Much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the McMillan Greenhouse at UNC Charlotte's Botanical Gardens has experienced a rebirth following a minor fire in April 2012.
“We’re really known for our orchids, and people love them,” said Paula Gross, assistant director of the Botanical Gardens, which is part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “So when we had to rebuild our damaged room, we thought about how we could do even more to showcase orchids."
John Denti built a display to illustrate how orchids grow in the wild. Clare Duschl-Hagenbuch, a Botanical Gardens donor, helped fund some of the changes to the Orchid Room in memory of her late son Douglas Duschl, who was an avid orchid enthusiast.
“Prior to the fire in the other greenhouse wing, we had already been considering changes to the conservatory – the room with the upstairs and downstairs – which is a favorite for many because of its jungle-like feel,” Gross said. “The conservatory was established in the late ’80s, and the soil hadn’t been changed out since.”
The Botanical Gardens' leadership decided to to update the conservatory with new paint and fresh soil and new plantings.
“This was a major undertaking for us,” Gross said. “We had the opportunity to really think about placement of plantings to take into account their future growth. Before, it focused on rainforest species. This time it will be a little more vibrant using tropical plants and color. It’s a shady place, so it won’t be full of blooms, but more vegetation with color.”
A student donated a chandelier tree he received from his mother; once mature, the plant will bear large pink bracts, which are colored leaves. The student decided he couldn’t care for such an exotic plant, so he offered it to the Botanical Gardens. Other new species came from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, following the common practice of gardens trading plantings.
“The entire Botanical Gardens staff and our student workers have put in a lot of effort to our new look, so we’re excited that the public will get a chance to see our changes,” Gross stated. “Our open house coincides with our popular Valentine’s Day Orchid Sale, so we hope everyone will come and explore the greenhouse and get inspired to try their hand at growing their own orchids.”
The Botanical Gardens regularly offers classes and other events that are open to the public.