People and Gardens

December 2012

Mt. Cuba Center’s new executive director announced

Jeffrey A. Downing of Stamford, Connecticut, has been selected as the new executive director of Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware. Ann C. Rose, president of the Board of Managers of Mt. Cuba Center said, “We are delighted to welcome Jeff to Mt. Cuba Center. He is the strong, visionary leader we set out to find on our search. We look forward to combining his talents with Mt. Cuba Center’s excellence.” He began on December 1, 2012. 

Mr. Downing comes to Mt. Cuba Center from The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), where he was vice president for education for the past five years. In that role he oversaw children’s education, adult education, public programs for visitors, interpretation, the school of professional horticulture, and the LuEsther T. Mertz library. He was instrumental in the development of a midtown Manhattan campus for adult education, initiated a juried international botanical art exhibition, created vocational horticulture programs with the New York City Parks Department, published botany curriculum units aimed at middle and high school audiences, and launched a web-based, interactive, virtual conservatory tour. Jeff started at NYBG in 1999 as manager of student services and was subsequently promoted to associate director and then director of adult education before assuming the role of vice president for education in 2007.

“Mt. Cuba Center is renowned for horticultural excellence, innovative education programs, and impactful plant research in the interest of appreciating and conserving native plants and the ecologies that sustain them. I am honored to be afforded the opportunity to work with Mt. Cuba’s talented staff to build on its tradition of excellence and further its important mission,” Mr. Downing said.

Mt. Cuba Center, the region’s premier native plant garden, is a non-profit organization set on nearly 600 acres in the rolling hills of northern Delaware. Through education, research, and conservation, the intention Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland, its founder, is supported: “I want this to be a place where people will learn to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats.”


Dan Stern travels to China for International Association of Botanic Gardens

Sentinel Plant Network (SPN) manager Dan Stern traveled to Guangzhou, China, for the 13th Annual Conference of the International Association of Botanic Gardens, held on November 13-15, 2012. The conference was attended by over 300 delegates from across China and 25 delegates from other countries around the world. In addition to representing APGA, Dan took this opportunity to deliver an oral presentation and poster session to introduce conference attendees to the Sentinel Plant Network and to start recruiting "sister" gardens whose complementary collections would enable them to partner with SPN members and other US stakeholders for the purposes of share information about potential threats, host species, etc. 


Having visited several botanic gardens in China during his time with the Longwood Graduate Program, Dan was happy to also have the opportunity to reconnect with several familiar faces such as Dr. Jiao Genlin, the head of education at the Shenzhen Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, and Ruilan Huang, research assistant at the South China Botanical Garden and former international intern at Longwood Gardens, pictured here.


Pam Allenstein travels to Germany for symposium at the Bavarian State Institute for Viticulture and Horticulture


NAPCC was featured during an international symposium held on November 10-11 at the Bavarian State Institute for Viticulture and Horticulture. The symposium, which focused on plant collection networks, was organized by the German Horticultural Society in cooperation with the country’s Federal Institute for Agriculture and botanical gardens association. The symposium benchmarked a new plant collections network being launched in Germany with established programs in other countries. Nearly 100 participants included private plant collectors, botanists, breeders, and scientists at botanic gardens, universities, and the government’s ornamental plant gene bank.

APGA’s Pam Allenstein presented details about managing the NAPCC, while other speakers shared information about plant collection programs in the Netherlands, France, and Plant Heritage in the United Kingdom. The symposium included break-out workshops on marketing, international networks, and developing quality standards. It also featured a “world café” format to brainstorm key topics. The symposium presented a great opportunity to showcase the NAPCC and furthers one of NAPCC’s strategic objectives working toward collections coordination at a global level through international collaborations.


Bellevue Botanical Garden receives major gift

The Bellevue Botanical Garden Society is pleased to announce a significant gift to their Growing a Living Legacy capital campaign. Binkley and Paula Shorts pledged $500,000 “in memory of our parents and in gratitude to the people of Bellevue who have so enthusiastically embraced the concept of a botanical garden.” Binkley is the only child of Calhoun and Harriet Shorts, who donated their home and seven-acre garden to the City of Bellevue. From this original gift, the Garden has grown to 53 acres and hosts over 300,000 visitors per year.

The Garden has flourished in large part due to the partnership between the City of Bellevue and the Botanical Garden Society. The City, as owner and manager of the Garden, is committed to the ongoing maintenance of the Garden and adheres to the high standards of care that distinguish Bellevue Parks. The society board is comprised of dedicated community members who understand the valuable ways in which the Garden contributes to the quality of life for City residents and visitors from the region. In addition to the primary partnership between the City and the Society, the Garden benefits from partnerships with six other horticultural groups that provide thousands of volunteer hours annually to keep the Garden beautifully maintained, share horticultural expertise, offer educational programs, and promote the Garden to the community.

