NOTE: The Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden and Alex Heveri's Glass in Flight will be unavailable to visitors March 4-8, due to trail improvements being made by the bayou bridge.
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MONTHLY E-NEWSLETTER INCLUDES EDUCATION, INSPIRATION, EVENT DETAILS

Once a month, the Houston Botanic Garden sends an email newsletter featuring events and classes, news on seasonal developments at the Garden, and educational content from horticulture experts. Subscribe to learn more about the Garden’s conservation efforts and to find ways to get involved as a steward of the natural world. 

Whether you’re a brand new member, a longtime donor or volunteer, or a casual gardening enthusiast, the newsletter has information to appeal to and inform readers with a variety of interests.

Check out the selected articles below from past enewsletters to learn something new, and get a feel for what you can expect when you subscribe.

Use the Join Our Mailing List box in the footer at the bottom right of every web page to make sure you stay up-to-date.

December 2023 – Celebrate With Us All Winter Long

It has been such a joy walking through Radiant Nature in the evenings seeing families, friends, and couples creating happy memories. Daytime visitors are enjoying the lanterns just as much — their colorful forms offer an equally rich experience in the light of day — while also getting to see all the flowering annuals, perennials, and shrubs throughout the Garden. Read the December 2023 enewsletter.

December 2023 Highlights:

Meet some of the lantern artists behind Radiant Nature.

Meet the artist working with volunteers to paint a large mural along the Sims Bayou Greenway under the bayou bridge.

Horticulture Help: Amaryllis

November 2023 – Surround Yourself With Nature’s Abundance

I’m delighted to share that my first month as the new President and CEO of the Houston Botanic Garden has been a busy one. We welcomed the stunning Glass in Flight exhibit, and, as if in response to our man-made artwork, nature is putting on its own show with bright blooms of Solidago (goldenrod) painting the Garden’s prairieland yellow. Read the November 2023 enewsletter.

November 2023 Highlights:

Learn how the Garden has partnered with Fox & Seeker on Botanic Harvest gin.

Learn more about ecologist Doug Tallamy and the Homegrown National Park project.

October 2023 – The Garden Grows Better With Each Passing Season

As the Houston Botanic Garden enters its fourth year of operation, we celebrate the many ways it has become an integral part of the Greater Houston community, enriching life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment. With a welcome reprieve from triple-digit temperatures, now is a great time to experience the new exhibits, installations, and performances happening at the Garden. Read the October 2023 enewsletter.

October 2023 Highlights:

Scientifically Speaking: Learn more about conservation projects at the Garden.

Meet the author of “Wild Houston: Explore the Amazing Nature in and around the Bayou City.”

Meet a Garden Volunteer: Anna White, plant records

September 2023 – The Garden Is Making Headlines

Houstonia magazine recently featured a wonderful write-up highlighting the incredible progress the Garden has made in the three years since our opening in September 2020. It’s a great read for folks who have never visited before and want a glimpse of what they can expect when they visit. Read the September 2023 enewsletter. 

August 2023

August 2023

What Have You Discovered This Summer?

As summer comes to a close, we are thrilled to share with you some exciting developments at the Garden that aim to enhance your next visit. The most enriching experiences here come not only from the beauty of the surroundings, but also in understanding and appreciating the depth of what occurs in nature.

To that end, we have committed to enhancing signage throughout our grounds, with a particular focus on engaging our guests. We’ve recently installed the first of 10 new large-scale interpretive signs in the Garden – a project designed to offer you an immersive educational experience. These signs, complete with QR codes, will link you directly to additional information on our website, allowing you to delve further into the fascinating facts behind our unique plants and landscapes.

We are incredibly grateful to the Elkins Foundation for their generous support in bringing this initiative to life, and for supporting our efforts to showcase the science behind nature’s beauty.

Visit us soon to see how the Garden changes from one season to the next, and get an up-close look at why life grows here. 

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Read the August 2023 enewsletter for more, including an interview with Annie Arnoult, the creative director of Open Dance Project, which is bringing “Flutter: The Monarch Butterfly Project” to the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden for two nights only this fall, as well as information on the Garden’s collections policy, which defines the management procedures and protocols for our living plant collections.

