The seeds of Botanica grew out of three Louisville plant societies that gathered together to host a community educational event. In 1993, members of the three groups formed a new organization and selected the name, Botanica. Its mission was to become an umbrella organization for the local gardening community by offering quality programs to educate the general public about home gardening. Over the next several years Botanica brought a variety of speakers to Louisville to help enlighten, entertain and educate the community about the botanical world. In addition to hosting a popular lecture series, for six years Botanica was the presenter of the plant-lover’s noteworthy Fleur de Lis Festival – a celebration of all things botanical.
As the organization has grown so too have its ambitions. In 2001, Botanica learned that it was the beneficiary of a trust established by member Helen Harrigan, a local gardener with a desire to see a botanical garden and conservatory built in Louisville. Feasibility and fund raising studies along with a marketing plan were conducted by separate consulting firms and a model concept helped further the vision of what the garden could look like and how it would be received.
In September 2009, Botanica, in partnership with the Louisville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, hosted a Garden Summit with six botanical garden directors from around the country who shared their expertise and advice for funding, planning, constructing and maintaining a successful botanical garden in Louisville. To kick-off the Summit, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson publicly announced Botanica as the designated user of the site for the garden project, the former landfill at the intersection of River Road and Frankfort Avenue.
In August 2010, a Strategic Vision was developed for the Waterfront Botanica Gardens stating:
The Waterfront Botanical Gardens:
- Will bring a unique amenity to Louisville and beyond, for residents and visitors of all ages.
- Will offer diverse exhibits, both inside and outside, permanent and revolving, that appeal to all ages.
- Will offer education on our native flora and promote environmental stewardship.
- Will draw visitors from around the country and the world.
- Will be a beautiful exclamation point to Waterfront Park and the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge way as well as Olmsted Parks, Floyd’s Fork and the swath of parkland that is to encircle the city.
Strategically positioned near downtown and Louisville’s Waterfront Park, with easy access to expressways, public transportation, pedestrian and bicycle routes, the Waterfront Botanical Gardens will serve as a tourist and educational attraction for the region. The Gardens will highlight the beauty and healing properties of plants while educating, informing and entertaining people of all ages. The Gardens will fulfill Botanica’s vision of seeing a garden built in Louisville that promotes environmental stewardship and a love of plants while being a global example of innovative “green” design in architecture, environmental elements and technology.
With humble origins, great ambition and clear direction, Botanica looks forward to the creation of the Waterfront Botanical Gardens for our children, our community and for generations to come.