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  • 2015 Award Winners

    Meet the distinguished recipients of the 2015 AHS Great American Gardeners Awards. The individuals, organizations, and businesses who receive these national awards represent the best in American gardening, and we applaud their outstanding achievements within their areas of expertise. The 2015 awards were presented on the evening of June 4 during the Great American Gardeners Awards Ceremony and Banquet at River Farm.

    2015 Award Winners

    Celebrating Horticultural Heroes

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    Liberty Hyde Bailey Award

    Dr. William E. Barrick

    This year’s recipient of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award is Dr. William E. Barrick, executive director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Alabama. Barrick’s long career has been distinguished by contributions to many different areas of American horticulture. After earning his doctorate in landscape horticulture from Michigan State University in East Lansing, he began his career as an assistant professor in ornamental horticulture at the University of Florida, Gainesville, in 1976. Four years later, he was hired as director of horticulture at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, where he eventually became executive vice president and director of gardens. Barrick enhanced educational programs at Callaway and coordinated the development of three major infrastructure projects—the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, and the Virginia H. Callaway Discovery Center—that are now top visitor attractions.

    Barrick’s tenure at Bellingrath Gardens, which began in 1999, has been marked by similar success. Under his direction, the 65-acre garden has developed a master plan for renovations and infrastructure improvements, enhanced its information systems, and forged closer ties with the community. The development of an advisory committee to expand outreach and the transformation of the garden’s outdoor holiday light show into one of the largest such displays in the region have contributed to Bellingrath’s rising profile as a public garden.

    Throughout his career, Barrick has demonstrated his commitment to American horticulture through his volunteer service on the advisory boards of several national horticultural organizations, including the AHS in Alexandria, Virginia, the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. He is a past president of the APGA and past chair of the AHS Board.

    A respected speaker and writer, he is the author of 75 Great American Garden Plants (Oxmoor House, 1998) and co-author of the AHS Southeast SmartGarden Regional Guide (DK Publishing, 2004). Over the years he has received many awards and honors, including the Arthur Hoyt Scott Medal and Award in 1994 from the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and the AHS’s Meritorious Service Award in 2011.


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    Luther Burbank Award

    Floyd Zaiger

    Floyd Zaiger of Modesto, California, has been improving stone fruit worldwide for more than 50 years. Using traditional methods of cross-pollinating by hand, his company, Zaiger’s Inc. Genetics, has pioneered the breeding of white-fleshed fruits capable of withstanding commercial handling, and is currently a leader in developing high-sugar, low-acid white and yellow peach and nectarine varieties. Zaiger’s also leads in development of interspecific varieties, holding patents on the Aprium (apricot-plum), Pluot (plum-apricot), Nectaplum (nectarine-plum), Peacotum (peach/apricot/plum), and Pluerry (plum-cherry).


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    Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award

    Renee Shepherd

    Renee Shepherd has been supplying gardeners with vegetable, herb, and flower seeds for more than 30 years, first with Shepherd’s Garden Seeds and now with Renee’s Garden. With her focus on finding, testing, and introducing heirloom and gourmet varieties, she is considered a key figure in today’s edible gardening movement. Each year, hundreds of new varieties are evaluated in the company’s organic test gardens in Felton, California, and Middlebury, Vermont. Known as an innovator, Shepherd added an extra flap to her seed packets to allow for detailed descriptions of each variety, including her personal observations of their growth habit, cultivation needs, flavor, and uses. Shepherd regularly donates seeds to school gardens and non-profit organizations around the country.


    Smart Gardener Logo

    G. B. Gunlogson Award

    Smart Living Studios, Inc.

    Smart Living Studios, Inc., founded by Kristee Rosendahl in 2006, aims to simplify food gardening through the Smart Gardener online planning tool. Users can create customized garden plans by entering information such as location, garden size, food preferences, and household size. The website then provides variety recommendations and descriptions, growing guidelines and time tables, a weekly to-do list, and a journal that tracks completed tasks. It also allows users to lay out a garden plan or use templates that can be shared with other users.


