Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
In her 27 years with the San Antonio Botanical Garden, Candace Andrews has left her mark on every plant and pathway. Last week, friends and colleagues gathered to give her a heartfelt sendoff as she retires from her role as director of community relations and visitor services to begin her next chapter as chairman of the Cibolo Preserve.
“Being in nature has always been a calling for me,” Andrews, who was raised on a Central Texas farm, said in her farewell speech.
She parlayed that calling into a unique talent for community outreach. The San Antonio Botanical Garden, opened in 1980 on grounds given to the City by George W. Brackenridge nearly a century earlier, was still in its early days when Andrews joined as a board member in 1991. She went on to become the Garden’s managing director, and sole official employee, seven years later.
“Candace has worn every hat and done every job imaginable over the years,” said board member and friend Claire Alexander. “The Garden has changed immensely in the last few decades, and much of that can be attributed to the relationships that Candace nurtured and grew. She is always positive, always gracious, and always believing in the important role the Garden serves in the community.”
San Antonio Botanical Garden President John Troy said Andrews was "tremendously effective" at communicating the vision of the Garden to the public.
“She’s been an incredible asset in helping the garden grow to where it is today," he said. "She can be in the weeds and she can look at the big picture.”
That big picture is expanding, with a new eight-acre area encompassing both facilities and themed gardens due to open Oct. 31. Andrews, who found connecting families with nature the most gratifying aspect of her work, is particularly excited about the plans for an extensive culinary garden and family adventure area.
“We’re inviting kids to ‘Come Mess with Texas’ in a hands-on garden that’s the only one of its kind,” she explained, looking out over the new construction from the azumaya, the tea ceremony house of the Kumamoto En garden. She firmly believes that immersion in the great out-of-doors makes children and adults, “happier, healthier and smarter,” she said, echoing the tagline for Texas Children in Nature.
One of her favorite memories of her time at the Garden was the first “Dinosaurus Tex” exhibit they put on in 2002. Since then, events and programs have increased exponentially, which Bob Brackman, executive director of the Garden, attributes in large part to Andrews’ planning.
“These events are one of the greatest legacies she is leaving,” he said. “We used to have only two events in the year, and now we have them constantly.” These cultural gatherings have included Concerts Under the Stars, Art in the Garden, Shakespeare in the Park, and the enticingly-named Blooms and Brews.
Brackman is keen to mention another of Andrews’ contributions: 27 years’ worth of beautiful photographs she’s taken, documenting everything from the Garden’s individual flowers to its most dramatic expansions. He describes this photographic catalogue, left to the Garden upon her retirement, as a “true treasure.”
Another of Andrews’ valued contributions is her work on the Garden’s Native Texas Trail. She delighted in seeing the improved trail system and interpretive signage.
Given these interests, it’s only appropriate that the Hill Country Seep, her favorite area of the Garden, be named in her honor.
Though she has relinquished her official role, Andrews remains devoted to the place, and it to her.
“She’s made her mark in so many wonderful ways,” Brackman said. “She’s just a beautiful, graceful, charming lady who has the Garden and the city in her heart, and that shows in everything she does. We look forward to having her come back and be in the family in a different way.”
Andrews describes her next role, as chairman of the Cibolo Preserve, as “soul-satisfying.” The Preserve is a nonprofit foundation that protects a 644-acre area in Kendall County, devoted to research in collaboration with UTSA, the Cibolo Nature Center, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality.
But no doubt she will still often be found in one of her many natural habitats, sitting on the porch of the historic log cabin, looking out over the lake. As Alexander put it: “She will forever be a part of the Garden.”