National Public Gardens Day: An Interview With Paul James

Shari Altman
Home & Garden

Paul James The Gardener Guy
Photo by

National Public Gardens Day is Friday, May 7, 2010. Sounds like a great event for Mother's Day weekend! We asked spokesperson Paul James, the Gardener Guy and host of HGTV's Gardening by the Yard, to give us all of the details.

National Public Gardens Day
Photo from APGA

Tell us a little about National Public Gardens Day.

National Public Gardens Day is a day to get the public excited about all of the resources and beauty they can find in their local public gardens. There are more than 500 public gardens in the United States that are pillars of their community, delivering education on plant and water conservation. They're great for the average home gardener to learn how they can keep beautiful gardens of their own. It’s always on the Friday before Mother’s Day -- this year it's May 7 -- and so is a perfect opportunity to take Mom out to the gardens and enjoy these wonderful green spaces.

What's the history behind this event?

The day was born out of a partnership between the American Public Gardens Association and their sponsor Rain Bird. Both organizations knew the important role public gardens play in environmental stewardship and conservation and wanted to celebrate their efforts by raising national public awareness. The response has been overwhelming. California, Delaware, and Florida have introduced legislation to make the day official in their states. So have Philadelphia and Dallas. There's even legislation submitted to the US Congress by the Architect of the Capital to make the day official nationally. Public gardens give us so much in terms of environmental stewardship, beautiful green spaces, and plant and water conservation that it’s great to see local and national communities coming together to celebrate them on May 7.

Photo from Desert Botanical Garde
How can folks find participating gardens?

With over 500 botanical gardens, arboreta, zoos, and museum gardens all over the country, there's probably a garden nearby no matter where you live. The American Public Gardens Association website has a garden search section.

Is there an admission fee?

Gardens across the country handle admission and membership in different ways. I think you'll find that admissions are reasonable and even some gardens are waiving admissions for National Public Gardens Day. The best way to support a local garden, though, is to become a member. Donating a small annual sum to a garden keeps their doors open and allows them to continue servicing the community. As a member, you can enjoy your local garden year-round knowing you've contributed to its success.

Morris Arboretum
Photo from The Morris Arboretum of The University of Pennsylvania

What types of child-friendly events will be available at the participating gardens?

Public gardens are the perfect place to bring children of all ages. From infants to teens, kids will find these wide open green spaces to be ideal for playing and exploring. Many gardens will have areas devoted to small children where they can interact with the garden displays and have access to educational resources, demonstrations, classes, and seminars. What better place is there to run wild, explore, and spend all day outdoors with your family away from the crowds than at a public garden?

tulips and pansies
Photo from The United States Botanic Garden

What can the home gardener learn by visiting a public garden?

Public gardens are a rich source of information for home gardeners, consumers, and homeowners. Gardens utilize efficient watering practices and can provide industry insight on how home gardeners can water more responsibly. They also have large selections of native plants or plants that have adapted to the local climate so gardeners can know what will work in their own gardens. Gardens can inspire home gardeners on design, the types of plants used, and the way they're displayed and arranged. Most gardens also provide materials, literature, training, and seminars to help gardeners make the best of their home gardens.

Thank you, Paul! To learn more, please visit the American Public Gardens Association.

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