Organizatins: State Botanical Garden Of Georgia
Originally founded to serve the academic needs of the University of Georgia, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBG), which kicked off its 40th anniversary celebration last month, has excelled at its original goal. In the process, it has become not only a showpiece, but a living learning experience for residents statewide.
Sited on 300 acres just three miles from the UGA campus, the SBG comprises themed gardens – international, native flora, shade, heritage and flower – and several special collections (native azaleas, conifers and rhododendrons). The Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center & Conservatory, which Jeff Lewis, director and UGA Professor of Horticulture, refers to as the garden’s centerpiece, features a permanent collection of tropical plants, many of them endangered species. More than five miles of nature trails traverse the site, which is also home to the Day Chapel and headquarters for the Garden Club of Georgia.
The SBG’s concern for endangered species isn’t limited to exotic specimens. Many of its research activities are performed in conjunction with the Georgia Plant Conserva-tion Alliance (GPCA), a national network of botanical gardens, state and federal agencies, universities and conservation organizations. Projects have included habitat restoration for the federally endangered smooth purple coneflower, developing the SERPIN website (Southeast Rare Plant Information Network) and pitcher plant bog restoration, among others.
In keeping with the garden’s public education mission, staffers conduct a variety of workshops and classes, many of them directed toward students and teachers.
The SBG receives funding from individual, corporate and foundation sources. That support is critical, says Lewis, who has a clear view of what it will take to carry the garden to the half-century mark, and beyond. “From a facilities standpoint, it’s unquestionably the need for a new horticulture complex – a behind-the-scenes greenhouse/nursery/maintenance complex to serve the needs of a modern botanical garden,” he says.
Members of the public can help the SBG achieve its goals as well; anyone is welcome to join Friends of the Garden, a nonprofit support organization founded in 1972. The SBG’s annual fund-raising gala, the Gardens of the World Ball, is set for May 3 in the conservatory. – Shannon Wilder