Botanical gardens aren’t just looking for gardeners to come visit them these days. They’re looking for people who go to art museums and zoos.
So says Pat Matheson, the executive director of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, who’s quoted in a New York Times story last month in which author Judith H. Dobrzynski explores how botanical gardens across the United States are pulling the reins back on gardening and looking for new ways to attract visitors.
Gardening is, of course, still a primary draw of botanical gardens. But botanical garden directors are turning to food festivals, concerts and sculptures to draw crowds that used to visit solely for the showcase of flowers.
Times change, though.
“There’s a generation that will be less interested in gardens, but that generation is incredibly interested in what’s happening with the planet,” Daniel J. Stark, executive director of the public gardens association told The New York Times. “Recently, my own two daughters, and a friend, were reading me the riot act about cutting down some trees.”
Shockingly, Stark’s daughters are 4 and 8. And if they already care enough to preserve trees, our industry needs to be front and center explaining to them why gardening is just as vital.
The same should be the case for our nation’s botanical gardens. Food festivals and concerts shouldn’t be the primary motivation for visiting them. Plants should be the primary purpose, while events add value to the botanical garden experience.
Unfortunately, we have work to do to convince next generations gardening is worth the effort and our botanical gardens are worth a visit. The two go hand in hand, of course. So let the state of our botanical gardens serve as yet another reminder that gardening, in general, needs a boost.
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