July 2023

July 2023

The Garden Doesn’t Slow Down in Summer

One of the most amazing things about the natural world is its ability to maneuver through change, and we are lucky to experience that up close at the Garden year-round. When a new season arrives, shifts begin to take place that are at first microscopic; what starts in the soil can eventually be seen through plant foliage and all of the living creatures that contribute to the ecosystem.

It’s no secret that summer in our Gulf Coast region is hot and humid. But even during the heat waves, there is still so much to learn, discover, and appreciate in our well-planned corner of Houston. We hope you’ll join us to admire the shade of palm trees, the birds dipping in for a refreshing bath, and the beauty of a blooming Luffa aegyptiaca.

Even during the hot Texas summers, life grows here.

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Read the July 2023 e-newsletter for more, including the director of horticulture’s definition of the fifth season in Houston and details on the Garden’s partnership with Equal Parts Brewing for its periodic Sip, Sup & Stroll events.

June 2023

June 2023

The Garden’s Future is Bright

When I started in an interim leadership role with the Houston Botanic Garden in 2016, someone asked me if I was an environmentalist. I hadn’t really thought of myself that way before. I was a nonprofit generalist specializing in helping passionate, mission-driven individuals and organizations maximize their impact. 

I am honored to have been a part of creating a major cultural institution for our city. One that will participate in making a difference in perhaps the most important issue facing humanity. I have worked alongside a diverse group of individuals – board members, landscape designers, generous philanthropists, and talented team members – who each played a special role in this monumental accomplishment.

Together, we have launched the Houston Botanic Garden for Houston, and for the world. It is a beautiful place. It is passionate people. It is collections and programs that are having a real impact. It is still young, and it has a very bright future.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines an environmentalist as a person who has an especially strong interest in or knowledge of the natural environment, and who wants to preserve it and prevent damage to it. Am I an environmentalist? After nearly seven years of stewarding the development of the Houston Botanic Barden, I would now say, yes!   

My interest in, and certainly my knowledge of, the natural environment has grown tremendously. In addition, as I’ve learned more and more about the rapid decline of biodiversity, and the critical importance of botanic gardens to both conserve plant genetics and also to inspire the public to participate in healing our world, I wear the label more and more proudly.  

I have fallen head over heels in love. In love with the sheer magnificence of our planet and the beauty of nature that surrounds us. You know when you first fall in love, you notice everything. All the little details, each and every action. I’m still in that stage. I love the vibrant colors of the sunrise; the delicate petals of flowers; the gnarliness of trees; giant, puffy clouds; the melodious chorus of birdsong first thing in the morning; the magic of butterflies flitting around—they all serve as reminders of the incredible diversity and interconnectedness of life on Earth. Our planet is a masterpiece, an intricate web of ecosystems that provides sustenance for all of us who are a part of nature. 

I believe that we hold the power to heal the broken parts of nature and our planet, to restore balance, and to protect fragile ecosystems. It begins with love—for our planet, for nature, and for future generations. It is this love that will ignite a passion within us to make a difference, to take action, and to inspire others. I know the power of this love, because it is my lived experience. This has been my journey at the Garden. My heart explodes with gratitude for how I have been changed. For how I have become one who cares deeply for nature—the provider of delicious herbs and tart pomegranate, sweet smelling gardenia, and awe-inspiring oaks. 

While my chapter with the Houston Botanic Garden is coming to a close, I know that there are many more chapters and volumes of this romance to come. Thank you, each of you, for all you have done, and all you will continue to do, to inspire people to fall madly, deeply in love with this place, and with our collective home.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

*Claudia Gee Vassar’s family is moving abroad this summer, so her last day as the Houston Botanic Garden’s president & general counsel was June 29. The Garden’s board of directors is conducting a national search for her replacement.

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Read the June 2023 e-newsletter for more, including an interview with Beth Garver Black and Gretchen Garver Hilyard, the daughters of Susan Garver, in whose memory the Family Discovery Garden is named, who will be recognized, along with their father, Mike Garver, at the Garden’s annual luncheon in October; and information on the Garden’s first on-site greenhouse, which is being constructed this summer.

May 2023

May 2023

We Grow More Than Just Plants

At the Garden, we see Mother Nature’s capabilities every day. Whether it’s beautiful blooms in the Tropical Heart of our Global Collection Garden or the fruits and vegetables nearing harvest in the Culinary Garden, there are abundant examples of growth all around us. But, if you don’t know where to look, nature’s most important impacts can often go unnoticed.

