Recipe for a garden-by Beth Lavenz

When you think of a garden, you’re not likely to associate the different flowers and plants as integral parts of the recipe to create a garden. Flowers are not easily measurable like dry ingredients and it’s no easy feat to tell when a garden is complete by using a toothpick. All joking aside though, many people think that gardens and cooking are two completely different worlds, however, there are many similarities to the work of a chef or baker and the work of a gardener.

Flowers, much like bread, need the perfect conditions to flourish. If the acidity level of the soil is too high or too low the health of plants can deteriorate and may deflate, much like an over-proved or underbaked loaf. Some plants pair better with others much like a good cheese and wine, and gardens left unattended can become a disaster riddled with weeds which, in comparison, is better than a smoke-filled kitchen.

When we break down the work to create a garden we see that it is similar to following a recipe to create a dish or baked good. I am always amazed at the story of how the Arboretum began and how it has led us to where we are today. April is a special month for non-profits as we celebrate National Volunteer Week April 15th-April 21st.

To celebrate National Volunteer Week and welcome the beginning of our 22nd season in May, I’d like to share a version of our special garden recipe.


A Recipe for a Garden:

  • 1 idea to change your community
  • 1 plot of land
  • At least 1-5 leaders to build the groundwork (you can add more leaders to make your garden as strong as you’d like it)
  • Enthusiastic supporters (as many to taste)
  • Other ingredients as deemed necessary



Step 1: To make your garden you’ll first need to start with an idea to change your community. You may find that this project is a great way to communicate and partner with other area groups. Before you begin building, I mean baking, you’ll need to come up with an idea of what the final project should be. Partners will be very helpful in discussing the garden’s needs and help to decide what will be the best fit for the community.



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Step 2:  You’ll need to find a plot of land. Preferably something open with good soil and plenty of room to grow. Not too close and not too far, somewhere with easy access and community support is the best. It will look, I mean taste, even better if you can partner with an educational institution.

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Step 3: Gather 1-5 (or as many leaders as you need) to begin the process of building your base. Do not skip this step as these leaders are crucial to your success. Leaders work both in front of and behind the scenes and dedicate their time to making sure that you can continue to the next step.

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Step 4: Add in your enthusiastic supporters. Your supporters help your gardens to rise and grow bigger than you could have ever imagined them to be. They help you to complete big projects and make dreams come to life. The best part is you never have to worry about adding too many supporters and ruining your final product.

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Step 5: Add other ingredients as necessary. You may read through this recipe and decide that the garden would be better with a new kind of plant or a water feature. Now is the time to try something and see if it creates the garden your community needs. You can always try something and remove it if doesn’t work.

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Step 6: Share your garden. By now your garden will have been building and growing for a while. (We let ours grow for 22 years!) No matter how many times you share your garden it will not change how amazing it looks and the number of times it changes people’s lives. Your garden will continue to grow and is best enjoyed with friends and family.

As with any form of cooking, gardening is filled with creative liberties. Your garden recipe may differ from ours and that’s okay! You’ll know your garden is complete when you hear praise about the beauty of the plants and the dedication to becoming a must-stop, local attraction.


This recipe is dedicated to our volunteers who have provided years of leadership, hours of work, and immeasurable amounts of support as we continue to grow and change. We could not be the garden we are today without your support. Thank you!

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