American Public Gardens-Annual Conference: Rooted in Resilience

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Grounds Maintenance Supervisor Attends American Public Gardens Association Annual Conference 2024: Rooted in Resilience

Article courtesy of Kevin Cassel, Arboretum Grounds Supervisor

Our Arboretum Grounds Maintenance Supervisor, Kevin Cassel, attended the American Public Gardens Association annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts. It was another great conference filled with professionals from all areas of public garden administration, curation, and maintenance. This year’s theme was “Rooted in Resilience” which orbited around sustainable practices and how public gardens can weather the proverbial storm regarding climate change, financial security, and member engagement.

people touring Naumkeag Estate; waling on path within garden

On Monday, June 24th, Kevin attended a tour of three botanical gardens throughout western Massachusetts and eastern New York, aptly named “The Botanical Berkshires”. First stop was Naumkeag, a 48-acre country estate of the Choate Family started in 1884. This garden offered excellent insight into some of the challenges historical estate gardens are faced with and how they are able to bridge the gap between history’s intent and the practicality of gardening in the 21st century. Next stop was the Berkshire Botanical Garden, one of New England’s oldest botanical gardens. Kevin left this garden with a renewed sense of what environmental education programs can and should be with dedicated spaces and invested infrastructure to facilitate engagement of youth and gardening. Lastly, the tour ended at Rockland Farm, a private estate envisioned by Ian and Madeline Hooper. These gardens were the epitome of making the most with the space you have. This garden likely had an endless financial support to make it possible, but in visiting this garden, Kevin was reminded that a garden is not static and to not be afraid of making changes especially if something has failed or is failing.

artwork of owls on rock located in Berkshire Botanical Gardens

Tuesday-Thursday was packed full of speakers and presentations sharing their stories of success, failures, and everything in between. Tuesday focused on presentations about leadership and plant collections management. Wednesday focused more on living art where Kevin came away with some great ideas for new garden spaces which may be useful during building re-design here at our arboretum and gardens. Also, a very good presentation by Arnold Arboretum, Chicago Botanic, and the National Arboretum on all things bonsai management and curation. The day was finished with learning of success and failure about team building and project management. Thursday held talks about managing meadow plantings and engagement practices around urban agriculture.

large bonsai tree located in Arnold Arboretum

Friday, the Arnold Arboretum hosted an open house for all conference attendees interested. Kevin was able to meander a little less than half of the 280-acre, world renowned, tree collections. Words can not describe the forethought the originators had to envision such a place. Some insightful conversations were had with their bonsai curator where Kevin gained a lot of information on bonsai care, collections, and security of bonsai facilities.

The conference was filled with so many professionals in the industry, all who were happy and willing to share stories of success and failure. Next year’s conference will be held in Denver, Colorado – can’t wait!