News & Press

View from the AHS

AHS BOARD OF DIRECTORS, (L-R, Marcia Zech, Tim Conlon, Laura Dowling, Skipp Calvert and Holly Shimizu)

With Gratitude to Our Members and Donors

WHAT A PLEASURE it was for several of us to return to River Farm the other day to see the vast expanses of water and sky, trees, and meadows aglow in full autumn splendor. As we stood on the bluffs overlooking the Potomac River, we were struck by the quiet solitude and overwhelming beauty of this special place, along with its profound historical, cultural, and natural significance.

For so many of us, River Farm is a historic jewel and national treasure, a beloved property that has inspired generations of Americans who value its importance both as a symbolic link to our national heritage and as an idyllic slice of natural beauty and open space. For centuries, River Farm has stood the test of time, a testament to those who have cherished the land and their dedication in preserving it. Occasionally, threats have put the future of River Farm at risk. In 1971, the Soviet Embassy expressed interest in purchasing the property as an outpost for embassy staff. That development enraged the neighbors and the general public, who were upset at the idea of a foreign government owning such an important piece of American history. Through the visionary gift of philanthropist Enid Annenberg Haupt—who foresaw the risks of selling the property to the Russians and forever changing its trajectory—the American Horticultural Society has had the privilege of owning and stewarding River Farm, which we’ve done successfully for nearly 50 years. Her stipulations that we maintain it as AHS headquarters and as beautiful gardens for the public to enjoy in perpetuity have been our guiding light.

The events of the past year, including the fact that private developers funded by anonymous foreign investors were reportedly interested in purchasing River Farm, underscore the ongoing vulnerability of this priceless asset. Throughout the year-long debate over the future of River Farm, we always knew and believed that we could count on our members’ collective support and commitment to both historic preservation and land conservation—as well as on our shared conviction of keeping promises made to donors. We are overjoyed by the unprecedented outpouring of support in favor of preserving River Farm as our headquarters and for keeping it in the public trust forever. Going forward, together, we have the potential to expand and build on this success by implementing a new strategic vision that enhances River Farm while propelling AHS forward to achieve its full potential as a visionary leader in American horticulture for the next century and beyond.

So, on the heels of this important decision and on the eve of the Society’s 100th anniversary, the next chapter (and the work) begin. First and foremost, our priority is to strengthen our ability to carry out our horticultural mission, which includes the successful stewardship of River Farm as a platform for our national gardening programs. In addition, by rebuilding our Board of Directors with leaders from the non-profit and horticultural worlds, we aim to reinvigorate our programs with new opportunities for engaging our members. We are also committed to putting the long-term

conservation solutions in place to ensure that River Farm will always remain a pristine open space. To do that, we’ll need both endowment and operational funding and the support of all of our friends, members, and stakeholders who are committed to both preserving and protecting River Farm while ensuring AHS’s success over the next 100 years and beyond. In all of these efforts, we look forward to collaborating with you—our members and supporters—as well as working with partners in both the public and private sectors to chart this exciting new course for AHS. As we move forward with optimism and renewed purpose, we are grateful for your unswerving dedication and support. All of us here send our very best wishes for a joyous holiday season.

AHS Board members, Skipp Calvert, Tim Conlon, Laura Dowling, Holly Shimizu, Marcia Zech

News & Press

Message from AHS New Board Chair

Dear Members,


Monday, November 1, 2021 was special for all of us at AHS and River Farm – the day we re-dedicated ourselves to stewarding this historic property, announced a new Director, opened River Farm back up to the public, committed to working with public officials and our stakeholders to protect River Farm in perpetuity and launched a fundraising initiative designed to build a bridge to AHS’s next 100 years. On a perfect fall day under an azure blue sky, set against the spectacular backdrop of beautiful River Farm, our Board of Directors gathered with AHS stakeholders and staff, Virginia elected officials, neighbors and the press to give everyone an update on all of these exciting developments. I am happy to share the key highlights with all of you.


First and foremost, the press event was an opportunity to thank our entire community for their support. Throughout the past year, when River Farm was under the very real threat of being sold for private development, the resulting outpouring of support from every single AHS stakeholder group was unprecedented. We’re convinced that the near-universal conviction that River Farm should remain as AHS headquarters and stay open to the public propelled us to achieve this wonderful outcome. On Monday, we heard heartfelt testimonials from the citizens’ groups and public officials who worked so diligently to keep River Farm as a spectacular natural space that future generations will continue to enjoy – and were able to acknowledge these key players for their efforts.


