News & Press

AHS Appoints New Director, Keith Tomlinson

Keith Tomlinson

October 29, 2021
River Farm – Alexandria, Virginia
– Today, the Board of Directors of the American Horticultural Society (AHS) announced the appointment of Keith Tomlinson, former Botanical Garden Manager of Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, as Director of AHS. Tomlinson replaces former Interim Executive Director J. Robert Brackman, who resigned on September 30, 2021. “We are thrilled to welcome Keith as the new leader of the AHS team. Keith is a renowned horticultural director whose visionary leadership at Meadowlark Gardens spans a broad range of programmatic, operational, and strategic areas. He will be instrumental in re-imagining and improving the gardens while expanding our fundraising and outreach efforts. Now that we have confirmed our commitment to retaining historic River Farm as AHS headquarters and an integral component of our overall mission, he is the ideal choice to collaborate with the Board, AHS stakeholders and help us move forward with our goals – to protect the property in perpetuity and to use it as a springboard for building national horticultural programs in support of our mission,” said Holly Shimizu, former Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. and a member of the AHS Board of Trustees. “River Farm is a national treasure,” said Tomlinson, “a spectacular property that is both a symbolic link to our national heritage and an idyllic slice of natural beauty and open space. I’m very honored to join the AHS team on the eve of its 100th anniversary and be part of the exciting opportunity we have to strengthen both the Society’s horticultural mission and the stewardship of River Farm.”

Tomlinson begins his tenure at a pivotal time for AHS and River Farm. With the Board’s recent rejection of the plan to sell the historic property after a year-long debate over its future, there are new opportunities for implementing a long-term strategic vision for both AHS and River Farm. “A key priority for AHS is to enhance River Farm as a platform for launching new national gardening programs,” notes Shimizu, adding, “given the importance of preserving and protecting River Farm, the Board is also actively exploring ways to implement long-term conservation solutions on the property. With Keith’s leadership,” she concluded, “the Board will continue to collaborate with a wide range of partners over the next few weeks and months to secure both operational and endowment funding for AHS – and identify the best ways to ensure that River Farm will be a key part of our mission – and protected from development – forever.”

Tomlinson officially launches his duties at AHS on Monday, November 1, 2021, and will be formally introduced at an AHS press conference at River Farm at 10:00 a.m. ET that day. Shimizu noted that in addition to announcing Tomlinson’s appointment, the Board will announce the initial re-opening of River Farm to the public two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.). “The press conference gives us an opportunity to welcome Keith to our team – and the public back to River Farm – as well as express the Board’s gratitude to the public officials and AHS stakeholders who supported our efforts over the past year.” To watch the press conference live, please visit the AHS Facebook page on Monday at 10 a.m. ET.

For almost 100 years, the American Horticultural Society has worked to increase knowledge among American gardeners, garden enthusiasts, and professional horticulturists, inspired their passion for plants and the natural world, and encouraged responsible stewardship of the earth. The Society educates and influences a global audience of gardeners through its website, horticultural reference books, and social media. The American Horticultural Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

Media Contact:Brian Bauman (703) 768-5700

News & Press

River Farm Will Remain Headquarters of the AHS

Thanks to the overwhelming outpouring of support from our American Horticultural Society members and donors, neighbors and stakeholders, public officials and the community over the past year, we are extremely pleased to announce that River Farm will continue to be our national headquarters and remain a priceless asset for the general public and future generations to enjoy. We are grateful to all of those individuals and groups who rallied around us to help preserve and protect this historic property. Throughout the year-long debate over the future of River Farm, we have always been convinced that there is a strong and viable path forward – with AHS as the steward of the property, supported by like-minded friends and partners. And now, with River Farm officially off of the open real estate market, we have the opportunity to fully realize this dream.

For those of us who have been working tirelessly to keep AHS at River Farm, this is a simple story of keeping promises made to donors. First and foremost, we know that it is our ongoing ethical responsibility to honor the wishes of our benefactor Enid Annenberg Haupt, who provided the funds to purchase River Farm in 1973. Her only stipulations were that River Farm serve as the national headquarters of AHS and that the beautiful grounds and gardens remain open for public enjoyment. Now, on the eve of our 100th anniversary celebration – and almost 50 years at River Farm – we can rededicate ourselves to this purpose, amplifying our national mission with River Farm as our home base.

