Past Dr. F. Todd Lassseigne
Hello, friends and supporters of Bellingrath Gardens and Home. I am honored to be writing you as the newly hired Executive Director of this great and wonderful, celebrated and horticultural institution.
When I was offered the position by the board of trustees of the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation in July, I certainly experienced one of those “out of trunk” sensations. So many thoughts flooded my mind: Moving to the Deep South after an absenteeism of almost thirty years, the hazard to take the helm of an iconic institution of the southern U.S., a new start for my wife, Heather, and me, beingness inside a morning’s drive to my mother in my hometown of Thibodaux, Louisiana … Wow!
And then, of course, other thoughts flooded my mind: I was going to have over after the 20-year tenure of the great Dr. Bill Barrick – what was I thinking? I would exist moving dorsum to the hurricane zone (no more Oklahoma tornadoes to worry most, simply sheesh!), and I was going to be inside a morning’southward bulldoze to my mother in my hometown of Thibodaux, Louisiana? And then many thoughts … and so little time.
In all seriousness, my showtime month on the task – October 1 will be the showtime of my 2d month – has seen a whirlwind of activeness, and literally quite the whirl of wind! I left Tulsa Botanic Garden with a staff complement of 31 to come to Bellingrath Gardens and Home with 57 staff members. Lots of new faces and names to learn, and remember. I knew I would exist moving to Mobile where I knew few people, although I would know more Mobilians and “Baldwin County-eans” in 2020 than Tulsans when I moved in that location in 2011.
However, in driving down on Baronial 28 to start the chore on September 1, I was calmed past each mile, the mix of tallgrass prairie and “Cross Timbers” forests of Tulsa giving style to the mixed oak-pino forests of western Arkansas, these giving way to the Delta lands of southeastern Arkansas and western Mississippi, these leading to the Southern pine belt of southern Mississippi and Alabama. A green calming came upon me as I entered a flora that was and then familiar and nevertheless and so distant in my retention. To know, now, that I would live and garden amidst live oaks, bald cypress, Southern magnolias, sweetness bay magnolias, and then many other favorite plants of my babyhood and formative years in horticulture is like a dream I’ve awakened to.
Even though the stronger-than-expected fury of Hurricane Emerge did damage to Bellingrath’s Gardens – we lost a few hollies and pines, a magnolia, and various other plants – I was jokingly welcomed, according to my friends nearly and far, to this new task past none other than Mother Nature herself. This storm – what would be termed by ecologists as a “stochastic event” – is something that we know all too familiarly in the Gulf Declension region. It is a side of the natural world that has affected Bellingrath in the past (Frederic, Erin, Opal, Danny, Georges, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina) and will assuredly touch on Bellingrath again.
Although the Bellingrath Home is regarded equally an element that will be preserved in an unchanged state, the Gardens will ever alter – by their own nature, and by reactions to the natural world. My task is to shepherd both, going forward, then that current and future generations can go along to enjoy the splendors and beauties created by Mr. Bell and Miss Bessie and those they employed in service to this special place.
I greatly look forward to meeting and interacting with you all – every bit time and gathering limitations allow – and working together with yous, board, and staff, to take Bellingrath frontwards toward its 100th