News & Press

Celebrating Black History Month in Horticulture


Throughout the centuries, Black Americans have elevated the field of horticulture, making discoveries and revolutionizing gardening practices. This Black History Month, we celebrate all Black horticulturists making a difference and paving the way for future gardeners. While there are too many impactful changemakers to recognize, we have chosen a few key figures to highlight. By lifting the voices of these select gardeners, we hope to foster a culture that invites all Americans to garden to ensure a thriving and beautiful world for current and future generations.

Historical Figures

Many historical figures helped shape the field of horticulture, furthering study in botany, agriculture, and plant science. Marie Clark Taylor, the first woman to obtain her scientific doctoral degree and the first African American woman to gain her Ph.D. in botany from Fordham University in 1941, eventually became a professor at her alma mater, Howard University in Washington, D.C., one of many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country.

Another important figure who shaped the field of horticulture in the 20th century was Booker T. Whatley, a Black horticulturist and agriculture professor at the historic Tuskegee University in Alabama. As an advocate for sustainable gardening practices and biodiversity in gardening, he encouraged African American farmers to adopt regenerative farming techniques in the 1960s and 1970s. He pioneered what would eventually become the modern crop share, having members pay for a season’s worth of crops in advance. In the mid-1980s, he published a book called How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres, which helped disadvantaged farmers make the most of their land. His impact on the field of horticulture resounds even today.


One group that is currently gaining traction in the public eye is “plantfluencers,” influencers who create content about gardening and houseplants. In the most recent edition of The American Gardener, writer Georgia Silvera Seamans featured three Black influencers who are prominent players in the houseplant social media sphere:

Kamili Bell Hill (@plantblerd) from New Rochelle, New York started her career as a lawyer, but now has published a book on gardening and indoor houseplants called Happy Plants, Happy You. She sees cultivating plants as a vehicle for self-love and anti-racism.

Plant biologist specializing in ethnobotany, Derek Haynes (@thechocolatebotanist) serves as a board member for The North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He creates content tying together his identity as a Black man with his love for plants.

Stephanie Horton (@botanicalblackgirl) grew up in a plant-loving family in St. Louis, Missouri, but now lives and grows in Huntsville, Alabama. She has worked with HBCUs such as Alabama A&M to revitalize their agricultural programs and interdisciplinary career opportunities to further involve Black people in horticulture. She also produces events at a plant shop to “broaden the houseplant community.”


Many nonprofits champion education and sustainability while working to increase food security for underserved communities. One organization is Soul Fire Farm, a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-focused organization using ancestral and sustainable methods to farm land in Grafton, New York. By championing farming methods that work in harmony with the earth, Soul Fire Farm, founded by Leah Penniman and Jonah Vitale-Wolff, is striving to achieve its mission to end racism in the food system and foster a more inclusive culture that recognizes the value of caring for our planet and working to leave the land better off than they found it.

Black Garden History

If you are interested in learning more about the role of the Black community in gardening throughout history, join us for a Lifelong Learning Session with Abra Lee on February 2 at 2:00 p.m. ET when she will talk about “Black Garden History: A Great American Road Trip.” In this session, Lee will highlight historic and influential figures in Black garden history. Lee is an American public horticulturist, historian, and writer who currently serves as the Director of Horticulture at Historic Oakland Foundation in Atlanta. You can register for the program here.

Clearly, the role African Americans have played in shaping horticulture cannot be understated. Many important discoveries and innovations would not exist without the hard work of Black gardeners, and we are thankful for their contributions every day. We are happy to honor and recognize important figures in the field for Black History Month, but also recognize that these figures should be celebrated year-round. We hope to see even more diverse voices amplified in the field for years to come.

News & Press

Participate in National Seed Swap Day

Celebrated annually around the end of January, National Seed Swap Day is a great opportunity for gardeners to explore new plants, save money on seeds, support biodiversity, and encourage heirloom cultivation. Kathy Jentz, editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, came up with the idea to start Seed Swap Day. The first official event was held on January 26, 2006. Now, the seed swap has gone national, and it is celebrated across the country, bringing gardeners together and celebrating the power of community nationwide. 

