MEET HOLLY

Holly H. Shimizu is a nationally recognized horticulturist, consultant, and educator.   With a rich background in all aspects of public gardens, extensive experience leading garden tours and workshops, and a proven commitment to plant conservation and sustainability, she has been making plants and gardens more accessible and exciting to both professionals and amateurs for over four decades.

Holly Shimizu fountain

From an early age, I was always happiest when I was outdoors.  Whether playing in the Wissahickon Creek, or meandering the pathways of the Japanese Garden in Fairmont Park near where I grew up in Philadelphia, or exploring the cliffs or harvesting in my grandfather’s Rhode Island garden, I loved being in nature.  As time for college was nearing, I was lost until my mother took me to Temple to see the Ambler School of Horticulture and Landscape Design.  Something clicked and I have never looked back.

During the early part of my career I spent a few years working in arboretums and gardens in Europe.  I began teaching on my return to America, and landed a dream job at the US National Arboretum in Washington DC, as the Curator of the National Herb Garden.  I grew hundreds of different herbal plants and studied and learned about how plants are used around the world.  I discovered how much I love bringing people and plants together, and have devoted much of my energy to making gardening and plants more accessible and exciting to people. I have had some wonderful experiences sharing my passions with others, as a host of the PBS series The Victory Garden, as a traveling garden tour leader, and giving talks and workshops for professional and amateur gardeners.

With each new garden I visited and studied, I developed a deeper understanding of the ways in which gardens can have a positive impact on the environment. The gardens I admired were beautiful, of course, but more significantly, they were functional — providing food for animals and harvesters, capturing rainwater and cleaning our air, defining our sense of space, and creating peaceful and grounding environments.  This understanding and appreciation developed into a sustained commitment to plant conservation and sustainability that has shaped my professional work and permeated my personal love of gardening ever since.

While Executive Director of the US Botanic Garden, I helped to create and develop the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) and the home owner version Landscape for Life, which aim to create ecologically resilient environments.  I served on the Board of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, US and was on the Longwood Gardens Advisory Council for five years.  I have always found that collaboration and partnerships are the best way to be productive — that by joining forces we accomplish greater things.

In addition to consulting, teaching, and writing articles, I am currently working with the Wilson Botanical Garden (part of Las Cruces Biological Station, Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica) and the gardens at the Rachel Carson House in Silver Spring Maryland.  I lead garden trips to many parts of the world and am working on a garden trip to Japan in collaboration with the American Horticultural Society.

My husband, Osamu, a garden designer, and I recently completed the design and installation of a new garden surrounding our house in Lewes, Delaware, built in 1730.  The garden includes an entry dooryard garden of flavor and fragrance, a tea garden, fountains, and fences selected to bring unity and create a sense of place within the neighborhood.  My garden in Maryland, selected as one of Southern Living’s Top Ten Gardens, demonstrates a garden designed as a peaceful oasis.  The garden’s unique style blends east and west with water features, a rich plant palette, moss garden, and successful problem solving.