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“The garden has been the lucky beneficiary of much of her creative genius.” —Kathleen Kapnick

were draped and styled with panache under Varney’s guidance. As an ardent supporter of the Naples Botanical Garden, Berger believes “it has a way of talking back to people. It connects with them.” She credits this power and dedicated leadership with cultivating the early characteristics of Hats and the garden itself. “We give to the garden, not to get from the garden,” she says. “The garden has been my life.” Brian Holley, the garden’s founding executive director, is quick to note Berger’s foundational part in turning the vision of the Naples Botanical Garden into a reality, stipulating that the success of Hats in the Garden enabled it to “grow, develop education and conservation programs, and serve our community.” Describing his “wonderful, thoughtful friend,” Holley identifies color and passion as Berger’s defining characteristics. With a bold mind and open heart, she was a driving force “for the garden and for initiatives she believed could make a difference.” Kathleen Kapnick, who co-chaired Hats in the Garden during the early years, praises Berger’s immense creativity and ability to translate inspiration into reality. “She never simply 76

walks down a street,” Kapnick says. “She stops at every store window, studies it, and finds an element that she stores in her memory to use at a later date.” When planning Hats, Kapnick notes that Berger’s attention to detail was always in full force. “She would send me internet links and photos and bits of fabric. She would describe, for example, a table arrangement that she had seen in a restaurant entrance 10 years previously in Milan with such detail that I didn’t even need a photo. It was not always clear to me how it all fit together, but eventually the picture emerged in all its brilliance.” Combining her singular aesthetic sense with a nuanced understanding of what the Naples Botanical Garden needed to thrive, Berger and her husband were able to make an early, lasting mark on the organization. “The garden has been the lucky beneficiary of much of her creative genius,” says Kapnick, who points to Berger’s “tenacity but also her diplomatic skills and infectious enthusiasm.” The Bergers’ imprint is felt throughout the Naples Botanical Garden, where she remains on the board of directors. “I’m certainly proud to be known for this garden,” she says,

explaining that every aspect of the 170-acre parcel of land was intentional. The visual presentation of the gardens had to be stunning, but the overall appeal and functionality— including the on-site café and gift shop (which bears the Berger name)—had to be held to an equally impeccable standard. These principles have enabled the Naples Botanical Garden to mature swiftly and resulted in high-level accolades. In 2017, the garden was the youngest ever to receive the Award for Garden Excellence from the American Public Gardens Association. The garden has also evolved from a treasured local resource into a meaningful member of the international community of public gardens, partnering and collaborating in compelling ways. These relationships have proven vital, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma when other gardens sent their staff to Naples to aid in clean up and recovery efforts. Among the more than 220,000 thousand annual visitors to the Naples Botanical Garden, it’s likely that a good many stop by the Smith Children’s Garden. Here, they’ll find a tall Royal Poinciana with painted stripes around its base. The tree, dubbed Chuck,


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