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James Gagliardi named new director for Bellevue Botanical Garden

BELLEVUE, Wash. – The Bellevue Botanical Garden, one of the city’s most popular attractions, has a new director. James Gagliardi comes to Bellevue from Washington, D.C., where he was a supervisory horticulturist at the Smithsonian Gardens.

“The garden’s significant growth and increased accessibility to a diverse audience required the vision and hard work of many amazing supporters and partners” said Gagliardi. “I am honored to steward the Bellevue Botanical Garden into the future and am grateful for the opportunity to enhance its impact.”

The 53-acre Botanical Garden, which has expanded multiple times over its 30-year history, features a collection of 3,000 unique varieties of plants spread across 12 thematic garden spaces, and it hosts educational programs for children and adults.

The Botanical Garden also holds two hallmark events each year – Arts in the Garden in August and Garden d’Lights in December – and draws over 400,000 visitors a year.

Gagliardi, who arrived in the summer, replaces Nancy Kartes, who retired as director of the Botanical Garden after 18 years at the helm, a period during which the number of visitors, volunteers and garden displays grew significantly.

“James Gagliardi brings a unique perspective to the garden with his work at the Smithsonian — some of the most highly visited public gardens in the world,” said Parks & Community Services Director Shiosaki. “We’re excited to have him bring his experience and passion to one of the city’s most treasured places.”

At the Smithsonian Gardens, Gagliardi oversaw the landscapes and programming at the Smithsonian Castle, Enid A. Haupt Garden, Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, National Museum of Asian Art and National Museum of African Art.

Gagliardi studied horticulture at the University of Connecticut and earned a master’s degree and certificate in Museum Studies as a fellow in the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture at the University of Delaware.

Before joining the Smithsonian, he served as the horticulturist for River Farm, the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society in Alexandria, Virginia.

In 2018 Gagliardi received the Heroes’ Award from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for his work cracking a cold case by identifying plant material in images that helped locate and rescue a four-year-old child.

Gagliardi will manage the daily operations of the Botanical Garden, which is a collaboration between the City of Bellevue, the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society and nine other garden organizations. The Botanical Garden’s mission is to display the best plants and gardening practices for healthy, beautiful Northwest gardens.

The Garden is free and open year-round from dawn to dusk.