The quarterly donor newsletter of The Morton Arboretum

Content Detail

The Gerard T. Donnelly Grand Garden Opens

The Gerard T. Donnelly Grand Garden opened at The Morton Arboretum with a festive weekend of events in September.

It was not only a celebration of the spectacular 2-acre garden, a lush and welcoming gathering space full of colorful flowers. The festivities also marked the Arboretum’s centennial; recognized the donors who have made the garden possible; and honored Dr. Gerry Donnelly, who is retiring after 32 years as the Arboretum’s president and CEO. “The centennial is a momentous time to bring this garden to reality,” he said. “I know it will be a place for members, guests, and future generations to find joy and celebration among trees and nature.”

The $16.6 million garden was funded mainly through philanthropic gifts that covered not only its construction and planting but the establishment of an endowment for its ongoing care and maintenance.

Lead donors who gave seven-figure gifts to the garden project included Doris Christopher, founder and chairman of Pampered Chef; Anna Ball, president and CEO of Ball Horticultural Company and an Arboretum trustee, and her daughter Susannah Ball; and the Hamill Family Foundation.


Gerry and Pam Donnelly in the garden named in his honor.


On Friday, September 16, Arboretum Trustees and Life Trustees, along with top donors to the garden, attended a ribbon-cutting event where it was announced that it would be named for Gerry. Donor Doris Christopher cut the official green ribbon, to the delight of trustees and staff who had worked through the pandemic to design, build, and plant the garden.


Donor Doris Christopher cut the ribbon to officially open the garden.


The Evergreen Gala, the Arboretum’s signature annual fundraising event, lit up the garden on Saturday night. The event’s 400 guests enjoyed first access to the new garden, and the event raised a record of more than $600,000 to support the Arboretum’s mission. View more event photos on Facebook.

Sia and Ivan Bey were among the 400 guests at the Evergreen Gala.


On Sunday afternoon, donors who had made gifts of $100 or more to the centennial were invited to a special reception before the garden opened to the public in the afternoon. Hundreds of guests enjoyed the fully accessible pathways and courtyards, the sweeping vistas and secluded benches, the dancing water of the fountains, the color of flowers and blooming shrubs, and the shady trees. “The garden will be a new centerpiece of the Arboretum,” Donnelly said.

Hundreds of guests enjoyed the garden on its opening day.