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Smithsonian Gardens Welcomes New Director

Joy Columbus, Smithsonian Gardens

Joy Columbus, Smithsonian Gardens

Smithsonian Gardens (SG) is pleased to announce that Joy (Kaminsky) Columbus, vice president of horticulture at the Houston Botanic Garden, has been hired as the fourth Director of Smithsonian Gardens.

Columbus has dedicated 20 years to a career in public gardens. She’s always known she wanted to work outside and is a self-confessed plant nerd who loves to share plants with people and “see the fireworks go off in their eyes.”

When asked why she was excited about becoming SG’s new director she said: “Smithsonian Gardens reaches over 25 million people a year. Imagine the opportunities available to reach so many people in the gardens. It is a wonderful gift.”

Columbus grew up in Akron, Ohio. She received her bachelor's degree in Botany and Horticulture from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a master's degree in biology from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. She has previously worked with the New York State Office of Parks and the Cleveland Botanical Garden and served as a research assistant at Miami University of Ohio. She was the director of horticulture at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois where she initiated and coordinated the development of a multi-phase $35 million campus revitalization plan, Project New Leaf.

Columbus starts her new job as SG Director on Nov. 9. She knows the job will keep her busy; she can’t wait to explore all the resources and tremendous opportunities that the Smithsonian as a whole and Smithsonian Gardens in particular have to offer. She is eager to learn from her new SG and SI colleagues. Everywhere she has worked, the community of plant people has been welcoming and kind. Her experience with the people she’s met thus far at the Smithsonian has been no different. The opportunity to work with the talented staff at Smithsonian Gardens to showcase its many gardens, landscapes, exhibits, collections, and educational programs makes her exhilarated to get down to business every day.