Bright, green leaves decorate the sunlit windows of the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse. Over 4,000 people a year visit the plants and programs the building holds, said greenhouse curator Cheryl LeBlanc.

“It’s crowded,” LeBlanc said. “[The greenhouse] is not really designed for that.”

Because of that, fundraising started this year to raise $1.2 million to expand the greenhouse, LeBlanc said. The expansion would add a multipurpose room and double the size of the conservatory. 

The current greenhouse started construction six years ago, according to a Daily News report from 2012. Attendance at the greenhouse has more than tripled since then, and currently lacks adequate space to host that many people, she said. 

People visit the greenhouse for more than plants, LeBlanc said. Educational programs, school groups and monthly events can draw in hundreds of visitors.

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“I try to send our visitors home with a piece of nature that has connection to them,” LeBlanc said. “I use the space as a way to get people excited about nature…”

“We have one planet, and it’s everybody’s responsibility to take care of it one way or another and this education center can help expand that awareness.”

While no design plans have been finalized, the proposed expansion is estimated to take three years to complete, said Tim Carter, director of field stations and environmental education center.

Currently, the greenhouse has room “poorly suited” to hosting groups, he said. The new expansion would have a classroom to cater to that need. 

“We are now limited by space,” Carter said. “The greenhouse expansion is designed to provide the space so we can provide more and better educational outreach opportunities.”

The expansion plans depend on fundraising, he said. The quicker the greenhouse fundraises, the quicker the new additions can be built.

Contact Liz Rieth with comments at or on Twitter @liz_rieth.