June 1, 2023

The Garden’s Future is Bright

Claudia Gee Vassar's family is moving abroad this summer, so her last day as the Houston Botanic Garden's president & general counsel is June 29. The Garden's board of directors is currently conducting a national search for her replacement.

When I started in an interim leadership role with the Houston Botanic Garden in 2016, someone asked me if I was an environmentalist. I hadn’t really thought of myself that way before. I was a nonprofit generalist specializing in helping passionate, mission-driven individuals and organizations maximize their impact. 

I am honored to have been a part of creating a major cultural institution for our city. One that will participate in making a difference in perhaps the most important issue facing humanity. I have worked alongside a diverse group of individuals – board members, landscape designers, generous philanthropists, and talented team members – who each played a special role in this monumental accomplishment.

Together, we have launched the Houston Botanic Garden for Houston, and for the world. It is a beautiful place. It is passionate people. It is collections and programs that are having a real impact. It is still young, and it has a very bright future.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines an environmentalist as a person who has an especially strong interest in or knowledge of the natural environment, and who wants to preserve it and prevent damage to it. Am I an environmentalist? After nearly seven years of stewarding the development of the Houston Botanic Barden, I would now say, yes!   

My interest in, and certainly my knowledge of, the natural environment has grown tremendously. In addition, as I’ve learned more and more about the rapid decline of biodiversity, and the critical importance of botanic gardens to both conserve plant genetics and also to inspire the public to participate in healing our world, I wear the label more and more proudly.  

I have fallen head over heels in love. In love with the sheer magnificence of our planet and the beauty of nature that surrounds us. You know when you first fall in love, you notice everything. All the little details, each and every action. I’m still in that stage. I love the vibrant colors of the sunrise; the delicate petals of flowers; the gnarliness of trees; giant, puffy clouds; the melodious chorus of birdsong first thing in the morning; the magic of butterflies flitting around—they all serve as reminders of the incredible diversity and interconnectedness of life on Earth. Our planet is a masterpiece, an intricate web of ecosystems that provides sustenance for all of us who are a part of nature. 

I believe that we hold the power to heal the broken parts of nature and our planet, to restore balance, and to protect fragile ecosystems. It begins with love—for our planet, for nature, and for future generations. It is this love that will ignite a passion within us to make a difference, to take action, and to inspire others. I know the power of this love, because it is my lived experience. This has been my journey at the Garden. My heart explodes with gratitude for how I have been changed. For how I have become one who cares deeply for nature—the provider of delicious herbs and tart pomegranate, sweet smelling gardenia, and awe-inspiring oaks. 

While my chapter with the Houston Botanic Garden is coming to a close, I know that there are many more chapters and volumes of this romance to come. Thank you, each of you, for all you have done, and all you will continue to do, to inspire people to fall madly, deeply in love with this place, and with our collective home.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

It's Time to GO BANANAS!

Everyone’s favorite tropical fruit is finally getting the attention it deserves as the Garden hosts a day-long festival celebrating the yellow peel-and-eat treat. Join us on June 3 for this family-friendly banana bonanza that will include classes, cooking demonstrations, a kid’s zone, and a farmer’s market among its attractions.

A special pop-up dinner with Chef Keisha Griggs is scheduled for the most dedicated banana aficionados. Guests at the event Friday night, June 2, will enjoy an unforgettable five-course dinner of delicious dishes infused with or inspired by the featured fruit. Curated wine tastings are also on the menu.

Visitors also have the option of upgrading their Saturday festival experience with tickets to a four-course banana brunch complete with coffee and mimosas. The upscale, mid-morning meal kicks off at 9:30 a.m.

What’s Happening at the Garden

Forest Gardening: 

Natural Systems Design

We saved the best for last in our three-part Forest Gardening series. Jaime Gonzalez from the Nature Conservancy in Texas will lead an informative evening lecture on Thursday, June 15, offering up his expertise on the topic of natural systems and the importance of restoring the entire ecosystem.

Discover the Secret Garden

The rescheduled-from-the-spring Secret Garden party is just a few days away! But there’s still time to snag tickets to this event on Saturday, June 10. Make plans to enjoy delicious drinks, tasty bites, and whimsical games during a unique garden-chic social gathering. It’s a wonderful way to see first-hand how the Garden can become even more magical during twilight. Don’t miss this enchanting experience. 

BotaniCamp is BACK!

These plant-centric nature camps for K-5 students offer a sensory and inquiry-driven curriculum to educate and engage. BotaniCamp starts June 19, and the five-day sessions run for most of the summer, with just a few weeks off in early July. Topics change each week, and Gardening Mini-Camps can also be added to create a full day of discovery for your child. 

