Botanic Garden or Theme Park?


Today’s New York Times contains an article titled “Botanical Gardens Are Turning Away from Flowers”. The reporter claims that:

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.

Women at home are the base? Considering that gardening is the number one hobby of doctors, I think this reporter is conjuring up a 1950’s image,  when garden clubs  were more social networks than serious horticultural societies, and meetings took place at 11:00 in the morning. Still, the idea that a younger generation is unable to put down the cell phone long enough to enjoy the beauties of nature suggests that we need to reconsider the many negative implications that technology can have when we allow it to become an addiction.

English Walled Garden image courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

The article goes on to say:  “Food festivals are becoming a large part of the year-round programming that gardens view as important to winning repeat visitors,” which makes me wonder why food needs to be an ever-present feature of our activities. Have you ever seen a dedicated gardener who is overweight? Probably not, because that person is burning up calories working outdoors. And then we wonder why we have a problem with obesity in this country.

Gardens may be museums, as the article claims, but, if so, they should be the Art Institute of Chicago, not the Museum of Science and Industry. A garden is a work of art, created by artists. It renews and refreshes the spirit in a way that only great art achieves. A garden is visual, and olfactory, and sensory; if water is added as a feature, it can even be musical.

Our public gardens serve as a source of inspiration for gardeners. Where else can you go to actually view plants that might do well in your own garden? Sometimes we notice that certain public garden plants are struggling, and that, too, is a valuable piece of information for the home artist. But a Chocolate Festival? Must we be constantly entertained? At what point does the relationship between public and private gardens become equivalent to the relationship between elevator music and a Mendelssohn symphony? Are flowers and shrubs and trees only to serve as backdrops for never-ending amusement? Not for me, at any rate, and I hope not for the readers of this blog.

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3 Responses to Botanic Garden or Theme Park?

  1. HT says:

    Not for me either. I wonder how the author explains the turnout at gardening shows? Believe me, there are all ages at our annual show, and at the Botanical gardens, and at the beautiful four public gardens around the city. Food festivals? Not sure I like that idea at all. Just more garbage generated requiring cleanup.

  2. HT says:

    P.S. the city in which I live have several food festivals throughout the year, but they usually take place on the streets (closed for the weekend) or on the city square, or in various venues throughout the city. For example, every year there is a huge ethnic celebration over a week, where each group finds their own venue (E.G. German Club, Ukranian Church etc) and presents arts, crafts, shows (dancing, singing etc) and food. You buy a passport, then make your way around to the different pavillions – it’s huge. Then at the beginning of august, there is the Greek festival (in addition to the multi ethnic one) and the street is closed for half a mile over a long weekend. There is food and entertainment. There are many more (we are a very multicultural city), so why would we want food festivals at the public gardens? People go to the gardens for peace and quiet, and to appreciate the beauty of nature, not to eat.

    • grayslady says:

      Well, it seems as though many of the botanic gardens have decided to compete with the summer festivals. If I want to go to a festival, I’ll go to a festival. I agree that gardens should provide an opportunity for relaxation and contemplation.

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