It’s a fact that botanical gardens have to keep on their toes to attract visitors throughout the year. Just as with art museums, a great collection is not enough. In addition to the traditional special events, like orchid, mum, spring flower, coleus, and poinsettia shows, there must be model trains, bright lights in winter, Santa, (maybe) the Easter Bunny, rentals, fundraising, and—increasingly—dramatic displays like a yearly showing of Amorphophallus titanium, the corpse plant.
That’s a lot of visitors and a lot of revenue—not hard to see why gardens would find it difficult to resist cultivating and exhibiting this plant (which doesn’t sound easy). I don’t really like crowds at our gardens—the beautiful Lord and Burnham greenhouses are best enjoyed when there is normal visitation, especially in summer—so I gave Morty a miss this time. I have attended and enjoyed other special events there including the interior LED light show in winter.
But there are things that I’d enjoy even more at our garden. Some of them are happening—a “healing garden” now under construction will expand the outdoor plantings in an interesting way, adding native and nonnative species and a bioswale. It is meant to add to the areas where visitors can enjoy exterior plantings, which have been somewhat limited, as the garden is set inside a county park. Many of the plants have medicinal connections. Someday, the park may yield more space to the garden, and more plantings like this will be possible.
But it also seems as though botanical institutions like this could be centers for learning about the bigger issues surrounding plants—some of which we discuss on this website regularly. They could be resources for gardeners to learn about beautiful and sustainable ways to plant their domestic landscapes. I think some gardens do this—Brooklyn’s comes to mind. I love the exotic, but it should be mixed with a healthy dose of the everyday.