Getting started with QR Codes in your garden

IrisBG is a complete botanical collection management solution for Botanical Gardens and Large Estates. In addition to keeping your plant records up to date, IrisBG also supports numerous ways of producing your plant labels. In this article, we will describe how you can use IrisBG to produce plant labels with QR codes.

What are QR Codes?

A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a type of matrix barcode first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside the industry due to its fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data. The QR Code may contain information such as a web address, normal text, contact information, Geographic information, business card details etc. With QR Code scanning software available on most modern smartphones, QR codes have been taken up by the marketing industry and by visitor attractions such as museums and botanic gardens.

How can I use QR Codes in my garden?

There are many ways to use this technology. We believe one of the most important reasons for using QR codes, is to enhance the visitor’s experience by making more information available to them. This should not be seen as a replacement of the traditional garden labels, but as a supplement. Also, one must bear in mind that QR codes will exclude visitors who do not have a smartphone. On the other hand, this type of technology can make it much easier to create enthusiasm and interest among younger visitors, such as school children and students. As of July 2011, 35% of American adults own a smartphone according to Pew Research Center, and most forecast’s predicts a steady growth in smartphone adoption worldwide.

In this article, we will focus on the QR Code implementation that is directly supported by IrisBG.

QR Code support in IrisBG

In the diagram below we have tried to illustrate a classic scenario using QR Codes with IrisBG. We will discuss each step in more detail in the following chapters.

  1. The garden staff will prepare the plant records in IrisBG. At this stage, you may consider adding links from the taxa information to other web resources such as Wikipedia.
  2. The garden staff updates the internet Garden Explorer with the latest data. At this stage QR Code web references are automatically updated to all relevant taxa in your plant collection.
  3. Labels with QR Codes are produced and placed out in the garden.
  4. Visitors can now scan the QR Code. The smartphone will navigate directly to the Garden Explorer page for the relevant taxon.
    1. The visitor can see details and photos of the taxon.
    2. He/she can read more in depth articles available from other web resources where available.
    3. The visitor can be informed that this plant is for sale in the garden shop.

In addition to integration with IrisBG Garden Explorer, IrisBG mobile can also be used to scan the QR Codes. IrisBG mobile is used by garden staff to update the data records for the plant collection whilst out in the garden. With a Garden Explorer QR code present, the employee can use IrisBG mobile to scan the code, and the data record for the accession is retrieved.

Preparing QR Code information in IrisBG

Details about the QR Code URL Web address can be found in the Taxa screen (see below). You can supply your own URL or it can be a web address to the Garden Explorer page for that taxa. When you upload data to Garden Explorer, all relevant taxa will automatically be given their respective URL. The web address will always stay the same for each taxa, even when there is a name change.

Producing labels with QR Codes

With IrisBG you can produce garden labels

  1. Using mail merge with Microsoft Word Templates
  2. Or by exporting label data to a spread sheet or other file format supported by your label printer.

When using Microsoft Word Templates, IrisBG can generate QR Codes directly into the produced Word document. If you are exporting label details to file, the label printing software will need to have the capability to produce the QR Code from the QR Code URL that will be available in the exported file.

IrisBG Garden Explorer on a Smartphone

IrisBG Garden Explorer is designed to adapt to the browser platform the visitor is using. With the use of QR Codes, the Garden Explorer will be opened in the web browser on the smartphone. In the example on the right, you will see the taxon page for Ginkgo biloba after the QR code has been scanned.Garden Explorer on device

Things to consider before you begin

  • Try to make the QR Codes as big as possible. 2’’ (5cm) square is a good start, but the bigger the better.
  • Try out different sizes before you decide.
  • Try to have as short a web address to your Garden Explorer as possible. With longer URL’s, the QR Code will automatically be more detailed and, therefore, more difficult to scan.
  • Remember that if you move your Garden Explorer web address, you will have to replace all the QR Codes.
  • Try out the example label on the first page.


We are very excited about QR Codes and believe that this fabulous technology is very well suited to enhance the visitor experience in any botanical garden.
We will gladly assist you, if would like more information or to discuss in more detail how this technology can be used in your garden.

More details

IrisBG Garden Explorer

IrisBG Mobile:



QR Code features, Denso-Wave:

Why isn’t everyone using QR Codes:

35% of American Adults Own a Smartphone, Pew Research Center:

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