Cure summer boredom before it begins. Two of the talented camp staff -- teachers Alba Sereno and Caroline O'Hara -- are excited about the prospect of working with this year’s campers. 

Horticulture Help

The grounds are ever-changing at the Garden, and the latest transformation is now underway with the construction of the first of five planned greenhouses. Learn more about how the project will help us accommodate new plant varieties, enhance the Culinary Garden, and protect our most fragile plant residents. 

Private Event Rentals Are On Sale This Summer!

Need the perfect space for your upcoming event? We’ve got a HOT deal on rental spaces all summer long. Take advantage of up to 50% off the regular venue fee during the months of June, July, and August. Starting this month, the Woodland Glade, Global Collection Garden Tent, Culinary Garden Tent, Water Walls, and Alcoves are available for half off. 

Reserve the Petite Pavilion or a selected area in the Global Collection Garden for a micro wedding ceremony for a 20% discount. Contact our Venue Coordinator today to explore all of our venue options and learn more about the many amenities our facility offers. 

Bookings subject to availability. Cannot be combined with any other discount(s). Security fee, insurance, extra hours, custom venue spaces, and full garden buy-outs are not included in the sale.

Learn With Us

**NOTE: Non-members who purchase all 8 sessions in the Summer Webinar Series in advance – versus a la carte at $10 a piece – receive a discount of $30. 

How Our Garden Grows

The Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden is more than a place for families to explore nature together. It’s also part of one family's tribute to a dedicated wife, mother, and grandmother who had a lifelong passion for gardening and flower arranging. 

Beth Garver Black and Gretchen Garver Hilyard (pictured above with Beth's husband Don Black, at the Garden's ribbon-cutting on Sept. 17, 2020) -- who will be recognized at the 2023 Annual Luncheon this fall alongside their father, Mike Garver -- recently shared with us why the Garden means so much to the family. And how creating a space dedicated to their mother that “marries together her two passions: flowers and family” has been a meaningful way to be a part of the Garden’s incredible impact. 

Give & Double Your Impact

Sustainable growth requires a nurturing environment with reliable resources. And that’s exactly what our 2023 annual fund campaign aims to create. Please consider making a donation that will help us grow Houston’s garden. Remember, donations of $100 or more made by June 30 can be matched dollar for dollar thanks to a generous commitment of $25,000 from Cathy and Joe Cleary.  

You can donate to the Houston Botanic Garden at any time by visiting our website or texting give2garden to 41444. 

Know the Weather Before You Go

Houston’s weather can be unpredictable, but we make planning a trip to the Garden easy. Beat the heat and dodge those summer showers thanks to real-time weather conditions and a live look from our on-site streaming weather camera.

Don't Miss Intertwined: Exploring Nature's Networks 

Mother Nature isn’t the only artist doing incredible work at the Garden right now. The talented Steve Tobin has enhanced the grounds with his world-class sculptures. This renowned craftsman’s work has previously graced the covers of major magazines like Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic.

With 20 beautifully mesmerizing installations, "Steve Tobin’s Intertwined: Exploring Nature’s Networks" will elevate your appreciation and amazement as you find yourself surrounded by massive bronze roots, intricately beautiful steel nests with magical eggs, and stainless-steel clouds. 

The unique project is an incredible example of the power of public art and includes some never-before-seen in Texas sculptures. Make plans to view his creations in person before the installation closes at the end of the summer.

Save the Date for the Annual Luncheon

The Garden's most important annual fundraising event will be here before you know it, and this year’s luncheon promises to be unforgettable. 

Co-chairs Kit and Carl Detering and April and Wells McGee are hard at work planning the event that will honor C. Michael Garver, Beth Garver Black, and Gretchen Garver Hilyard. Inspired by the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden, we are delighted to announce that the theme of the luncheon this year is “Like a child, a garden will grow.

Join us for the Houston Botanic Garden's 2023 Annual Luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 4, from 12-1 p.m. at River Oaks Country Club. Be sure to reserve a table or ticket before they’re gone!

Membership Perks

Just in case access to 132 acres of amazing natural wonders and incredible works of art isn’t enough to convince you, members also enjoy class and event discounts. Join today and don’t forget to pick up your complimentary membership pin at the Ticket Window the next time you visit.

Get Your Bloom On

The Bloomers are an active group of young professionals working to raise awareness about our offerings and attract new nature lovers to the cause. As the force driving many of our social events and volunteer activities, this next-generation group is always ready to welcome new members.