Swan Lake-Iris Gardens gets global recognition as Level II arboretum site after 5 years of work
Sumter's beloved swan-filled garden that rests in the heart of the city received its Level II arboretum certification this year.
Sumter City Council received a presentation about the arboretum certification during Tuesday's meeting, stating Swan Lake-Iris Gardens has been selected as a worldwide Level II arboretum site.
"This was quite a recognition, and it has gone on for many years," Assistant City Manager Al Harris said. "This is a great achievement for Swan Lake."
An arboretum is a botanical garden devoted to trees.
Sumter's garden was named a Level I certified arboretum site in 2017, and the staff has been working to receive a Level II recognition for the past five years, according to Harris. The hard work paid off in April.
The requirements to receive a Level II certification include an arboretum plan and governance group, more than 100 labeled trees and woody plants, paid staff and management, being open to the public, enhanced public and educational programs and a collection policy for manager of the plant collection.
The certification was provided by ArbNet Accreditation Program, the only international program of accreditation that is specific to arboreta. According to ArbNet, there are 2,092 arboreta worldwide in The Morton Register. Of these, only 457 have been accredited globally as arboretums in 35 countries. Of those 457, only 143 are Level II arboretums, including Swan Lake-Iris Gardens. Level IV is the highest accredited arboreta, with 33 out of the 457, according to ArbNet.
South Carolina alone has eight certified arboreta, all of which are Level I arboretums except for Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City (Level III), Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet (Level II) and Swan Lake-Iris Gardens.
"This is something that took quite a while," Harris said. "We're very proud of the hard work our folks have put into this to get us where we are."
Brock McDaniel, horticulturist and arborist for the City of Sumter, was a key asset in receiving the certification, along with many other city staff members, Harris said. "We started this process in 2016," McDaniel said. "It took us a year in order to get to the Level I." According to McDaniel, it took several groups and partnerships just to reach the Level I certification, which consisted of 25 different species of trees.
Today, with the help of many additional partnerships, Swan Lake houses more than 100 different species of trees and a total of 172 plants, McDaniel said. "It took a lot of hands from a lot of different areas to make this come to fruition," he said.
Harris said the City of Sumter has plans to have Swan Lake become a Level III arboretum next, but it may take another few years and helping hands to reach that certification.