The East Texas Arboretum in Athens recently hired new director Adam Black, and executive assistant Jessica Rhodes. The position had been open for several months, after the previous director resigned.

Black, who had previously directed a garden near Houston saw the position open and the two grafted together for a potential plant powerhouse.

“I have built up a lot of collaborations working on plant conservation, nurseries, introducing new plants to horticulture and I really wanted to continue those relationships.” Black said.

Black has a background in botany and horticulture and has traveled around the globe studying and collecting plants. He is self taught and has learned from many different colleagues, building a substantial network.  With a large network, there is great opportunity for the exchange of knowledge.

While other children were watching TV, Black was out in nature studying and learning with his dad.

“As early as I can remember I was immersed in field guides in the Everglades with my father. I have always had a desire to learn everything that is going on around me,” he said.

Black is coming with a grand plan to make the attraction in Athens a tourist destination and give it something to draw people from larger metropolitan areas and from around the nation.

“It has tended to be a local garden and I think more broadly,” said Black.  “I want to make the gardens distinctive, and people to realize we are different than just a standard garden. That is what brings people from out of state. We need to have our own distinctiveness that makes people want to come from Dallas or points beyond.”

One way Black wants to do this is through using his extensive network to increase diversification and seasonal varieties. Winter does not mean a dead monochrome color palette.  There are flowering trees that bloom in the winter for example. Every season should bring something new to see allowing the public to come back in order to see what is new.

“I want to make things more interesting in all seasons,” Black said. “exposing people to plants that will add new interest.”

The diversification process will not only be a visually stimulating occurrence in the gardens themselves, but also will extend to the plant sales. He wants to offer various unusual things you can't find anywhere else at these sales and host them consistently.

Educational programs will start maximizing the natural offerings and unique features of the 100 acres of wooded beauty, trees, flowers  and wildlife.

“I also want to greatly expand our educational opportunities, and tie in all the interesting things the natural world has to offer through this property.” he said.

For those wanting to meet the new director, Black is leaving for a three week trip to the Pacific in order to help with a study on plant diseases. He has worked with this group for a long time and hopes to bring these collaborative conservation efforts and approaches home to Athens and horticulture in general.

If you would like to visit the gardens they are open daily. Nature trails, historic buildings and a playground are also on site. In addition, if you would like to be more involved and become a volunteer they are hosting a volunteer training program at 5:30 p.m. February 20 in the Womens Building.  For more information call 903-675-5630

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