A key priority over the next few days and weeks will be to re-open River Farm to the public and reconstitute the garden volunteer program. We also look forward to working with partners in the public and private sectors to help secure the financial future of AHS and River Farm as well as fortify safeguards that will eliminate the threat of development on the property permanently. Towards that end, we are launching a fundraising campaign that 1) strengthens our ability to steward River Farm over the long-term, 2) ensures that the property remains an idyllic open space, and 3) creates a platform for developing an ambitious portfolio of horticultural programs with a broad national reach.

We are grateful for the support and commitment of all of our AHS stakeholders – and especially our members — who supported our efforts to preserve River Farm as an irreplaceable national treasure. We very much look forward to collaborating with you on this exciting new chapter.

American Horticultural Society Board of Directors

Skipp Calvert

Tim Conlon

Laura Dowling

Holly Shimizu

Marcia Zech

News & Press

Meet Perla Sofia Curbelo

Awarding Communication Excellence in the Green Industry

Perla Sofia CurbeloOn this episode of the Green Industry Leaders Network podcast David Ellis, Director of Communications and editor of The American Gardener magazine guest hosts with Chris Sabbarese of Corona Tools. Since 1953, the American Horticultural Society has been recognizing excellence in communications for individuals who are effective and inspire others to participate in horticulture. The B.Y. Morrison Communication Award is one of the annual Great American Gardeners Awards. It is named for Benjamin Yoe Morrison (1891-1966), landscape architect, plant breeder, and artist. Morrison was editor of National Horticultural Magazine, a precursor to The American Gardener for nearly 40 years. David shares some insights on this prestigious award and introduces the 2021 BY Morrison award winner, Perla Sofía Curbelo-Santiago of Agrochic, based in Puerto Rico. She’s a professional communicator with vast experience in radio, television, and newspapers. She’s also certified in Horticulture Therapy (2019) from the Chicago Botanic Garden.

This episode highlights:

  • the how winners are recognized for this award and how Perla’s communication skills help educate, inspire and exemplify the honor
  • Perla’s work with the BIPOC Hort Group and the importance of representation
  • advice to new garden communicators about conveying your passion
  • the growing market of Spanish-speaking gardeners in the United States



Check out additional podcast episodes with past Great American Gardeners Awards honorees including Katie Stagliano, Dr. Kayri Havens, and Debra Prinzing and more Green Industry Leaders Network podcast episodes.

News & Press

New Member Benefit: Discount on Rosa: The Story of the Rose, by Peter E. Kukielski,

AHS members receive a 30% discount on a new publication, Rosa: The Story of the Rose, from Yale University Press. AHS members can now log in to access the special promo code. This promotion is valid on orders placed on the publisher’s website through the end of April.

While working with the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, author Peter Kukielski realized that people loved hearing the stories behind the roses (rather than dates or data). In Rosa he brings these incredibly varied tales and associations to the foreground, telling the stories of roses throughout history. Follow along as Kukielski traces the story of the rose from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome to the modern era including bite-sized stories from Nero’s excess exemplified in a rainstorm of rose petals to the rivalry of English noble houses that led to the War of the Roses to the ‘Green Rose’ as a marker of safe houses along the Underground Railroad. Rosa offers an abundance of stories and more than 140 color illustrations in which roses appear as key players in love stories, yes, but also in religion, poetry, painting, literature, science, politics, and medicine. If ever there was a question about the rose’s preeminent place in the world of ornamental horticulture, Kukielski quiets any dissenters with his thoroughly-researched work.

In her foreword to Rosa, Judith Tankard calls Peter’s work revitalizing Beatrix Farrand’s original rose garden at the New York Botanical Garden “truly inspired.” She adds, “Peter’s readable and engaging volume, an undertaking of many years, is sure to inspire new generations of rose lovers.”