We get just as excited about the connections that grow among our visitors through their interactions with each other in the context of the natural surroundings as we do the latest buds or pollinator sighting. We hear the positive influence of nature in the laughter at our social events, and see it in the amazed faces of children at our youth activities. It’s obvious in the joyfulness of our Sunday Concert Series, and the relaxation that permeates our wellness classes.

So, if you’re looking for new ways to connect with your family, relieve the stress of your responsibilities, or find an environment that supports personal growth, embrace the power of nature. This month, take advantage of the remaining pre-summer opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with your loved ones. Whether it’s relaxing in your backyard, a quick stroll around the neighborhood, or a visit to the Garden, you’ll be glad you did.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the May 2023 e-newsletter for more, including an interview with the only band to have played in all three Sunday Concert Series to-date and an interview with a UK-based yoga master giving his first-ever class in Texas at the Garden.

April 2023

April 2023

Celebrating & Protecting Our Big, Beautiful Planet

Nature shows us the power of the seasons. Winter brings much needed rest to many of the Garden’s plant specimens, and when it’s time for their return in the spring, we are rewarded with the vibrant shades of blooming Amaryllis in our gardens, Louisiana iris in wetlands, and waves of bluebonnets dotting lush prairie grass. The return of butterflies and pollinators as they flock to new blooms gives us yet another reminder of how this complex environment works in concert to create a healthier, stronger ecosystem.

It’s fitting that Earth Day, celebrated April 22, occurs at a time when the bounty of the Garden is on full display.

The Earth is our home. It’s so easy to take for granted the gifts of exquisite flowers, powerful forests, clean air, fresh water, nourishing produce, melodious birdsong, and all the beauty of nature that makes our planet special. This month, all around the Garden, we celebrate our partnership with the living environment, and our place in the city and region’s ecosystem. Come discover the many programs and activities exploring our relationship with plants and the environment this month and enjoy the beauty of spring in the Garden. We hope you’ll leave inspired to join us in committing to care for our corner of this beautiful planet, our home.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the April 2023 e-newsletter for more, including an interview with the Garden’s new volunteer engagement managertips for growing and caring for wildflowers, rave reviews from spring break BotaniCampers, and information on how you can remotely visit the Culinary Garden wherever you have a web-enabled mobile device.

March 2023

March 2023

Texas Butterfly Highway

Some people love the Garden in the spring to take in the show of bluebonnets bursting forth.  Others, to witness the powerful regrowth of the bananas after the winter dieback. This year, I’m really looking forward to the butterflies. For me, they are magic. I’m sure my excitement is due in part to our March for Monarchs event and a new exhibit that will soon make its debut in the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden. Everything butterflies is in the air.

Butterflies are powerful symbols of love, hope, and strength.  If you have ever walked along our perennial border with a kaleidoscope of butterflies dancing around, you have surely fallen under their spell. These magical creatures carry significant meaning to cultures across the world. The monarchs that leave Mexico in the spring, indicate to the Mazahua and Otomi peoples that it is time to prepare the soil for the year’s harvest. As they return in the fall around the time of the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mark the end of the agricultural season, and–according to Mexican lore–carry the souls of the deceased to comfort family members. Monarchs also have symbolism for the Hopi (abundance and health), in Christianity (transformation and rebirth), and in Taiwan (good luck and long life), to name a few.

I hope that you will come see the magic of butterflies at the Garden this spring through sculpture, parade, and slowing down to watch them dance in the air from flower to flower.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the March 2023 e-newsletter for more, including recommended plants for attracting monarch butterflies to your home garden and an interview with the new leader of the Bloomers young professionals group.

February 2023

February 2023

Elevating Underrecognized Contributions to Plant Study & Cultivation

During Black History Month, we pay tribute to African Americans and their many contributions to the history of this country. Sadly, much of their legacy and achievements in the fields of horticulture and botany have been ignored and lost. This month is an opportunity to strive to recall and celebrate important and inspiring African Americans.

One such regional legacy with international impact is that of Clarence Pleasants. Clarence fell in love with oleanders as a boy in Virginia, and decided to dedicate his life to this enchanting subtropical shrub.