Towards that end, we are overjoyed to be able to welcome the public back to River Farm. After being closed for over a year, we’ve now opened our gates to our members and neighbors, to families and school children, to artists, to nature lovers – everyone who appreciates the incredible beauty of this unspoiled land with views that look very much the same as when George Washington purchased it as one of his original farms in 1760. When former AHS Board member and benefactor Enid Annenberg Haupt gave us $1 million that allowed AHS to purchase River Farm in 1973, her only stipulations were that the property would become AHS headquarters and be open to the public in perpetuity. We are very happy to continue to honor that promise and commitment.


A key highlight of the press event was the announcement of Keith Tomlinson as the new Director of AHS. Keith is renowned for both his horticultural accomplishments and his outstanding leadership skills. He brings an extraordinary wealth of professional and personal experience to the table that will help us navigate both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. All of us here are delighted to welcome him to our team.  Please see the press release announcing his appointment here: AHS Appoints New Director, Keith Tomlinson – American Horticultural Society.


Finally, it was an honor to announce in person the $1 million gift my husband Klaus and I are making to ensure that both AHS and River Farm are on a sound financial footing going forward. My hope is that this gift will be a bridge to our future efforts to secure long-term endowment funding for both our national gardening programs and the long-term maintenance and protection of River Farm – and that others will join us in these efforts. As a starting point, please check out our online auction of wonderful items with proceeds going to support AHS and River Farm: 2021 AHS Online Auction.


Throughout the past year, we have been touched by your steadfast support and commitment to AHS, to River Farm and to the prospect of an exciting new vision and direction for our organization. As we look ahead to a brighter future, we look forward to sharing our progress and plans with all of you.


With gratitude and all best wishes,



Marcia Zech

Board Chair

American Horticultural Society


P.S. View Monday’s entire press conference.

News & Press

Introducing Conversations with Great American Gardeners

The American Horticultural Society introduces conversations with Great American gardeners

The American Horticultural Society is pleased to announce a new national speaker series featuring current and past Great American Gardeners Award Winners and Book Award Winners. Since 1953, the AHS has been using these award programs to recognize and celebrate horticultural champions that represent the best in American gardening. The launch of this new dedicated webinar series will provide an additional spotlight on these outstanding individuals.

The 2021-2022 speakers include Karen Washington (2018 Urban Beautification Award), Michael J. Balick, Ph.D. (2020 H. Marc Cathey Award honoring excellence in scientific research), and Shane Smith (2012 Professional Award honoring excellence in public garden administration). The series will launch with the first conversation on Friday, October 8. Each live program will be hosted by Holly Shimizu, former executive director of the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. and an AHS board member, who will lead a lively and engaging conversation with speakers that will tap into their knowledge and experience. The interactive program format will allow audience members to ask questions of the guests.

2021-2022 Speakers

Friday, October 8 at 4:00 pm (eastern) Karen Washington

Washington has been a community gardener and activist in New York City since 1985. As a New York Botanical Garden trustee, she currently works with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into gardens. In her earlier role as an advocate and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, she championed garden protection and preservation. She’s also active with the La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, helping to launch a City Farms Market to bring fresh vegetables to the community. She serves as a board member of organizations such as Why Hunger and Just Food, often leading workshops on food justice and growing food. Washington is also a co-owner and farmer at Rise & Root Farm. In 2012, Ebony magazine voted her one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the country. In 2014, she was the recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award.

Thursday, January 27,  2022, at 7:00 pm (eastern) Michael J. Balick, Ph.D. 

A world-renowned ethnobotanist and book author with the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), Balick works with indigenous cultures to document plant diversity, preserve knowledge about traditional uses for plants, and helps these communities sustainably manage their resources. In the course of this work, he evaluates the potential of these botanical resources for broader medical or pharmaceutical applications. His most recent project focuses on the tropical Pacific Islands in Micronesia and Melanesia, where he is documenting the diversity, local use, and management of plant resources in support of a region-wide conservation plan. Balick is currently vice president for botanical science at NYBG, where he has worked since 1980.

Thursday, April 21, 2022, at 7:00 pm (eastern) Shane Smith
Shane Smith was the founding director of the award-winning Cheyenne Botanic Gardens from its inception in 1977 until 2018. Currently, he serves Wyoming’s only public garden as the director emeritus. In addition to his AHS award, Smith has received the Wyoming Governor’s Community Hero award; the 2011 Award of Merit from the American Public Garden Association; and the 2012 National Garden Clubs Award of Excellence for his contributions to gardening and horticulture. He continues to mentor other public gardens and tend his state-of-the-art greenhouse in western Colorado.

Registration is now open for the October 8th conversation. The cost is $10 for AHS members and $20 for non-members. Visit the Conversation with Great American Gardeners homepage to learn more.