This is a great time to begin gathering seeds, since spring planting season is almost upon us. Many gardeners prefer to start their seeds inside before planting outdoors, so attending a seed swap can help you get a head start on spring garden planning. For more information about the holiday, visit the National Seed Swap Day website. Local gardeners or garden centers will likely have information about any swaps in your area. 

If you plan on attending an event to celebrate, be sure to do your research beforehand. Some seed swaps have rules for how seeds are transported and handled, and it is important to abide by them. Happy gardening! 

News & Press

Celebrate Peace this Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This year, we celebrate the rich legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 15. His activism and philosophy are rooted in unity and connection of all people regardless of their background. We are inspired by the repercussions of his actions and their reverberations that we still feel today, more than 50 years after his passing. 

In his 1967 speech “Where do we go from here?” delivered at a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization founded by Dr. King, he stated “The plant of freedom has grown only a bud and not yet a flower.” His words still ring true today, even with the massive strides we have made towards equality for all Americans. There is always more we can do to support our fellow Americans, and we aim to foster a culture of gardening that emphasizes and strengthens the power of our communities nationwide. 

In the spirit of Dr. King’s legacy of peaceful protest, International World Peace Rose Gardens planted a rose garden in 1992 at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park located in Atlanta, Georgia. There are four other rose gardens created by this inspirational organization spread across the globe to encourage peace among all global citizens. The garden in Atlanta is especially notable because the rose is the national flower of the United States. The site combines the beauty of King’s imagined future with the notion of the American Dream and shows us that all people can enjoy liberation through engagement with the natural world. 

As unrest and inequality continue to plague society, it is important to focus on unity and our shared humanity. Actions like gardening bring beauty to the world, and our admiration of all nature has to offer can be a unifying force to spark change. Community gardens proliferate around the country and gardening programs are popular in schools. Clearly, gardening brings people together time and time again. By reflecting on and living by Dr. King’s philosophy, together we can make the bud of freedom bloom into something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. 

News & Press

The Joys and Benefits of Indoor Gardening

As we begin preparing for cooler months, we often shift our focus from outdoor gardens to indoor plants. Indoor gardening is a wonderful way to bring the tranquility of an outdoor garden inside your home. But what exactly is indoor gardening? According to The Spruce, indoor gardening is related to the act of growing a selection of plants inside that you would typically grow outside. Gone are the days of only growing plants in the spring and summer thanks to indoor gardening.  

There are many benefits to indoor gardening for you and your family. Houseplants can act as natural air purifiers by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, enhancing the air quality of your home. Indoor plants are also known to reduce stress, improve productivity, and of course, they are beautiful to look at! Studies have shown that being around plants can help lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, and even boost the immune system. 

Indoor gardening is an enriching and fulfilling pursuit that brings nature into your daily life. Start small and watch as your indoor garden transforms your space and your well-being. Happy gardening!  

Sources: The Spruce: 

News & Press

USDA Releases Updated Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released its new Plant Hardiness Zone Map, a national standard by which gardeners can determine which plants are most likely to survive the coldest winter temperatures at a certain location. 

The USDA describes the latest map, jointly developed by Oregon State University’s PRISM Climate Group and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, as the most accurate and detailed version it has ever released.

PRISM, part of the OSU College of Engineering, stands for Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model. The previous version of the plant hardiness map, also based on PRISM data, was released in January 2012. The new plant hardiness map incorporates data from 13,412 weather stations, compared to the 7,983 that were used for the 2012 edition. 

Viewable in an interactive format, the map is based on 30-year averages (1991 to 2020) for the lowest annual winter temperatures within specified locations. The 2012 edition was based on averages from 1976 to 2005. 

“The addition of many new stations and more sophisticated mapping techniques using the latest PRISM technology led to a more accurate and detailed Plant Hardiness Zone Map but also produced localized changes that are not climate related,” said Christopher Daly, director of the PRISM Climate Group and the map’s lead author.  

