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From the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

2008 Winter Design Symposium:
"Gardens that Work"
photo credit: Jennifer Bartley

photo credit: Jennifer Bartley

photo credit: Jennifer Bartley

photo credit: Jennifer Bartley

photo credit: Jennifer Bartley

photo credit: Jennifer Bartley

photo credit: Jennifer Bartley

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Bartley, photographer and author of Designing the New Kitchen Garden.

Growing up back East (well, OK, in the Midwest) this is the time of year we all eagerly awaited the spring seed catalogues. We'd sit inside, snug in our well insulated homes that just barely held off the extreme winter temperatures outside, dreaming of a thaw and then Spring itself. But at some point it required more than just dreaming, because once Spring tripped over the windowsill you had to be ready to fly into action. Spring was always breathtaking and exhilarating, shoots and flowers and plants rushing to grow, opening and seeking the still-cool sun. Summer would be relatively short. You had to get those tomatoes in the ground just late enough to avoid a wayward final frost but early enough to mature in August and September when everything -- again the gardening rush -- had to be harvested at once.

The rewards for these flushes of activity were great. Out of the garden would come the sweetest carrots I ever tasted and everyday tomatoes that make our $7.99-per-pound local heirlooms (don't get me wrong, they're worth every penny!) seem, well, less spectacular. My grandmother's one acre vegetable and flower garden on her 140-year-old farm was the most productive place on the planet, I used to think. Laid out with stern Indiana neatness, it soon became unruly, overgrown and full of the endless joys of finding hidden potatoes and a new color of Zinnia.

It's a cliché to say that most of us are now too far from this rich and enriching soil-based experience. Now there is a hunger for it again. To address that hunger, the Botanical Garden Society welcomes you to our Winter Design Symposium: "Gardens That Work". Ah, redemption! Even in the City we can grow something that will feed us, our families and friends. I'm looking for nurturance that will grow in a small and not too sunny city garden that will look smashing among the collection of Meso-American cloud forest material that I love so much. Hmmm. Wonder what food they grow in Chiapas that I can grow in San Francisco?

Join us on Sunday, January 27th for an educational experience that will help us marry beauty with productivity. The day before there will be a session on "Down to Earth Gardening" which fosters another marriage, one between the beautiful and the responsible. Both are co-sponsored by Horticulture Magazine, and members get the best prices. I do think my grandmother would enjoy both of them, but then again, she could teach us a thing or two.

I hope to see you there, and don't forget there will be some swell how-to books and plants to purchase from a number of top vendors. So once the holiday festoons are put away, let's start making plans for our long slow California Spring and Summer with the best information the Botanical Garden has to offer you.

In friendship,


Michael McKechnie
Executive Director, San Francisco Botanical Garden Society


Back to January 2008 newsletter >>