Cultural Landscapes 1

Tulsa Botanic Garden unveils its grande ornamental garden.

Tulsa Botanic Garden will celebrate the unveiling of the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Floral Terraces with a much anticipated grand opening to the public at noon on Saturday, October 3.

The Tandy Floral Terraces will display more than 7,500 plants including trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, roses and perennials set in terraced beds on a three-acre hillside which offers views of downtown Tulsa from its peak.

The Tulsa Botanic Garden seeks to create world class gardens over the course of its development. Its importance to Tulsa cannot be denied.

Garden CEO Dr. Todd Lasseigne says, “The Tandy Floral Terraces is the first garden which we are developing and opening to the public per our master plan. Its importance rests on several fronts; a.) the beauty of horticultural displays in the full glories, both seasonal plantings (e.g., spring bulbs, summer tropical bedding, winter-interest bedding) and the contrasting permanent plantings on each of the terraces; b.) the integration of a design that takes in the beauty of the site with local materials and hardscape (architecture) inspired from Tulsa (e.g., the water features, the terraced walls, the stone, the Art Deco-inspired detailing), and c.) the high diversity of more than 400 kinds of plants used in the garden – this diversity achieved by theming each terrace differently (Tuteur Allees, Rose Terrace, Perennial Terrace, Mediterranean Terrace).

The garden will also serve as an event space with both The Square at the garden’s apex, offering scenic views of the Garden as well as downtown Tulsa, and the Event Lawn at the lakeside level of the Garden.

Dr. Lasseigne says, “The scale, detail, richness, and excitement of this garden will be like no others in Oklahoma. We feel it will be a garden that people will come to see both from within and beyond Green Country. The annual displays will be anticipated and celebrated for their designs, creativity, and floral abundance.”

A prominent feature of the Floral Terraces is the Garden Cascade, a six-foot-wide central water channel emanating from the top of the hillside and flowing down into the lake. Seasonal color display beds, totaling 5,700 square feet, surround the water channel from top to bottom and will provide vivid swaths of color from spring bulbs, summer tropical plants or winter annuals.

Communications and Programs Director Lori Hutson says, “Every time I look at the garden, it’s changing and new. It’s wonderful how much support the Botanic Garden has received from the very beginning. It will add another interesting fabric in the rich tapestry of Tulsa’s cultural institutions.”

The Perennial Terrace will highlight perennials planted in a color scheme made famous by Gertrude Jekyll, a British garden designer who created over 400 gardens in the U.K., Europe and U.S. in the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s.

Jekyll was the designer of perennial gardens in the late Victorian/Edwardian era of British garden design. She was a careful student of color theory and understood how complimentary colors balanced each other to give a greater effect than they could on their own in monochromatic plantings. She often blended pastels very effectively – these less saturated colors working well in the oft-cloudy days common to British summers.

Dr. Lasseigne says, “What we bring to Tulsa by employing some of Miss Jekyll’s principles is a deliberate attention to color – a careful play on the spectrum and the idea of complimentary colors using plants that work well in Oklahoma. Of course, since we do not have cloudy summer days like Britain, we are able to use bolder, more saturated colors than she would have used—or would have had available in her time via the plant world. The end effect will be a study of color through plants, as well as a study of plants through the colors they exhibit.”

From the beginning of this process, Dr. Lasseigne recognized important elements to include, such as show-stopping plants, inviting water displays and most importantly, design elements reflecting the Tulsa community. Garden staff took landscape architects on a tour of the area ultimately leading to custom-designed stair railings, pavilions, tuteurs (vine supports), and more that are inspired by Tulsa’s rich Art Deco architecture.

“It’s one of my favorite aspects of the garden,” says Hutson. “The Art Deco period is so important to our city’s history, it’s wonderful to see it reflected in the garden.”

With so many things to see, visitors may have a hard time choosing their favorite area of the Garden. The same goes for Garden staff.

Dr. Lasseigne says, “Although it’s hard to pick a favorite part of the Garden, I’d have to say right now that it is the Garden Cascade, the central cascading water feature that bisects the entire garden, not only creating intrigue because of the presence (sight, sound, feel) of water itself, but also because it is surrounded by 5,700 square feet of “display horticulture” with fabulous plants exhibiting exciting flowers, foliage, and form. The way it changes, not only from season to season but also from year to year only enhances the magic that this space will create for our visitors.”

Named in recognition of a $3 million lead gift from the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation, the Floral Terraces is the first garden to go under construction in the Botanic Garden’s “Reaching for Generations” campaign. With a goal of $17.1 million, the campaign will fund construction of the first four gardens from the master plan: A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Floral Terraces, Children’s Discovery Garden, Lotus Pool and All Season’s Garden, as well as a multi-purpose building, entry garden, production greenhouse and infrastructure.

Hutson says, “This is just the beginning for us. Every time you visit the Garden it will look different. The Children’s Discovery Garden opening next spring will be another spectacular addition.”

The Botanic Garden will open to the public on Saturday, Oct. 3, at noon with a ribbon-cutting celebration slated for 1 p.m. Garden tours, music and activities will be offered throughout the day until 5 p.m. The festivities continue on Sunday, Oct. 4, with a similar schedule of events from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Botanic Garden will offer free admission both days.

Tulsa Botanic Garden is located eight miles northwest of downtown Tulsa. For more information, call 918.289.0330 or visit