Friends of Ian Robertson presentation to McIntire Botanical Garden on 9.27.16

The following is the text of a presentation made to the board of the McIntire Botanical Garden by Jill Trischman-Marks, Susan B. Viemeister, Buddy Spencer and Judy Robertson. James and Stuart Robertson were also in attendance. A powerpoint presentation was concurrently displayed by Buddy Spencer.


Our friend, Ian Robertson:

For those of you who didn’t know Ian Robertson we thought we’d introduce you to him.

Born in England and educated in Edinburgh Scotland, the US is fortunate that he ended up on our shores. Ian was a master horticulturalist, a garden designer, an educator and an author who lived in Charlottesville with his family.


Within his lifelong career, and as principal of Ian Robertson Ltd, he worked on public and private gardens throughout the world.

Among his best known local works are several of the gardens at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.  One of the original and oldest gardens is the Henry M. Flagler Perennial Garden which displays Ian’s love of unusual plants, his complex sense of design, his appreciation of color throughout the seasons and his deep knowledge of the plant world.

Frank Robinson, past CEO of Lewis Ginter, was quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch as saying Ian’s work included “rich tapestries of color and texture” with “astounding beauty”.


Ian influenced many people as an inspired educator. He was:

- A professor of horticulture and landscape design at Piedmont VA Community College.

-An instructor at the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs Landscape Design Institute

-Lecturer and instructor for local continuing education programs, the Master Gardeners, the Native Plant Society, and professional organizations such as the Piedmont Landscape Association.


His teachings continued on in a written form through his book Six Thousand Years Up the Garden Path, which carries the reader through a relaxed and magical journey through gardening history.

His other writings included articles in Fine Gardening magazine and a frequent column in The Virginia Sportsman.  He was one of the favorite guest speakers on pbs’ TV show, Virginia Homegrown.


Ian is fondly remembered for his effervescent charm, sparkling wit, boundless enthusiasm for nature and the environment and for his deep love for his family.

His warm and generous nature attracted people as much as the beauty of his gardens.

Clients and students swiftly became his friends and his friends became family. Many of us joined forces to come together as the Friends of Ian Robertson, motivated by our desire to memorialize Ian with an appropriate tribute to his legacy of education and love for horticulture.

-We are 28 plus professionals, clients, friends and family members.

-We have raised close to $30,000 in funds.

-We have received additional promises of goods and materials as well as offerings of skilled labor.


Ian Robertson always inspired the best in people, and we would like to do our very best to honor him in return.



Remembering Ian Robertson with a Legacy Gift:


In considering a recipient for honoring Ian’s legacy the Friends of Ian Robertson have four criteria.


The first is a common mission, our mission is to provide an ongoing and sustainable legacy that honors Ian and promotes the opportunity for the community to learn about horticulture. We are looking for an organization who shares our mission of combining horticultural and education and from our research and discussions with representatives of the board of the McIntire Botanical Garden, we think the MBG may be a good fit.


Our second criteria is the longevity, security, and maintenance of the gift. We want to insure the gift we provide is one that can be maintained and secured within a public space over time.


Our third criteria is the ability of the recipient to receive a gift that combines donations of labor and materials as well as funds because our group has received gifts in many forms that will increase the financial value of the total gift.

Finally, we want to ensure the development of the proposed gift within a specific timeline.


Based on earlier conversations with representatives of the McIntire Botanical Garden there are two ideas we have been discussing as possible gifts to your organization to honor Ian’s legacy:


One would be in the form of a built item in the garden. Anything we proposed to build would be inspired by the treasure trove of Ian’s work. Three of us here today, Susan, Buddy, and myself, worked for Ian, and feel we can adapt any precedent of Ian’s work to make it appropriate to the design and standards set by the landscape architect chosen by your board.


For instance, the Garden Tonic Walk is a design element Ian used of a meandering path through a landscape for relaxation and contemplation. In your Master Plan, we see the potential opportunity for a Garden Tonic Walk in the path that leads off of the overflow parking area and loops around to the proposed driveway area.  In earlier discussions we were told this may be the first built item in the garden and that the walk may have signage to illustrate what is planned for the different areas. Our gift could augment this walk by adding a collection of trees, as well as some benches, and/or a built element like an entrance arbor. The result could turn the walk into a garden event.

However, because of our criteria about security and maintenance, contributing something in built form so early in the MBG timeline, is a major concern to us.


The second idea we have been discussing is an endowed educational series to be used for fund-raising for the MBG. We know that you will not be able to charge entrance fees into the garden, so we think establishing some type of educational fund-raising series could be beneficial to the long-term health of the garden. Therefore, we would add the criteria that the educational series would need to be self-perpetuating. So we would propose that the profits from the educational series would be invested back into the garden in such a way that:

35% goes back into the Ian Robertson educational program fund-raising fund.

15% goes into a fund to honor Ian’s legacy in built form once the site plan for the garden is completed (at a time and in the manner to be determined by the Friends of Ian Robertson).

50% of the profits to go to the general fund of the McIntire Botanical Garden.

Regardless of the type of gift, a legal document would be required for any gift we provide.


We believe the Friends of Ian Robertson and the McIntire Botanical Garden share a common mission of bringing education, gardens and horticulture together, and the opportunity to contribute our efforts to a community garden destination is even more appealing to us. If your board shares our enthusiasm about a potential collaboration and can meet the requirements of our recipient criteria, then we look forward to taking this discussion to the next level.


Powerpoint presentation to the board of the McIntire Botaincal Garden 9.27.16

If interested in receiving a copy of the Powerpoint of the above presentation please contact