Here at Blarney Castle & Gardens we have a fantastic collection of trees and I have spent the last few years updating the database and labelling the more unusual specimens (around 2000).
Unfortunately labels are often damaged or removed and tend to be costly. I wanted to look at a way of tagging the trees that was more vandal proof and could be linked to the online tree database we have created. My research led me to a company called ZipNFC in the UK, and working with them we have introduced a system called NFC (Near Field Communication) to tag our trees and, eventually, we will also extend this to our shrub collections.
This new technology offers many advantages over conventional tagging methods. It enables us to tag plants with a weather proof disc that contains a unique reference code for each plant. By scanning the tag with a smart phone one is linked directly to our online database. An android application on our mobile phones allows us to manage the database whilst working in the gardens while a GPS feature enables us to map every tree with perfect precision.
These NFC tags enable us, and eventually the public, to identify each tree ‘in the field’ and provide a link to an online database of information on each tree. For us in the garden it would be a reference page holding detailed information and notes on past and future work on that individual specimen. For the public visitor it would provide a photograph and basic information on each tree.
By way of explanation, NFC (Near Field Communication) is a technology that enables devices, such as smart phones, to access information by touching, tapping or waving near a tag. No swiping, inserting or pin entry needed and there’s no need to download an app or visit a website. It is extraordinarily easy and convenient and the tag can be placed on a sticker, on posters or plant labels, indeed almost anywhere.
We are using a range of horti-tags developed in conjunction with ZipNFC. At present we are using two types. One has a hole in the centre which suits it being nailed to a mature tree behind the existing label while the other has a length of cord which allows it to be attached to juvenile trees and shrubs. We are currently developing a plant label tag for use in the nursery area. These will be simple white labels that can be written on but contain extra information on the tag. The horti-tags can be locked when used for a permanent purpose such as the identification of a tree or rewritten when used in the nursery etc.
Photo from Adam Whitbourn
Photo from Adam Whitbourn
This project is currently in its early stages of development but is already proving its worth. I would welcome enquiries from other gardens, nurseries and organisations that might like to apply this technology in their own setting.
Adam Whitbourn – Head Gardener, Blarney Castle & Gardens.