Save the World

By: Dan Camenga

Potential benefits afforded to us by public gardens are numerous. Sustainability. Family fun! Human expression. Space for personal reflection. Food security. Community cohesiveness and pride. Clean air. Clean water. Cultural awareness. Sense of place. Workforce skills development. Inspiration. Leadership development. Recovery support for people suffering from addiction issues. Wildlife habitat. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). Language arts and literacy. Diversity. Entertainment. Storytelling. Volunteer service opportunities. Traffic calming. Economic development. History. Tourism. Etc. In short – living public gardens can support a higher quality of life.

We have unintentionally done ourselves a great disservice by traditionally thinking of some public gardens as “institutional gardens” or “museums” and other public gardens as functional chores of “grounds departments” and/or “landscaping crews”. While it is true that there is a broad spectrum of public gardens (some of which have highly advanced administrative systems and others that do not) we gain significant value by raising awareness of the full spectrum of public gardens. It’s akin to seeing the world in black-and-white, or only smelling one fragrance, or only touching manufactured objects. If we have a choice to see in full, high-definition color – why not choose that option?

Several months ago, I listened with curiosity to a friend describe me to someone else by saying: “he’s passionate about gardens and wants to save the world with gardens”. In a world that is so caught up with the latest app or the most recent scandal, I often think that a world with more gardens would be a whole lot happier. Of course, there are already many gardens across the US. So why are so many Americans blind to their existence?

Dan Camenga is the founder of the Garden Literacy Project. He is passionate about growing interest in public gardens. To share your thoughts, please visit “Your Story” on

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