For more than 150 years, a succession of soldiers, families of correction officials, and inmates cultivated the gardens hewn on the rocky, windswept island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. Gardens were an important part of everyday life for officers, families, and prisoners confined to Alcatraz by sentence or duty. Many of the plants selected by these unheralded gardeners proved to be excellent choices for the harsh and barren environment, flourishing through the four decades of neglect following the prison's closing.
Alcatraz's current visitors experience an island that is alive with colorful plants gathered decades ago from around the world, and complemented by newly introduced plants. These historic gardens not only illustrate the importance of gardens to the human spirit, but also the ecological benefits and aesthetic possibilities of sustainable gardening.
The Garden Conservancy is leading the effort to rehabilitate these gardens in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Through the Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project, the partner organizations preserve, rebuild, and maintain the gardens created by those who lived on the island during its military and prison eras, and interpret their history, horticulture, and cultural significance for visitors.
In February 2010, the Association of Partners for Public Lands awarded the Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project a Partnership Project Award. The project also received two California Preservation Foundation 2009 awards - the Trustees Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation and a Preservation Design Award. This prestigious awards program showcases preservation design excellence and recognizes exemplary work in historic preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, and sustainability.