When only a 7th grade education was available to him in formal schooling, he turned to the Norfolk Botanical Garden to dive deeper in his knowledge and understanding of the Nerium species. He corresponded with people across the globe to learn about the plant and discovered that oleanders were planted prolifically in Galveston after the devastating flood of 1900.

Driven by his passion for oleanders, he moved to Galveston, aka the Oleander City, and grew and propagated numerous species. Clarence co-founded what is now known as the International Oleander Society with Kewpie Guido who was inspired by his love of oleanders. 

Despite their toxicity for mammals, including humans, oleanders are beloved landscaping plants for their resiliency and blooms. The oleanders in the Mediterranean and Tropical biomes in the Global Collection Garden suffered during the December 2022 freeze, but we expect many will bounce back, as some closer to the coast – in Galveston, League City, and Seabrook, for instance – are already doing. We are grateful for Clarence “Mr. Oleander” Pleasants’ passion for and commitment to oleanders. We celebrate the work that builds on his contributions that continues in Galveston to cultivate and showcase this species.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the February 2023 e-newsletter for more, including the story of a wedding planner who has fallen in love with the Garden’s rental spaces and why Apache Corporation chose to include the Garden among the recipients of its Tree Grant Program.

January 2023

January 2023

New Year Brings New Opportunities

Out with the old and in with the new! In recent years, saying goodbye to one year and looking forward to the next has been a stronger sentiment than usual.  Resilient, like plants, we hopefully look forward to the new year and all it promises. In 2023, I’m looking forward to a monumental sculptural exhibition by Steve Tobin called Intertwined, a spring wildflower display, and March with Monarchs tracing the migration experience from Michoacán to Michigan.

This winter, our freeze came early, so this mantra might hold added meaning for our gardens that we Houstonians don’t often experience. We first need to remember that not all brown is lost and have patience and understanding, remembering how our bananas came roaring back after the last freeze.

I know there’s a lesson for the rest of my life, too! I know that I was blown away by the resiliency of the Garden after the heartbreak of Uri, and I can now see the winter Garden with the potential and excitement for what it will become.

And, yet, two hard freezes without a hardening-off period feels like a trend we should pay attention to, learn something about, and make some changes in the wake of. As Fran de la Mota, Director of Horticulture, says, plant loss due to a freeze teaches us about plants. We now know more than we did before about how different species survive and thrive, or don’t. The Garden will take those lessons to heart and learn from them, choosing not to replace plants that did not withstand Uri or the 2022 freeze. The exciting thing is that it opens space for new additions and trials to learn more about other plants. We are capturing all of this data in the Garden’s plant database to help inform scientists and gardeners as we build a bigger body of knowledge about the plants around us. And now I have an excuse for that new plant I have been wanting to try out in my backyard, too…What a fun opportunity!

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the January 2023 e-newsletter for more, including an update from our director of horticulture on how the Garden fared during the December 2022 freezehorticulture help for pruning, an interview with the artist behind the new Steve Tobin’s Intertwined: Exploring Nature’s Networks exhibition, and photos from a western-themed wedding held in the Woodland Glade.

December 2022

December 2022

Holiday Cheer Grows Here

I just love this time of year. Our front porch is bursting with festive, red poinsettias. This favorite, bold and bright holiday plant signals that the season of cheer is here. Maybe your favorite is a Christmas cactus or an amaryllis. Perhaps the fresh scent of wreaths, garlands, or trees brings this season to life for you.   

The changes in the seasons and blooms are often tied to memories and traditions. Poinsettias remind me of the holiday season because my childhood home always had poinsettias in December. They remind me of decorating the house for the season and adding that little, extra festive joy. When the days shorten and poinsettias get 12 hours of darkness, they change their leaves from green to their signature bold, bright red. When the poinsettias hit the stores, I bring home that little, extra joy and connection to cherished memories and traditions.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle, we carve out time during the holidays to be with loved ones, to share gifts with one another, and make lasting memories. My family will forever have memories of time together at Lightscape, singing along with the songs, being awed by the displays, and roasting marshmallows for s’mores. We have so much fun just being together in an atmosphere that brings joy, laughter, chatter, and lots of photos.