Now in its twentieth year, the Garden has enjoyed tremendous growth including a surge in attendance at educational programs and community events. Yet it continues to operate in small facilities built for private home use. To meet current needs for indoor space and position the Garden for anticipated growth, we have embarked on a carefully designed capital plan that will offer visitors of all ages expanded educational opportunities and new garden features to explore.

Visit to be part of this extraordinary effort.


Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens project achieves Net-Zero Energy status

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Bosarge Family Education Center, a LEED Platinum certified facility located in Boothbay, Maine, has achieved confirmation of Net-Zero Energy status after a year of operation. The Education Center is recognized as one of only a handful of Net-Zero, non-residential buildings in New Englan, and is the second commercial LEED Platinum building in Maine.

According to the US Department of Energy, a Net-Zero building is a structure with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually. After a year of operation, an analysis of the property's performance has confirmed that the Center is producing almost 30 percent more energy than it is using, and the excess energy produced is being used to supplement other power needs at the Gardens. Only a few select commercial projects nationwide achieve this distinction annually and the Center is the first non-residential development in Maine to achieve Net-Zero Energy status.

The new Center highlights the remarkable growth of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, which opened in 2007 on 128 acres of forest and tidal frontage. The Gardens attracted about 40,000 visitors the first year. Since then it has expanded to 248 acres, becoming the largest botanical garden in New England and one of Maine's top tourist attractions. Today it hosts about 100,000 visitors annually.

This fast-growing popularity caused Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to quickly outgrow its visitor center, prompting the decision to build the education center. At the facility's opening in the summer of 2011, the 8,000-square-foot Education Center was hailed as the "greenest building in Maine." This building stands at the next frontier of building design, going beyond LEED standards to achieve much greater energy savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has been praised widely, receiving accolades from the Maine Chapter of the US Green Building Council's Katye Charette, who commented, "Healthy, high performance buildings like the Bosarge Family Education Center are key to creating a sustainable built environment in Maine."

The San Diego Botanical Garden of California was invited to join the National Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) 

The San Diego Botanic Garden has been invited to become full Participating Institution in the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), a national organization dedicated solely to preventing the extinction of America’s imperiled, native flora. Made up of a network of 38 leading botanical institutions located throughout the country, CPC is headquartered in St. Louis and maintains the National Collection of Endangered Plants to further its mission of conserving and restoring the rare native plants of the United States.

Kathryn Kennedy, the Center for Plant Conservation’s president and executive director said, “We are delighted to have this garden as a part of our national network. California is CPC’s No. 2 hotspot for vulnerable plant diversity. Engaging more communities in securing and restoring their local species is an important part of maintaining these priceless natural resources for the future.”

The San Diego Botanic Garden has deep commitments to and a long history of support for conservation and a solid record of accomplishment for the plant biodiversity of Southern California. Preserving existing natural areas is very important to the Garden which is located in Encinitas, California, within a mile of the coast. There are approximately 11 acres of natural areas and restored natural areas in the Garden.

In addition, the local southern maritime chaparral and coastal sage scrub plant communities are some of the nation’s most endangered vegetation types, as they are small in size and restricted to coastal areas. Federally endangered Del Mar manzanitas grow wild here while rare Encinitas baccharis and Orcutt's goldenbush shrubs have been planted in restored natural areas.

San Diego Botanic Garden President and CEO Julian Duval explained, “It is truly an honor to have been accepted into the national CPC program, but it also sets the San Diego Botanic Garden on a course to become much more effective in an important part of our mission which is plant conservation.”

The Center for Plant Conservation is coordinated by a national office and guided by a volunteer board of trustees and the experts of the CPC Science Advisory Council. By developing standards and protocols and conducting conservation programs in horticulture, research, restoration, and raising awareness, CPC’s network is striving to save America’s rarest plants from being lost forever. For additional information on the Center for Plant Conservation, visit the CPC website at


The Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden's world class butterfly conservatory and science village opened Saturday, December 1

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s state-of-the-art DiMare Science Village, covering more than 25,000 square feet, and The Clinton Family Conservatory featuring a splendid butterfly exhibit, the Glasshouse Café, Windows to the Tropics Conservatory, and the Whitman Tropical Fruit Pavilion, opened to the public on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

“The opening of the Butterfly Conservatory and Science Village brings together the fusion of nature’s magnificence and the enormous breadth of scientific research and technology available at our fingertips today,” said Dr. Carl Lewis, director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. “Educating our children today about conservation science, the careers available to them, and the impact they can make, is absolutely critical in the twenty-first century.”

A canopy of oak trees, some more than 50 years old, frame the architecture of the Conservatory’s exterior. Leading visitors through the Conservatory is a unique path garnished with a variety of plant imprints courtesy of Fairchild Garden’s staff, volunteers, and children who participated in summer camp programs. As guests enter the Butterfly Conservatory, volunteers are on hand to offer information and welcome them into the Conservatory which is ADA accessible.

