Our History

Green Bay Botanical Garden started as a dream to create a community garden for everyone to enjoy and first welcomed visitors into its doors in 1996. Of the Garden’s 47 acres, 23.5 acres are developed with lush gardens, outstanding architecture and peaceful woods which set the stage for a horticultural adventure through plants that thrive in the Upper Midwest. Both children and adults gather here to enjoy a variety of educational programs and year-round special events that feature a wonderful mix of gardening, cultural and family activities, including the Garden’s popular outdoor concerts and WPS Garden of Lights.

Watch Our Story


“This place isn’t about the plants, it’s about the people.” Jerry Landwehr, GBBG Visionary & First Lead Horticulturist


1968 Ray Pagel, Green Bay Press-Gazette, and Ernie Ehrbar, Brown County Extension, form Gardener’s Club.
1969 City of Green Bay hires Bob Mongin, GBBG Visionary, as Landscape Architect.
1976 Brown County hires Paul Hartman, GBBG Visionary, as Horticultural Agent.
1978 Hartman forms Plants in the Urban Environment (PUE).
1979 PUE group meets with NWTI (currently Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, NWTC). PUE explores three potential sites for the Garden including 90 acres on NWTI land.
1980 NWTI Board approves $3,500 to hire Environmental Planning & Design (EPD) and Dr. DeVos to develop conceptual plan.


 1982 GBBG, Inc. incorporates. Glenn Spevacek, GBBG Visionary, heads efforts to develop bylaws.
 1983 Board of Directors appointed.
 1984 First Annual meeting of GBBG. Tax-exempt status granted.
 1986 GBBG reconfirms NWTI site as top choice. First Garden Fair held at Chicago and North Western Depot. Board establishes first office and hires executive secretary.
 1988 Board hires EPD. NWTC signs two-year lease.
 1989 Gail Fischer, GBBG Visionary, successfully coordinates $25,000 fund drive.
 1991 EPD completes Master Plan. Garden Fair moves to site.


 1992 NWTC agrees to a 99-year lease for 30 acres contingent on successful campaign of $1.4 million.
 1993 Spevacek hired as Executive Director. Capital campaign exceeds goal.
 1994 Board hires Buettner & Associates to develop first phase of Master Plan, and Martison Architects to develop Visitor Center.


 1995 Visitor Center constructed.
 1996 Donor Gate and Mabel Thome Fountain are completed. GBBG opens to the public.
 1997 Stumpf Belvedere, Schierl Wellhouse and Gertrude B. Nielsen Children’s Garden constructed. Jerry Landwehr creates first Garden of Lights.
 1998 Betty Rose Meyer Bridge, Cora Vanderperren Cottage Garden and Meredith Rose Cottage constructed.
 1999 Mary Hendrickson Johnson Wisconsin Woodland Garden, Kaftan Lusthaus, Lux Rose Garden, Kress Oval constructed.


 2000 Patrick Larkin joins staff as Executive Director. NWTC creates Landscape Horticulture Program. NWTC agrees to lease additional 17 acres to the Garden. Summer Concerts begin. Volunteer Center is constructed.
 2001 NWTC builds first greenhouse on site. Van Den Wymelenberg Color & Foliage, Wood Memorial Grove, and Green & Gold Hosta Society Display Gardens open.
 2003 Brenda Hanson is named Interim Executive Director until Don Hendricks is hired. Smith Group/JJR updates Master Plan.
 2004 GBBG implements plant identification system.
 2005 Bay Area Daylily (BAD) Buds plant a display garden. Children’s Gardening Patch is relocated. Dennis Ledvina, Magnolia Expert and avid volunteer, contributes dozens of trees to establish Magnolia Grove.
 2006 NWTC breaks ground for the Landscape Horticulture Learning Center.
 2007 GBBG implements interpretive signage program and is named an All-America Selections Display Garden.
 2008 Susan Garot becomes Executive Director after Mark Jones serves as Interim Director.


 2009 Discovery Dock completes the renovation of the back pond, enhancing school programs.
 2010 “Growing the Garden” Capital & Endowment Campaign raises $3.6 million. Jenquine Pavilion & Overlook Garden and King Shade Gardens are established.
 2011 Baer Perennial Garden opens. Renovated Fischer Visitor Center and Schneider Education Center are both dedicated.
 2012 Stumpf Hobbit House (Children’s Garden restroom) opens. Mabel Thome patio is added to the West side of Schneider Education Center.
 2013 Simurdiak Patio & Wos Garden open on the East side of Schneider Education Center.
 2014 Arendt Conifer Garden is dedicated. Garden Fair celebrates its 30th year. Smith Group/JJR begins design of the Grand Garden.
2017 Construction on the Schneider Family Grand Garden begins.
2018 Schneider Family Grand Garden opens with summer concert season.

“Like a tree that changes and matures, the character of the Garden is constantly evolving. Once nothing more than the seed of an idea in the minds of a few visionaries, the Garden has spread its roots, grown and branched out. Today it is blossoming and has truly become a magical place that welcomes everyone.” (A Place for Everyone: The History of Green Bay Botanical Garden, Somerville, 2016, p.159)

To learn more about the rich history of Green Bay Botanical Garden, visit the WPS Trellis Gift Shop at the Garden to purchase A Place for Everyone: The History of Green Bay Botanical Garden.