The IDEA Center for Public Gardens: programmes empowering positive change


  • Mae Lin Plummer Denver Botanic Gardens



Public engagement, Inclusion


Public gardens as cultural institutions must be spaces that put human connection and a sense of belonging at the centre of the organization if they want to be relevant in an increasingly socially aware society. We have a responsibility to do better and right the harmful and exploitative wrongs of the past that continue to uphold systemic inequities. Public gardens can uplift communities around us and expand the identity of who we are and who we serve, without abandoning or shaming historical legacies.


The IDEA Center for Public Gardens™ (the Center) was launched January 2022 as a partnership between Denver Botanic Gardens and the American Public Gardens Association, with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS MG-249862-OMS-21). Its aim is to empower public gardens to prioritize and champion diversity and inclusion initiatives within our industries and beyond. Living and working from the principles of IDEA can be an incredibly enriching and uplifting experience, and a journey to be celebrated. The Center does this by offering intensive peer-to-peer cohorts to develop practices, fund scholarships and speakers at conferences and symposia, and building alliances and partnerships to create collaborative unity across cultural institutions. A case study is included here describing how Naples Botanical Garden Florida incorporated IDEA principles into its annual theme for a year-round initiative to welcome new audiences and enhance staff inclusion in botanic garden activities. The Center is a call to action and an invitation to help improve the world one change at a time.

Author Biography

Mae Lin Plummer, Denver Botanic Gardens

Mae Lin Plummer is Director of The IDEA Center for Public Gardens, a programme of Denver Botanic Gardens and the American Public Gardens Association


BROCKWAY, L.H. (1979). Science and Colonial Expansion: the Role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens. Academic Press, New York and London.

IDEA CENTER FOR PUBLIC GARDENS (2022). 2022 IDEA Needs Assessment Summary & Key Themes. Available online: (accessed August 2023).

MCCRACKEN, D.P. (1997). Gardens of Empire: Botanical Institutions of the Victorian British Empire. Leicester University Press, Leicester.

Family visit to Naples Botanical Garden Florida




How to Cite

Plummer, M. L. (2023). The IDEA Center for Public Gardens: programmes empowering positive change. Sibbaldia: The International Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, (22).