During this time, the poinsettias and firs remind me that it’s time that we look back at all the good of the year and out at all the good in this beautiful world. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the December 2022 e-newsletter for more, including facts about mistletoehorticulture help for winterizing your home garden; the story of a group of University of Houston students who value their volunteer time at the Garden; and a blog post by a grateful recipient of a gift membership to the Garden.

November 2022

November 2022

Free TLC from Mother Nature

You know that feeling when you go for a walk surrounded by grasses waving in the breeze or sunlight dancing through each leaf on a tree, and your shoulders relax, you release the jaw you didn’t realize you were clenching, you slow your step, and the long to-do list fades away? We are, each of us, Nurtured by Nature. 

This year’s annual luncheon centered on the theme of how nature cares for our human health. The keynote speaker, Jay Maddock PhD, FAAHB, shared that a mega-dose of nature will activate our cancer-fighting, NK cells, and that effect will last for weeks, even months. Doses of nature improve our mood and mental health, our problem-solving skills, and our concentration (Herzog et al. 1997). “High residential exposure to green spaces is associated with an 8% lower risk of all-cause mortality” (Gascon et al. 2016).

We need our daily doses of nature, and regular mega-doses, when we immerse ourselves for a longer period of time, to absorb as much of the healing power of nature as we can. Over half of American adults report spending 5 hours or fewer outside in nature each week. Being in nature will reduce stress, aggression, and ADHD symptoms. It will lower blood pressure, reduce obesity and diabetes, and improve eyesight (Frumkin et. al, 2017)!  

One of the most powerful vignettes Dr. Maddock shared was a research study in which patients who could observe nature through the window, or even on a TV screen, had a reduced hospital stay. Our connection with nature is powerful. We don’t necessarily need all this research to know that we are nurtured by nature. We can feel it. And yet, most of us could use a prescription to remind us to get our daily and mega doses. Come be nurtured by nature at the Garden. It’s an easy prescription to fill.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the November 2022 e-newsletter for more, including why leaves change color in the fallhorticulture help for fall and winter planting; details on the new Budburst community science initiative; a grant-sponsored refugee training program; a new installation at Hobby Airport featuring art inspired by visits to the Garden.  

October 2022

October 2022

Autumn has arrived at the Houston Botanic Garden!

It’s pumpkin time! Pumpkins are everywhere, including at the Garden. There’s pumpkin bread, pumpkin hummus, and, of course, pumpkin lattes, but pumpkin pies are my kiddos’ preferred way to eat this healthy veggie; we are already on our second of the season.

The fall harvest is a reminder of the gifts of sustenance that we receive from the natural world. Botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, teaches that our relationship with nature is reciprocal. We care for plants, and they care for us. Indigenous tradition views plants as valuable life and honors them as they are taken for consumption, in what Dr. Kimmerer calls the Honorable Harvest

These principles ensure that the future seventh generation will have as much abundance as we do now. It is amazing to think that planting trees and how we harvest can be acts of care for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. The protocols are transformative and include principles of community, gratitude, sharing, and good stewardship. 

We may not always remember our reciprocal relationship with the oaks around us, and how each breath of oxygen that we take in was breathed out by those oaks. Our home, planet Earth, is a blessing that continues to bless us. As we harvest, if we do it right, we can ensure that generations to come also receive these blessings.

Amanda Gorman, in her address to the UN, said: “We must go the distance, though this battle is hard and huge, though this fight we did not choose. For preserving the Earth isn’t a battle too large to win but a blessing too large to lose.” 

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the October 2022 e-newsletter for more, including fun facts about Cucurbita pepo (pumpkins), things to consider before buying fertilizer for your lawn, and an interview with the neighbors who literally live next door to the Garden’s main entrance, and are among its most enthusiastic supporters.

September 2022

September 2022

Enjoy Nature at Home in Houston

Walking around the Houston Botanic Garden most days means that I am often discovering plants, falling in love with them, and deciding I simply MUST have them at home. The results have been life-giving. 

This past week, while sitting in our breakfast nook, my fourth-grade son shouted, “hummingbird”! That was the third hummingbird we had seen in a week enjoying the Malvaviscus arboreus (wax mallow).

On Saturday, September 17, I’m looking forward to our inaugural horticulture seminar, where we can all learn more from the Garden’s team of experts to apply to our gardens at home. I hope you’ll join me to learn about what an umbelliferous plant is and why it should be in your garden; uncommon herbs, like papalo, that thrive in Houston heat; and interesting plants to create a tropical paradise. 

