Keep Growing 2020: The Ten-Year Strategic Plan
Chicago Botanic Garden

Annual Report


Robert Finke

Robert Finke
Chairman of the Board

It is my great privilege to work with the dedicated boards, staff, volunteers, members, and friends of the Chicago Botanic Garden whose enduring efforts and support, as well as that of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, have made the Garden what it is today: one of the very few botanic gardens in the world recognized not only for captivating display gardens, but also for far-reaching scientific research, broad educational opportunities, and innovative urban agriculture jobs-training programs that benefit people in all areas of Cook County.

Sophia Siskel

Sophia Siskel
President & CEO

The famous proverb "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in" captures perfectly the essence of the work we do at the Chicago Botanic Garden. My experience of nearly six years in this job has also caused me to consider how gardening—in our back yards, along our windowsills, or on the grand scale of the public Garden—can provide a guide for how we might approach other parts of our lives.

For what does gardening require?

Attendance and Membership

2012 Attendance:
The highest in Garden history—setting records for the fourth year in a row.

2012 Membership:
member households
Approximately 70% of members renew their membership each year.


In 2012 the Chicago Botanic Garden added 429 new taxa to the 9,900 varieties of plants in our collection of 2.6 million. We planted 105,000 bulbs and added 120,000 native plants to the restored North Lake shoreline.

Urban Agriculture

In 2012, on five acres, Green Youth Farm and Windy City Harvest participants, along with community partners, harvested more than
80,000 lbs
of produce, which was sold at neighborhood farmers’ markets or donated to underserved communities in Cook and Lake Counties.

The Garden operates one of the top three urban agriculture programs in Chicago, and the only one that awards an accredited certificate. Since 2009, 87% of graduates have found employment.


In 2012 the Garden composted 78,000 lbs
of waste. Many sunny days enabled the Garden to generate 58 Solar Renwable Energy Credits, which reduced CO2 emissions by 82,462 lbs.

Science Programs

The Conservation Land Management Intern Program trained and placed
140 young biologists
in internships across the country, primarily in 13 western states.

The Science Career Continuum welcomed a record number of
students—66—in 2012.

The Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University combine their strengths to offer a unique graduate program emphasizing environmental plant biology and conservation. In 2012, eight master’s degree and two doctoral students matriculated.

Education Programs

In 2012, we welcomed more than
5,000 adults
who participated in programs offered by the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden—including 433 programs including continuing education and certificate classes, symposia, and conferences.

More than
80,000 children and adults
participated in family programs, and 22,500 schoolchildren and more than 500 teachers also participated in educational programs, along with camps, summer science activities, and scout activities for nearly 3,000 children and teens.