This time of year is traditionally a time of giving - thanks, gifts, service and so on. It's no secret that 2009 has been a difficult year for businesses, families, individuals, politicians and, yes, cultural institutions like ours. In light of all of the year's troubles and uncertainty, we have that much more reason to be thankful. The 2009 Spring Plant Sale had its biggest year of all time, as did the Fall Plant Sale just a few weeks ago. Antiques at The Gardens brought in more than $300,000 and attendance to Cocktails in The Gardens more than doubled that of 2008.
All of these great events help us further our mission to promote public knowledge and appreciation of plants, gardens and the environment. Among The Gardens' largest undertakings are the free Discovery Field Trips we offer from September-May. In the 2008-2009 school year, the number of children from Birmingham City Schools attending these unique, award-winning field trips increased 9%; attendance from Bessemer City Schools increased an impressive 36%! Of course we would not be able to offer these programs for free if not for the help from Junior League of Birmingham or Vulcan Materials, who offer transportation reimbursement for Birmingham City and Bessemer City Schools, respectively. The Junior League also provides us with a team of dynamic and loyal volunteers to serve as docents on Discovery Field Trips.
Our Horticultural Therapy program won its first national award, the John Walker Community Service Award, this summer. The program keeps growing, servicing over 2,400 clients last year, with the help of increased media attention and grants. The launch of the P.L.A.N.T. program, which pairs exceptional students with mentors from independent living facilities, was a huge milestone.