Louetta M. Cowden Foundation Awards $40,000 Grant to Powell Gardens

Powell Gardens recently received a grant for $40,000 from the Louetta M. Cowden Foundation to implement and maintain a modern plant database, purchase a label machine, and install new signs that display taxonomic information for current living plants.

The Gardens will acquire the IrisBG database that supports emerging technologies, such as GIS mapping, and comes with Garden Explorer, a module that allows visitors to explore gardens and collections on their own. The Gardens also plan to acquire a Gravograph LS 100, an advanced label machine that can interphase with the IrisBG database and generate various types of graphics and symbols to incorporate into labels. This project is crucial to modernize Powell Gardens’ plant collection to improve plant information tracking, interpretation, and accessibility. The current database is only accessible on a single computer and gardeners maintain a separate record system for the plants managed at the Kauffman Memorial Gardens because the main record system is not accessible off-site.

A modern plant database is an essential tool for the Gardens to manage the plant information for accessioned plants in fulfilling its mission to inspire people to appreciate the importance of plants in our lives. Currently, gardeners record plant information in an archaic database that does not support GIS mapping technologies, is only accessibly on a single computer, and does not interface with a label machine. Staff cannot readily extract or manipulate information stored in the current, inhibiting garden curation efforts. The Gardens will acquire the IrisBG database that supports emerging technologies such as GIS mapping. It also comes with Garden Explorer, an online module that allows visitors to explore gardens and collections on their own through Powell Gardens’ website. IrisBG is the only garden-specific database, and botanical gardens and arboretums around the world use IrisBG to manage their collections. Notable users include the Smithsonian Gardens in Washington D.C. and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia.

Powell Gardens (the Gardens) is a Kansas City treasure with 970 acres of natural wonder less than an hour from downtown. The region’s only botanical garden provides opportunities for learning and reflection through year-round educational programs, research, and special events. Powell Gardens is known for its spectacular garden displays incorporating native plantings and its contemporary architecture by the firm originally established by Fay Jones, now Maurice Jennings + Walter Jennings Architects.

In 2018, Powell Gardens welcomed approximately 68,000 visitors through paid and membership admissions, 19,300 of whom were youth, and membership grew to 3,300. Each visit served as a new opportunity to discover and celebrate the beauty of the Midwestern landscape. As a safe, tranquil place for children and their families to learn and play outdoors, Powell Gardens is a retreat from urban life and an integral part of the Kansas City experience.