Public gardens are struggling to gain support nationwide and it's heartbreaking to see, especially our local parks and gardens being subject to severe cuts. Working for one, I understand the dilemma and its made more apparent when colleagues are laid off or cut back and when our duties as gardeners are stretched out beyond what we were originally hired to do. Some would jump ship and not tolerate the work load and not being allowed to work overtime, while others, like myself, are simply fortunate to just even have a permanent half time job where I have some benefits and make enough to just get by along with my own small business on the side. It's hard for a lot of people looking for work and I often wish that I could be of more help to those who have asked me about work opportunities.
Me at the UW Botanic Gardens in one of the gardens I help maintain, speaking with a group of garden writers. (Thanks for the pic, Kelly!)
If you look pass the economic troubles we're all facing and think of the positive things we still have in our lives like friends and family and the activities that we can all engage in that don't cost any money, there's a lot of opportunities to truly enjoy some of the simpler things in life that are incredibly fulfilling. To me, public gardens provide many of those opportunities. Bringing plants and people together in a serene setting such as a public park is a time-honored tradition that spans many different cultures and walks of life. Think of the families out on a Sunday afternoon, a young couple sharing quality time on a blanket with a simple picnic, heck, even the homeless woman finds refuge and an occasional gesture of generosity within a public park. Find all the problems that coincide with that last example, but it still proves a point: public parks and gardens are a part of our needs as human beings to reconnect with nature, to feel safe, and feel like we belong on this planet.
Next month, we have an opportunity to meet a well-known figure in public gardens.
Lynden B. Miller is a public garden designer in New York City and director of The Conservatory Garden in Central Park, which she rescued and restored beginning in 1982. Her work includes gardens for The Central Park Zoo, Bryant Park, The New York Botanical Garden, Madison Square Park, Hudson River Park and Wagner Park in Battery Park City as well as many smaller projects in all five boroughs and beyond as well as several university campuses.
For almost 30 years, Mrs. Miller has focused on her belief that public open spaces with good well-maintained plantings can change city life. She has taken an entirely new approach to public horticulture by creating rich plantings that provide four seasons of interest.
Her award-winning book, "Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape" is inspirational and instructive about all aspects of creating and supporting beautiful public space.
She will speak at the 16th annual Miller Memorial Lecture at the University of Washington campus on September 15th at 7PM and I encourage people to come as it is free (please RSVP and learn more about the lecture here) and sure to be inspiring and beautiful.
Just learning more about her and the work that she does reminds me of why I pursued public horticulture as an undergrad. Cut the politics and bullcrap involved in working in one, you have to think of the big picture. Her motto is: "Make it gorgeous and they will come. Keep it that way and they will help"