Who can participate? Anyone who has a story, photo, audio, video, or interview related to gardening in America can participate. The material on this website will be available to the general public, and researchers, students, and garden enthusiasts will find the material of value. Gardens are ephemeral and often lost to the historical record. The goal of this website is to preserve the stories of everyday gardens and gardeners.

You must be over the age of 18 to submit a garden story to the website. If you are under 18, your parent or guardian must submit the story for you.  Alternately, teachers, if you would like your class to participate, please click here for more information.

What should I include in my submission? Your stories, images, video, and audio should relate to gardening in the United States. See the next FAQ, What makes a good garden story?, for a number of themes and questions to get you started. Your story could be about the history of your community garden, or an interview with your grandmother about her Victory Garden, or a photo and a story about a plant that has been grown by your family for decades. Bring your personal perspective and family and community memories to the archive. We’re interested in your thoughts on the role of gardening in your life and the health of your community, whether in the present day or in the past.

Your story should be a personal one and should not include commercial or promotional language for a product, service, business, or organization.

What makes a good story? A good garden story could be anything!

Do you have memories of a garden grown by your mother or father? Grandmother or grandfather? How has a garden helped bring your family or community closer together? Is there a garden feature, plant, or flower that brings back vivid memories?

A good story tells us about the gardens and green spaces that matter to YOU. Stories can be told with images, audio, and videos, too.

  • What is your first memory of a being in a garden?
  • What have gardens taught you about yourself, your family, community, or the natural world?
  • Why did you decide to create a garden? What makes it special?
  • What was the first plant or vegetable you ever grew? Why did you choose to grow it?
  • Why do you think gardens are important to the neighborhood where you live?
  • Are you a member of a community garden? What is your community garden’s history, and what role does it play in your community?
  • Do you have a favorite public garden? What makes it your favorite?

I recently submitted my story to the website. When will it appear online? Every story submitted to the digital archive goes through a review process by Community of Gardens project staff. After submitting your story you will receive an email confirming that it has been received. After a period of review, typically 4 to 5 business days, you will receive an email confirming that your story has been accepted to the archive. In some cases we may need to contact you for additional information, or with questions about your submission.  If we do not accept your submission, we will not retain the submission or any of the supporting information provided.

My story was not accepted. Why not? We are seeking personal stories related to American gardening that do not appear to endorse a product, company, or organization. Stories that are acceptable to be displayed on the website should be relevant to the mission of the project, reflect an authentic voice, and have clear connections to the topic of gardens and gardening in the United States. Only material that advances the project goals and purposes will be accepted. Stories also must comply with the terms and conditions of the Submission Agreement.  

We suggest that you browse other stories on the website you get a sense of what we are collecting. You are welcome to resubmit your story with changes for consideration.

Will my story be edited? We may correct for spelling and grammar, and reserve the right to remove rare occasions of offensive language or any personally identifying information. Please see our Submission Agreement for more information. We also may have questions or need additional information before we accept your submission for the project.

How many audio, video, and image files can I submit with my story? We encourage you to make your submission rich with relevant images, audio, and video, but please don’t overload us. You may submit up to ten files. Be aware also that the Smithsonian may not post your submission in its entirety.    

Will I retain permission to continue using my images and share them with other museums or organizations? Yes. You retain ownership of your submission, but by making a submission you give the Smithsonian, and those authorized by the Smithsonian, your irrevocable perpetual permission to disseminate, modify, and use your submission, in whole or in part, in all media now known or later developed, for any educational, promotional, archival, or other standard museum purpose, without compensation to you. 

 What personal information do you collect? To submit a garden story, we need your first and last name and email address. To create an accurate historical record we need to identify our sources and our research team needs to have a way to contact you if we have questions about your story, or need additional information. On the website you will only be identified by your first name and last initial (for example, “Jane T.”).  Please limit the use of references to others in your submissions to just a first name and last initial.  Your email address will never be shared on the website. We will never email you anything unrelated to this project, nor will we share your personal information with third parties or commercial vendors. 

I don’t have an email address. How can I submit my story? An email address is required to submit a story to the Community of Gardens website as we may need to be able to contact you electronically with questions about your story. If you do not have an email address, consider asking a friend or family member with an email address to help you share your story. The Smithsonian will not disclose your address on the website or use it to contact you about anything other than your submission.

Will the address of a private garden I am submitting be revealed on the website? We enthusiastically encourage you to submit a story about your own garden or a family member’s or neighbor’s (with their permission, of course).

When submitting a story about a private garden, please be sure to identify the garden as “private” not “public” and only list the neighborhood, city and state in the “Address box.” Do not include the street address. This helps protects the privacy of the homeowner.  On the Community of Gardens map on the website, private gardens are protected by the “zoom” function. At the city level, the residential garden pins will ’disappear,’ only leaving public gardens (gardens that can be visited by the general public) identified at the street level.

The Smithsonian also may take steps, if feasible, to prevent identifying the exact location of any private garden on the website beyond listing the neighborhood, city and state. Our research team reserves the right to not post images of private gardens that include identifiable information, but the Smithsonian cannot guarantee your privacy. You are responsible for double-checking your images and videos to make sure they do not show house numbers, street signs, etc., before submitting them.

I would like to document my friend’s/neighbor’s/family member’s garden. Great! Before you start, you need the consent of the owner of the garden, including permission to use any images, videos, interviews, or audio of them or their garden.  Share the Submission Agreement with the garden owner and obtain his or her agreement to it prior to submitting your garden story.

How can I find my story? If you have received an email confirming that your story has been accepted into the digital archive and has been published to the website, you can find your garden story by entering keywords related to the story in the search box on most pages, or by locating it on the map.

I am a teacher and I would like my students to submit stories as part of a class project. Community of Gardens is a great tool for teaching young people about local environmental history and civics. To submit a story (or stories) produced by your students, download parental consent form to obtain parental or guardian permission for each student to have his or her project or contribution added to the digital archive and available to the general public on the website. You will need to retain these permission slips for your records, as the Smithsonian may request these at any time.

Who do I contact with other questions about the Community of Gardens website? Please send our team an email at communityofgardens@si.edu.

Be a part of Smithsonian Gardens. Tell us the stories that make your gardens grow.