The State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA joined more than 180 public gardens around the country and in Puerto Rico in celebration of the American Public Garden Association’s 8th Annual National Public Gardens Day on May 12.

Communities were invited to explore the diversity of local green spaces and take advantage of the conservation, education and environmental preservation resources that public gardens provide.

“The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is proud to be a part of National Public Gardens Day,” said SBG Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders. “It’s a day to celebrate everything we love about gardens and plants, and also bring awareness to the importance of our garden specifically and its impact on Georgia and beyond.”

The garden celebrated with a variety of activities, including free guided tours and a 10 percent discount at the gift shop. The UGA Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden also hosted its spring plant sale at the garden from 9-10:30 a.m.

Horticulturist Michael Dirr, a retired UGA professor and former director of the Botanical Garden, spoke at Friends First Friday that morning. Dirr’s presentation, titled “Reflections on the 2016 summer of plant discontent,” included information on how gardeners can prepare for another hot summer in the South and where he believes the future of gardeners and plants is headed. He also shared why he feels gardens are important to society in the 21st century.

“The world moves at a dizzying pace and gardens can provide a sanctuary and oasis for reflection and peaceful coexistence with nature unlike anywhere else,” Dirr said. “But aside from that, and perhaps most importantly, gardens serve as a repository for threatened and endangered species, habitat preservation, plant conservation and much more. That’s something the State Botanical Garden of Georgia does exceedingly well.”

Dirr directed the garden from 1979 until 1981, and worked closely with the garden as a professor in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“Throughout my career, I have seen the garden evolve from really just this idea into a nationally known institution for not only its beautiful collections, but for plant conservation and first-class education programs,” he said. “There is much to be proud of here and a lot to continue to build on.”

Construction will be underway—literally—as the garden marks its 50th anniversary in 2018. Initial construction for the new Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is scheduled for October. The new complex will transform two and a half acres into a fun-filled educational environment for children of all ages. Key features include a canopy walk, Theater-in-the-Woods, edible landscapes, underground adventure area, pond and much more.