Clovis Botanical Garden Celebrates Its 20 Year Anniversary

Volunteers of the Clovis Botanical Garden gather for the ribbon cutting of the newly added Children’s Garden on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

The Clovis Botanical Garden celebrated its 20-year anniversary with a day filled with unveilings and planning for the future.

The Botanical Garden held ribbon cuttings on the new Children’s Garden and the Sensory Garden. The Children’s Garden is the newest addition while the Sensory Garden has been completed since 2019. 

The Children’s Garden was made, in partnership with Valley Children’s Hospital, to educate children while also providing a spot to play around in. Educational signs are laid out throughout the garden to the height of six-year-olds. There are also a few spots for children to climb around in the garden.

The Sensory Garden was an idea made by visitor Elsabé Krüger. She’s always had a vision and a dream of a sensory garden as she works as an occupational therapist for children with special needs.

Her dream came to life after visiting the Botanical Garden and being shown an area in the garden that was undeveloped. After the idea was pitched and unanimously approved by the Botanical Garden’s board of directors, Krüger was asked to spearhead the project.

“I mean so many years of work and all of a sudden I was just standing there I was just thinking, this is your dream. This is your dream come true,” Krüger said.

The Botanical Garden’s history dates back to the early ’90s. 

“We realized quite a while ago that this coming year, 2022, would be 20 years since the first tree was planted, which was a major thing,” said President of the Botanical Gardens, Anne Clemmons.

The Clovis Botanical Garden began as an idea by founder Gordon Russell in 1993. Russell saw the need for a botanical garden in the Central Valley. San Francisco and Los Angeles were the closest ones to valley residents and Russell wanted to change that.

Russell presented the idea to the Clovis City Council and after many meetings, in 2001 the City Council approved the idea. 

The idea took many years to get approved due to the process of turning public land into private land. Conditions were negotiated and placed such as making the spot open to the public and the garden being a non-profit program. 

Then City Council Member Pat Wynne and Planning Director John Wright suggested a one-acre spot inside the Clovis city park. By March 2002, ground would be broken. 

“I thought that was just about the coolest thing since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” said Wynne who is now the Vice President of the Botanical Garden. “I just thought that was wonderful.”

Russell gathered enough volunteers to make sure the garden would be sustainable. The first tree was planted in November of 2002 and was named the Freedom Tree, in remembrance of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attack. 

By 2004, volunteers would begin greeting visitors every Saturday and Sunday morning. 

After gaining huge success, the Botanical Garden went back to the City of Clovis and proposed an expansion from one acre of land to four acres. The city ultimately approved and in 2012, the first plants in the newly expanded areas were planted. 

“The perseverance of the volunteers of the Clovis Botanical Garden is really unmatched..” said Clovis Mayor Pro Tem Lynne Ashbeck. “…It’s the best testimony to the impact of volunteers. Not a city, not money. Volunteers who just are at heart.”

Expansion is not yet over for the Clovis Botanical Garden. Within the next few years, the Botanical Garden will be adding an Ornamental Grass display and a permanent visitor center, designed by Art Dyson who designed Fresno City Hall. 

Continuing a garden’s evolution.

“If you keep working at something after a real long time, it’s almost finished,” Clemmons laughs. “You just keep working and working and after a really long time. It’s almost done.”