With the recent rains, the growth at the Houston Botanic Garden is breathtaking. I hope that you will find delight in your home garden, and also in our 132-acre living museum. Just don’t be surprised if you end up making a beeline for a local nursery right after your visit!

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the September 2022 e-newsletter for more, including a scientifically speaking explanation for why fall is a great time to plant in Houston, along with horticulture help for preparing your garden for fall planting, as well as a profile of the donors whose generosity has allowed the new Rose Arbor to rise in the Culinary Garden and a group that encourages families to volunteer together at the Garden.

August 2022

August 2022

Cultivating an Appreciation for Nature

During these waning days of summer (summer break, that is…), we are taking every opportunity to give our children carefree, outdoor days. Freedom to explore, be in wonder, and discover their inner botanists. Our kiddos have participated in a long series of summer camps—including an outstanding week at BotaniCamp—and we want to be sure they also have unstructured time in nature.

What they learn as they’re entranced by a bee buzzing around an Aloysia virgata (almond verbena) goes deeper than just the science of the relationship of this sweetly aromatic plant attracting its pollinator. They begin to see that it is not just they that are tending to the herbs and flowers. They realize, perhaps not in the forefront of their minds, but certainly deep in their souls, that mother nature is also caring for them. We give our time, energy, and lots of sweat, and in return, our garden gives us fresh air and delicate flowers and mint tea.

The gifts of the earth are precious. We are seeing that the impacts of many little actions are adding up and threatening those gifts through polluted ecosystems, floods and droughts, and habitat loss. The delicate balance falters and species become endangered, like the migratory monarch. For so long, humans have received the gifts of trees and water, fruits and flowers, herbs and birds. Now, it is our time to care for nature in return. You can grow in your horticulture knowledge next month, or in your appreciation any day walking through the Garden, and thereby deepen your sacred bond with the world.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the August 2022 e-newsletter for more, including details on the Houston Audubon bluebird trail at the Garden, and the volunteer who monitors it; tips from our horticulture team for identifying signs of summer weather-related stress in plants and for preparing your home garden for hurricane season; and a profile of one of the Garden’s newest board members.

 

July 2022

July 2022

New Anti-Heat Technology: Plants!

What does summer mean to you? Longer days, kids’ camp, less traffic, vacation getaways, and perhaps pool time to stave off the heat? 

Summer means all that, and one of my favorite events of the year—the American Public Gardens Association annual meeting. Leaders from across the Americas gathered in Portland, Oregon, in June to share learnings about the impact of public gardens, collaborate on conservation initiatives, and work together to improve biodiversity and plant ecologies.  

I also visited some stunning landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. When I walk through green spaces, whether here or far away, my impulse is to go low and to go high. I get down low to get a closer look at the patterns of the petals and the wisps of grass. Perhaps my favorite perspective is looking up through the tree canopy to the sky above. I love how sunlight shining through layers of leaves creates an intricate pattern with dark branches winding through. While gazing up, I often lay my hand on the tree’s trunk and consider how long it has been shading people and cleaning the air. Just as we take care of trees and plants, they take care of us.

During our hot summers, the cooling effect of trees and urban forests is profound. Cities like ours become urban heat islands where heat is trapped in asphalt, concrete, steel, and brick. Trees and plants, through shading and evapotranspiration, can help reduce temperatures by up to 9 degrees! Local researchers have identified which trees have the greatest impact on improving the air, mitigating floods, and reducing the heat island, with live oaks and sycamores topping the list. Right now, with temperatures what they are, all those trees sound pretty important.  

You can get out to the Garden and other green spaces this summer to feel the difference plants make on the heat. The Garden is open early for members each day at 8:00 a.m., and stays open late until 8:00 p.m. on Fridays so visitors can take advantage of more pleasant early evening temperatures. See below for fun things going on at the Garden, and tips on how to care for your garden during the hot summer to ensure that it also takes care of you! 

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the July 2022 e-newsletter for more, including details on the popular food truck that makes summer visits to the Garden more refreshing; information on how plants adapt for drought conditions, and Horticulture Help for conserving water around the outside of your home while still enjoying a healthy landscape; and profiles of a donor couple who made a significant investment in a relaxing spot adjacent to the popular Water Play in the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden and one of the Garden’s “spotlight volunteers,” who has been involved almost from the beginning.

