Hundreds of trees have been planted, and plenty more is in store as the Waterfront Botanical Gardens moves through Phase 1 development and toward its planned ribbon-cutting on Oct. 4.

The shell of the Graeser Family Education Center, which overlooks Beargrass Creek, has been constructed, while the layouts for pathways are in place, with young trees, some of them sprouting leaves already, flanking them.

Along with 225 trees in the ground on the 23-acre site, according to Kasey Maier, president of the Botanical Gardens Project, some 15,000 more plants are now “in growing mode” and being groomed for a late May or early June planting.

“I wanted to show the community this thing is actually coming,” Maier says on a tour of the grounds. “I didn’t want to make them wait any longer.”

The education center, an events center with a room that holds 250 plus a small conference room, will hold children’s program during the day and adult programming and special events in the evenings.

It will be surrounded by a paved, walkable education pavilion.

The Waterfront Botanical Gardens site plan, including all phases | Courtesy of Waterfront Botanical Gardens

Ultimately, the pavilion will include a 50-foot-tall water wall, a pollinator meadow, an edibles garden, a Kentucky native plants garden and more.

Nearby will be the Tree Allée, a walkway lined with American beech trees that were procured as seedlings from Cave Hill Cemetery. Eventually, the walkway will lead to the Beargrass Creek Overlook as part of the latter stages of Phase 1.

Phase 2 will include a visitors center near the entrance on Frankfort Avenue, by the Heigold Façade; it will include a gift shop, a restaurant, event space, offices and will be flanked by a Welcome Garden that leads visitors into the attraction, as well as a lawn for events.

Latter Phase 2 and Phase 3 initiatives include several more outdoor educational gardens, along with a conservatory, a Water Filtration Garden, Japanese Gardens, Planted Trellace and Medicinal Meadow.

Most importantly, the botanical garden will offer plenty of open, walkable space for family or group visits, plus special events.

“We could be listening to the Louisville Orchestra while sitting on the event lawn,” Maier says, looking into the future. “Wouldn’t that be great?”

(And yes, she said the view of Thunder Over Louisville from the botanical garden is “beautiful.”)

The entirety of Phase 1 is not yet fully funded, Maier says; those interested in making a donation or sponsoring one of the many features of the center can start here.

The plan for Waterfront Botanical Gardens originated with Botanica, an umbrella organization for the local gardening community founded in 1993. In 2001, Botanica was named as beneficiary of a trust established by member Helen Harrigan, a local gardener who wanted a botanical garden in Louisville. In 2005, a feasibility study started the project moving forward.