State Of Botanical Gardens A Red Flag

The drive on Euclid Avenue east of Downtown Cleveland takes you past some of the city’s finest parts. As Public Square fades in the distance, spiraling concrete planters containing sweet potato vine, green fountain grass and trailing impatiens appear.

As East Fourth Street flashes by on your right, coleus, New Guinea impatiens, torenias and spider plants greet you in one of Cleveland’s few up-and-coming entertainment and residential districts. But continue on Euclid, past East 30th or so, and Cleveland’s harsh inner-city reality hits you. Dilapidated homes and abandoned buildings now litter one of America’s once great cities. Between Cleveland State University (on the edge of downtown) and the Cleveland Clinic (100 blocks east of downtown), the scene is one most people avoid. They avoid it because the beautiful cityscape of coleus and concrete planters gives way to commotion and crime.

Fortunately, soon after you pass the Cleveland Clinic, another one of Cleveland’s jewels appears: University Circle, home to a natural history museum, a nationally renowned art museum and the Cleveland Botanical Garden, which features an 18,000-square-foot greenhouse and covers 10 acres outdoors.

Still, one apparently growing botanical garden problem–everywhere, not just in Cleveland–is that botanical gardens are not catering to the “gardening public.” These days, botanical gardens are looking for people who go to art museums and zoos. They’re hosting concerts and food festivals to reel in new visitors. Gardening is going by the wayside.

Judith H. Dobrzynski of The New York Times points this trend out in her July 26 article, “Botanical Gardens Look For New Lures.” The Cleveland Botanical Garden, for example, hosted a biennial Flower Show over the last quarter century–and the event regularly drew as many as 30,000 visitors. Last year, though, the botanical garden couldn’t find sponsors for the show, and it was ultimately abandoned. So what gives?

“Botanical gardens are experiencing an identity crisis,” Dobrzynski writes. “Among the long-term factors diminishing their traditional appeal are fewer women at home and less interest in flower gardening among younger fickle, multitasking generations.”

The greenhouse floriculture industry may shrug at this development and think of botanical gardens as separate from greenhouse operations. But the truth is botanical gardens serve on the front line to consumers. Botanical gardens provide inspiration, and inspiration, in many cases, leads to purchasing.

We’ve known long enough our industry is fighting an uphill battle with consumers. Now, one of our greatest resources to connect with consumers is conflicted.

On the bright side, concerts and food festivals are at least attracting visitors to botanical gardens. But the botanical garden’s primary draw should be plants, just as the natural history museum’s draw is artifacts and the art museum’s draw is artwork.

Saving Ourselves

Back in the car, driving east from Cleveland, you get a taste of the good our industry does. Unfortunately, the bulk of the journey along Euclid reminds you our industry can do more.

Botanical gardens can do more to promote gardening, as well, but it’s also our responsibility to do a better job connecting with working women and young people who could care less about our craft. If we don’t do a better job, our next home will be the natural history museum–because gardening will be extinct.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here’s How Growers Will Benefit

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Ball, Tagawa Succulents Partnership

September 14, 2017

Ball Seed to Partner With Tagawa Greenhouses on New Succulent Offerings

The new program includes in-demand retail products that are popular with younger shoppers, allowing growers to easily build a comprehensive succulent program and stay on-trend in the marketplace.

Read More
Strait-Laced Elderberry

September 10, 2017

Check Out the Top Varieties On Display at Farwest 2017

A panel of plant experts, along with show attendees, selected their favorite offerings during the Farwest 2017 New Varieties Showcase.

Read More
Latest Stories
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here&…

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Ball, Tagawa Succulents Partnership

September 14, 2017

Ball Seed to Partner With Tagawa Greenhouses on New Suc…

The new program includes in-demand retail products that are popular with younger shoppers, allowing growers to easily build a comprehensive succulent program and stay on-trend in the marketplace.

Read More
Strait-Laced Elderberry

September 10, 2017

Check Out the Top Varieties On Display at Farwest 2017

A panel of plant experts, along with show attendees, selected their favorite offerings during the Farwest 2017 New Varieties Showcase.

