By: Robin Krchak, Mobile Botanical Gardens Executive Director
Editor’s Note: Among the devoted volunteers at MBG are many Mobile County Master Gardeners. In 2019, an Ask a MG column reported the near closing of the Gardens, so we asked Robin Krchak to write this inspirational update four years later.
I’m a fan of Antiques Road Show on PBS. The program highlights rare, valuable, and sometimes odd pieces that have managed to survive through the years. My favorite ARS segments are the ones featuring regular folks bringing in family treasures that cause the appraisers to start drooling and acting giddy. The experts confer before telling the owner about the significance of their piece of family history. With every mention of ‘rare,’ ‘special,’ ‘exceptional’ – the appraiser appears more excited, and the owner gets big-eyed with the realization that their treasure is truly valuable.
Sometimes the piece is a one-of-a-kind and worth an incredible amount of money. At the conclusion of the segment, the owner comments to the appraiser, “That’s wonderful news – I treasure it and I’d never part with it. It’s always been part of my family and always will be.”
I think of Mobile Botanical Gardens as being like one of those rare, one-of-a-kind treasures highlighted on Antiques Road Show. Our community has gradually come around to understanding this place is worthy of protection and care – it has value not only for its beauty but also the horticultural significance of plant collections on these grounds. MBG is, without question, one of the most outstanding botanical gardens in the United States. It’s special – and we should always treasure it.
We have come a long way towards ensuring this treasure not only continues but also grows. Since our near-closing in 2019, we have built financial stability such that our children and grandchildren will enjoy MBG for decades to come. Our $1 million dollar endowment has been established, and at long last we have operational support from the City and County. In 2024, when we celebrate our 50th anniversary as a botanical garden, there will be a Golden Gala on April 11th to cheer on the successful journey our directors, staff, and community members have taken for the love of this special place.
After 11 years serving as Director, I will retire from the Gardens in September 2024 and hand the reigns over to you. Whoever you are, rest assured MBG has prepared for this transition. My copious notes will guide you through our systems and successful processes, and I will share sage advice for working with the good, the bad, and even the ugly.
My most important advice to you, however, will be to take your time and get to know MBG before you make any changes. Walk the grounds every day and appreciate the beauty you are now responsible for. Respect the well-trained and reliable staff – and let them do their jobs. Remember to value the passionate volunteers who will shoulder in when needed.
Don't be persuaded to measure the success of the Gardens by the latest Google review or whether MBG is included on some ‘Best’ list. Stand your ground and be vocal when foolish behavior by anyone or any entity jeopardizes the collections you are charged with protecting. You will not be popular some days when you do your job.
Lastly, focus your work on how best to serve this community. I may get the opportunity to meet you in person, but if I don’t -- just know these are the words I’d say to you as you step into the role of Director: “You must treasure these Gardens. It’s going to be part of your family – and it always should be.”