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Botanic Garden will usher in spring with a new name

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

The verdant, fragrant oasis known for nearly a century as Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden will soon go by a new name.

On Saturday, March 28, Claremont’s 86-acre living treasure will rebrand as “California Botanic Garden.”

“We’re really thrilled about it,” said David Bryant, California Botanic Garden Director of Visitor Experience. “We have basically been discussing the implications and idea of the rebranding for several years, and we started thinking very seriously about it in the past year and approaching our board discussing the pros and cons.”

That the esteemed institution—the largest of its kind in the state—would go forward with such a labor-intensive undertaking is indicative of just how important it feels its new name is going to be going forward.

“Last year we came together and decided, based on our research and dialog, that changing our brand to California Botanic Garden was really a wonderful next step to take our Garden into the future as an institution that safeguards and celebrates California native plants, and to connect Californians with the flora that makes it so special,” Mr. Bryant said.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden was founded by Susanna Bixby in 1927. Claremont has grown up around it, and it has somewhat miraculously remained nestled between the Village and north Claremont, even as development has encroached upon each of its boundaries.

“One thing I didn’t realize before I started here about four years ago is, California is considered a biodiversity hotspot,” Mr. Bryant said. “We have almost unparalleled rates of diversity in terms of our plants and animals.”

California has more than 6,000 native plant species, “which is incredible,” Mr. Bryant said. “So we’re kind of proud to step out of California Botanic Garden and say our plants—California’s plants—should have their moment in the spotlight.

“And we’re proud to showcase them and connect Californians to them and showcase them on our 86 acres.”

The Garden has about 1,400 native species represented, with more than 150 of those considered rare or endangered.

“An adventure in our Garden is like journeying out hundreds of miles in California’s most remote wild lands,” Mr. Bryant boasted. “You’re going to see some native plants that you would have to trek into desert canyons or mountains to see. It’s kind of an unparalleled collection. We have some plants that you really would not see anywhere else, again, unless you take an odyssey out into the state’s wild parts.”

Changing the name of one of the city’s most beloved institutions took some doing, and some time, Mr. Bryant said.

On the pro side, the argument was made that the Garden’s collections, its initiatives, and its mission were deserving of a name with more stature, and one that resonated with its identity. In the end and after much discussion, California Botanic Garden was the designation the institution’s stakeholders agreed best espouses those elements.

“The dilemma we were facing was that name [Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden], while it certainly speaks to our history, it does not speak to our current geographical location or our mission,” Mr. Bryant said. “We were able to convince them this was the right step for us and the right moment to come out as California Botanic Garden.”

The name change and subsequent rebranding has also meant a new logo, which features a “Fried Egg “or “Matilija” Poppy, named after a Chumash Native American chief. It’s the largest flower native to California.

“We felt it was appropriate that it represent us as the largest garden in California dedicated to native plants,” Mr. Bryant said.

Another component of the new look at the Garden will be broader outreach.

“We want to address the whole state,” Mr. Bryant said. “Just like our conservation programs restore degraded habitats, or our research programs uncover secrets of native plants through our graduate program and through our research staff, our 86-acre botanic garden is a place where Californians and visitors from around the world can come be inspired by how beautiful, important, and ecologically valuable our plants are.

“And in so doing, by being inspired, they can then affect change; they can purchase native plants in our nursery; they can get invested in our programs and support our conservation efforts. So I really see the public Garden as an amazing facet of our organization, and with the name California Botanic Garden, we’re better poised to engage with the public in that way.”

As far as local outreach goes, Mr. Bryant said the CBG will be stepping up its game there as well.

The Garden’s inaugural show will be “Clayfornia,” a large outdoor exhibition featuring 14 artists from the American Museum of Ceramic Art in nearby Pomona. The ceramic sculptures will be installed throughout Garden destinations and venues.

Locals can also look forward to the CBG’s third Brew Wild Brew Festival, more live music, and an expanded Luminaria Nights event in October.

“The idea is to celebrate California identity, California geography and California nature,” Mr. Bryant said. “We want to be more part of the local community conversation, and we think celebrating and upholding local artists is a really great way to do that. We can be more and more part of that vibrant community dialog.”

California Botanic Garden is at 1500 N. College Ave., Claremont. More info is at www.calbg.org, (909) 625 8767, or via email to info@rsabg.org.

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