Message from the Director – June 2010
During my summer vacations as a child, I would spend several enjoyable weeks at my grandparent’s house. They had been dairy farmers and the property still had several chicken coups and a hay barn. Every morning my grandfather would rise early and one of his first acts of the day was to open the front door. I was never certain as to why this was part of his ritual, nor did it ever occur to me at the time to ask. In reflection, I suppose it was a gesture that all were invited into their home. They were a very open and giving couple. Today, part of my daily ritual is to open the entrance gates around 7:00 am at Rutgers Gardens. I frequently think of my grandparents as I open the gates. Yes, the signage states that the Gardens open at 8:00, but – as I assume was my grandfathers’ intent – I truly want all to be welcome!
August 2010 marks my 5th year as Director of Rutgers Gardens. I must admit, it has been a very rewarding and satisfying 5 years! In my initial Message, I noted many of the objectives that I hoped to see materialize over the coming years at the Gardens. Gradually, many of those objectives are coming to fruition and the shape of the future, whether it be physical or programmatic, is becoming clearer. No doubt influenced by my youthful visits to a farm, I firmly believe that children as well as adults should understand how plants function. Everyone should be able to grow plants, not only for ornamental appeal, but for dietary purposes as well! As the adult education classes and the various children’s programs have developed, it has been gratifying to see the Gardens begin to fulfill these educational goals.
It has also been rewarding to watch the Gardens student internship and volunteer programs develop. Thanks to the efforts of the Horticultural Manager (Monica McLaughlin) and Gardens Superintendent (Matt Jamicky), along with several generous donations, the internship program is becoming more refined and will see the commencement of a student plant breeding program beginning in 2011. Our volunteers have always been and will continue to be a major lifeblood of the Gardens. Between helping with the events and assisting with the care of the Gardens, the growth of the Volunteer Program has, in return, allowed the Gardens to grow!
As I move into the second five years, my intent is to see the development of a more obvious front door for the morning openings and further enhancement of the Gardens facilities. By a more obvious front door, I refer to a very Eco-friendly Horticultural/Visitors Center at the entrance to the Gardens. Through classrooms and displays (both inside and out), the facility will allow the community and the faculty from within the University to better understand plants and plant communities. Additional development within the Gardens will see the creation of a pedestrian path system that will not impact or alter the current feeling of innocence – as I often refer to it – that the Gardens offers the visitor. In other words, the path system should not dictate where a person should travel, but to merely provide an opportunity to venture in a particular direction. Facilities such as a Conservatory and Horticultural Therapy Garden are also on the list of additions!
Granted, these dreams will not be fulfilled over the next 5 years! However, it will happen and I am committed to seeing Rutgers Gardens develop further into a facility that truly provides mentally nurturing and physically beautiful displays for all to enjoy. As always, I welcome your thoughts about the present and future focus of the Gardens. As is typical of any public garden, it is a work in progress and is shaped by both professional designers as well as those within the community that use and benefit from the Gardens. If you have questions about the Gardens, the proposed additions or you wish to contribute funding to any of these projects, please write or call. If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Gardens, I sincerely hope you will visit our 180 acre facility soon. For those that have visited, I encourage you to return frequently to see our developments. After all, the front door is opened early so that all are welcome!