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Quarryhill Botanical Garden Gets New Name, Expands Focus

Kate Rabuck, curator of education and exhibitions, and Scot Medbury, director, in front of the Sonoma Botanical Garden’s new sign.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden, world-renowned among horticulturists for its collection of rare Asian plants gathered from seed in the wild, has a new name and a broader mission.

The 67-acre garden has been renamed Sonoma Botanical Garden. In the future, it will be expanded to highlight California native plants in addition to its current holdings.

“We anticipate that the new name and enhanced mission will strengthen the garden’s connection to our community, advancing our environmental education impact in an era of climate change,” said Jerry Newell, chairman of the board of directors, in a news release.

The current garden, laid out and planted more than 30 years ago, was the vision of Jane Davenport Jansen. It was named Quarryhill after the former sandstone quarry on the upland portion of the site, along Highway 12 in Glen Ellen.

The garden is known for its rare magnolias, rhododendrons, maples and other species, many of which were collected on expeditions to China, Japan and Korea by Bill McNamara. McNamara also helped design the garden and managed it from its inception. The garden will be expanded to include California plants, opening up parts of the property to reflect existing California oak woodland and chaparral plant communities.

McNamara retired and was succeeded as executive director by Scot Medbury, who for 15 years oversaw Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York City. He arrived last February during the beginning of the pandemic.

Medbury believes the changes, which have included an investment in infrastructure, are in keeping with the garden’s mission to preserve and conserve plants that are rapidly disappearing from the wild.

“We hope that encountering specimens of California’s endangered native flora will lead people to an appreciation of plant conservation challenges around the world, including those found in Asia and vice versa, that learning about the endangered flora of Asia might inspire local action to save California plants,” Medbury said in a release. “Adopting our mission to include California botany will allow us to be even more sensitive to wildlife, water and wildfire issues. All of us are inspired by the opportunity to use this extraordinary site and its rich collection of plants to engage the next generation of environmental stewards.”

Before overseeing Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Medbury served as director of the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

Sonoma Botanical Garden is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except on Tuesdays.