Janet Marinelli

As the principal of her own firm, Blue Crocus Consulting, a prolific author, and a former director at Brooklyn Botanic Garden for more than sixteen years, Janet Marinelli has been at the forefront of the sustainability revolution that is transforming landscapes and buildings. She has been called “an ecological and horticultural visionary.”

In 2006 she founded Blue Crocus Consulting to help public gardens, nature centers, and other groups develop lively and artistic new ways to engage their audiences in conversations about sustainability. She does this through interpretation, program planning, and print and online publications of all types. Marinelli is known for an innovative approach to public education that transforms visitors from passive viewers of signs and exhibits to active participants in the social, economic, and ecological health of their communities. She also works with designers to bring sustainability to life in the site plans of gardens, parks, and museums. For example, she collaborated with the Great Park Design Studio to create an internationally distinguished model for botanic gardens in the 21st century at the site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Airbase in Irvine, California. The Great Park Botanic Garden is envisioned as a living laboratory where visitors collaborate with horticulturists, scientists, educators, and artists to create a sustainable future for Southern California.

Marinelli worked with the U.S. Botanic Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to create Landscape For Life, an educational website and workbooks that present the technical specifications of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, which provides professional tools for landscape designers, in an easy-to-understand form that homeowners and gardeners can use themselves to create sustainable landscapes.

She has also spearheaded projects involving the collaboration of dozens of botanists, horticulturists, and public gardens around the world, including her book Plant, a unique global reference featuring 2,000 plants that are threatened with extinction in their native habitats but alive, and in some cases doing quite well, in cultivation. By demonstrating how ordinary gardeners can help save plants, the volume has become an international publishing phenomenon, with editions in more than twelve languages. Public Garden magazine called Plant “an amazing compendium, almost seamlessly blending botany, conservation, and gardening into a masterwork that is sure to give pleasure.” Royalties from the sale of the book have helped to fund urgent plant conservation efforts under the auspices of Botanic Gardens Conservation International and about a dozen public gardens worldwide.

Marinelli has used this same approach as the author of a number of other books and hundreds of magazine articles that explore the role of ordinary citizens in saving imperiled plants, ecosystems, and landscapes. In 1990, she set out with a botanist colleague in search of the seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus), one of the world’s most endangered plants, which hadn’t been seen on the beaches of New York’s Long Island for forty years. After days of sunburn and blisters, they discovered the species growing behind a beachfront mansion. It had just been flattened by an SUV. This got her thinking about how gardeners, homeowners, and other ordinary citizens can help save imperiled species. Of her resulting book, Stalking the Wild Amaranth: Gardening in the Age of Extinction, Horticulture magazine wrote, “Not since Voltaire has anyone so eloquently proclaimed the wisdom and necessity of cultivating our own gardens.” Marinelli’s most recent book, The Climate Conscious Gardener (Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2010), explores how gardening and landscape design can help reduce global warming.

As Director of Interpretation and Publishing at Brooklyn Botanic Garden for more than sixteen years, Marinelli spearheaded BBG’s interpretive master plan and oversaw a variety of popular and scientific publications, including the Garden’s internationally acclaimed series of gardening handbooks. She launched the Garden’s award-winning website, as well as Urban Habitats, a peer-reviewed, open-access science e-journal on the biology and natural history of cities and suburbs around the world.

Marinelli participates actively in a number of professional organizations. She serves on the Sustainable Buildings and Landscapes and Native Plants professional sections of the American Public Gardens Association, as well as the Publications committee, and writes a regular column on sustainability for APGA’s magazine, Public Garden. A popular lecturer at home and abroad, she has also received numerous awards, including the American Public Garden Association’s 2010 Award of Merit and the American Horticultural Society’s prestigious American Gardener Award for making a “significant contribution to horticulture.”