If Rosa inspires readers to begin a rose garden of their own, Kukielski ends with words of wisdom and encouragement. “This book has told stories of the rose’s resilience. Its millions of years of survival provide a foundation for its future. The timeless nature of the rose is safe because it is not a whim.”

Peter Kukielski was curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden from 2006 to 2014. He now lives in Portland, Maine, but his career has its roots in Atlanta, where for over ten years he owned and operated a rose garden design/maintenance business called The Rose Petaler, Inc.

Today Peter is widely recognized for his work toward sustainability and disease resistance in rose gardens, and is author of Roses Without Chemicals: 150 Disease-Free Varieties That Will Change the Way You Grow Roses (Timber Press, 2015) and co‑editor of The Sustainable Rose Garden (Newbury, 2011).

News & Press

How Green is Your Garden? Take our quiz!

Take our 10-question quiz then click on the link on your results page to learn how you can #growagreenerfuture with sustainable gardening practices.

If you’re ready to #growagreenerfuture, sign up for regular email updates from the American Horticultural Society.

News & Press

New Gardens Join Reciprocal Admissions Program

The American Horticultural Society is pleased to welcome seven new gardens to its Reciprocal Admissions Program for 2021. A current membership card from the American Horticultural Society (join now) or from a garden participating in our Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP) entitles you to special admission privileges and discounts* at 330+ gardens throughout North America! While it may still be premature to travel, it’s never to early to start planning! Read on to learn more about the new gardens that you may want to add to your travel itinerary. Search the map for all gardens participating in 2021.

  • The UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is a 7.5 acre public garden, outdoor classroom, and research facility on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, California. Named for former professor and director of the garden and renowned authority on plants in the carrot family, the Botanical Garden is a living museum, featuring a diverse collection of plants from around the world. The Garden seeks to inspire environmental and cultural appreciation of plants and their relationship to society through education, research, and public outreach. The garden’s beautiful setting fosters health and tranquility for the community and visitors.
  • Celebrating Oklahoma’s native son, actor, humorist, and social commentator, the Will Rogers Gardens have been in use since the 1930’s as a horticultural showplace and production facility of approximately 32 acres, devoted to providing public beauty and horticultural education. A collaborative plan between the Oklahoma City Parks Department and National Park Service, and implemented by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA), created a naturalistic landscape of small lakes, rolling hills, curving paths, and arboretum, specialty gardens for roses, iris, daylilies, peonies, herbs, cannas, and many structures built from native red sandstone. The horticultural components contain many beautiful display gardens created and maintained for the purpose of edifying and educating the visiting public.
  • Established by former AHS Liberty Hyde Bailey Award recipient John Fairey in 1971, The John Fairey Garden (formerly Peckerwood Garden) is an extraordinary preservation garden on 39 acres near Hempstead, Texas. The garden is widely acclaimed for the originality of its design, its education and conservation programs, and its exceptional collection of over 3,000 plants, including many endangered and rare plants from Mexico, North America, and Asia. Over the decades, the Garden has focused on collecting plants from certain geographic regions and from certain plant groups. Its Mexico and Texas collections are extensive, as are its collections of oak and mahonia. Far beyond just organizational concepts, these collections are representative of plants that have survived the trials of Texas climate and made sense in the themes of John Fairey’s landscape designs.
  • Once the estate of RJ and Katharine Reynolds, Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University is a 134-acre center for community recreation and exploration in Winston Salem, in the North Carolina Piedmont region. Visitors are invited to explore Reynolda Gardens during daylight hours year-round. The formal gardens have been restored to the appearance of the early twentieth century plans, combining historic plants with new introductions; and historic design with the best modern horticultural practices. The Conservatory display of exotic plants and working greenhouses full of plants for the gardens and for sale educate and inspire children and adults. Woodland trails beckon birders and runners; a wetland and a meadow of Piedmont native plants provide habitat for wildlife and endless possibilities for enjoying and learning about nature.
  • Wood County Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in Quitman, Texas covers 23 acres. Visitors can enjoy numerous flower and rose gardens including a sensory garden, a waterwise garden, a butterfly garden, and a succulent garden. The property includes a gazebo, a pergola and shade garden, a flagpole and honorarium for fallen soldiers, with benches and statuary throughout. and the historic Stinson House, built in 1869.  The gardens are open year round and are free to the public.


