Louisville is experiencing an “environmental coming of age” with Waterfront Botanical Gardens, according to Director of Horticulture & Education Jamie Burghardt. “This ever-evolving collection of curated plants will serve as a resource of education and inspiration for generations to come.” Jamie grew up in a family that was into both edible and ornamental gardening. He originally wanted to study marine biology – un- til he realized how much math was involved! Jamie turned his attention to biology, environmental horticulture, and public horticulture instead. In his current role, Jamie’s focus is on building a healthy relationship between plant life and the environment to include:

HORTICULTURE – selection, acquisition, planning, and nurturing of the plant life

EDUCATION – both active and passive, with classes, workshops, programs, school outreach, plant labels, audio tours, garden guides, and more

Jamie sees Waterfront Botanical Gardens as a unique opportunity to see a brand new urban botanical garden from its infancy. “The youngest urban botanical garden before this one was started in the early 1960s, and the oldest is from the 1910s.” Waterfront Botanical Gardens is “being built in two strata of history.” The site was formerly home to blue-collar neighborhoods decimated by floods, becoming the Ohio Street Dump. The dump was eventually closed and capped with soil, which would lie fallow and overrun with invasive plant species for over thirty years.

What was once a vital community, then a dump, then a tangle of ivy and weeds, is now a place of beauty. “Beauty can be subjective,” says Jamie, “but this opportunity for connection with nature and civic pride is undeniable.” For example, the forthcoming Japanese Garden will be a place to exhale, for “stopping to appreciate color, texture, and form and draw from memory fragrance or flavor. It is the beauty of consciousness.”

Asking Jamie to choose a favorite plant or area of the garden depends on the season, the day, the light, and performance. On a Monday in mid–May, a tall, yellow bearded iris in bloom caught his eye. (Yellow is Jamie’s favorite color.) But the Garden also has its challenges. “With the imperfect soil types and exposure of sun and wind, we are learning what will tolerate the elements and grow best in hot and dry weather versus cool and wet. You have to adjust expectations of performance in a living museum of native and non–native plants.”

The current iteration of the Master Plan for Waterfront Botanical Gardens has three major phases:

PHASE 1A – The Graeser Family Education Center and Founders’ Garden

PHASE 1B – Outdoor Education Gardens, including the Edible Gardens and Water Wall, Native Gardens, Pollinator Gardens, the Rounsavall Family Foundation Plaza Fountain, and Beargrass Creek Pathway

PHASE 1C – The Garden Expansion with the Ellen T. Leslie Botanical Classrooms, Tree Allée, and Beargrass Creek Overlook

PHASE 1D – The Garden Expansion Continues with the Japanese Garden.

PHASE 2A – Welcome to the Visitors’ Center (“with downtown skyline views and a green roof”), Entry Garden, and Water Filtration Garden.

PHASE 2B – The Garden Grows with the Children’s Garden and the Planted Trellis.

PHASE 3 – “the crown jewel” Conservatory, “a massive oversized greenhouse with non–native plants representing different parts of the world”

Posted on 2021-06-01 by Dawn Anderson