Celebrations have to be made, troubles come by themselves.
– Russian Proverb
National Public Garden Day is May 7. This is only the 2nd year the America Public Garden Association, (APGA)formerly the American Association of Botanical Gardens & Arboretahas sponsored this event. This group founded in 1940 has 500 institutional members from all 50 states, Washington DC, Canada, & 24 other countries. Our local Desert Botanical Garden is a member and will celebrate the event with educational presentations, kids activities and special tours. The mission of the APGA is to support the professionals who work to keep our public gardens flourishing and provide access to horticultural displays, education, research and plant conservation.
There are no shortages of national celebratory days, May 1st is National Fitness Day, May 23 is World Turtle Day, everyday is a chance to celebrate something! Yet after the celebration our gardens are facing troubling times. Funding cuts are pruning programs, hours of operation and plant conservation efforts. Our gardens, parks, and public spaces need constant care and watchfulness to provide future garden lovers a chance to enjoy these public treasures. Supporting our gardens with our interest, volunteer time and advocating for their importance are some of the ways we can help. The easiest thing we can do is visit gardens regularly, attendance numbers matter to the garden administrators and help to verify public interest and benefits. A more important effort we must make is to recruit a first time garden visitor! Invite a young person to come with you to visit your favorite park or garden. Appeal to their advocacy for caring for our planet, our environment. Tempt them, bride them with a free lunch if you must but get them to come along and explore what wonders can be found outside the mall, the internet and video game consoles. In our hurried lives we gardeners may long to stop and smell the roses but we maybe walking alongside a generation unaware of how roses grow.
Among our vegetables and flowers we must grow future garden lovers. In Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods he writes of teens frightened by the openness of nature, fearful of wildness and unpredictability. Recently a twenty something said to me “I don’t do that outside stuff!” While another wore a t-shirt with the message “Dear Mother Earth, our generation is going to take better care of you than our parents did!” Perhaps it is in our gardens we can find the atmosphere for dialogue of complex ideas and walk on common ground.
The American Horticultural Guide to America’s Gardens says it best, “America’s public gardens are extraordinary places.” An introduction to remarkable plants, small animals, majestic trees, scents of herbs, textures and sounds offer a different reality show. Nature’s special effects can trump digital animation if we see the real thing.
originally published in Roots & Shoots