Why do the plants have to be moved?
The great recession that began in 2008 had a huge negative impact on the ability of the Wallace Desert Gardens (WDG) endowment to sustain the $350,000 yearly budget required to maintain the garden at its present location. With no other options to raise revenue, the board decided to use the remaining funds in the endowment to move the entire collection to another location that would give the plants the best possible chance of survival and the ability to be seen and enjoyed by the public.
Why was Boyce Thompson Arboretum chosen?
Boyce Thompson Arboretum was the first garden to approach the Wallace board with a proposal to take the entire collection. There were other suitors, but the Arboretum was ultimately chosen because it has adequate space, the right soil, and it’s the same elevation and climate as Wallace Desert Gardens, giving the plants the very best chance of survival. The Arboretum is also a public place with a stable management infrastructure. These two collections of arid land plants from around the world are very complimentary nature and will provide even greater access and appreciation and access from the interested public and the scientific community.
Why didn’t the plants stay in Scottsdale?
Both the City of Scottsdale and the Desert Botanical Garden submitted competing proposals to take all or part of the Wallace Desert Gardens collection. Because of logistical and time-dependent factors, the desire to keep the collection together and give the plants the best chance of long term survival with access for research and the public, Boyce Thompson Arboretum was chosen.
Why did Boyce Thompson Arboretum take on this amount of financial risk?
The agreement between Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Wallace Desert Gardens includes a managed distribution of all WDG assets. The original estimates of the WDG assets and the cost of moving the plants made it appear that sufficient funds were available to put in place the necessary infrastructure at BTA, to move the plants, and to have enough funds left over to be placed in an endowment in which the interest earned would provide sufficient funds for additional staff and increased operating costs for the Arboretum due to the Wallace Desert Garden expansion.
Due to the unique nature of BTA, the Wallace Board preferred to put additional funds into the endowment and let BTA assume responsibility for any additional infrastructure, such as a new pavilion and bridge over Queen Creek.
Although Wallace Desert Gardens has an endowment and funds to cover operating costs, much of the value of the WDG is based on the value of the 17 lots. The value of the lots cannot be realized until the plants are moved.
After a detailed assessment of each individual plant in the collection by a horticultural consultant and BTA staff, the project was divided into three phases based on the phased sale of the lots. Due to this time frame, BTA did not have the time nor the staff to do it all by itself. For the larger plants, a contractor with experience in moving large, mature cacti, succulents, and trees in our arid environment was chosen.
Because of concerns that many of these plants were irreplaceable, and because they had never been commercially moved before, a decision was made to box approximately half of the plants to ensure the greatest chance of survival—the general industry standard of 10-30% was unacceptable. This, coupled with the shortened time frame which intensified the workload, forced us to rely more heavily on the contractor than we had previously expected.
BTA’s intent is to leave no plant behind and to ensure that each plant has the best chance of survival. Therefore, BTA wants to raise another $1.5 million relocate the plants and another $500K for increased planting costs. It is true that some duplicate plants could be left behind, or that cheaper methods of transplantation could be used, but the Arboretum feels a moral and ethical obligation to provide each plant with the best care possible.
Even though BTA will become a larger garden with more exhibits and trails, the increase in the endowment from the Wallace donation should allow us to continue to operate as before. We do not anticipate a fee increase for admissions or membership. Obviously, there are additional needs at the Arboretum, but we will continue to adhere to the culture and aesthetic that has guided us for the past 93 years.
How long will the plants be in the nursery and holding areas?
Planting is scheduled to begin at the end of this summer (2016)
When will it be open to the public?
The Wallace Collection Exhibit is scheduled to open in 2018.
How many of the plants will survive the move?
Estimates vary, but an average mortality rate of 10-30% is an industry standard when transplanting native plants in our arid environment. However, most of the plants in the Wallace Collection are non-natives and do not have a track record for success, therefore, BTA, in consultation with horticulturists and contractors decided to use the more expensive method of boxing to ensure their survival. Currently, of the 3,200 plants that have been delivered to the Arboretum through June 2016, losses are less than one percent.