Creating a wonderland of nature, an outdoor, screened enclosure arouses the senses with butterflies by the thousands, hummingbirds, palms and trees wrapped with Fairchild’s extensive collection of rare orchids, all alongside a beautiful stream that flows throughout the length of Conservatory. Upon entering, visitors encounter a Butterfly Metamorphosis lab where, through a glass wall, they can view butterfly chrysalis that are undergoing metamorphosis. Butterfly Conservatory staff can be viewed in the lab conducting research and observing the butterflies as they emerge. Emerging butterflies will be released twice a day into the Conservatory as part of its interactive programming for guests.

Visitors continue next into the Windows to the Tropics Conservatory, where they will experience some of the tropical world’s rarest plants—plants too sensitive even for Miami’s mild winters. In addition, visitors will enjoy a majestic “Corchid Tree”—a large, cork-covered PVC tree that is designed to exhibit rare epiphytes and orchids. Next, the Tropical Fruit Pavilion introduces visitors to the world of tropical fruit. Guests will see cacao (from where chocolate comes), the vanilla orchid, the rare mangosteen, and more.

The new Glasshouse Café, which is directly across from Fairchild’s rainforest, exhibits a large glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly and 20-foot-high ceilings that peer into the Conservatory through floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The Café’s popular menu has been broadened to include organic and locally grown food, includes seating for up to 150 people, and is available for private rentals.

The Science Village will showcase the talent and accomplishments of Fairchild’s conservation team by directly connecting scientists and their activities with the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Garden. Fairchild’s five-year vision is to support the science education initiatives with 10 PhD scientists, 20 PhD students and 40 undergraduate research students. The undergraduate and graduate course offerings taking place at the Science Village bring Fairchild’s existing environmental educational programs, The Fairchild Challenge, the highly successful multidisciplinary environmental education program for grades K-12, directly into a pipeline.

Fairchild has upheld strict environmental standards during the development phase, the result of which allows the Science Village to become LEED certified. This new scientific hub marks the first time in 50 years that Fairchild’s team of scientists will be working on site with the opportunity to interact with students, visitors, and the community. Since the 1960s, Fairchild’s scientists worked from a separate facility one mile from the Garden.

Fostering a strong sense of pride in Miami’s environment, conservation science, and community, the Science Village is equipped with the Dr. Jane Hsiao Laboratories—four cutting-edge educational labs including the Jason Vollmer Butterfly Metamorphosis Lab for pupae rearing; a Micro-Propagation Lab for propagating rare orchids, palm, cycads and other endangered topical plants; a DNA Lab for biodiversity and conservation studies; and a Microscopy and Imaging Lab that enables scientists to study plants and butterflies in minute detail.

A unique alliance for scientific study, the laboratories are installed with computer screens, Wi-Fi, and live webcams to facilitate lectures and to allow visitors outside the labs to experience the work taking place within them. The large-sized classrooms allow college and graduate students from Florida International University, the University of Miami, and the University of Florida to extend their education.

Named in honor of Dr. James A. Kushlan—a well-known South Florida biologist and wetland conservationist and sponsor of Fairchild's bird conservation initiative— The Tropical Science Institute will be housed in the Science Village. Its overarching goal is to collect under one umbrella the science activities of the Garden and to facilitate coordination and increased cooperation among South Florida's scientists, conservationists, and educators engaged in tropical science, conservation, and higher education.


The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University hired Oasis Design Group to develop planting design plan

The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum (EJC Arboretum) at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, hired Oasis Design Group to develop a planting design plan for the three-and-a-half-acre main lawn area in its 125-acre botanical preserve.

The current main lawn area (right) is a venue for organized events such as weddings, special events, and concerts and a place where the campus' students, staff, and faculty visit to relax, socialize, study, and work. The area is identified as the Western Valley Zone in the Arboretum's recently updated master plan


An objective of Oasis' planting design work is to create a plan that could be implemented over a period of planting seasons to artfully exhibit a variety of native shrubs, perennials, and specimen trees while enhancing the aesthetics of the garden. 


"Oasis Design Group was selected for the project because of its published expertise in planting design and its deep understanding of horticulture," said Arboretum Director Jan Sievers Mahon. She added, "Oasis will provide the Arboretum with design guidance and leadership for this high-profile area of the garden."

The EJC Arboretum, a woodland sanctuary on the JMU campus, is a public urban garden and forested green space that preserves native plants species, provides research opportunities, and promotes knowledge of the botanical and natural world. It is the only active, publicly oriented arboretum on a Virginia university campus. The EJC Arboretum has Virginia roundleaf birch (Betula uber) that is on the United States Fish and Wildlife Threatened Species list and protected at EJC Arboretum, and has a mature oak-hickory forest with two identified century specimens.