Here's an interview with Sally Bourrie, Lee Coykendall, and Dan Stark at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington DC discussing National Public Gardens Day.

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National Public Gardens Day

Event: National Public Gardens Day
Date:
May 7, 2010
Place: U.S. Botanic Garden, Washington DC
Interview: Sally Bourrie and Lee Coykendall, U.S. Botanic Garden and Dan Stark, American Public Gardens Association

Note: The U.S. Botanic Garden is open on Christmas Day.

Q: It is so beautiful today and we are so lucky to have beautiful weather. Can you tell us about what a public garden is?

A: [Sally] Sure. A public garden is a place for everybody to come and visit and they can see plants from their local area and they can see plants from many places around the world.

A: [Dan] There's 500 public gardens throughout North America. And they are places that educate kids about the importance of plants. They are also places of beauty, where people can go to see terrific plants and get great ideas for their own home gardens.

So, the United States Botanic Gardens is a beautiful example of the diversity of gardens that we have throughout the United States.

Q: Ok. So what special events do you have planned here today for National Public Gardens Day?

A: [Sally] Well, we have [an] exhibit in our Garden Court that tells people more about public gardens. We have 2 kids programs about the potato called "Planet Potato" and kids are going to be going home today with a real potato with Mr. Potato Head cap and shoes and all kinds of things. And also kids are going to get to pot their own plant; they'll have pepper plants. And that's from the same family as the potato.

Q: So what kind of events to you have going on, not only here in Washington DC, but across the country and what kind of things would kids be interested in?

A: [Dan] Well, the great things about Public Gardens is that they're so diverse. So there's all kinds of different public gardens throughout the United States. All the gardens throughout the United States are doing different kinds of things, whether it's plant cells, whether it's education programs like the ones going on here at the Botanic Garden for kids. Or whether it's just opportunities to stroll through the garden and see terrific things.

In terms of programs for kids, I think it's important to focus not just on National Public Gardens Day, but on the wonderful education programs going on at public gardens around the country throughout the year, to educate kids about the important role of plants in their everyday lives and to get them to interact more with nature at a time when kids are not interacting as much with nature. Public gardens serve as a great opportunity for kids to get out and interact with the natural world.

Q: Now if kids are not from here in the DC area, how do they find out if there's a public garden in their area?

A: [Sally] The easiest thing for them to do is, if they have web access, to go to the American Public Gardens Associations website, and they can plug in their state or their community and find the public garden near them. And there are literally public gardens everywhere.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the Botanic Gardens?

A: [Lee] Absolutely, the United States Botanic Garden is a fabulous place. We're located here in Washington DC. We are open everyday except Christmas. We are free. We're open from 10am to 5pm and I encourage all kids to come down to the Botanic Garden.

We are, right now, in one of our outdoor gardens within the Conservatory. We have the Conservatory, we have Bartholdi Park behind us and we have the National Garden.

We have a room called the Medicinal room, which is filled with all plants that take care of us. We've got the Rainforest and we contrast that with our lovely World Desert. Right now, where we're talking from is our Southern Exposure garden. And we also have a Children's Garden within the Conservatory.

Q: And you mentioned you had a Children-specific garden.

A: [Lee] We do. We have an outdoor Children's garden.

Q: And what makes that different than the other gardens.

A: [Lee] Well, we're actually a museum. And we get many, many visitors. And so often, a lot of children and school groups will ask, you know, "How do we do a field trip to the botanic garden?" and "How do we tell the kids they can't touch the plants?" Because if everybody touched the plants, they wouldn't survive.

But the Children's Garden is really designed for exploration. And often the gardeners will put plants out for the children to actually take and put into the earth. And so it's a little freer; it's a place to get a little more hands on experience.

Q: You know the first lady, Michelle Obama, started her own vegetable garden with local elementary school students here. Have you noticed a spike in interest of kids who want to start planting?

A: [Sally] Absolutely. Yes. And it was interesting because we have at Christmas time here, a display of different famous National Mall buildings. One of them is the White House. They're all made of plant materials, and this year, we added the Obama girl's swing set and a vegetable garden.

Kids LOVE the vegetable garden! And we've had a lot of kids come who are interested in planting their own vegetables, how do you grow them, and wanting to really eat fresh, organic, healthy foods. And the interest from kids and saying "Gee, I would eat something green," has gone up tremendously. So we're thrilled about that.

Q: And what's your favorite part of the garden, of all of it?

A: [Lee] And I think that's why I love the combination, you asked earlier about what was the favorite part, it's the children and the plants. And I think they really are protectors of the earth. And it's that falling in love with. And so when they learn something, like medicinal or they learn about carnivorous plants. We have a lot of pitcher plants here; kids are fascinated with pitcher plants. Why is it that plants need to use insects to survive? And plant adaptation and how a Venus Fly Trap works. I think it's pretty magical.

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