Celebrating National Public Gardens Week- Why Public Gardens Matter

This week, we're celebrating National Public Gardens Week. Once per year, we recount and appreciate all of the aspects of public gardens that we love. While I, along with my coworkers are lucky enough to live this every day,  this year I thought it appropriate to take a deeper look at why we celebrate, and the history of Public Gardens.

The roots of Public Gardens are not near to us, rather they began in 16th century Italy.  Traced way back to the renaissance professors of botany and the faculty of medicine, by which plants were studied and used. The earliest public gardens were none other than medicinal gardens. Plants were a way of life, a token of health and a necessity.

Entry path to lower garden through Hardwood Hammock- Pinecrest Gardens

 While our society has changed greatly, and it's true most people don't look to plants for their medicinal properties with the advancement of modern medicine, plants are still celebrated. The purpose of botanical gardens changed from the 16-17th century medicinal gardens to gardens of  broad, botany focused presentations. Gardens started featuring displays of beautiful, strange, new and economically significant plants, built not only by scholars, but people of all character. As people started to discover uses of plants outside of medicine, they built gardens.

What are Public Gardens?
Today, Public Gardens are defined by American Public Gardens Association as "an institution that maintains collections of plants for the purposes of public education and enjoyment, in addition to research, conservation and higher learning. It must be open to the public, and the gardens resources and accommodations must be made to all visitors." 

On field trips with students who have never been to a Botanical Garden, I simplify this definition as- it's like a zoo, but for plants.  The plants have a name, a place where they live, they are cared for, and people come to learn about and enjoy them.

Today, Public Gardens are not just about plants. They are a place where culture and art exists, a community gathering space, a place to eat, to learn, and to engage. Just as they have in the past, Public Gardens continue to adapt. Plants remain at their core, but in a community sense, they are so much more.

 Upper Garden pergola and staircase- Pinecrest Gardens

Public Gardens at their core provide a resource of conservation.  Supporting and maintaining collections are at the heart of what they do. Preserving plant biodiversity is wildly important, especially for economically valuable, or culturally significant species.  Many gardens, ours included, will share specimens with other botanical gardens to better preserve collections. This allows the plant genetics to persist, and provide reserves of the species in the event of a natural disaster or other unknown threat.

Public Gardens are a refuge, a green space.  Now more than ever, we seem to be drawn to the outdoors. More and more people are taking up vegetable gardening, becoming familiar with their backyards, seeking leisurely walks in the outdoors. Public Gardens offer a space to deepen the relationship with nature. Many gardens offer recreationally driven festivals to reach new members of the community. Volunteer programs in botanical gardens are especially important, because they anchor community and give back to the garden. Many gardens also host weddings, parties and events. We're a community space, a refuge and a place for everybody.

Public Gardens are a hub for education.  Many gardens offer collegiate and post-graduate programs for studying plants, ecology, and the like. Being a center for learning, Gardens attract those who are engaged in the community and learning.  Aside from collegiate level learning, most gardens offer programs for people of all ages. Programming may include hands on garden workshops, society meetings, nature schooling, art classes, field trips, community outreach and more.

Education in the Gardens- Pinecrest Gardens

Botanical Gardens offer historical insight of land and people.  The first Botanical Garden of the United States was founded in 1730 in Philadelphia-the birthplace of our nation, and the birthplace of Public Gardens for us. From there, Public Gardens spread all across the continent. Pinecrest Gardens was established as a park, Parrot Jungle in 1936. Today, the garden still celebrates its history of Parrot Jungle, and many of the plants on our property are original. Our Cypress and Oak Trees are centuries old, the waterways remain unchanged, and some flora that fills the garden remains the same from the original days as Parrot Jungle. Our garden, like many others respects the history of the land, and gives the public an idea of what lived here before we did.

Botanical Gardens act as cultural stages. For as long as there have been people, there have been people using plants to their benefit. Medicinally, as food, for trade and for shelter, people rely on plants. Exploring our history with plants in a region opens Botanical Gardens up to cultural awareness of how people connected to the landscape, and still do. Today, many Public Gardens have theme gardens paying tribute to the people that lived here before, or offer music and performances in the garden setting. At Pinecrest Gardens, we have an amphitheater that allows us to program concerts, dance and theater in the garden. The space was previously known as the Parrot Bowl, from the Parrot Jungle days, again offering a glimpse at our past and what role our garden plays culturally.

Banyan Bowl Ampitheater, Formerly known as Parrot Bowl- Pinecrest Gardens

Public Gardens are a resource. To a community, Public Gardens are a place to learn, play, enjoy, and participate.  The benefits of Public Gardens are not quantifiable, but they are abundant. In celebration, we welcome National Public Gardens Week to highlight the beauty of our garden, and of gardens across the nation.

Join us in celebrating Public Gardens. Come visit us. We're open today and every day. If you'd like to support us a little further, become a member, become a volunteer, attend a class or performance.

Public Gardens bring in an estimated 3 million dollars per day nationally. Many gardens are feeling the downfalls of the pandemic, slowly working to bounce back and re-open. We're in the same boat.  APGA has very generously provided a platform for donations, this week only, March 8-17th.  If you feel so inclined, you can donate to Pinecrest Gardens, and other gardens all across the nation.
Visit the APGA Donation Platform to make a donation.
Your patronage means the world to us!

Meadow Garden: Jatropha multifida- Pinecrest Gardens


  1. Pinecrest Gardens has so much to offer, so much beauty and so much history


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