My Experience - Adopting a Tree at VanDusen Botanical Garden
by Penny Williams
June 20, 2022
It’s a fresh, bright day at VanDusen Botanical Garden, and member Jan Miko is here to enjoy it. She stands midway between two majestic trees in the North American Woods. The trees — a Southern Magnolia and a Hybrid Buckeye — are close to each other, and their roots are surely entwined. That connection is significant, for these are not just two more trees among many.
They are Jan’s trees — the ones she chose through the Adopt-a-Tree Program to pay tribute to her mother, her father, and their love for each other. “This,” says Jan, opening her arms to the Garden, “is a place of vitality, growth, transformation. The trees are a living memorial — a way for us to have a living relationship with people who are no longer physically present.”
Tree adoption is a recent addition to her long involvement with the Garden. Jan moved to Canada in 1986, and joined the VBGA almost immediately. “I’m from Kansas, a farmer’s daughter, gardening is in my DNA!” She visits the Garden frequently and introduced her parents to it as well. “It is part of our family story.” Not surprising, then, that she sought solace in the Garden when her mother died in January, 2021. “It was my place to mourn and grieve, and feel close to my mother.” Later that year, she noticed dedication signs on some trees, and discovered tree adoption.
“I knew mom would appreciate a living tribute.” Jan contacted the VBGA and was given a personal tour of the grounds, which allowed her to select a tree and location she knew her mom would like. “When my father died this April, it seemed only right to adopt that Buckeye close to my mom’s Magnolia.”
Now, standing between the two, wearing her mother’s garnet necklace and her father’s beloved Hudson Bay jacket, she thinks about those entwined tree roots and the power of the Adopt-a-Tree Program. “It makes me happy to visit the trees, it makes me happy to bring friends here, and it makes me happy to know my donation also supports the Garden.”
Her donation does indeed support the Garden. Each (tax-deductible) adoption fee of $3,000 provides the donor with a 10-year memorial and the VBGA with vital additional funds. Enough money is retained in the Program to care for the adopted trees and run the system; the rest is devoted to the collections, programs and services that help the VBGA connect people with plants and protect biodiversity. Most of this money goes to the VBGA’s extensive educational programming: camps and field trips for young people, professional development for teachers, adult education courses, Indigenous initiatives, and Library services and events. The pandemic years have spurred a boom in program participation, but it comes literally at a cost. Kids Camp Coordinator Natasha Friedmann gives an example she knows well: “Our youth programs have doubled capacity, from 800 children pre-COVID to 1,500 in calendar 2021. It’s wonderful! But when we welcome more children, we need more staff. Donor support is really important.”
Jan Miko learns this, and loves it. Loves that her tree adoptions, which give her such joy, do so much for the Garden as well. “And” she adds, “it’s so easy to do.”