  • Located in Maple Valley, Washington (about 30 miles from Seattle), the Lake Wilderness Arboretum is a public garden with 42 acres of forest trails and display gardens. The Arboretum is is a community retreat and an outdoor classroom for nature lovers of all ages. Foot trails meander through the 42 acres of natural forests; grounds also include rock, woodland, and ethnobotanical gardens and a children’s discovery forest. The Arboretum is home to two of the largest collections of western deciduous azaleas and hardy fuchsias in the world.


  • The gardens of the Landcraft Garden Foundation in Mattituck, New York (near the tip of Long Island) surround a restored 1840s farmhouse. Garden rooms, hedged in by hornbeam and boxwood, feature various themed gardens within. Additionally, there is a vegetable/herb garden, a formal knot garden, several bog plantings, meadow gardens, and a woodland shade areas. Many of the plantings throughout contain tropicals, subtropicals, tender perennials, and annuals. There are a handful of hardy palms and a large grove of Musa basjoo, the hardy banana. The house and gardens are encircled by ten acres of rehabilitated meadows with mowed paths for viewing native plants and wildlife. The meadows contain grasses, perennials, and shrubs that provide a habitat to deer, fox, groundhogs, rabbits, box turtles, wild turkeys, and many other birds and insects.

News & Press

Full STEAM Ahead: Introducing Youth to Careers in Horticulture

Seed Your Future logoWhen you picture someone who works professionally with plants, gardeners, plant breeders, and landscape designers probably come to mind. However, digging a little deeper, you’ll find that green-collar careers (those in the environmental sector of the economy) can be found in the art, science, technology, and business of plants. In partnership with Seed Your Future, the American Horticultural Society (AHS) recently assembled a group of individuals representing careers that are not exactly top-of-mind when one thinks of plant-related work. As pre-teens and teens begin to consider post-secondary education and career possibilities, it’s important that they see the range and diversity of positions that combine STEAM skills with an appreciation for plants, nature, and the environment.

The panel discussion, convened as part of the AHS’s National Children & Youth Garden Symposium, introduced outside-the-box plant-related positions and the paths that led our panelists to them. Do you know a child who likes climbing trees and tinkering with mechanical parts? He or she could grow up to be a drone pilot like Colby Borchetta at the Morton Arboretum’s Center for Tree Science. Maybe you know someone who likes digging in the dirt, but also has a fierce sense of style. Abra Lee is a horticulturist and designs her own line of garden attire. Aurélie de Rus Jacquet combined a love of plants with an education in biology to become an ethnopharmacologist. She studies the traditional uses of plants as medicine in her quest to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Brad Austin grew up loving flowers and had a strong eye for color and design. He is an Emmy award winning floral designer whose work can be seen in over 60 films and 25 TV shows. From chefs to urban planners to sports turf managers, there are so many entry points into the world of plants and for every interest, skill set, and personality, there is a corresponding plant job.

Unsurprisingly, each panelist described taking different, and sometimes winding, pathways to arrive at their current position. These types of jobs probably wouldn’t be any child’s immediate answers to that favorite adult question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” So how do you as a parent, educator, or caregiver help expand a young person’s notion of what green collar careers look like? Here are some ways:

  • Do you or someone you know work with plants? Adults who love their jobs may be interested in talking with or mentoring young people. The Seed Your Future website has a list of over 100 plant-related careers.
  • Tune in together to the Morton Arboretum’s podcast Planted: Finding Your Roots in STEM Careers or have young people take their Canopy Career Chronicles quiz to find out which career path is best suited to their interests and skills.
  • Does your local school have a club for students that are interested in horticulture, agriculture, or the environment? The National Junior Horticultural Association, 4-H, Junior Master Gardener, and National FFA are just a few national examples.
  • Look for opportunities to volunteer on local environmental projects such as community garden tending, clearing invasive species, or participating in a Citizen Science project.
  • For the highly motivated teen, check out horticulture-themed summer camps and internships on the Seed Your Future website.