Read More

September 5, 2017

Hort Couture Announces New Propagation and Broker Partn…

The new grower-propagator partners are deeply vested in the independent garden center channel with propagation expertise, as well as finished production focused on the independent grower.

Read More
Helianthus Sunfinity (Syngenta Flowers)

September 3, 2017

Growing Tips for Helianthus Sunflower ‘Sunfinity…

This annual sunflower is a profuse bloomer with strong branching that produces multiple flowers per plant from spring to fall.

Read More
Ball Seed Field Day 2017

September 2, 2017

Highlights from Ball Seed’s Annual Field Day and Landsc…

Attendees of the one-day event had the opportunity to see new plants in up-close-and-personal trials, and engage with speakers and product experts.

Read More
Bidens Popstar (Kientzler)

August 31, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why I’ve Become a Fan of Bidens

The rather boring plant with mundane daisy-yellow flowers has morphed into a vigorous plant carrying colorful flowers that seems to be comfortable in most of the country.

Read More

August 29, 2017

27 New Impatiens for Spring Color in 2018

Gardeners love impatiens because they are one of the few plants that offer stand-out, splashy blooms for shady areas, and in some cases full sun. There's no shortage of new introductions this year to choose from for your 2018 product mix. Here are 27 new and improved varieties to consider offering to your customers.  

Read More
Calandiva kalanchoes (Dümmen Orange) Feature

August 28, 2017

Lifestyle Plants Are in Full Bloom for Consumers

The latest decorating trends indicate consumers want hassle-free, colorful plants with big flowers — and growers are finding unique ways to cash in on these luxury-item sales.

Read More
Cuphea Fairy Dust Pink (Proven Winners) feature

August 26, 2017

Kelly Norris: Noteworthy Plants That Caught My Attentio…

Imagine the modern consumer getting so excited about a new plant that they shared the experience with a friend, perhaps not even a fellow gardening consumer.

Read More

August 20, 2017

Proven Winners and Kentucky Nursery and Landscape Assoc…

This year, KNLA is combining its summer outing with the Proven Winners Landscape Roadshow for an informative event that will take place on September 21.

Read More
Four Star 2018 Catalog

August 18, 2017

Four Star Greenhouses’ 2018 Catalog Includes New Variet…

The new catalog is available in both print and digital formats, and features information on new trays that allow for more plugs per square foot.

Read More
Francis Kwong, PanAmerican Seed

August 15, 2017

Ornamental Seed Scientist Francis Kwong Dies at Age 65

Kwong was most recently the Director of Seed Technology for PanAmerican Seed, and his research was instrumental in the development of calibrachoa, angelonia, and other plants.

Read More
Candy Tops Snapdragons Series (Sakata Ornamentals)

August 3, 2017

Five Characteristics Breeders Want in Top-Performing Sp…

New spring annuals have to provide something for everyone — longevity, durability, performance, and more — if they want to meet breeders’ high standards for market-worthy plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Headliner Pink Sky" (Selecta)

August 3, 2017

Why Eccentricity is the New Black in Spring Annuals

Consumers judge plants by appearance, color impact, and ease of maintenance, which is why retailers want new spring annuals that are novel standouts.    

Read More

August 1, 2017

39 New Vegetables and Herbs for 2018

New vegetable and herb introductions for 2017 offer unique shaped fruits, distinctive foliage, intense flavors, improved disease resistance, high yields, and more. Here are 39 new vegetable and herb varieties to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More
2018 Griffin Catalog

July 31, 2017

Griffin Releases Print and Digital Versions of Its 2018…

The 250-page print catalog features more than 350 new varieties from leading breeders, while the enhanced digital version has extra features on crop culture, grower tools, and more.

Read More
Emerald-Coast-Growers-Guide-Feature-Image

July 27, 2017

Emerald Coast Growers Offers Updated Guide on its Newes…

This year’s guide features new varieties while maintaining Emerald Coast’s ornamental grass program and expanding its perennial plants line.

Read More