Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Q&A with Sandy Shapiro, Executive Director
The MBVCA sat down with Sandy Shapiro, Executive Director of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden (MBBG), to discuss why she loves the Miami Beach Botanical Garden and discuss how the MBBG is developing community relationships and drawing in visitors. For more information about the MBBG, visit: http://www.mbgarden.org/
Tell us about the current offerings of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden (MBBG). Are there plans for future renovations or garden expansion?
In the 5 years since the reopening following Raymond Jungles’ (RJI) redesign, the Garden has grown into a rich tropical oasis. We have been emphasizing additional plantings of Florida natives, rare palms and unique tropical fruit trees, showcasing botanical specimens which educate our visitors to the natural tropical habitats.
This year, thanks to an award from the City of Miami Beach’s Environmental and Sustainability Grant, we will be creating a Pine Rockland demonstration garden. This area will focus on the indigenous fauna that attract pollinators and imperiled species of butterflies. There will be added educational opportunities presenting examples of how locals can find alternatives for their landscape pallets that contribute to our environment.
The top of our wish list is to open the Garden on the north side with a gate onto the Collins Canal incorporating the area banking the Collins Canal into our landscape thus enlarging our footprint. The Canal will be undergoing seawall refurbishment this year – what a perfect time to implement the 3rd stage of the RJI plan and extend the Garden’s landscape to the water’s edge. This would allow visitors who stroll along the Canal access to enter the Garden from the water side. The walkway goes from Meridian to the Bass Museum – can you imagine how beautiful it would be to stop at the Botanical Garden. I envision this as being Miami Beach’s version of “High Line.” It is an organic activation which best utilizes this space. Imagine coming to the Garden by kayak!
What’s the most popular – or unique – event the Botanical Gardens hosts? Does it draw in locals, tourists or a blend of the two?
This year marked the 12th Taste of the Garden, on Jan. 27th. This primarily had been supported by a local audience of Garden & Garden Club members and friends, yet we are seeing more out of towners coming each year. The 16th Miami Beach Tour of Gardens is March 11th, a great way to explore behind the gates of residential gardens. That culminates with an afternoon of activities back at the Garden, including one of the best “Gems & Junque” sales ever! We are marketing to the Concierges and hoteliers to encourage guests to visit.
Tells us about the 2017 social calendar. What can we expect to be different this year compared to previous years?
We are adding more family friendly activities. We recognize how children react to being in this habitat. The turtle, fish, butterflies and birds trigger the children to explore and it is a comfortable place for families. We are adding family yoga, continuing Art in the Park with Marie and adding mindfulness programming. We experimented last summer with Sunday afternoon pop-up dinners, it worked – we will continue it again this summer. The Garden doesn’t stop in the summer.
Our Earth Day celebration will be Friday, April 21st when we will be screening, Fisher Stevens and Leonardo DiCaprio’s, “Before the Flood,” courtesy of RatPac Entertainment. The festive evening, co-sponsored by Whole Foods Market, will start with a yoga class on the Great Lawn, and have various environmental organizations available to discuss their missions and how we can help and support them.
What unique flowers or plant species can a visitor find here in the MBBG that cannot be found elsewhere?
This year we have been feverishly replenishing the beds where we removed masses of specimen bromeliads last summer. We were fortunate to have the support of our advisory board member, and friend, Raymond Jungles help redesign the beds. We have added an assortment of gingers, begonias, and a special philodendron named, Outrageous! They have massive leaves with a red underside. It really is outrageous – it is the “Christian Louboutin” of plants. We acquired three – come check it out.
The MBBG is a popular wedding venue – which season is ideal for a wedding?
The Garden is a magical setting 12 months of the year, something is always blooming. January through May are the most popular months for weddings, being the most temperate season. Late October and November are also a great time of year.
The sultry days of summer may seem warm for an outdoor event, but it still is a dreamy time for a wedding. The Banyan Room is air conditioned and opens out to our shaded patio. The longer days allows more time to enjoy the outdoor areas, the shade canopy offers solace and the fragrance of the ylang-ylang waifs throughout the year as the sun is setting.
Tell us about the weekly events – know that there’s the Guided Garden Tours, Yoga in the Garden and the Second Saturday Seminar. What appeals most to these weekly visitors?
The appeal is access to a natural sanctuary, escape from the buzz of South Beach and the surrounding construction. Yoga at sunset in the Garden on Thursdays feels like a privilege. We promote the approachability of all our activities and events. Intimate, elegant and informative – our staff is committed to welcoming guests and offer assistance where ever we can. We are open to new partnerships to diversify our programs which broaden our reach. The events calendar are on our updated regularly on our website, http://www.mbgarden.org and always being updated on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/miamibeachbotanicalgarden/?ref=bookmarks. Things are always happening!
How are the gardens different this year? Anything special you want Miami Beach visitors to experience?
I am amazed how many residents are first timers and pleasantly surprised to find this oasis. We offer scheduled docent tours on Saturday at 11:00 AM, if that is not convenient our On Cell, self-guided cellphone tour is a terrific way to learn more the plants and fun facts about Miami Beach history. Currently, there are 13 stops on the tour within the Garden, an informative way to enrich the experience. We consider the Garden to be everyone’s back yard, only this one you are not required to weed! On that note – we love volunteers, so if residents have a desire to toil in the soil, we would love to have help.
Our ‘Botanical Boutique’ is a new addition – it’s a place to shop for souvenirs, gifts, plants and a curated assortment of cool finds. We are always adding “Made in Miami Beach” products to the inventory. This year we commissioned Kawaii Universe to design a series for shirts for the Garden. The three designs focus on our elements – native plants, butterflies and koi.
Why do you love Miami Beach?
I have traveled all over the world, when I tell people where I live, the response is a universal WOW! With all the destinations, I never mind coming home. Think of the ride from the airport, crossing the Causeway, you look left/right – oh yes, this is just fine! This is a sexy city, we embrace diversity and the rich flavors that contribute to our culture. The norm is walking around and hearing an array of languages. After 39 years here, I feel there is a sense of community, people who want Miami Beach to remain a world class destination without sacrificing the charms and natural beauty we are so fortunate to live with each day.