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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Botanical Garden Blooming With Todd Lasseigne


EXECUTIVE DIRECTION: Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden Executive Director Todd Lasseigne, left, leads a tour on the 170-acre site seven miles northwest of downtown Tulsa this summer. Lasseigne has three degrees in horticulture, including a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, and he looks forward to continuing the founders’ efforts of bringing the Garden to worldwide significance.

GTR Newspapers photo

When Todd Lasseigne interviewed for the executive director position of Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden, he was impressed with Tulsa and everything it offers.
“It was clear to me that Tulsans and their neighbors love gardens and will support a botanical garden. It is amazing that there are 800 members even though we do not yet have a formal garden,” he says.

The Louisiana native arrived in April, replacing Pat Woodrum, one of the four visionaries who in 1999 began planning for Tulsa to have one of the finest botanical gardens in the nation. Woodrum, who was executive director of the Tulsa City County Library system during several decades of tremendous growth, had agreed to be the garden’s executive director until a person with horticulture and botanical garden experience was needed.

Lasseigne brings both. He has three degrees in horticulture, including a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, and moved to Tulsa a week after the dedication of a seven-acre botanical garden he created in North Carolina. He has visited more than 350 botanical gardens in five countries.

Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden is taking root on a 170-acre site seven miles northwest of downtown Tulsa. The land was donated by Persimmon Ridge, LLC, of which businessmen Gentner Drummond and Tom Atherton are principal partners. The garden is a 501©3 not-for-profit organization.

Plans are to develop 60 acres into gardens and structures and preserve 110 acres of what is believed to be the only ecosystem of its kind in the world.

The Centennial Phase – a seven-acre man-made lake, temporary visitor center and access road – was dedicated in April 2007. Three hundred trees, a walking path, sod and benches were placed around the lake last year. Visitors also can enjoy a one mile walking trail through the ancient Cross Timbers Forest and Prairie.

The next addition is expected to be a children’s garden. Staff and board members are revising the master plan to better reflect Oklahoma.

“The botanical garden will celebrate the horticulture legacy and history of Tulsa and the natural beauty and biodiversity of the region,” Lasseigne says.

“We are in a wonderful part of the country that is not well known or well understood outside of this area. We will change that.

“This is where the eastern hardwood forests meet the western prairies. It became known as the Cross Timbers to settlers who had to find their way past dense foliage to, literally, cross the timbers on their way west.

“Also, Tulsa has some wonderful institutions that have horticulture as part of their missions. There is no need or desire to duplicate these.

“We will have roses but will not be the Tulsa Rose Garden. We will have formal gardens but will not duplicate Philbrook Museum of Art, and we will improve upon the native prairie but not duplicate Gilcrease Museum’s grounds.

“There is room for all to succeed and flourish in this city,” Lasseigne says.

He says extending water and sewer to the site is progressing and that work should begin soon to enhance the landscaping around Centennial Lake. A capital campaign continues.

“The garden’s founders expect the garden to be a destination point for the world. Before we can do that, we will be a destination for Tulsa, the state and the region. That is how all great gardens start.

“The uniqueness of our environment and the passion that this city has for gardening will propel us to world-wide recognition,” he says.

The garden will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays through October and reopens next year. There is no admission charge.

Updated 10-17-2011

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