Few aspects of Chautauquans’ private homes hold more pride and care than the gardens and flowerbeds that help transform the landscape of the Institution each season. Around the grounds, much of the public work rests in the hands of one woman: Betsy Burgeson.
Burgeson, supervisor of gardens and landscapes at the Institution since 2015, will give an encompassing lecture on the gardens around the grounds at 12:15 p.m. Monday, July 9 at Smith Wilkes Hall. The lecture is part of the Bird, Tree & Garden Club’s Monarch Moments & More series, as well as part of a week of BTG programming leading up to the House and Garden Tour on Thursday, July 12.
“I’m enormously grateful to the BTG for helping push and promote the gardens all around the grounds,” Burgeson said. “It’s a good time to be a gardener here.”
Burgeson earned her bachelor of science in earth science and biology education. After teaching biology for seven years, Burgeson came to work at the Institution in the winter of 2015.
As a special thanks to Burgeson for her work in reinvigorating the Arboretum, BTG honored her on Sunday, July 8 with a commemorative silver pendant commissioned with the club’s logo, created by artist Bob Ivers. Gretchen Gaede, owner of Gretchen’s Gallery in the Colonnade, created a limited number of the silver pendants that will be available in her gallery. One pendant will be raffled off for participants on Thursday, July 12 for the House and Garden Tour.
The lecture, “From Boxwood to Bluestar, Peeking into Chautauqua’s Formal and Not-So-Formal Gardens,” will look at the more than 50 endowed gardens on the grounds and detail the countless others. Burgeson will give a glimpse into the work that goes into making it all come together, where the Institution is at now, and hopes and dreams for what might be seen in the future.
“You kind of feel like you’re in the book The Secret Garden when you find some of these little places, and I still feel that way. Every day is an adventure for us, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
-Betsy Burgeson, Supervisor of gardens, landscapes, Chautauqua Institution
The Institution has recently made an effort to implement more environmentally friendly methods as it expands the gardens. In addition to stormwater and mineral runoff management, a push has been made in welcoming native species.
“We’re opening up the grounds not just for our visitors,” Burgeson said. “We’re opening them up for the pollinators, for the birds. Were planting for the ecosystem.”
Burgeson said she gets excited when she sees residents planting native plants that might not bloom during the summer season. She said it opens everything up for the native wildlife by bringing back the year-round gardens.
Despite being shortstaffed, Burgeson said her crew works well as a team to get things done quickly. Her team understands the reasoning behind everything that they do and can answer questions if passersby were to inquire about exactly what they’re working on.
“We’re such a visible force that they have to take pride, or what’s the point in being out there?” Burgeson said. “When you start with a garden, something wild and crazy, and you finish, you step back and you’re just like,‘Whoa.’”