Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Gift to Help Selby Bloom | Donation Gives Way to New Master Site Plan for 15-Acre Gardens

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Gift to Help Selby Bloom | Donation Gives Way to New Master Site Plan for 15-Acre Gardens

Article excerpt

SARASOTA -- A new master plan for Selby Botanical Gardens will include a new library, thanks to the donation of a 95-year-old volunteer who still works on Friday mornings at the bayfront attraction.

Nathalie "Nat" McCulloch, a Selby supporter and Sarasota philanthropist for more than three decades, declined to share the amount of her gift.

Selby officials honored that request, though they did call it one of the largest donations in the 40-year history of the gardens.

"It's a sizable amount, but I don't want to publicize that," McCulloch said. "It's exciting to see what can be done. With

some help. And some money -- it all comes down to money."

Her gift was announced Thursday night at a Selby reception to launch a strategic plan.

"This is an extremely exciting moment in the history of Selby Gardens," Selby CEO Jennifer Rominiecki said. "We have a chance to reach the full potential of what is here."

Selby has added event space and offered special exhibits that have helped increase attendance and revenues. It also has requested proposals for a master site plan that could transform the 15-acre property over the next decade.

McCulloch and other donors are essential to those plans.

"There's no question that her gift is meant to inspire others," Rominiecki said. "We want to enhance what's so great about Selby Gardens, which are its collections and its location on the bay."

'Selby's Secret Garden'

Selby, which opened in 1975, is the only botanical garden in the world to focus on the display and study of air plants such as orchids and bromeliads. In the last year, Selby botanists have worked on projects with Harvard University and The Smithsonian Institute.

More than 170,000 people visited the gardens last year.

This fall's exhibit, called "Selby's Secret Garden," features rare books and prints from the 1700s and 1800s, along with a tropical conservatory dressed to look like a Victorian greenhouse.

Angel Lara, assistant horticulture director, loved the idea of giving the Selby entrance a dramatic new look, complete with ponds, bridges and pergolas.

He might have gotten carried away.

"I pitched the idea of night events and having some ladies in big period garments," Lara said, laughing. …

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