Memphis Botanic Garden gets green light for expansion project, complementing Audubon Park plans

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 11:15 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Mary, Mary, how does your garden grow?

If Mary was at the Memphis Botanic Garden, her answer would be: “by leaps and bounds!”

Garden officials announced a new $5 million expansion plan on Tuesday that includes a glass house that will light up in different colors like the Hernando-DeSoto Bridge.

At the Memphis Botanic Garden, Executive Director Mike Allen is excited about their new “Rooted at Park and Cherry” campaign.

“It’s a $5 million effort with four new projects involved,” Allen said.

The crown jewel is a 3,200-square-foot glass house for youth education programs. Allen said the Botanic Garden hosts 40,000 schoolchildren each year.

The glass house will also showcase the garden’s tropical plant collection.

“We are going to be able to expose these children to plants from far-off parts of the world that they’ve never seen before,” Allen said.

The other three projects include modernizing the arboretum and orchard, adding trees to the outdoor space, and creating three new meadows — including one just for Monarch butterflies, which are now considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Visitors will also be able to learn garden-to-table recipes in the new outdoor kitchen.

“We’ll invite the occasional celebrity chef to come in and offer a cooking demonstration, hopefully using some of the produce in this garden as well as some of the eggs from our chicken coop,” Allen said.

The new features are a perfect complement to what’s happening across the street at Audubon Park.

Now that city leaders have reached a compromise with community members over how much of the park will be dedicated to the newly remodeled golf course, major changes just got the green light.

”The community is excited. It’s the compromise that we wanted,” said Dr. Angela Link with the group Save Audubon Park.

After Dr. Link and other neighbors gave Memphis Parks Director Nick Walker an earful during an Oct. 19 community meeting, the City of Memphis tweaked the $8 million plan to remodel the golf course and add a driving range.

In addition, the lake that neighbors love so much still remains part of the park instead of becoming a water feature for golfers.

“The lake just provides a visceral response of relaxation and nature,” Dr. Link said. “With all the wildlife ‘round it, the ducks and the geese that come in... it’s just a green space that we knew if we lost, it could never be recaptured.”

The new $40 million Leftwich Tennis Center is quickly taking shape in the park, too. The tennis and golf facilities will allow the city to host high school and college-level tournaments and events.

Together, each recreational space is growing into the future, right in the heart of the city.

“Over the last 15 years, the Memphis Botanic Garden will have invested $25 million in our gardens, in our grounds, in our structures,” said Allen. “We’re a good bet.”

Allen said the garden is one-third of the way toward raising the $5 million needed for all four projects. He said everything should be completed by the end of 2024.

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