News & Press

Keeping organized with DIY garden markers

You’ve started your seeds indoors in your tiny DIY pots and prepped your soil with a hearty offering of compost. Congratulations! You are well on your way to a productive garden this season. Before you transfer any seedlings or direct sow any seeds into the ground, take time to create the tools that will help keep your garden organized. Keeping track of plantings in a very small garden may be simple, but if your plot contains several different plants (and even more so, different varieties of the same type of plant) an organizational system becomes key. 

Garden markers are a great tool that can identify your plants, track growing information, assist in weed identification, and add a little color or style to your garden beds. Here are some ideas for DIY garden markers, ranging from straight up functional to arts and crafts project.

Aluminum tags – Avoid purchasing pricy plant labels by creating your own long-lasting tags from aluminum beverage cans. A can, a razor blade, and tin snips or old scissors are all you need, although a straightedge will help keep your labels uniform.  Be sure to wear eye protection and cut resistant gloves!  Etch your info into the front of the aluminum, or for a more finished look, etch it from behind.  Attach labels to stakes or plants with wire.


Painted found materials – Every good shed or garage has materials lying around that can be turned into garden markers. Bricks, smooth rocks or cut stone, or even broken terra cotta pots will work. Use any acrylic craft paint to label and decorate your marker and, once thoroughly dry, cover it with a clear UV-resistant waterproof topcoat. For the potshard labels below, we used industrial paint markers, which do not need additional weathering treatment. Bright colors look right at home in a family garden plot but this style can be elevated or, with large surfaces or fine-tip paint markers, accommodate additional planting information.


Stakes – These are the horizontal version of the painted rocks above – a simple label sticking upright out of the ground that made from a variety of materials. Natural materials, including branches and logs or bamboo fit nicely in a rustic garden bed. For a more modern look, roll air-dry clay into a ¼” slab and slice into ¾” stakes. Rubber alphabet stamps make the lettering uniform and markers or paint add a pop of color.  

Tips and tricks:  

  • Paint markers work best on smooth surfaces. If you are writing on rough surfaces, consider buying extra replacement tips for a fraction of the cost of new markers.
  • Paint markers contain solvent that can smudge painted materials.  Use only on unpainted surfaces.
  • Topcoat your creations with UV resistant clear gloss spray paint to extend the life of your masterpiece.

Share your #GardenMarkerCreations with us on Facebook and Instagram.

News & Press

River Farm Grounds Reopening To the Public on 6/8/20

The grounds of the American Horticultural Society’s River Farm headquarters in Alexandria will reopen to the public on Monday, June 8, 2020.  Starting then the property will be open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday until further notice. The grounds will be closed on weekends. 

Please note that for safety reasons, all indoor facilities–including restrooms and water fountains–are closed, as is our Children’s Garden. While we are pleased to once again be able to share the natural beauty of our gardens, we ask that all visitors share in the responsibility of protecting each other’s safety by practicing appropriate social distancing guidelines.  

News & Press

AHS Award Winner Catharine McCord Describes the Power of Horticultural Therapy

COVID-19, and its accompanying stay-at-home orders, self-quarantine measures, and breakdown in food supply chains, has given rise to a new cohort of home gardeners. While gardening fits the bill as productive domestic activity that will, in the coming months, yield edible results, are there other benefits to digging in the soil and nurturing plants? Horticultural therapists across the country sound a resounding “Yes!” and Catharine McCord, recipient of the AHS’ 2020 Horticultural Therapy Award adds her voice to the chorus. Read on as Catharine answers our questions and describes the myriad mental and physical health benefits to gardening.

In your words, what is horticultural therapy?  

Catharine McCord explores plant growth with seniors

Horticultural therapy is the practice of using plant-based activities, where participating in the activity itself is considered therapeutic. At Denver Botanic Gardens, we focus on social and emotional enrichment through active or passive involvement with our activities. We design our programs with a focus on promoting socialization and stimulating memory recall. 

