During this time of sheltering in place, the Regional Parks Botanic Garden staff has been missing all the garden visitors, volunteers, docents, and Friends! We have been closed since late March, and we are working on a plan for reopening that may involve one-way paths, some path closures, and limiting the number of visitors at one time.
In the meantime, we have moved from very minimal staffing in late March toward having permanent staff back full time. We hope to add seasonal staff back soon as well, to help us with reopening procedures and new protocols. We have been able to schedule our work in a safe way that allows a maximum of social distancing. Staff members are now stationed in different offices, and we all have face coverings that we use when we need to share indoor spaces or need to communicate in close proximity. We regularly use disinfectants to clean frequently touched surfaces.
Luckily the weather has been fairly mild since late March, including some rain, so we have not had to spend too much time watering, and we were able to tend to weeding and planting tasks that needed to get done. The garden is starting to pop with bits of color, which will continue through summer. Much of the garden collection is rare and endangered, with some plants protected by federal or state law, and staff has been doing a great job keeping a close eye on the collection to make sure the most sensitive plants get what they need.
Volunteers have not been able to enter the garden, so staff has also been busy tending to the plants that the volunteers have so lovingly propagated for our plant sales. The care the volunteers have taken in propagating the plants truly shows—they are looking healthy and lush right now! Everyone has been great at adapting to new nursery and propagation BMPs (Best Management Practices) that we have implemented. I think the greatest results have come from getting all plants off of the ground, eliminating the use of divisions or seedlings dug from the ground in the garden, using new pots, and being more aggressive about culling sick, weak, or stunted plants. We are hoping to come up with a system for selling plants while volunteering and visitation is limited. It may be some time before we are able to get a system in place.
At this time we do not know when the garden will reopen, but when we do reopen we would like to do it in the safest way possible to allow for social distancing in a space that has many narrow pathways. We want to have a good plan in place that will assure the highest degree of safety for our staff and you, our visitors.
We look forward to the time when we welcome visitors back to enjoy the garden and again provide educational opportunities for schools and the general public, a beautiful backdrop for small weddings and photo shoots, and a place of community for many volunteers, docents, and other regulars.
— Liz Bittner, Park Supervisor/Horticulture Specialist at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden