Fast forward 42 years and Eichenbaum is now one of the newest members of the Queens Botanical Garden Board of Trustees.
As a historian, Eichenbaum believes he can bring a lot to the table when it comes to education and the historical and geographical counterparts.
“The first Queens Botanical Garden was on the grounds of the first World’s Fair,” Eichenbaum said. “I remember having a wonderful conversation with Chuck Wade, the former executive director of the garden, and I found out about the Prince Nursery and that the birthplace of the horticulture industry in North America was right here in Flushing.
“I knew Flushing and all over Queens was where all the new immigrants were coming, so first came the plants from all over the world, back in the 17th century and then came the people,” he added. “We have representation from all over the world and I study that.”
Toni Ceaser, a teacher of special education and Orton-Gillingham Approach tutoring at The Sterling School, is also a new member.
She first got involved with the Queens Botanical Garden when she was in search of becoming a master composter.
“The easiest way to do that, for me I found, was to do it right here in Queens,” Ceaser said. “I found out that there were wonderful teachers, wonderful classmates and I could take the bus from Long Island City to get here. It’s just so accessible.”
One of her favorite aspects of the garden is that there is a farm located onsite, a place that Ceaser routinely volunteers in now. She also takes classes such as watercolor painting.
“There’s so much going on here, it’s like having the opportunity to go to the spa,” she said. “It’s good for everybody.”
Joining Eichenbaum and Ceasar as new members are director of External Affairs for NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Willa Brody, vice president and managing director at Sterling National Bank David Cinelli, and senior property manager of Stillman Management, Edward Potter.
Board chair Pauline Huang noted that “all of the board members are from different places and cultures and they have different specialties,” but they each come together with the purpose of moving the Queens Botanical Garden forward.
“They have a big heart to bring contributions to do a better job in the garden,” Huang added.
New Advisory Council Member Frank Buddingh reflected on a time when someone asked him why he loved nature. For him, life revolves around everything that pertains to it.
“Nature is my second nature, but when I thought about it, it’s actually my first nature,” he said. “We as human beings cannot live without nature.
“We should not underestimate our daily environment, and yet cities lose more trees than we plant,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of trees. I am here to use my skills and knowledge from working in Poland, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, but also volunteer.”
Buddingh, a tree consultant and artist, has been involved with the Queens Botanical Garden for a few years including when he held his own exhibition onsite. During the Arbor Fest in April, Buddingh will host a tree walk where he will showcase how trees “talk.”
In addition to new members, there are a number of Queens Botanical Garden upcoming events, including the “Art of Chinese Paper Cutting” on March 10, “Family Cooking Class: 15-Minute Meals” on March 18 and the “Children’s Garden Open House” on March 24.
The education building, a modern facility for programming that will especially benefit young children and high school students, is well underway as well, according to Capital Campaign co-chair Saul Kupferberg.
A new project, the “Reimagination Within Gardens on Parade,” will revamp areas that have become run down over the years. The Backyard Garden will feature perennials like the lenten rose, coral bells, cinnamon ferns, Spanish bluebell “Excelsior” and the Japanese sedge “Eversheen.”
“I hear from people around town that they want more color,” said executive director Susan Lacerte. “We’re going to redo this area of the garden and it will have a new feature focusing on Taiwan.”
The Taiwan Garden will have flowers such as the blazing star, Chinese rhubarb, purple coneflower “PowWow” and goldenrod “Fireworks.”
“The Taiwan Garden was a gift from Taiwanese immigrants,” Huang said. “This is an inspiration for more immigrants in the community to do more for where we live and where we are.
“Hopefully after this garden we will have more feedback from the rest of the community,” she added.