Green Bay Botanical Garden celebrates 25 years
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Much has changed over the past two and a half decades for the Green Bay Botanical Garden.
What was once underdeveloped is now home to 47 acres of more than 60,000 Wisconsin plants and flowers.
This year, the Garden is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
But its history goes back much further.
“The first seeds of a community public garden were planted in the late 1960s,” said Executive Director Susan Garot. “Over the next 30 years, many people came together to share their love of horticulture; and dream, plan and prepare for the opening of the Green Bay Botanical Garden in 1996.
Housed on former Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) land, obtained through a lease in the 1980s, the land was officially opened on the garden in June 1994.
Garot said the partnership between the NWTC and the Botanical Garden continues to thrive today through a landscape horticulture program.
NWTC students can enroll in a multitude of programs, including landscaping, landscape technician, sustainable agriculture, or plant health care management, all of which are supported by the Garden.
Garot said the garden opened slowly with just a few acres developed at first – including the Fischer Visitor Center, Agnes Schneider Terrace Garden, Mable Thome Fountain and Kress Rose Garden.
She said that in 1997 the Stumpf Belvedere, Schierl Wellhouse and Gertrude B. Nielsen Kindergarten opened.
“Today, more than 50% of the leased land – 22 acres – has been developed,” she said.
Garot said the main founders of the Garden are still Gail Fischer, Lee Hansen, Paul Hartman, Jerry Landwehr and Glenn Spevacek.
Garot said that just like the development, use of the garden started slowly and steadily.
“The first few years saw 10,000 to 20,000 annual visitors,” she said. “Today we are approaching 180,000 to 200,000 annual guests, with an annual economic impact of over $ 9 million.”
Garot said things continue to develop according to the Garden’s master plan, which she says has been revised several times over the years.
“Our last expansion was the Schneider Family Grand Garden, which opened in the summer of 2018,” she said. “This garden focuses on why it is important to plant more native plants, flowers and trees to help support local ecosystems and beneficial pollinators and insects.”
Next comes the expansion of the Children’s Garden, which Garot hopes to open in the summer of 2023.
“We just announced our Nature Nurtures fundraising campaign to raise money for the expansion,” she said.
As part of the expansion, Garot said the existing Gertrude B. Nielsen Kindergarten, located along the southern edge of the garden, will become the village.
“We draw people from all over the world in our quest to connect everyone with plants in an environment that engages, inspires and refreshes,” she said. “Whether you are an avid gardener and want to develop your hobby, only take care of a few flower pots on your patio or just want to be inspired by what nature has to offer, the Garden is there. ideal place for all these desires in all seasons. “
The Botanical Garden marks the milestone with a two-part celebration on Saturday, September 25 – a one-day family event and a throwback to the ’90s, with an adults-only party in the evening.
“Lots of activities for everyone,” said Director of Events Eileen Metzler. “Our 25th daytime anniversary is an event for everyone from your avid gardener to young families who want to get out and enjoy nature. There will be garden experts to answer questions, guided tours, live family entertainment, games, crafts, food and drink to buy and more.
The day will also host the Birthday Wish Project, which Metzler says gives the community the opportunity to write a birthday wish on a seed tag.
“These seed tags will be planted next spring so that guests can come back and see their wish in bloom,” she said.
Metlzer said the day ended with a ’90s-themed party with Ants Marching, a Dave Matthews Band tribute, a’ 90s-themed costume contest and a cocktail scavenger hunt.
“The cocktail scavenger hunt will have guests searching the Schneider family’s Grand Garden for clues to create their own signature cocktail,” she said.
Metzler said the ’90s theme was chosen to pay homage to the decade in which the garden first opened.
“And who doesn’t love the 90s? she said.
The daytime event is free to the community.
However, as a precautionary measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-registration is required.
“It’s important that we have a free community celebration to thank the community, because that’s why the Garden exists today,” Metzler said. “The Green Bay Botanical Garden is a community garden for everyone and what better way to celebrate that than a birthday party? “
For the after-hours party, customers are required to purchase a ticket in advance.
Tickets start at $ 20 for the general public or $ 15 for Garden members.
For both events, guests can register online at GBBG.org/Birthday or by calling the Garden at 920-490-9457.
Metzler said volunteers are still needed for both events.
“The Garden continues to be a community treasure thanks to the volunteers who give of their time and talents,” she said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can visit GBBG.org/Birthday.