Getting Digital

I’ve just spent two days at Te Papa attending the National Digital Forum. Aimed at the gallery, library, archives and museum sector (aka GLAM sector), the conference looks at increasing the amount of quality information online and making collections accessible. Although there for my day job, I spent a lot of time (as usual) thinking about plants.

There’s a lot of plain old bad or disinformation about any conceivable topic online. There is definitely a lot of utter rubbish online about plants and gardening. Unfortunately, despite my eager editorial leanings, I can’t fix all of it. But I can work to ensure access to quality information from reputable sources. Then interested parties can make contributions increasing the body of knowledge – it’s the dream of any webmaster.

Wikipedia is not the fountain of all factual information (as Sally Cameron can attest after her book was recalled by Penguin after being sprung by Abbie Jury). And the thousands of gardening articles published online by people who are simply rewriting dross they’ve found out from doing a quick Google on the subject and spreading more and more misinformation… I just say grrrrrrr to you!

Dissolving disinformation

So, how do you find quality plant and garden information online? There is plenty out there if you know where to look. You could start by checking out may quality-assessed links section – but shameless self-promotion is not what I’m getting at…

I’d love to help encourage Plant & Food and Landcare Research to take up the digitisation challenge on research completed under the various guises since 1926. An incredible number of publications have been put out since that time dealing with all aspects of growing in New Zealand. Most of the titles are no longer available. And since a lot of this was funded by tax payer dollars, tax payers should have access to it.

My contribution

Fired up by the conference, a project I’ve been mulling over for ages that I’d really to start kicking is a website dedicated to heirloom plant varieties in New Zealand. It’s a great way to take stock of what heirloom varieties are available here – how to grow them, where to find them and learn the stories behind them and where they came from.

Why? Being a young immigrant nation, New Zealand is a treasure trove of plant and fruit varieties bought in from all over the world. Because it’s a living and dispersed collection, we simply don’t know what’s here. The Koanga Institute along with seedsavers across the country have done an amazing job but there is no central way of accessing information.

Some features I’d like to add:

Sales links through to Koanga and EcoSeeds or other suppliers.
Lost and found section: write about a variety you remember or need identified and see if others can shed any light on it or has it.
Really build up information around the stories behind these seeds and the immigrants who bought them here and the families that kept them going — it should be very much the story of people as well as seeds.


Getting accurate information and maintaining it.
Delivery vectors.


Is this a good idea? Is there some great feature you can think of? Are you interested in this sort of information? Want to help?

Leave a comment or flick me an email – loveplantlife at


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October 2010
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