Kathleen Salisbury can’t remember a time when plants, horticulture and the outdoors weren’t a part of her life.
“I come from a long line of people with green thumbs. I’ve always had a connection to the outdoors; there was always a draw for me toward horticulture,” she said. “It was a natural progression that I’d look toward horticulture as a profession, public horticulture in particular. I’ve always felt that it’s through these wonderful public gardens that we can truly commit people to thinking environmentally and sustainably.”
After a 25-year career that has touched upon nearly every aspect of the green industry, Salisbury is bringing her knowledge and experiences to Temple University Ambler as the new Director of the Ambler Arboretum.
“An award-winning horticultural educator, (Salisbury) joins our Temple University team with decades of experience in horticulture, public gardens, education and event planning,” said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College. “She has also expressed a keen interest in emerging fields such as aquaponics and hydroponics.”
McGarvey said Salisbury was chosen to become the next director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University after an extensive search.
“We’d like to thank everyone involved in the search and interview process. The search committee included a variety of faculty, administrators, staff, alumni and longtime supporters of Temple Ambler and the Ambler Arboretum,” she said. “Their dedication to the campus has helped us find someone who will become an exemplary member of the campus community, someone who will help us further our campus goals and develop an exciting vision for the future of the Arboretum.”
Salisbury said that the Ambler Arboretum’s long history as a teaching garden — a living laboratory that provides hands-on learning experiences and research opportunities for students, faculty and visitors year after year — was a particular draw for her. The campus’ place in horticultural history and women’s history — more than 100-years of connecting students and the environment that began with the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women — “sets us apart in a region that is known for its amazing gardens,” she added.
“I think there are so many opportunities to connect students and the community in general to this wonderful space and its history. I think there is great potential to increase interdisciplinary use of the gardens,” she said. “No matter what is being learned at Temple, the gardens can support those learning experiences. Creating those connections opens up a tremendously diverse array of learning opportunities that can’t be reproduced digitally or by other means — few colleges have this incredible resource available to them.”
As Director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, Salisbury will spearhead efforts to realize an expanded and sustainable vision for the Arboretum. While reporting to the Director of the Ambler Campus, she will also work very closely with faculty and students in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture.
Salisbury will focus on planning and development goals for the Arboretum that are consistent with both the mission and plans of the Ambler Campus and supportive of the academic programs offered by Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. She will also act as one of our essential ambassadors to the academic community, horticultural and landscape organizations and the region as a whole, developing educational and community outreach programs and special events that highlight what makes the Ambler Arboretum and Ambler Campus so unique.
“I’ve been an educator, managed contractors and bids, led volunteer groups and non-profit organizations, and I've been a horticulturist with my hands in the soil everywhere from vacant lots to estates and from a zoo to greenhouses. I think all of these experiences will serve me well at Temple,” Salisbury said. “My philosophy is focused on collaboration and partnership. I don’t think you get things done nearly as well without collaboration. My biggest challenge this first year will be learning about all of the people involved, their plans and ideas for the Arboretum, and building consensus toward a shared vision.”
Salisbury is no stranger to connecting people with public spaces in new and diverse ways. She comes to the Ambler Arboretum from the Penn State Extension — Bucks County, where she was the Horticulture Educator.
At the Penn State Extension, she developed and implemented professional development and certification training for professionals in the horticulture industry. She developed workshops, conferences and lectures and guided the Bucks County Master Gardener and Mater Watershed Stewards programs while additionally consulting with individual growers on a variety of pest, disease and horticultural concerns.
Prior to her time at the Penn State Extension, she was co-owner, educator and consultant for DeVosBury Designs. She was a Horticulture Instructor at the Berks Career and Technology Center; Horticulturist for the Essex County New Jersey Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs; and an Adjunct Professor for the Landscape and Horticulture Technologies program at County College of Morris. She brings additional professional experience from the Greater Newark Conservancy, where she was Director of Education and Horticulturist/Director of Horticulture and has taught various courses at public gardens throughout the region for most of my career.
“My vision for the Ambler Arboretum is to create a space that is available and used by everyone who wants to use it. I want to maintain the high standards that make our gardens showpieces, build on that — with sustainability in mind — and make sure we don’t forget our past while planning our future,” Salisbury said. “I think we can really tap into our history to develop a unique set of programs that promotes horticulture and the sciences and inspires the next generation of women scientists. We want to develop public programs that introduce people to the field of horticulture, topics that they care about or, possibly, what they should care about in terms of conservation.”
Salisbury has a Master of Science in Public Horticulture Administration from the University of Delaware, where she was also a Longwood Gardens Graduate Fellow, and a Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture and Environmental Design from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture (now Delaware Valley University). She is also enrolled in the Doctorate of Education program at Pennsylvania State University, focusing on Adult Education and Lifelong Learning.
“Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to experience many aspects of the field but my passion for horticulture and for connecting people to the natural world around them has always led me to positions that bring me back to public horticulture,” she said. “It is in these public spaces that we have the greatest opportunity to connect everyone to plants and help educate people about their value. It is in these spaces where stories are shared and connections are made to the greater world around us.”