San Francisco Botanical GardenspacerSan Francisco Botanical Garden


From the Director

Michael McKechnieExecutive Director Michael McKechnie
By building partnerships among diverse organizations, focusing on creative programming, and establishing the right priorities, Executive Director Michael McKechnie has managed the successful growth of four vital nonprofits and served on the governing boards of a number of research, fundraising and civic organizations where he has provided governance, financial, and strategic planning oversight.

Dear Friends,

California Native Plant Garden
Native Plant Garden

Tree Trimming
Salvaging Damaged Trees

Youth Education Program
Working in the Children's Garden

Protecting our Collections while Building Pathways

So many of you have been supportive of the work the Society does to make the Botanical Garden more beautiful and true to its conservation education beginnings that I thought that you would like to know what has happened this year to improve both appearance and conservation education initiatives. Fully aware as we all are of the tendency to do this sort of review at the end or beginning of a year, I could not resist the temptation because so many improvements have occurred. So please indulge me, and here we go.

Pathways. After a two-month delay caused by the original contractor's economic collapse (this is the world we are living in), a new company continues the work in full force and is doing an outstanding job. The project, now approximately 75% complete, should be finished by early March. I am very pleased with both the look of the crisp new paths and the fact that they bring visitors more intimately into the collections. These pathway upgrades are friendly to those with mobility challenges, and have resulted in a a net increase of 8,600 square feet returned to garden!

Signage. It's easy to get lost in these 55 acres, and that is a comment we hear all too often from our visitors. As part of the Pathways Project a complete program of wayfinding signage has been developed to draw the visitor into and though the Garden. In addition, both interpretive and garden identification signs are being introduced in the newly renovated gardens. Finally, handsome banners at both entrances will announce the Garden to visitors much more clearly.

Tree Succession Plan. After the completion of a $500,000 arborist program to treat, prune and remove dangerous trees throughout the garden, we are now in the final stages of a plan to introduce new trees of appropriate types as the existing canopy ages, falls in windstorms, or succumbs to disease. Very large numbers of the original tree canopy planted in the 1870's is well past its natural life span. This plan will provide for the Garden for another 100 years.

Gondwana Circle Competition. Built on the reputations of some of the finest garden designers in California, the Society wished to introduce new talent into the mix of designs that grace the Garden. Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that drifted apart 100 million years ago to form the current land masses of the Southern Hemisphere, has a lot to tell us about plate tectonics and how plants evolved as they hitched long rides with the shifting land, adapting to changing environments while still remaining botanically related. This is a big story for a small garden space that is only 30 feet in diameter. A winning team, two young landscape architects from Manhattan, was selected by our blue ribbon jury. Once all the funds have been secured, their exciting design will be built to reveal the fascinating Gondwana story.

Southeast Asia Cloud Forest Garden. To be the only one of its kind in the world, this collection of rare plants from the cool, foggy highlands of Southeast Asia will be graced with architectural material we were given by the Doris Duke Foundation, thus giving this new space an authentic and culturally specific look and feel.

Native Plant Garden Extension Plan. Once the new Nursery: Center for Sustainable Gardening is built, the existing nursery will be removed. In its place, we will extend the already considerable Native Plant Garden, so that a new “wet meadow” will connect the existing native garden first to the Redwood Grove and then on to the new Nursery where a dune restoration will link seven city blocks of native plant material--from about 12th to 19th Avenue--creating an enormous outdoor classroom for the study and observation of California native plant communities and their inhabitants.

Sidewalk Greening. We have been approved for a State of California grant to inform and encourage the planting of green sidewalk strips in residential areas throughout the City. Working with the Mayor's office, the Departments of Public Works, and Recreation and Parks to assure smooth permitting procedures. This innovative program has the potential to take sustainability into every neighborhood in the City once the pilot is funded and tested.

Cultural Collaborative. This collaboration of the Botanical Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, de Young Fine Arts Museum, the Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden and the Convention and Visitors Bureau has continued to meet to solve challenging problems for visitors to Golden Gate Park and these key museums and collections. Founded by Garden Director, Brent Dennis, the Collaborative has made real progress on behalf of visitors to all of the attractions.

Youth Education Program. Year in and year out, Annette Huddle with her small staff and volunteer children's docent cadre make us all proud. 10,000 San Francisco Public School children learn each year from age-appropriate classes, the Children's Garden and from teachers trained here to take the conservation education message back to their schools.

Thank you, and all best wishes for a healthy, green new year.

Warm regards,


Michael McKechnie
Executive Director, San Francisco Botanical Garden Society


Back to January 2010 newsletter >>