’.
  • Living collections policies and interpretation plans are missing or not integrated.
  • There is no obvious purpose for some collections – e.g. education, display, research and conservation.
  • Strategic plans lack short and long term deliverables for collections management and meaningful public engagement.  
  • Collections are not environmentally sustainable and public programs aren’t delivering Education for Sustainability (EfS).
  • A full listing of living collections is not available and collections are not mapped.

Issues for the general visitor:

  • Main entrances lack of a sense of arrival/clarity of the organisation’s purpose.
  • Collections are not well maintained or well suited to the site.
  • Collections do not all apply to garden themes and are not well labelled or interpreted.
  • An eclectic mix of signs conveys a greater impression of disorganisation than information.
  • Way-finding signage is not designed to help visitors structure their own experiences.
  • There is an insufficient mix of interpretive approaches to satisfy all types of learners.


Issues for school visits and special interest groups:        

  • Plant information is poorly documented or not accessible by teachers.
  • Key interpretive themes are not clear or linked to actual plantings.
  • There is a lack of holistic education programs that complement school curriculum and excursion activities are teacher-led rather than student-centred.
  •  Public programs don’t encompass the needs/interests of the whole community.
  • There is an inconsistent approach to program evaluation and poor documentation of lesson plans.
  • There are inadequate administrative and booking systems for visitor programs.

The best solutions might be simple ones, making the most of what you already have.

We’re offering a reality check on the effectiveness and connectedness of your plant collections and visitor programs and some simple, easy-to-implement solutions. While the expertise to do this evaluation probably exists within your organisation, it could be useful to call for a ‘second professional opinion’ that delivers this invaluable information in a timely cost-effective manner. This is the step required before considering a full-blown master plan.

By bringing Mark on board you will be better equipped to ensure the appropriateness of your living displays, plant collections management and conservation strategies. After all, it is well-documented collections that make our organisations stand out as living museums rather than exist merely as parks. Let’s ensure you are Planning for Plants.

By bringing Janelle on board you are acknowledging that living collections need a voice and additional expertise in learning strategies is often required to make meaningful connections between plants and people. It’s time to add Personality to Plants. 


To discuss your needs please contact either of us on:

Mark Richardson
Phone: +61-(0)8-82612794
Fax: +61-(0)8-82665972
Mob: +61-(0)431247214
P.O. Box 41Greenacres
South Australia 5086



Janelle Hatherly
Phone +61 2 9929 9639
Mobile 0419 717 937
ABN 38 307 352 735
10 Waiwera Street,
McMahons Point NSW 2060



Mark Richardson  

Mark Richardson is a botanical consultant based in Adelaide, Australia. He has been working in Australia, the Middle East and Asia on a wide range of horticultural and conservation projects.  His work has included the development, management and review of botanical displays and urban tree plantings, assessment of natural vegetation, the conservation of threatened plant species, the facilitation of work and training programs and policy development. 

Prior to working as a consultant, Mark started his career in turf and urban forest research, horticultural management and tree surgery.  He was the Curator of Living Collections at the Australian National Botanic Gardens; the Curator, Botany at the Alice Springs Desert Park (and Chair of the Olive Pink Botanic Garden committee) in central Australia, and; the Director for Middle East and Asia Projects with Botanic Gardens Conservation International. 

Mark was the co-founder and first national co-ordinator of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation and has been closely involved in developing botanic gardens networking in East Asia, India and the Middle East.

He holds a BSc (Hons) in botany and microbiology and an MSc in environmental plant physiology, both from the Australian National University.


Janelle Hatherly

Janelle Hatherly (BSc Dip Ed) is an education and interpretation consultant based in Sydney, Australia. She has worked as Public Programs Manager at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Education Programs Manager at the Australian Museum, Publications Officer at the Queensland Museum, and Coordinator Visitor Services at Brisbane Botanic Gardens.  She also has over ten years experience as a school department head and secondary science teacher and is a published author and editor of biology textbooks and popular scientific literature. Janelle is active in numerous professional societies.

Janelle has expertise in communicating and interpreting the messages, knowledge, collections and resources of cultural institutions to the general public and specialised groups in an accessible and exciting way. To this end she has devised and evaluated myriad public and school programs, developed interpretive signage and engaging exhibitions, written interpretive policies and procedures and delivered professional training programs.

She is committed to experiential and contextual learning to inspire others to connect with nature and their cultural heritage. Janelle sees botanic gardens and zoos as living museums with an additional responsibility to address contemporary environmental issues and educate the community about sustainable living.