Self proclaimed weed lover and fellow plant nerd, Daniel Murphy, serves as the Curator of Plant Collections at Idaho Botanical Garden (IBG) in Boise. At IBG, themed gardens such as the Lewis and Clarke Native Plants Garden, Western Waterwise Garden, and the Firewise Garden demonstrate the progression from early plant expeditions to how we should rethink gardens for today. For a look at plants that thrive in Southwest Idaho, check out the plant collections under Daniel's care on the IBG Garden Explorer page.
When did you know you wanted a career in Public Gardens?
When I was studying horticulture at the University of Idaho, I landed a summer job at the U of I Arboretum and Botanical Garden. I had worked in several other horticulture related jobs, and working at the Arboretum allowed me to see how all of the things that I love about horticulture could be lumped into one job. After finishing graduate school, I began applying to every public garden job opening I could find. I was lucky to get a position in my home state as a horticulturist at Idaho Botanical Garden, and I’ve been here ever since (nearly 12 years!) I recommend a career in public gardens to anyone interested in working in horticulture.
Daniel in his natural habitat. Image courtesy of Idaho Botanical Garden.
What's the best thing about your current position at Idaho Botanical Garden?
Learning new things is something that I enjoy most in life. Working as a plant collections curator provides me the opportunity to learn new things on a daily basis. Pretty much everything about plant collections was new to me when I started in this position, so there has been plenty of opportunities to learn as I have worked to develop our collections program at IBG. I particularly enjoy learning about plants, and managing a database of several thousand plants gives me the chance to continue to learn more about each of the individual plants in our collection.
Which garden tool/aid could you not live without?
I rarely leave the office without my soil knife (also known as a hori hori knife). It’s an incredibly versatile tool, and I use it daily for weeding, planting, placing plant labels, etc.
Penstemon albertinus. Image courtesy of Daniel Murphy.
What is an IrisBG report you generate most often?
Because we are pretty new to plant collections, I mostly run inventory reports for our different beds and gardens so that I can bring everything up to date and ensure that the inventories are current. I look forward to generating more advanced reports as our collection program matures.
Prickly Lettuce: Lactuca serriola. Image courtesy of Daniel Murphy.
Is there a tree or horticulture-related event that you have learned a valuable lesson from?
As someone who finds weeds fascinating, I have enjoyed attending annual meetings of the Western Society of Weed Science. While I’m not a weed scientist myself, I enjoy learning all I can about plants that have become our constant companions whether we enjoy their company or not. Weeds are an accessible way to learn about all kinds of things related to horticulture, botany, and ecology.
Do you have a book/ podcast that you would like to recommend?
As soon as I got my hands on A Gardener’s Guide to Botany by Scott Zona, I read it from cover to cover in a matter of hours. Scott Zona is great at distilling down complex botanical topics for readers of any level to understand, and he is a great follow on social media.
Since 2013, Awkward Botany has been a place for me to share my plant obsession with those who are just as obsessed as me or who are simply plant curious. Writing from the perspective of an amateur botanist, I try to tell the stories of plants in an accessible and entertaining way, relying on the work of professional botanists to ensure that the information I share is accurate and up to date.