Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider attended a luncheon at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden yesterday to officially declare next week the city’s “California Native Plant Week.”

Schneider issued the proclamation to the garden’s President and CEO Steve Windhager and Board Chair John Wiemann during a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. The garden — founded in 1926 — is partnering with the California Native Plant Society to educate the community about the state’s native flora.

According to Schneider, the declaration recognizes the facility’s work in highlighting the city’s natural splendor.

“Santa Barbara is known for its natural beauty, its parks and its trees,” Schneider said. “I am happy to celebrate the native plants of California by declaring the California Native Plants Week. We have a great number of volunteers in the city and the county and I just want to thank all these people for giving back to the community, their work is very inspiring.”

Wiemann said the organization offers visitors a unique sight-seeing experience of the state’s diverse flora.

“This garden is a living museum, and through the efforts of our volunteers and donators, we are trying to make it the best in the West,” Wiemann said. “We are one of the very few Botanical Gardens to be accredited as an official museum by the American Museum Association, and that is an honor we work hard to maintain.”

The institution has scheduled several events and activities throughout the upcoming “plant week.”

According to Windhager, the week-long agenda will promote the garden’s community education tools.

“We have a host of great programs here. We teach people how they can use native plants in their own gardens and we engage in critical research to better understand native plants and help those rare plants from getting eradicated by imported species,” Windhager said. “We only have native plants in our garden, and we wish to demonstrate the diverse ecosystems that we see everywhere in California.”

In addition to highlighting the floral museum’s educational features, Windhager said the garden will honor volunteers’ contributions.

“This event falls right in the middle of National Volunteer Week, which gives us the opportunity to thank all our volunteers for the incredible service that they provide around here,” Windhager said.

The garden has experienced several recent setbacks including local concerns of expansion and damage to the garden’s attractions during the May 2009 Jesusita fire.

Despite impediments, Wiemann said the organization will continue to work toward their construction goals.

“We are having a bit of a rough time with neighbors over potential development,” Wiemann said. “We need new facilities but we agreed on cutting back 65 percent of our planned expansion. We have 80 acres and only two percent of our property is built on, but at the moment we want to rebuild trust with our neighbors and find an agreement we are all happy with.”