By Kristen Hampshire
Capturing the wonder of outdoors is a pastime and profession for Caroline Tait, who recalls childhood days pottering with grandparents in the garden and exploring nature in her
“I was always drawn to spending time outside in all kinds of weather — I would lie in the grass in the rain and enjoy the scent of the earth and listening to the sounds” she shares, explaining how these simple pleasures sowed a field of possibilities. “It was a natural progression into sciences for me; studying biology and geography and gaining an ecology degree.”
In January 2020, she joined Holden Forests & Gardens (HF&G) as vice president of horticulture and collections — a position that allows her to bring her private and public garden experience to the 3,400+ acres at the Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Garden.
“It’s thrilling to be a part of the magic that happens when two entities join forces to set and pursue a common vision” she says.
Tait started making magic early in her career at Coton Manor Garden in Northamptonshire, England. “I began as a volunteer, became manager and am most proud of assembling a team of staff and volunteers who together grew the home-propagation nursery and ensured a unique and personal guest experience.” she says. “It’s been a daily pleasure to introduce people to plants, seeing their eyes light up as intriguing characteristics and simple tips and tricks to plant care are shared.”
Tait also launched her own gardening business, Caroline Tait Design. Since the late 1990s she created, and with her team, installed gardens for residential, commercial and public projects which offered an intimate experience with plants and were sustaining to both visitors and wildlife.
Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, chose Tait among a global pool of candidates into its executive leadership training course. While there, she learned about HF&G and the “cross-pollination” with the integration of the Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
“We are thrilled to have Caroline join the staff of Holden Forests & Gardens,” says Jill Koski, president and CEO of HF&G. “Her background and expertise are unparalleled, and her commitment to building a community of gardeners is simply inspiring.”
“It’s been a daily pleasure to introduce people to plants, seeing their eyes light up as intriguing characteristics and simple tips and tricks to plant care are shared.”
—Caroline Tait, vice president of horticulture and collections
Initially, Tait will be listening and learning. “Horticulture is filled with stories — evolutionary patterns, historical significances, intricate relationships with flora and fauna, and of course with people,” she says.
When asked about her goals at HF&G, Tait says, “We are fortunate to have knowledgeable and skilled professionals on the team. If I have a goal at this early stage, it is to support the staff in telling our plant stories and to welcome others into the beauty and wonder of the natural world”.