Sponsorship opportunities are available to support the speaker series. For more information email


News & Press

AHS Partners with Heygo to bring live garden tours direct to you!

This August, Heygo is going full bloom with interactive live-streaming tours of the world’s best gardens. Even better, they’re guided by the expert gardeners who grew them and will field your questions as you go. From Gaudi’s green oasis in Barcelona, to a hidden bamboo temple in Kamakura, Japan – Heygo is bringing the wonders of the natural world straight to your screen with the Botanical Gardens Festival. All August on

Join AHS RAP Gardens Toronto Botanical Garden and Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, CA for tours of their stunning grounds.

At Toronto Botanical Garden, Dianne—a pharmacist by training and a volunteer with the Toronto Master Gardeners—will walk you through their fascinating history starting with the ice age, through to the early settlers of Toronto and now with the creation of award-winning gardens. Tour will be held August 12 at 10:00 AM EST and August 13 at 8:00 AM EST.

Over at Gamble Garden, take in their magnificent collection of heritage apple trees and have all your burning apple questions answered by their in house experts. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a sneak peek into Elizabeth Gamble’s historic home all decked out in apple-themed decor. Tour will be on August 14, at 8:30 AM PST.

More tours from gardens participating in the AHS Reciprocal Admissions Program are coming soon, stay tuned as tours at these gardens and more get scheduled:

Goodwood Museum and Gardens, FL
Hatcher Garden & Woodland Preserve, SC
Snug Harbor, NY
Trinity Eco Prayer Park, SD

Dig into the Garden Festival!

News & Press

2021 Growing Good Kids Book Award Winners

The Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society honor engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden and ecology-themed children’s literature through the “Growing Good Kids – Excellence in Children’s Literature Awards” Program. Each year, book winners are announced at the AHS’s annual National Children & Youth Garden Symposium  (NCYGS).
Join us in congratulating the 2021 Growing Good Kids Book Award Winners!
  • One Little Lot: The 1-2-3s of an Urban Garden

    By Diane C. Mullen
    Illustrated by Oriol Vidal
    Published by Charlesbridge
  • Mae the Mayfly

    By Denise Brennan-Nelson
    illustrated by Florence Weiser
    Published by Sleeping Bear Press
  • Butterflies Belong Here 

    By Deborah Hopkinson
    illustrated by Meilo So
    Published by Chronicle Books
Learn more about each of the winners at

News & Press

AHS Announces New Sponsorship With Cultivating Place Podcast

The AHS is proud to sponsor the popular Cultivating Place podcast with host Jennifer Jewell from July through September. Each episode of the podcast will feature thoughtful conversations with growers, gardeners, naturalists, scientists, artists and thinkers.

Tune in via Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher or online at A new episode launches every Thursday! 🌿🌿🌿
Happy Listening!


About Cultivating Place:

Gardens are more than collections of plants. Gardens and Gardeners are intersectional spaces and agents for positive change in our world. Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden is a weekly public radio program & podcast exploring what we mean when we garden. Through thoughtful conversations with growers, gardeners, naturalists, scientists, artists and thinkers, Cultivating Place illustrates the many ways in which gardens are integral to our natural and cultural literacy. These conversations celebrate how these interconnections support the places we cultivate, how they nourish our bodies, and feed our spirits. They change the world, for the better. Take a listen.

News & Press

2021 Great American Gardeners Award Winners Announced


American Horticultural Society 

Announces 2021 Great American Gardeners Award Winners 


ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 18, 2021) — The American Horticultural Society (AHS) today announced the distinguished recipients of the 2021 Great American Gardeners Awards. Individuals, organizations, and companies that receive these annual awards represent the best in American gardening and horticulture. Each has contributed significantly to fields such as plant research, garden communication, landscape design, youth gardening, horticultural therapy, and teaching.  

Among this year’s winners is Lucinda McDade, PhD, of the California Botanic Garden, who is receiving the AHS’s highest honor—the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award—for her lifetime accomplishments as a scientific researcher, plant explorer, professor, author, and public garden administrator. The AHS applauds all of this year’s recipients for their passionate commitment to American gardening and their outstanding achievements within their area of expertise. 

This year’s Great American Gardeners Award recipients are:

LIBERTY HYDE BAILEY AWARD – The American Horticultural Society’s highest award, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award is given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three of the following horticultural fields: teaching, research, communications, plant exploration, administration, art, business, and leadership. 

Lucinda McDade, PhD, Executive Director & Judith B. Friend Director of Research, California Botanic Garden, Claremont, Calif. 

* EMERGING HORTICULTURAL PROFESSIONAL AWARD – Given in the early stages of an individual’s career, this award recognizes significant achievements and/or leadership that have advanced the field of horticulture in America. 

