February 2022

by Brandi Eide, Deputy CEO and Senior Director for Horticulture and Facilities

As the new year begins, we are excitedly preparing for upcoming projects, and thankful for recent accomplishments. We kicked off the year with a celebration; the Garden was awarded a grant for new signage in the Bamboo Garden from the American Bamboo Society-Southern California Chapter. This award comes on the heels of a grant we received in late 2021 from the Ned Jaquith Foundation to increase visibility and educational programming about bamboo through the project “From Roots to Shoots and Beyond.” 

The Garden’s extensive bamboo collection is the largest in any North American public garden. It was nationally accredited in 2013 by the American Public Gardens Association’s Plant Collections Network. This collection can serve as a reference for plant identification and for research including taxonomic studies, evaluation, and breeding. Originating with the founding of the American Bamboo Society at the Garden in 1979, SDBG’s bamboo collection currently consists of around 140 taxa (species and cultivars) from Asia, the Himalayas, Mexico, Central and South America, and Africa. In addition to highlighting bamboo’s ornamental value in gardens, the collection celebrates the plant group’s long history of use by humans and its cultural significance. 

We are excited to share that we will be upgrading the Bamboo Garden and both New and Old World Desert Gardens this year to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. This path will connect to the Lawn Garden, as we continually increase the contiguous areas with ADA access. Several generous donors, and support from the County make this project possible. Recent improvements throughout the Garden include some obvious projects like the repaving of many main paths, to some less obvious, like ongoing improvements to our propagation nursery, buildings and irrigation systems. Like plant roots, not all are visible, but all are vital in keeping the Garden healthy and growing, while improving the visitor experience. 

One interesting, behind-the-scenes story is about Banksia praemorsa, a gorgeous Australian shrub. Most Banksia are native to fire-prone areas, and have developed strategies for regeneration after fires. Propagating this plant from seed takes some coaxing and skill. The seed is protectively stored in thick pods, which only open in extreme heat (in nature, fires), or lengthy periods of extreme drought. To open the follicles and access the seeds, we baked the pods we collected in an oven, and then carefully picked out the seeds and sowed them. It’s always miraculous to watch any plant emerge from seed; however, the variation between seedlings can sometimes be remarkable. Several of these plants are now growing in our landscape, each very unique in appearance. Due to the success of this project, we have started another seed lot in the nursery. The Garden will either use the additional plants in the landscape or share them with other organizations. This is but one example of the incredible work that goes on at the Garden to perpetuate and preserve species for generations to come. 

In all, our horticulture team works hard to care for more than 14,000 individual plants spanning 37 acres, with nearly 5,300 unique taxa, several of which are threatened or endangered. During the past year, we have added over 2,200 new plants throughout the Garden, including more than 45 cycads, which expanded the breadth of this already significant collection. Along with staff, we have a dedicated crew of volunteers who assist in maintaining the Garden. Last year kicked off our “World of” series of plant exhibitions, featuring orchids in the spring and bromeliads in the summer. These month-long displays highlighted the diversity and beauty of both plant groups, in stunning displays within the Dickinson Family Education Conservatory. Watch for upcoming “World of” exhibitions this year. 

In 2022, we also look forward to further developing and growing our collections for stellar horticultural displays, world-class science, conservation, and education. As we continue to showcase a dynamic and living public laboratory at the Garden, we invite you to join us in creating, sharing, and applying plant wisdom in our world. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming events and exhibitions!