Planting the seeds…
Last January, I nervously stepped into the Queens Botanical Garden on my first day as Executive Director. There were over 100 seniors safely practicing Tai Chi in the crisp air. Red winterberry bushes provided pops of color across the landscape and a food source for the creatures who call the Garden home. Staff graciously welcomed me and took the time to teach me all about the incredible work we do as the place where people, plants, and cultures meet.
Nearly a year later, I pinch myself at how fortunate I am to be at such a special place, with such a special team, in service to our community, our city, and our ecosystem. I’m continually amazed at how much we do on our 39 acres to truly live our mission all throughout the year!
In February 2022, we let the Year of the Tiger roar in. Despite below freezing temperatures, over 2,000 people of all backgrounds celebrated Lunar New Year and hoped for good luck as we adjusted to the next phase of the pandemic. When spring arrived, the 10,000+ tulips planted by volunteers the previous autumn bloomed and together with our Cherry and Crabapple trees, blanketed our Garden with bursts of colorful optimism. Our Horticulture staff planted 25 sapling trees, including two American Chestnuts which have been functionally extinct due to blight. Nurturing our Garden means that we not only tend to the present, but also think about the future.
Our children are the future, and we jumped for joy when public school field trips resumed in May after a two-year hiatus. The first school bus pulled up and out came children who were ecstatic to see trees, birds, flowers, and plain old grass they could roll around on.
Sustainability – and addressing climate change – has been a critical part of our work for decades. As the only NYC botanical garden that is 100% organic (every weed is pulled by hand!), QBG also pioneered green buildings, operations, and landscaping that ensures we steward the land, water, and resources responsibly. That core commitment to sustainability was amplified through new dynamic public programs, including our Climate Arts Festival in April and Compost-Pa-Looza in September, as well as sustainable agriculture practiced on our one-acre farm and the compost we process on site and distribute free to the public!
We saw record-breaking numbers for signature public programs including Taiwan: A World of Orchids and Halloween (over 5,000 visitors for each) and celebrated the rich diversity of our community through our Queens at the Garden Pride Event and first-ever commemoration of Indigenous People’s Day. Moreover, our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee solidified a Living Land Acknowledgement which pays respect to the Matinecock people and took steps to make our Garden more accessible and inclusive to people of all backgrounds and abilities.
Our work never stops! Soon we will break ground on a fully funded $32 million Education Center and $1 million Outdoor Pavilion which will vastly expand and enrich our programming. Additionally, with over $1.9 million secured in June through the City Council, we will soon begin planning a new Pavilion Garden to beautify the College Point Boulevard side of QBG with a spectacular collection of plants, flowers, shrubs, and landscaping features.
There’s no way I can capture all that we do in one letter, but I do know that none of it would be possible without your support. Free to low-cost programs, modest admission fees, ample free hours, organic gardening practices, sustainable green operations, quality staff, and outstanding botanical exhibits all require tremendous resources. Through our public-private partnership with the City of New York, we only receive about 34% of the funding we need to operate.
So please, consider making a tax-deductible gift to support the crown jewel of open space in Queens. Help us take the Garden, so lovingly nurtured by my predecessor Susan Lacerte, to the next level. Together, we will plant the seeds to nourish more hearts and minds and elevate our stature as an exemplary botanical garden for all to enjoy. Thank you for your support, and best wishes for 2023!