Feb. 13, 2023

Elevating Underrecognized Contributions to Plant Study & Cultivation

During Black History Month, we pay tribute to African Americans and their many contributions to the history of this country. Sadly, much of their legacy and achievements in the fields of horticulture and botany have been ignored and lost. This month is an opportunity to strive to recall and celebrate important and inspiring African Americans.

One such regional legacy with international impact is that of Clarence Pleasants. Clarence fell in love with oleanders as a boy in Virginia, and decided to dedicate his life to this enchanting subtropical shrub.

When only a 7th grade education was available to him in formal schooling, he turned to the Norfolk Botanical Garden to dive deeper in his knowledge and understanding of the Nerium species. He corresponded with people across the globe to learn about the plant and discovered that oleanders were planted prolifically in Galveston after the devastating flood of 1900.

Driven by his passion for oleanders, he moved to Galveston, aka the Oleander City, and grew and propagated numerous species. Clarence co-founded what is now known as the International Oleander Society with Kewpie Guido who was inspired by his love of oleanders. 

Despite their toxicity for mammals, including humans, oleanders are beloved landscaping plants for their resiliency and blooms. The oleanders in the Mediterranean and Tropical biomes in the Global Collection Garden suffered during the December 2022 freeze, but we expect many will bounce back, as some closer to the coast – in Galveston, League City, and Seabrook, for instance – are already doing. We are grateful for Clarence “Mr. Oleander” Pleasants’ passion for and commitment to oleanders. We celebrate the work that builds on his contributions that continues in Galveston to cultivate and showcase this species.

Claudia Gee Vassar, President & General Counsel

Explore Nature, Reflect Within

The Garden has recently become the backdrop of awe-inspiring structures that captivate the heart and mind, thanks to the 20 monumental sculptures composing Steve Tobin’s Intertwined: Exploring Nature’s Networks

Nancy O’Connor Abendshein generously co-chaired the project alongside Bill Stewart, helping to bring this incredibly memorable exhibition of public art to Houston.

Other sponsors include the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation, Barbara and David Gibbs, Margaret and Joel Shannon, Terri Lacy and Jim Baird, Blair and Bryan Loocke, Kelli and Chris Mize, Judy and Charles Tate, Jan and David Bean, Jenny Elkins, Lynne and Joe Hudson, Shelli and Steve Lindley, Precision Drilling/Veronica Foley, Vivian L. Smith Foundation/Jesse H. Jones II, Aimee and Wynne Snoots, Sharyn and Jim Weaver/The Gordon A. Cain Foundation. Special thanks to Jack Bellows/Bellows Construction and Houston Public Media. 

Find the Garden on the Bloomberg Connects App

Download Bloomberg Connects today to elevate your next Garden visit! The arts and culture app created by Bloomberg Philanthropies provides exclusive content and info while you’re onsite and is available to download for free on the Apple Store and Google Play. Don’t feel like visiting IRL? You can also explore the Garden virtually from anywhere with Bloomberg Connects!

Houston Wedding Planner Finds a New Fave Venue

After a decade-plus of wedding planning in Houston, Shaun Gray had thought he’d seen it all. That was before a recent client booked the Garden as their wedding venue before hiring Shaun as their wedding planner. Despite some initial hesitation, Shaun visited and was stunned by the abundance of possibilities we offer couples looking to tie the knot.  

“You can be on one side of the Garden, and you're in the tropics, and then a couple of feet away, you're immersed in this amazing, fresh culinary garden that smells great and looks phenomenal.”

Click below to read our interview with Shaun and check out our private rental options if you’re in search of a bespoke outdoor wedding experience.

What’s Happening at the Garden

A History of Good Spirits

Don’t miss Rafael Avila’s educational Mezcal tasting on Feb. 25! Learn all about the history and cultural uses of North America's original spirit and how it differs from other favorites like Tequila. 

BotaniCamp is on sale for Spring Break!

From March 13-16, our plant-centric nature camp is the perfect place for your kiddos to grow their love for nature through discovering aquatic animals and plants, experimenting with water chemistry, and learning about keeping our local waterways safe and healthy. Use promo code HALFOFF23 to save 50% per camper on registration! 

Tour de Houston Pitstop at the Garden

At 10 miles from the starting line, the Garden is the first rest stop for cyclists competing in the Tour de Houston on Feb. 26. The Tour, presented by Apache Corporation, benefits a project that is near and dear to the Garden: Houston’s reforestation project! For more info on the tour click here.

Making Memories at the Garden

You just found the perfect spot for a Girls' Day outing! Catch up, take a stroll, and admire stunning art as you explore Steve Tobin’s sculptures. Take the most memorable group photos and selfies you’ve ever snapped by showing up shortly before sunset to take full advantage of Golden Hour! Have a snack and relax in our Picnic Grove. And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses, or any of our other delightful plants and flowers here at the Garden.

Learn With Us

To-may-to, To-mah-to

Pronunciation is irrelevant when it comes to tomatoes, which is why we’re focusing on teaching you how to grow and care for tomato plants, as well as craft delicious recipes that feature them. Join us for Discover, Cultivate, Create! on Saturday, Feb. 18 as we spotlight a garden favorite.

Fight Climate Change in Your Backyard

Properly composting food scraps helps eliminate waste and creates incredibly healthy fertilizer for your home garden. On Saturday, Feb. 18, we’re hosting a Compost Workshop dedicated to teaching nature lovers like you the ins and outs of soil health. 

Elevating Indigenous Knowledge to Prevent Ecological Crises 

Join us on Feb. 25 to learn about “Two-Eyed Seeing,” a profound exploration of how Houston’s Indigenous knowledge and worldviews can be elevated and work alongside western science and historical traditions to co-create healthier, more meaningful places and a more just world. Local Native American leaders, scientists, and historians will be in attendance.

Explore our Events Calendar for more opportunities to grow your gardening knowledge. 

Horticulture Help 

With time between us and the December freeze, our horticulture team has reflected on the best ways to protect and improve our horticultural collections. This includes diligently nursing certain plants back to full strength, while also making the tough decision to not regrow other plants until the Garden has a conservatory. Check out our latest article for more. 

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Texas Firecracker)

Get Involved

Students from the Kincaid School volunteer at the Garden.

Want to get involved at the Garden but you’re unsure how to help? We have various volunteer opportunities from Administration and Education to Greeters, Docents, Fundraising, and more. Prefer to get your hands dirty? There are lots of ways to help Garden staff. We also welcome volunteer groups if your company or organization is interested in helping Houston flourish as a team.

To get involved, contact us at volunteers@hbg.org.

Curate Your Own Steve Tobin Exhibition at Home

Want to take home more than just memories of Steve Tobin’s Intertwined: Exploring Nature’s Networks? Stop by our Garden Shop to browse table-top pieces by the artist behind the inspiring limited-time exhibit.

How Our Garden Grows

Did you know the Garden was recently awarded 215 trees from the Apache Corporation’s Tree Grant Program? These new additions are expected to have numerous positive impacts on the Houston community, including a cooler environment, more wildlife habitats, soil improvement, and better stormwater runoff mitigation. We can’t wait for you to see them.

You can donate to the Houston Botanic Garden at any time by visiting our website or texting give2garden to 71777.

Membership Perks

For Members

Don’t forget to pick up your complimentary membership pin at the Ticket Window the next time you visit. 

Start Blooming Socially in 2023

Connect with more like-minded, Garden-loving professionals. Join our next-generation group! From social events to volunteer efforts, The Bloomers have become an integral part of the Garden community.