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Green Bay Botanical Garden turns 25

By Heather Graves
Staff Writer

GREEN BAY – A lot has changed in the last two-and-a-half decades for the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

What was once undeveloped, is now home to 47 acres of more than 60,000 Wisconsin plants and flowers.

This year, the Garden celebrates its 25th birthday.

Its history, however, spans much further back.

“The first seeds for a community public garden were planted in the late 1960s,” Executive Director Susan Garot said. “Over the next 30 years, many folks came together to share their love of horticulture; and dream, plan and prepare for the opening of Green Bay Botanical Garden in 1996.”

Housed on former Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) land, which was obtained through a lease agreement in the 1980s, ground officially broke on the Garden in June 1994.

Garot said the partnership between NWTC and the Botanical Garden continues to flourish today through a landscape horticulture program.

NWTC students can enroll in a multitude of programs, including landscape installation, 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 in the beginning – including the Fischer Visitor Center, the Agnes Schneider Terrace Garden, the Mable Thome Fountain and the Kress Rose Garden.

She said by 1997, the Stumpf Belvedere, Schierl Wellhouse and Gertrude B. Nielsen Children’s Garden opened.

“Today more than 50% of the leased land – 22 acres – has been developed,” she said.

Garot said key founders still with the Garden today include Gail Fischer, Lee Hansen, Paul Hartman, Jerry Landwehr and Glenn Spevacek.
Garot said just like development, Garden attendance started slow and steady.

“The early years saw 10,000-20,000 annual visitors,” she said. “Today, we are approaching 180,000-200,000 annual guests, with an annual economic impact of more than $9 million.”

Garot said things continue to develop according to the Garden’s master plan, which she said has been revised several times over the years.

“Our latest expansion was the Schneider Family Grand Garden, which opened in summer 2018,” she said. “This garden focuses on why it’s important to plant more native plants, flowers and trees to help support local ecosystems and beneficial pollinators and insects.”

Up next is the expansion of the Children’s Garden, which Garot hopes will open in summer 2023.

“We just announced our Nature Nurtures Capital Campaign to raise funds for the expansion,” she said.

As part of the expansion, Garot said the existing Gertrude B. Nielsen Children’s Garden, situated along the southern boundary of the Garden, will come to be known as The Village.

Anyone interested in contributing can call Garot at 920-491-3691, extension 102, or email [email protected] or call Cindy Berton, Director of Development, extension 104, or email [email protected].

“We attract people from all over the world in our quest to connect all people with plants in an environment that engages, inspires and refreshes,” she said. “Whether you’re an avid gardener and want to expand your hobby, only tend to a few containers of flowers on your patio or simply want to be inspired by what nature has to offer, the Garden is the perfect location for all those desires in every season.”

25th birthday celebration

The Botanical Garden is marking the milestone with a two-part celebration Saturday, Sept. 25 – a day-long family-friendly event and a throwback to the ‘90s, with an adult-only party in the evening.

“Lots of activities for everyone,” Director of Events Eileen Metzler said. “Our 25th Birthday Celebration during the day is an event for everyone, from your avid gardener to young families wanting to get out and enjoy nature. There will be garden experts to answer questions, guided tours, live family entertainment, games, crafts, food and beverages for purchase and more.”

The day will also host the Birthday Wish Project, which Metzler said gives the community an opportunity to write down a birthday wish on a seed tag.

“These seed tags will be planted next spring so guests can come back and see their wish in bloom,” she said.

Metlzer said the day wraps up with an after-hours ‘90s-themed party with Ants Marching, a Dave Matthews Band tribute band, a ‘90s-themed dress-up contest and a cocktail scavenger hunt.

“The cocktail scavenger hunt will have guests searching in the Schneider Family Grand Garden for clues to craft their own signature cocktail,” she said.

Metzler said the ‘90s theme was chosen to pay tribute to the decade in which the Garden opened.

“And who doesn’t love the ‘90s?” she said.

The daytime event is free to the community.

However, as a precaution because of the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-registration is required.

“It is important that we host a free community celebration to thank the community, for they are the reason the Garden exists today,” Metzler said. “Green Bay Botanical Garden is a community garden for all people and what a better way to celebrate that than with a birthday party?”

For the after-hours party, guests 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 because of the volunteers that give of their time and talents,” she said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can visit GBBG.org/Birthday.

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