June 2022

June 2022

Celebrating (Bio)diversity This Summer

Botanic gardens are preoccupied — perhaps obsessed — with biodiversity. The diversity of plants around us gives us moments of awe and makes us happy. But that’s not all. Biodiversity is critical for the resiliency of life on planet Earth. Scientists are ringing alarm bells about the first mass extinction in human history as 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction. I shudder to imagine a world with only a few different grasses, shrubs, and trees. 

Keystone plants are critical to the survival of an ecosystem. When a keystone species is lost, the whole food web radically changes or even collapses. Consider the mighty oak: 468 species of butterflies and moths use the oak as a caterpillar host plant in our area. Caterpillars that feed birds, and so forth, as the web expands. Nearly one third of all oak species are currently threatened with extinction

We are familiar with the monarch’s relationship with milkweed; the silkworm with mulberry; and the panda with bamboo. Nature’s equal opposites balance one another and create harmonious, healthy ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems in turn, prevent floods and reduce other vulnerabilities to natural disasters. The impact of the extinction of one species can have disastrous ripple effects. 

And humans at the top of the food chain? We depend on biodiversity for food security and nutrition. When we rely on only a few species for our food, our agricultural system is at risk for pests or pathogens that can destroy entire species. Imagine a diet limited to only a few sources. Not only would it be boring, our bodies would be deficient in many vitamins and minerals found in diversified, balanced diets.

The Houston Botanic Garden celebrates biodiversity of plants from across the globe. Each plant is beautiful. Each species is a crucial member of its ecosystem.

As we celebrate Pride month this June, we celebrate the diversity of humankind and the value and beauty of each human, particularly our LGBTQ+ friends — just like we celebrate the value, beauty, and incredible diversity of the Earth’s plant life. 

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the June 2022 e-newsletter for more, including Horticulture Help to ensure your home garden is prepared for summer; an interview with Kendall Taormina, a founding member of the Garden’s next generation group, the Bloomers; and tips from the Garden’s horticulture manager for successfully growing your very own Musa (banana) plants at home.

May 2022

May 2022

Flock to the Garden for Family Fun

Is there anything more delightful than starting the day with birdsong in the morning? My kids and I like to try to count how many different birds we can hear.

I’m not a great birder, but I’m learning. At the Garden, I often see whistler ducks, goldfinches, hawks, and I’ve even seen an eagle! Walking down a path to the Coastal Prairie Garden, as a bluebird flew by and an egret rested in the marshy grounds, I was reminded that the ones who have likely noticed most the massive transformation as the Garden has taken root are our winged friends. 

Mary Anne Morris, Education Director for the Houston Audubon Raptor and Education Center, leads a monthly bird count through the Garden. This partnership started while the site was still a golf course. Through increasing habitat and plant diversity in transforming the golf course into a garden, the number of bird species observed has increased by 73 since opening (to almost 130 at last count)! The counts are submitted to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s database that researchers use to study birds’ migration and movement trends. As you enjoy the Garden, you can take note of bird-friendly plants by the bird icons on their plant label. 

In addition to planting for birds, there are many things you can do to help create a bird-friendly Houston, like turning off non-essential exterior lighting from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. through May 7 to support peak bird migration. Our family is looking forward to implementing some new ways to care for the birds around our home.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the May 2022 e-newsletter for more, including Horticulture Help with tips for attracting beneficial birds to your home garden; a profile of donors Susanne M. & Melbern G. Glasscock, who will be honored at the Garden’s Annual Luncheon on Oct. 13, 2022; and information on the various types and uses for bamboo.

April 2022

April 2022

Join Us In Tending To Planet Earth

In April, you will likely see many images of planet Earth, as we celebrate Earth Day. The Blue Marble image taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft in 1972 is one of the most reproduced images in history. Not only is it an awe-inspiring reflection of our shared humanity, but it’s also a useful tool for understanding the vegetation in the world’s macro-garden.

