Cheyenne’s Botanic Garden thrives despite the city’s lousy growing climate, its low population and its elevation, according to the man who directed the facility’s operations for 40 years.
Shane Smith, who retired as director of the Botanic Gardens in 2018, said the city-owned facility has succeeded thanks to the undying optimism of its volunteers and staff members.
“There were a lot of frustrating times where money was tight and things would be going wrong and vandals would come and destroy things and we just couldn’t get things repaired,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “But we were optimistic and had just great volunteer support.”
Smith, who is considered the founder of the Botanic Gardens, said it is rare for a community the size of Cheyenne to have such a facility.
“You would never put a botanic garden in a city this size,” he said. “Usually, you need a half a million people to support a botanic garden that has a professional staff and a grounds and a conservatory.
In addition, Cheyenne has a growing climate that is less than ideal, said Smith, who now volunteers as executive director of the “Friends of the Botanic Garden.”
“Cheyenne has one of the worst garden climates in the lower 48,” he said. “We’re number one in the nation for hail, number four for wind, 6,000-foot elevation, we have a lot of days of winter without snow cover. So I always say you’d have to be kind of an idiot to put a botanic garden in a town this size with a climate this way and I’m that useful idiot.”
In recognition of his hard work with the Botanic Garden, the Cheyenne City Council recently named the facility’s grand conservatory the “Shane Smith Grand Conservatory.”