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    Horticultural Therapy Award

    Liz Bullard

    During more than 20 years of working as a speech-language pathologist in school, hospital, and clinic settings, Liz Bullard observed that typical outdoor play spaces present many difficulties for children with special needs. To provide an inclusive place for these children to enjoy the outdoors with their family and friends, she founded the nonprofit Seattle Children’s PlayGarden in 2002. Construction began in 2010 in partnership with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. With the capital construction phase recently completed, the PlayGarden is now focusing on program development, such as camps and classes that integrate children of all ages and abilities.


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    Landscape Design Award

    Thomas L. Woltz

    A principal of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBW) in Charlottesville, Virginia, Thomas L. Woltz focuses on fusing sustainability and design with the genius loci of a site to enhance spaces where people work, live, and play. Through the NBW Conservation Agriculture Studio, Woltz also advocates for integrating scientific methodology with landscape design and restoration ecology to create biodiverse, beautiful, and productive agricultural landscapes. In 2011, Woltz was inducted into the American Society of Landscape Architects Council of Fellows, one of the highest honors in the profession.


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    Meritorious Service Award

    Susie Usrey

    A longtime member and supporter of the AHS, Susie Usrey is vice president of customer relations at Monrovia nurseries in Azusa, California. Usrey was a member of the Society’s Board from 1999 to 2014, serving as Board Chair from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2013. Usrey’s business acumen and insights into American horticultural trends helped guide various Board committees, including Membership, Strategic Planning, and Visioning Task Force. She has also hosted AHS Travel Study Program tours.


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    B. Y. Morrison Communication Award

    James Augustus Baggett

    James Augustus Baggett has been editing and writing for gardening magazines for more than 30 years. During his career, he has served as executive editor of Country Living Gardener and Rebecca’s Garden, garden editor of American Homestyle & Gardening, and was the founding managing editor of Elle Decor. Currently he is editor of Country Gardens as well as editor of all of the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications gardening titles. Baggett has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2012 Silver Award in the best magazine category for Country Gardens from the Garden Writers Association.


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    Professional Award

    Paul B. Redman

    Paul B. Redman has been the director of Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, since 2006. Prior to his appointment, he had been the executive director of Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden in Columbus, Ohio, for nine years. At Longwood’s helm, Redman has focused on diversifying its programs and harnessing technology to expand its reach. As a result, general attendance has increased more than 25 percent, and garden membership has risen by more than 200 percent in the last six years. Redman currently sits on the boards for both the American Public Gardens Association and the Garden Conservancy.


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    Jane L. Taylor Award

    City Blossoms

    Founded in 2003, City Blossoms is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., devoted to developing child-driven, community-engaging, and creative green spaces. Since its inception, it has developed more than 40 green spaces throughout Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2013, City Blossoms published an ebook and hardcopy format Spanish/English bilingual early childhood curriculum, providing garden and nutrition-based lesson plans to educators.


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    Teaching Award

    Nina Bassuk

    Nina Bassuk has been a professor and program leader of the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, for 35 years. In addition to teaching college classes, she is co-author of Trees in the Urban Landscape: Site Assessment, Design, and Installation (Wiley, 2004), and has published more than 100 papers on urban horticulture such as evaluations of improved plant selections for difficult sites and improved transplanting technology. Bassuk is a member of the executive committee of the New York State Urban Forestry Council and received the Arthur Hoyt Scott Medal and Award in 2008 from the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.


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    Urban Beautification Award

    The Greening of Detroit

    The Greening of Detroit, founded in 1989, is a Michigan nonprofit resource agency that focuses on using city land in a way that improves quality of life, has environmental integrity, and promotes education and stewardship. Its programs seek to address some of Detroit’s most challenging issues, from unemployment to “food deserts”—areas where residents lack ready access to fresh, locally grown food. Thousands of the organization’s volunteers assist with planting trees and creating gardens in neighborhoods throughout the city each year.