Older news follows:
Some of you may have heard yours truly on the radio. WVTF reporter Sandy Haufman came by the Botanique nursery and gave a brief report on the preservation part of the project, the pitcher plants. This group of plants is a great way to draw attention and public interest. A National Geographic photographer and writer came out some years ago and the preservation project for pitcher plants appeared in the magazine (May,1992, p.73). Back then, the idea of combining the preservation project with a botanical garden was still in its infancy. The idea of a botanical garden in Charlottesville is an old one; it's even part of the master plan. We first started "pushing" for progress in 2005. Eventually, we hope to have the components and resources to catalyze construction.
First, it might be good to clarify that Charlottesville does not currently have a botanical garden. Our group is working to help change this. We are in the process of forming a nonprofit corporation to not only raise funds, but to help guide the process so that the garden is beautiful, amazing, educational, scientific, efficient, environmentally designed and sustainable. That’s a lot to ask! Fortunately, our group includes people who have spent many years creating and working in botanical gardens and institutions. We’ve learned how to make the process come together. A recently updated proposal is available for downloading on the home/index page. Since the original proposal (2005-2006) went out, there have been some developments and changes. The proposal describes what we're trying to achieve as well as what the garden could include.
Sadly, many botanical gardens are poorly designed and suffer in later years. In these tight economic times, it takes forward thinking people to anticipate possible problems and solve them. For example, a great number of botanical gardens have had disastrous freezes due to fuel shortages or the high cost of heating greenhouse(s). We’re pushing for modern, energy efficient designs with safeguards to protect plants and facilities. One possibility to circumvent or reduce fossil fuel use has been used for decades by commercial growers, who know how to cut costs. This system uses renewable wood, especially “scrap” wood, to fire a hot water heating system. The furnaces produce some of the best quality heat at minimal cost. Furthermore, unlike a wood stove, these furnaces get hot enough to destroy creosote and smoke. I recently visited a nursery in Scottsville, Virginia and saw one in action. Even though the system was cranking out enough heat for several greenhouses, there was no smoke coming out of the chimney! The owner told me it was one of his two smartest investments.
Another option is to use “night blankets”, where practical. These are insulating materials which are mechanically put in place after closing hours. Since night time is when most heat loss occurs, this can be a great way to save money and be more eco-friendly. Most botanical gardens have ancillary or “production” greenhouses which are not part of the big display area; they get the plants ready for the public, kind of like a dressing room. These structures can easily incorporate the above solutions.
During summer months, a different problem arises: heat gain from the sun. My own greenhouse uses nifty little automatic vent lifters that push open roof vents without electricity. These clever gadgets use a liquid which expands when it gets warm, causing a piston to raise the vents. Combined with a well-designed air flow, the operating cost per day is next to nothing and it’s quiet.
These are but some of the ideas we hope to contribute. For right now, we’re in the process of getting our organization set up as a future nonprofit (501c3) corporation. Virginia State corporation status has been achieved. We’re also networking and doing things like creating this web site to help people understand what we’re about. There will be updates soon, so please visit this site again. Contact information is being set up, so it will be included in the next update.
Sincerely, Rob Sacilotto
Charlottesville Botanical Garden
Back to home/index page