Keith A. Mearns, Director of Grounds, Historic Columbia, Columbia, S.C.  

* GARDEN STEWARDSHIP – Given to a public garden that embraces and exemplifies sustainable horticultural practices in design, maintenance, and/or programs. 

North Carolina Botanic Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C. 

* HORTICULTURAL THERAPY AWARD – Recognizes significant contributions to the field of horticultural therapy.
Naomi A. Sachs, Assistant Professor, Plant Science & Landscape Architecture and 

Founding Director, Therapeutic Landscapes Network, College Park, Md. 

* LANDSCAPE DESIGN AWARD – Given to an individual whose work has demonstrated and promoted the value of sound horticultural practices in the field of landscape architecture. 

Larry Weaner, Principal & Founder, Larry Weaner Landscape Associates, Glenside, Pa. 

B.Y. MORRISON COMMUNICATION AWARD  Recognizes effective and inspirational communication—through print, radio, television, and/or online media—that advances public interest and participation in horticulture.  

Perla Sofia Curbelo-Santiago, Garden Podcaster and Radio Show Host, San Juan, P.R.  

* FRANCES JONES POETKER AWARD – Recognizes significant contributions to floral design in publications, on the platform, and to the public.
Lisa WaudFloral Artist, Detroit, Mich. 

* TEACHING AWARD – Given to an individual whose ability to share his or her horticultural knowledge with others has contributed to a better public understanding of the plant world and its important influence on society. 

Rowen WhiteFounder and Creative Director, Sierra SeedsNevada City, Calif. 

* JANE L. TAYLOR AWARD – Given to an individual, organization, or program that has inspired and nurtured future horticulturists through efforts in children’s and youth gardening.   

Washington Youth Garden, Washington, D.C. 

For more information on this year’s recipients, please visit our 2021 Award WinnersPhotographs of the award winners and additional information about the awards program are available upon request by contacting Katherine Somerville at or calling (703) 768-5700, ext. 121. 

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News & Press

American Horticultural Society Declines NOVA Parks Offer for River Farm

(March 1, 2021) – The American Horticultural Society board of directors has voted to decline a proposal submitted by NOVA Parks, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, and their partners to purchase an option to acquire AHS’s headquarters property, River Farm, on the banks of the Potomac River.

AHS has listed the 25-acre property for sale so the proceeds could be used to further AHS’s national mission and programs and create a significant endowment to ensure its long-term financial future. “We deeply appreciate the interest of NOVA Parks in River Farm and their proposal to purchase an option on the property, which if exercised, would involve payments to AHS over several years. We deliberated carefully over the proposal and its terms and concluded that their offer as currently written simply does not meet AHS’s needs. So, with thanks to them for their interest, the board declined the offer,” noted AHS Board Chair Terry Hayes

The American Horticultural Society has made its national headquarters at River Farm for decades, according to Vice Chair of the Board, Bob Murray, and has realized that the future of the Society lies in expanding its national impact by selling River Farm, investing the proceeds in national programs and the endowment. River Farm remains on the market. The sale is being handled by real estate agent Sue Goodhart of Compass Real Estate Group in Alexandria, VA.

Bob Brackman, Interim Executive Director, noted that the COVID pandemic has been especially hard on AHS affecting its donors and staff, dramatically reducing many valued programs that were financially important to AHS, and reinforced the urgency of putting AHS on a solid, permanent financial foundation. Brackman added, “Once River Farm is sold, AHS will determine the best location for its headquarters to serve and build our national audience.”

The AHS Board will continue to review and consider offers. Board Chair Hayes reiterated that AHS’s strong preference is that the buyer of the property would maintain it for single use and not subdivide it and ideally continue to allow the public to access the property as much as possible. The Board welcomes further dialogue with NOVA Parks to the extent they are interested in submitting a different proposal.


News & Press

You’re Invited: AHS Virtual Art Show & Sale

The American Horticultural Society’s Virtual Art Show and Sale is now open! Each year AHS’s River Farm headquarters in Alexandria, VA is fortunate to work with talented local artists who share their horticultural and nature-themed artwork at annual Art Shows and Open Houses throughout the year.

We are excited to host a Virtual Art Show this year so that anyone across the country can easily participate by making a purchase or a donation on our virtual platform. Browse a wide selection of garden and nature-themed art from our featured artists Nina Tisara, Nathan Leibowitz and Otari Shiuk.

The Virtual Art Show is open through June. A portion of all sales benefits the American Horticultural Society’s national programs and mission to share with all Americans the critical role of plants, gardens, and green spaces in creating healthy, livable communities and a sustainable planet.

View the Virtual Art Show and Sale