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Celebrating Pride Through Horticulture

Jun 21, 2022 | Horticulture

Celebrating Pride Through Horticulture

Multiple Alliums Pride PNG Churilla

Madison Square Park Conservancy is celebrating Pride Month with a colorful display of painted alliums. The LGBTQ community has made countless contributions to the field of horticulture, and this month we would like to recognize one individual whose mentorship helped shape the industry to be more inclusive, and inspired a generation of horticulture professionals.

Dr. James Chester—better known as J.C. Raulston—has been revered by the horticulture community for his extraordinary work in establishing the North Carolina State University Arboretum, and introducing and improving plants produced in the horticulture trade. The arboretum, which bears his name, has the largest collection of redbud trees in the United States—and many of the redbud cultivars introduced by Raulston bloom every year in Madison Square Park.

Raulston came out in 1975 at the age of 35 and soon after, in 1978, he organized an informal network called the Lavandula Society made up of gay and lesbian individuals who were students and professionals in botany, horticulture, landscaping,and public garden management, as well as nursery people and amateur gardeners. This society started out as small gatherings in homes and nurseries, but eventually grew to meet regularly around local, regional, and national professional meetings. Ultimately, the group was renamed the Lavandula and Labiatae Society to be more inclusive of the number of women joining the organization.

In 1996, J.C.’s life was cut short by an automobile accident, but his generous legacy in the horticulture community lives on. He brought together a strong community of professionals and amateurs in horticulture, spanning a national network where individuals could be their authentic selves. This legacy still exists today, and we have countless members of the LGBTQ community to thank for their artistic visions and contributions to gardens throughout the country.

As Raulston would write in many personal letters and Society newsletters: “Plan and plant for a better world.”

(Photo by Lynda Churilla)

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