City botanical garden in the works

City botanical garden in the works

In last week’s cover story, C-VILLE reported that a botanical garden might be right around the corner. Turns out, if a local conservationist has his way, it could be closer than that. Rob Sacilotto, owner of Botanique, a nursery for carnivorous and unusual plants, has nearly finished a proposal requested by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Although Sacilotto had been looking to start a botanical garden in the area since 2004, he recently learned of growing interest in Charlottesville from Lonnie Murray, a friend and native plant conservationist.

If Rob Sacilotto’s proposal goes through, his carnivorous pitcher plants will find a home in a new botanical garden in McIntire Park.

Sacilotto said he hopes to get a group of city officials to see his large collection of curious plants at Botanique soon. If the proposal for a botanical garden were approved, Sacilotto’s collection, including more than 60,000 pitcher plants, would move to the site for preservation.

“One of the main reasons this nursery is of keen interest is that it contains the biggest collection of pitcher plants, maybe, in the world,” says Sacilotto. “I’ve been working with botany and horticulture my whole life. The garden would serve as a preserve for these plants.”

Even though plans for the botanical garden are still in an early phase, Murray says the project already has several thousand dollars in grants if the project is green lighted. He also anticipates there will be enough private donors to fund the project. Sacilotto says they haven’t yet estimated the total funding necessary.

“I can’t think of a sexier project anyone would want to contribute to,” says Murray.

Karen Firehock, former chair of the city Planning Commission, says plans for an arboretum and a glass conservatory were already put forth in the latest master plan for McIntire Park. Firehock mentioned the idea to Murray when plans for a Boys and Girls Club in the park were squashed.

“If we’re really going to be a world-class city,” says Firehock, “we need to seek out the amenities that other world-class cities have.”

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