Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2005

Director of the Conservatory of Flowers: SCOT D. MEDBURY

Scot Medbury has been involved in the curation, cultivation and interpretation of botanical collections for twenty-five years, having held challenging appointments at botanical gardens in California, the Pacific Northwest, Great Britain, New Zealand and Hawai`i. His broad knowledge of the horticultural, ecological and design characteristics of temperate, subtropical and tropical plants has helped to inform the master-planning of botanical gardens throughout the West, where a vast native and cultivated flora, diverse gardening climates and complex land-use history challenge designers to create ecologically appropriate and regionally sensitive landscapes.

Scot began his horticultural career in the Pacific Northwest, working in the nursery and display gardens at Tacoma's Pt. Defiance Park and in the Edwardian-era conservatory in Wright Park. He went on to serve as assistant horticulturist and nursery manager at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawai`i, as an education and visitor-services coordinator at Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum, and as gardens-wide horticulturist and curator for the 5-garden Honolulu Botanical Gardens system. Assignments along the way included management of a heritage-tree survey for New Zealand's historic Pukekura Park, and a stint as a gardener at the royal gardens at Windsor for Great Britain's Crown Estate Commission.

Medbury holds two degrees from the University of Washington: a bachelor's degree in international studies with an emphasis on Russian language and culture, and a master's degree in forest resources from the UW Center for Urban Horticulture. His thesis project identified and analyzed the antecedents for Seattle's Olmsted-designed, taxonomically arranged arboretum plan, and helped to stimulate his enduring interest in the design history of American public gardens. Before assuming his current position in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Scot pursued a Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Berkeley, advancing to candidacy with a research program focused on the role of botanical gardens in plant genetic conservation and on the ecological and cultural issues surrounding plant-introduction programs.

In 2004, he received the professional citation from the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta for his contributions to public gardens in North America.

At both the Conservatory of Flowers and the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, where he has been director since 1999, his priorities have been to increase the use, enjoyment and understanding of these facilities by all San Franciscans, and to bring additional support for maintenance and curation. "Our challenge here is to respect what we already have," he says, "while continuing to enhance the diversity of both the plant collections and the audiences who come here to learn about them."