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

Annual Report


Robert Finke

Robert Finke
Chairman of the Board

Every year, more people come to the Chicago Botanic Garden than the year before. People come because the Garden’s beautiful display gardens and natural areas, and its compelling programs offered in Glencoe and throughout Cook County, respond to the needs of real people. The Garden’s offerings are possible only because of the extraordinary talents of its management, staff, and volunteers. Their passion for the Garden and those they serve drives them to excel in their work. We who enjoy and benefit from the Garden are deeply in their debt.

Sophia Shaw

Sophia Shaw
President & CEO

Spring is a time for renewal, but also offers an opportunity for reflection. As I write this letter, we have just come through one of the most difficult winters in the history of Chicago. During these welcome days of warmth and regrowth, I have taken time to reflect on myself, on my family and friends, and on the past accomplishments and future promise of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Specifically, my thoughts have turned to the importance of nurture—the process of providing care and comfort, and encouraging growth and development.

Attendance and Membership

Attendance in 2013 was more than 1 million —the highest in Garden history—setting records for the fifth year in a row.

There were 48,000 member households in 2013.  Approximately 70 percent of members renew their membership each year.

In 2013, more than 2,000 volunteers gave 112,000 hours of service to the Garden.


Last year there were 2.6 million plants at the Chicago Botanic Garden, representing 9,631 varieties. The Garden acquired 678 new taxa, 546 of which had never been tried here before. Each year, up to 250,000 plants move through the Garden's plant production greenhouses, including 184,000 annuals in 2013. Plant Information staff and volunteers answered more than 38,500 plant-related questions. 

Urban Agriculture

Through its Windy City Harvest program, the Garden offers plant-based training and mentoring programs that have changed thousands of lives. More than 90 at-risk teens were mentored in 2013, and we also trained 50 hard-to-employ adults, 89 percent of whom found jobs. Windy City Harvest participants grew and harvested 92,000 pounds of produce on five acres within at-risk communities. 

In 2013, the Garden launched the McCormick Place Rooftop Farm, with Windy City Harvest staff and a transitional jobs crew transforming 20,000 square feet of green roof into a productive urban farm.


In 2013 the Garden recycled 93,875 lbs of material, composted 76,000 pounds of waste from the café, and generated 67,456 kilowatt hours of solar energy. By not selling bottled water, the Garden kept more than 96,000 bottles out of landfill.

Science Programs

In 2013, 200 Garden scientists, graduate students, and interns conducted plant-based research in our backyard, within the U.S., and throughout the world. The Garden also trained and placed nearly 100 college graduates in conservation internships on public lands. There were 28 M.S. and 11 Ph.D. students in the joint graduate program in plant biology and conservation with Northwestern University.

Education Programs

In 2013, we welcomed more than 5,000 adults to classes offered by the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, and 71 of them earned professional certificates. We mentored a select group of 70 Chicago Public Schools teens through our Science Career Continuum, and four of them went on to receive full scholarships to college.

More than 120,000 children, parents, students, and teachers participated in programs and field trips at the Garden last year.

In 2013, the Lenhardt Library welcomed more than 22,000 visitors, presented four original rare-book exhibitions, and offered viewings of 297 rare book volumes to 487 people in 41 groups.