The plant hardiness map is divided into a total of 13 zones, each zone representing a 10-degrees-Fahrenheit range of temperatures. Each zone is then further divided into two half zones, with each of those representing a 5-degree range.  

“Overall, the 2023 map is about 2.5 degrees warmer than the 2012 map across the conterminous United States,” Daly said. “This translated into about half of the country shifting to a warmer 5-degree half zone, and half remaining in the same half zone. The central plains and Midwest generally warmed the most, with the southwestern U.S. warming very little.”  

Accompanying the new map is a “Tips for Growers” feature that provides information about Agricultural Research Service programs likely to be of interest to gardeners and others who grow and breed plants.  

The approximately 80 million American gardeners and growers are the most frequent map users, according to the USDA. In addition, the USDA Risk Management Agency uses the map in setting certain crop insurance standards, and scientists incorporate the plant hardiness zones into research models, such as those looking at the spread of exotic weeds and insects. 

News & Press

Participate in the AHS Annual Fund Donor Match Challenge

‘Tis the giving season with the American Horticultural Society! This year, we are bringing back our annual Donor Match Challenge where our Board of Directors and CEO have pledged to match every single donation 100% through December 31 until we reach our $55,000 goal! This matching opportunity will allow us to continue our important work to foster excellence, innovation, and passion in gardening.   

Your gift supports: 

  • Lifelong Learning – Twenty-one newly launched, online programs cover a range of topics from Landscape Stewardship and Designing with Nature to Gardening for Well-Being. 
  • National Children & Youth Gardening Symposium – Our annual gathering unites educators nationwide to innovate around connecting children with gardens and the natural world. 
  • Online Horticultural Resources – Our website allows the public to access the latest horticulture information and best practices to assist in gardening journeys at all levels. 

Don’t miss this chance to maximize your impact on the American Horticultural Society and gardening in America. Donate today and double your impact. 

News & Press

Read the November/December issue of The American Gardener

The November/December edition of The American Gardener magazine is available for members! 

This issue has several exciting features to keep your garden thriving throughout the winter. Explore winter buds that will keep your new growth safe while adding a little charm until the spring. Discover tropical palm trees you can plant, even if you don’t live in a tropical area. Join California’s Monarch Mans quest to save endangered western monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Catch up on green reading at your local public library and learn the benefits of temporarily unplugging from social media to focus on designing the garden of your dreams.  

Also in this addition, you can read about the news at AHS, discover new garden destinations, become a part of the insect community, and check your winter garden tasks off your checklist.  

AHS MEMBERS log in here to view the digital edition. You will also receive a print version in the mail.    

If you are not a member of AHS, join and become a member to read the entire issue online, and also receive 6 printed issues a year plus many other wonderful benefits.

News & Press

Apply for a Job with the AHS

The American Horticultural Society is hiring for the position of Assistant Manager, Development and Travel onsite at our beautiful River Farm headquarters! This role supports the day-to-day activities of the organization’s Development and Travel Study program efforts to achieve annual operating and capital revenue goals. Primary responsibilities focus on data entry, recording gifts and producing donor acknowledgements, managing operational and administrative processes for the AHS Travel Study Program; and supporting the AHS Gala and other special events. Learn more.

About The American Horticultural Society

Founded in 1922, AHS is a national organization with approximately 22,000 members. Our national programs include the Great American Gardeners Awards, the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium, an educational travel program, and a Reciprocal Admissions Garden program, among others. The AHS publishes The American Gardener magazine six times per year as a primary membership benefit. The AHS website ( offers resources to horticulturists, gardeners, and other constituents. AHS maintains an active presence across multiple social media platforms.

The Society is headquartered at River Farm, a 25-acre historic garden property overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria, VA. By joining the AHS’s outstanding team of professionals, you can help share the critical role of plants, gardens, and green spaces in creating healthy livable communities and a sustainable planet.

