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Jessica Blohm

Class of: 
Research Project: 
Interpretive Planning at Public Gardens



Jessica Blohm, a University of Massachusetts graduate in natural resources, came from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, where she has worked as a horticultural intern, greenhouse apprentice and, most recently, a gardener of living collections. Jessica hopes the fellowship will help her expand her knowledge base so that she will be better equipped to manage and create public gardens. Further, she wants to encourage appreciation for the beauty of public gardens, in order to foster a sense of deep responsibility for the environment.

View Jessica's thesis here.

View Jessica's interpretive plan of the International Crop and Weed Garden here.

Today people have numerous choices in the ways that they spend their leisure time. There are many organizations that offer recreational and informal education experiences. All of these organizations are vying for the attention of their visitors, especially as leisure time becomes scarce with busy family and work lives. Thus, cultural attraction organizations like public gardens are challenged with the task of creating an unforgettable visitor experience while staying true to their mission statement and organizational goals. Over the last twenty years, many public garden professionals have looked to interpretation as a way to meet these challenges. As interpretation has increased in popularity at public gardens, so has interpretive planning as a way to manage, plan, direct and improve interpretive services. However, much of the literature written on interpretation pertains to national parks, nature centers and more recently museums, while relatively little has been written on interpretation and interpretive planning as it pertains specifically to public gardens. There is a need in the public garden field for research which examines the applicability of interpretive planning in a public garden setting. This study examines the applicability of interpretive planning - models, concepts, theories and principles - in a public garden setting. To begin, a review was conducted of interpretive planning literature which pertained to fields similar to public gardens. From this literature the principles of interpretation and interpretive planning were examined along with models. A study was then developed to assess the relevance of these principles and models in a public garden setting. For this study, an interpretive plan was developed for Cornell Plantations’ International Crop and Weed Garden. This interpretive plan is intended to serve as a model, and the in-depth analysis of the planning process used to develop the plan offers insight into the “best practices” for developing an interpretive plan at a public garden. A twelve-step model, from identifying a goal to assembling the interpretive plan, is recommended. These findings provide practical insight and will help to guide public garden professionals in their quests to develop insightful, well-researched and engaging interpretive media for their target audiences.