When the older generations' interest in roses gives way to the younger generations' focus on food, what's a botanical garden to do? Evolve, or risk losing funding altogether. The New York Times reports on a new wave of offerings and activities at botanical gardens around the country including green building, sustainable gardening and even cocktails inspired by nature.
In 2009, a lack of sponsors for America's largest outdoor garden show forced the Cleveland Botanical Garden to cancel its Flower Show, which had been a major attraction for the past quarter-century. Its 2010 replacement reflects a shift in thinking that extends far beyond the city of Cleveland — it's called “RIPE! Food & Garden Festival”, and celebrates locally grown food.
Attendance at the Atlanta Botanical Garden doubled after the debut of several new exhibits geared toward attracting more than just gardeners and horticulturalists. A canopy walk that travels 600 feet through the treetops at heights of up to 45 feet has proven popular since it opened in May, and a new edible garden and chef-staffed outdoor kitchen draw in hungry foodies.
Environmental considerations have also hurt the former stars of the show at places like L.A.'s Descanso Gardens, where a “fantasy forest” of stunning camellia flowers reaching up to 30 feet high is being considered for relocation to allow the woodlands to return to a native state. Descanso also recently opened the Camellia Lounge, where visitors can indulge in cocktails such as The Pollinator.
The green movement, economically driven interest in growing food, social shifts and changing demographics have all contributed to this transformation at botanical gardens.
“There’s a generation that will be less interested in gardens,” said Daniel J. Stark, executive director of the National Gardening Association, “but that generation is incredibly interested in what’s happening with the planet. Recently, my own two daughters, and a friend, were reading me the riot act about cutting down some trees.”