 This field is founded on connecting people to themselves through plants, but it is also important to note that we can connect with each other through plants. We all have stories that can be shared through interacting with plants and talking about plants with others. The more we share our stories and hear others tell their stories, the more we connect to each other and feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves. The more we feel part of something bigger than ourselves, the bigger the difference we can make.  


Generally, how can plants and gardens contribute to positive mental health during this time of anxiety, grief, and social distancing? 

This is no doubt an unprecedented and stressful time in our lives and we are all looking for healthy coping mechanisms and ways to process what’s happening in our world. Passive interactions (just simply being) in a garden can restore our ability to focus and assess how we’re feeling physically and emotionally. Studies indicate that spending just ten minutes in a garden can improve our moods and reduce blood pressure. When we actively nurture our plants, we can also take notice of how we tend to our needs and ourselves. Research shows that physical activity, like weeding and digging in the soil, helps to activate parts of our brain to process our thoughts, feelings, and emotions effectively. 

Your Therapeutic Thursday webinars with the Denver Botanic Gar
dens focus on certain plant groups – trees, thorny plants, and aquatic plants. What are the therapeutic lessons inherent in these particular plants? 

We can look to plants as guides in how to adapt to our surroundings and situations. In forests, trees communicate their needs through their roots and respond to each other by sending nutrients and other resources. This vast underground network of connectivity is similar to our social networks and helps us to remember that we are not alone right now; we can reach out and be seen and heard and connect with so many others. 

Thorny plants like those in the rose family teach us about setting boundaries and to take care of ourselves and protect our hearts and what we hold dear. They remind us to be kind to ourselves and take time to give ourselves the love and support we often give to others as caretakers, but don’t necessarily give to ourselves. 

Grief, suffering, and resiliency are inherent in all of our lives, but for many are uncomfortable to talk about. When we look at the beauty and delicate nature of a water lily, it’s easy to overlook its humble beginnings. As other aquatic plants, emerging through murky and muddy waters, while seemingly less-than-ideal conditions, these are essential to producing the beautiful blooms. 


What advice would you give to the parents or caregivers of children who are struggling with the “new normal”? 

If you and your children are having trouble focusing on schoolwork or any other indoor tasks, take a break to look out a window or go outside and allow your senses to explore. Move around outside with your whole body and make some loud noises. Take walks, jump around, be playful! Unstructured time outdoors will help your mind to refocus when necessary. 

Try planting seeds together! Basil grows well on a sunny windowsill. By growing a plant from seed you are making a plan for the future and that is one of the most hopeful activities you can do. Nurturing a plant teaches us life lessons about patience, anticipation, and delayed gratification. Harvesting the basil to prepare a meal together can cultivate a sense of connection. Just rubbing basil leaves and smelling the oils that are released help us to slow down and feel calm. This simple act of breathing and noticing our senses can help us to regulate or uplift our moods. Something fun about plants in mint family like basil, lavender, and rosemary, is that their stems will feel square between your fingers. 


Gardening is often an individual activity that contributes to self-care and self-sufficiency. What can a home gardener do at this time to support a collective effort or assist others in need? 

Sharing in any capacity promotes connectivity. Share seedlings with friends and family if you’ve started some. Post on social media and build your social and emotional network by sharing photos and stories of what you’re growing. A colleague at the Gardens has been making seed mixes with her children and sharing with neighbors to help brighten their spirits and their neighborhood. My nephew in Georgia loves marigolds, so I planted some in my garden and sent the rest of my seed packet to him. Now we can both grow the same plant, half a country apart. We plan to share pictures and talk about how they are growing in our different climates. At the end of the season, we can save the seeds for next year. 


What does winning an AHS Great American Gardeners Award mean to you? 

This award is a tremendous honor. I’ve always known that I wanted my work to be of public service to others and chose to pursue my degree in landscape architecture to focus on therapeutic gardens to be an advocate for mental health awareness. This led me to study horticultural therapy and herbal medicine as a way to create immersive experiences in gardens. Sensory and therapeutic gardens can function as safe spaces for those coping with stress and trauma, those who have experienced loss, and veterans- like my father who died by suicide. The combination of my personal experience with loss, my education, and work experiences have given me a unique perspective on garden design.