Executive Update For You from Jamie Maslyn Larson

May 31, 2022

Dear Tohono Chul Family,

How time flies! It has been almost four months since you welcomed me as Tohono Chul’s Executive Director. The last time I wrote, I was just two weeks into my role. You have taught me so much.

While our gardens were bursting with beauty this spring, they also are in need of some TLC and a plan for their future. The Sonoran Desert climate can seem harsh for living things, but our plants and animals have evolved over millennia and adapted to this place. However, the last two summers were exceedingly tough and topped-off a 20-year drought. In 2020 we faced an extreme drought, and 2021 was the third wettest on record. A microburst at the end of August 2021 severely damaged over 60 trees and shrubs. Our 49 acres of gardens and grounds are an ecological system that is interdependent and complex. Therefore, planning the garden’s evolution to recover and improve will involve careful inventory, analysis, planning and design.

We are establishing a volunteer/staff team who will soon begin to inventory every tree, cactus, shrub, succulent and perennial gardens in the approximately 6.5 acre “core garden area”—from the entrance to the Education Center. This inventory will map and record the health, age, species, size, and location of every plant. This is an essential first step to determining our future plant collection and gardens. We have found similar plant inventories from 1994/95, so we will be able to compare to our plantings from 28 years ago! This project is expected to take many months and hundreds of hours to execute. We would love your support of this incredibly important project with your time or with a gift!

Community is everything. Without you, Tohono Chul would not meet the Wilson’s vision for people to “come easily for a few hours.” This spring, visitation has been the busiest in Tohono Chul’s history. Building from this success, we are testing new programs that expand experiences in our historically slower months and reaching out to others in Tucson that may not be aware of all Tohono Chul has to offer. This summer’s programming is geared to locals, with:

Chillin at the Chul which extends our weekend evening hours with music, food and libations.

▸ Reviving children’s programming with our Desert Discovery Days and new partnership with Tucson Children’s Museum of Oro Valley on Saturdays with Nature Niños.

▸ If you are an early riser, visit us in the mornings as we are opening one hour early (7am) for garden strolls and the Garden Bistro is offering coffee, cool drinks, and light food in the Spanish Colonial Garden.

Throughout this summer, we will be asking for your feedback so we can modify and tweak our outreach and programs as we move through the next year. Please keep your ideas coming for what you’d like to see here— fall is right around the corner!

I am still pinching myself over the exciting (and humbling) role of being your Executive Director. Each day, I am grateful for your support of the gardens and our team. I hope that I can continue to count on you to give your input, to dream big for our future, and to welcome all into our desert gardens. If you are feeling inspired by our summer initiatives, please come visit and share your feedback! Or stop to say “hi” to our amazing team when you visit next.

Thank you for visiting and for sharing your thoughts about our beautiful desert oasis.

Warm regards,

Jamie Maslyn Larson FASLA
Executive Director