NASA’s more recent series of images are taken by Suomi NPP, a research satellite. With satellites across the globe, scientists are working together to monitor the Earth’s vegetation, which is the primary energy source for nearly all life on the planet. Using these images, scientists can see that 1/3 of land cover of Canada and Alaska changed from 1985 to 2021, they can measure the health of plants, and they can quantify the impact of changing ecosystems.

One of the great privileges of working at a botanic garden is the incredible, global collaboration with other botanic gardens that share a similar view of our interconnected world. The Houston Botanic Garden has begun participating in some of these international efforts to understand and care for the Earth. For example, the Global Conservation Consortium for Oak is a macro-collection of oaks, North America’s most powerful native tree, including species from across the world.

So, when you see one of these beautiful photos of our planet Earth, I hope you’ll be reminded that we are all working together – in our home gardens, at the Houston Botanic Garden – as we dig, plant, propagate, and prune in the global garden of our sacred world. Happy Earth Day!

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the April 2022 e-newsletter for more, including Horticulture Help with some eco-friendly practices to incorporate into your gardening routine; one mom’s thoughts on the benefits of BotaniCamp; a profile of urban agriculture teacher and Garden member Angela Roth; and details on a global Quercus conservation project in which the Garden is participating.

March 2022

March 2022

Spring will soon make its colorful debut at the Garden!

Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” – Lady Bird Johnson

Texans have long been enamored with the wildflowers that line our highways, in large part because of Lady Bird Johnson. A shy child, she spent her days outside in the piney woods and cypress bayous of East Texas. Walking through the McNair Foundation Cypress Forest and Loblolly Forest – amidst the dragonflies and hawks, butterflies, bluebirds, turtles, fish, and even the occasional eagle! – admiring the Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), aquatic Pontederia cordata (pickerelweed), and geometric Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto) along the path, I can see why she never considered herself lonely.

Another Texas woman, Dr. Eula Whitehouse, ensured that we know the names of these beautiful blooms with her popular book, Texas Flowers in Natural Colors. The contributions of women to botany over time have included the study of plant structure and cell function by Katherine Esau, the first trained botanist to receive the National Medal of Science; the diligent documentation of countless plants for scientific study by Maria Sibylla Merian; discovery and collection of hundreds of thousands of plants by Ynés Mexía, and locally by Mary Sophie Young; the study of plant genetics to develop sugarcane for India for their economic independence by Janaki Ammal; and many, many more.

We celebrate these brilliant female botanists and the many other women who, throughout history, have contributed to advancing the field of botany. As you take in the beauty of the wildflowers and other spring blooms, know that we have many pioneering women to thank for them, including mi tocaya, Lady Bird Johnson.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the March 2022 e-newsletter for more, including Horticulture Help concerning when to expect bluebonnets and perennial bulbs to bloom, as well as a profile of Jenna Lindley, founder of The Bloomers, the Garden’s next-generation group.

February 2022

February 2022

There’s a lot to love about the Garden.

Are you in love with nature? Passionately loving life on this green earth?  

Two months after his passing, I have been reflecting on the influence of the father of biodiversity, E. O. Wilson. He promoted biophilia, the love of life and all that is alive. His theory is that we are all drawn to nature and living things. Isn’t that a beautiful impulse?

I cherish Wilson’s perspective that we are intrinsically drawn to the natural world. Just like any relationship, though, loving nature is not a passive pursuit. Love takes care and commitment, time and attention. 

While we reap immediate benefits — both physically and mentally — after a visit to the Garden, when we fall deeply in love with nature, we are also spurred to take action on its behalf. 

Sometimes this means spending time in our own backyards, caring for the scraggly bush that will blossom next season. Sometimes, it’s being a more conscious consumer and deciding we can do without one more “thing.” Maybe it’s choosing non-toxic cleaners or more environmentally friendly transportation options. Maybe it’s volunteering at the Garden or learning how to take care of our region’s prairies. 

How are you stoking the flames of biophilia, your passionate love of life and all that is alive?

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

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Read the February 2022 e-newsletter for more, including Horticulture Help with freeze-damaged plants; information on the importance of “super trees;” and the story behind the Garden’s first wedding, held in March 2020.

Our Mission

Enriching life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment.

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9:00 am — 5:00 pm

DURING RADIANT NATURE
9:00 am — 4:00 pm

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One Botanic Lane
Houston, TX 77017
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8205 N. Bayou Drive
Houston, TX 77017

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