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James Boyd sculpture on site

Published Daily Gleaner, Stephen Llewellyn, Dec 10, 2015

The latest addition to the Fredericton Botanic Garden doesn’t need watering.

The “Rhodo” is a giant pink granite statue of a rhododendron bud which arrived earlier this fall and is safely stashed in the botanic gardens near the rhododendron gardens. Next spring it will be permanently mounted in the Fredericton Botanic Garden.

“There were delays in that (arrival) for a number of reasons,” Richard Tarn, president of the garden, told Fredericton’s community services committee Wednesday. “Including taking James Boyd a little longer than he anticipated to complete it.”“It is also considerably larger sculpture than originally conceived.” The city announced in April the Hampton artist had been selected to create a sculpture attraction for the botanic garden.The Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation provided a grant of $10,000 for the project, and the city paid for the rest of the $15,000 commission. It’s part of the city’s recent investments in public art.

Tarn said it came late in the fall on a rainy day and was moved into a temporary place with a crane. He told the committee about the statue as part of his annual report on the botanical garden. The Fredericton Botanic Garden Association and the city agreed in 1990 with the goal of developing the 52 acres at the top of Odell Park into a garden. “It’s a popular walking area,” said Tarn, about the gardens. “During the summer we are always surprised by the number of out-of-town visitors we find coming both from Odell Park through the bottom entrance and the parking lot.” Some other local groups also use the gardens including outdoor yoga, the YMCA outdoor program and the Under One Sky First Nations program.

Tarn also told the committee about a new botanical garden in Maine that is attracting 100,000 visitors a year. If the Fredericton Botanic Garden could ever be developed to such an extent it would be a fantastic benefit to the city, he said. But in an interview after the meeting, Tarn said turning the Fredericton Botanic Garden into a similar attraction would cost a lot of money.

“The coastal Maine botanical garden is really a world-class garden, in my opinion,” he said. “It has some very fine designed gardens and plantings. We’d be talking big, big money to get that.”

Tarn said the Maine botanical garden has been very fortunate in attracting wealthy patrons to fund its development. “It would be in the millions, no question about that,” he said. “That doesn’t just happen in those cases with just local expertise.”

The Fredericton Botanic Garden does have big plans for the future. “If we had the resources to complete the things that are partially done at the moment, we would have a very attractive water feature and a wet land below that,” said Tarn. “We would have a magnificent rose garden.”

The garden is also planning to have a children’s garden with many small components in the garden-related education area, he said. “That would transform it considerably and provide a lot more interest,” said Tarn. When asked what the gardens need to make that happen, Tarn said $50,000 a year would be a good start and $100,000 a year would be even better. “The more money you have, the faster you can get things done,” he said.

The municipality currently provides the garden with $25,000 a year for maintenance and the garden association raises additional money each year through annual plant sales and the annual Treasured Garden Tour. The 2014 garden tour was cancelled because of Post-tropical storm Arthur, but the 2015 tour was the most successful yet, said Tarn.

Committee chairman Coun. Kate Rogers said the botanic garden is a real gem in the city that many enjoy, and it’s importance and potential is underestimated. Coun. Stephen Chase said the garden needs to be recognized more widely for what it is and the volunteers who support it should be applauded.

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