Learn more about the Assistant Manager, Development and Travel position here

News & Press

Call for Sessions for NCYGS 2024

Call for Sessions for the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium (NCYGS) is Now Open!

The American Horticultural Society, in collaboration with Chicago Botanic Garden, has issued a Call for Sessions for the annual National Children & Youth Garden Symposium (NCYGS) taking place on Chicago’s North Shore, July 8-11, 2024. Started over 30 years ago, NCYGS is an annual professional development conference for garden educators who want to help children develop social skills, enhance school curricula, bring families together, and create an awareness of the link between nature and our food, clothing and shelter.

Interested in leading a session at the conference? Review the session subject areas below, read the proposal guidelines, and submit your session proposals by Sunday, December 31, 2023. All submissions will be notified in January 2024. We encourage youth garden educators from across the fields to apply!


Session Subject Areas:

Sessions may be submitted in the following subject areas and may address more than one subject area:

  • Career Development: sessions focus on pathways for youth to careers in horticulture/sustainability
  • Curriculum: sessions focus on the design and implementation of curriculum and learning standards in youth gardening
  • DEAI: sessions focus on youth gardening through lenses of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (such as universal learning, horticultural therapy, and racial and economic equity)
  • Funding: sessions focus on building and maintaining financial support for youth gardening and tracking financial metrics
  • Horticulture: sessions focus on plant selection, landscape design, and landscape care for children’s gardens
  • Programming: sessions focus on engagement models and activities for youth with gardens (including play-based learning and social-emotional learning)

Submit your session proposals by Sunday, December 31, 2023. For more information about the Symposium, contact Director of National Programs Courtney Allen at or call (703) 768-5700 ext. 121. You can also join our email list to receive periodic updates about NCYGS.

News & Press

New AHS Board Members!

We are grateful to announce three new members of the American Horticultural Society Board of Directors! Doug Barker, Dr. Larry Deaven, and Philip Tabas bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization. Our Board’s diverse range of talents and expertise help guide AHS’ mission and exemplify commitment to innovation and excellence in horticulture. 

Read more about these outstanding individuals and their passion for gardening, ecological health, and nonprofit work below!   


Doug is a strategic advisor for Barker & Scott Consulting which assists leading regional, national, and international nonprofit organizations with leveraging the power of information technology for organizational advancement and mission success. He is passionate about helping nonprofit organizations fundraise to connect more deeply with supporters and achieve greater impact. Prior to co-founding Barker & Scott, Doug was Vice President and Chief Information Officer for The Nature Conservancy and the nonprofit industry lead for the consulting practice of Arthur Andersen in Washington DC. Doug resides in DC where he is active in local environmental causes including an initiative in his community to remove invasive plants and restore ecological health through planting native plants. He loves nature, gardening, starry night skies, travel, hiking, canoeing, and biking. 


Larry is a distinguished scientist and horticulturist. Larry was the Director of the Center for Human Genome Studies at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and he has received numerous honors for his work. Larry has had a passion for horticulture all of his life and most recently grew plants from seed and developed extensive gardens at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center in New Mexico. He designed, installed, maintained, evaluated, and supported these gardens. He is one of the leading experts in ClematisPenstemon, and Agastache. Larry has been a regular traveler and supporter for American Horticultural Society as well as writing for The American Gardener. 


Philip is Special Advisor with the North American Conservation Region of The Nature Conservancy.  He served as the Conservancy’s General Counsel from 2003 to 2013. Philip has been involved in land conservation, water resource protection and compatible economic development projects for TNC, particularly involving the use of conservation easements and tax incentives. Prior to TNC, he worked as an attorney for the New England River Basins Commission, an intergovernmental water resources management agency, and was an attorney with an environmental consulting firm. Philip is a tax lawyer and a land use planner by professional training. He is a member of the American College of Environmental Lawyers; a member of the Board of Directors of Friends of Herring River; a former Board member of The Potomac Conservancy; a co-author of Comprehensive Planning and the Environment, published by Abt Books; and he has taught a summer course entitled “Ecosystem Conservation Strategies” at the Vermont Law School.