Five questions: Barbie Raney

Imagine driving to work through lush gardens and walking into an Italian-style mansion — that’s the everyday reality and favorite part of the job for Tulsa Garden Center Executive Director Barbie Raney. The center is a nonprofit that provides a variety of horticultural and environmental education opportunities for the Tulsa community. 

1. What is your job at the Tulsa Garden Center? My everyday job is as changeable as the seasons. People come here to learn about horticulture, the environment and beautification through the classes we offer. Twenty-three affiliated groups call the Garden Center home; they have their monthly meetings, lectures, shows and sales here. It is a great place for like-minded people to come to exchange knowledge, volunteer and socialize.

2. For first-time guests of the Garden Center, what are the must-sees? The Arboretum is a beautiful walking feature of the park often used as an outdoor educational classroom by schools and colleges. Carriage House Art Studio houses two artists in residence, Gil Adams and Claudia Doyle. They teach classes, have wonderful items for sale and frequently may be found painting in the park. 

The Linnaeus Teaching Garden is a demonstration/teaching garden staffed by over 300 well-trained volunteers who share their knowledge and love of gardening with the public.

The Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden has five terraces with pools or fountains on all levels. Juniper, clematis and magnolia trees are all found amidst the wide array of roses in the garden. 

3. Many roses were plagued this season by disease. To what extent was the Rose Garden affected? Because the virus (Rose Rosette) is present in our region, the City of Tulsa can no longer expect to maintain a garden that is completely roses. We have met with rose experts, city horticulturalists and local industry leaders to decide on our next best steps. Thanks to previously raised Rose Garden Restoration funds, we can begin addressing the immediate problem as we simultaneously improve and restore the structure of the Tulsa Rose Garden. We will continue to focus on roses, but in a more diverse and sustainable manner. We have been advised to introduce other plant materials (in addition to roses), and are also going to make the garden safer for visitors by adding lighting, handrails and safer walkways, in compliance with ADA requirements. The plan is to use the funds we collected to start on Terrace 1, and proceed to the next terrace as more funding is available.  

4. What big events do you host each season? Tulsa Garden Center has two large fundraisers each year. In April, the SpringFest Garden Market and Festival is held in the Tulsa Garden Center mansion and spills out onto the front lawn. The entire area is packed with everything needed to create a beautiful garden: a huge variety of plants, gardening information, even garden art.

Held in the Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden the last Friday in September each year, "An Evening of Wine & Roses" is one of the region’s largest wine-tasting events. The combination of delectable food and exquisite wine enjoyed while strolling through a garden of fragrant roses make this an enchanting evening you won’t want to miss.

5. What would you tell someone interested in going into your field? This is my retirement job. I worked for the City of Tulsa for 30 years and now I am living my dream. I would welcome anyone interested in gardening and tell them that there is nothing more delightful than when your garden first begins to grow. In addition to being a source of fresh, healthy produce, gardening can ease stress, keep you limber and even improve your mood.

Fill in the blanks

Oklahoma gardens are ... challenging!

My favorite flower is ... I can’t answer that. Flowers are like your kids — how can you have a favorite?

Everyone should try ... gardening to experience the act of planting a seed and the miracle that it brings.

This summer you can find me ... in flip-flops, watering the garden.

The most beautiful spot in Tulsa is ... the Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park. It is not only the most beautiful spot in Tulsa, it is magical.

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