Filled with interesting facts and a love for trees and plants, Fred Breglia makes for a great tour guide during a visit to the Landis Arboretum.
But with plenty to do as the 500-acre site’s horticulturist and executive director, he isn’t always available to provide an info-packed walk through the gardens.
The advent of smartphones and QR codes is giving the Landis Arboretum another educational feature by offering an audible tour with a simple scan.
Boosted technology is among several upgrades the arboretum will be showing off during its annual spring plant sale May 18 and 19, including a new push to open the massive garden up for weddings and other functions.
The distinctive, square-shaped QR codes, similar to bar codes, are positioned on various signs and posts at the start of paths like the one at the Native Plants collection.
Breglia said longtime volunteer Ed Miller is among the most knowledgeable when it comes to that collection, so Miller recorded a tour guests can listen to on their smartphones while following along a half-mile trail.
“It’s almost like having Ed with you. To us, it’s changing the way people utilize our collection,” Breglia said.
There are roughly two dozen QR codes positioned along the Landis Arboretum’s trails and more are being developed in coming months.
Breglia is working on a tour of the Old Growth Forest as well as a welcome for guests with high-tech phones.
In the future, the audible tours will be added to the website so everybody can hear them, Breglia said.
Despite its rural location, the arboretum is situated atop one of the mountainous hills overlooking the Schoharie Creek in Esperance, so mobile signals are working fine.
“We’re at 1,200 feet of elevation. Because of that, the reception of almost every carrier is crystal clear,” Breglia said.
“What makes it so practical for us is the equipment’s already there,” he said.
The educational offerings add to new structural improvements at the arboretum’s Meeting House.
The modest building, unchanged since it was built in the 1980s is being transformed into a new, Environmental Education and Community Center under a project that began in the fall.
Paid for with donations, the roughly $15,000 project includes the addition of a massive wooden deck suitable for dozens of people overlooking a colorful panorama of the Schoharie Valley’s highlands.
Windows, also added during the fall and winter, now replace parts of the Meeting Houses’s walls that blocked that vista.
“It’s a million-dollar view,” Breglia said.
Pending some detailed landscaping likely to turn even people with green thumbs jealous, the site will be offered up for arboretum and non-arboretum events, weddings and other functions.
Improvements at the Meeting House, Breglia said, should yield revenue that will replenish donated funding and position the region’s only arboretum for more growth.
Details on the upcoming plant sale May 18 and 19, and a full schedule of bands slated for the Live at Landis live music events being held the last Friday of the month, can be found online at landisarboretum.org.