Thursday, June 26, 2014  |   Email   Print

Cleveland Botanical Garden and The Holden Arboretum Move Toward Unification

Leaders of Cleveland Botanical Garden and The Holden Arboretum are moving to combine their institutions into one entity with the shared mission of improving the world through plants and trees. Such integration would enable these two treasured public gardens to have even greater impact through environmental education, applied botanical research and joint efforts to promote trees, gardens and forests for the betterment of the communities of Northeast Ohio and beyond.

“We envision our community better served by a pooling of our organizational strengths and resources,” says Natalie Ronayne, President of Cleveland Botanical Garden in Cleveland’s University Circle cultural district. “By leveraging each other’s strengths, we can create the scale necessary to become a regional and national leader in environmental stewardship and sustainable practices for community health.”

Combining the Botanical Garden and Holden would create the 13th largest public garden in the country, providing the new institution with a greater ability to raise funds, attract top talent and most effectively serve its members, visitors and the larger community. Such an integration of an urban botanical garden with an exurban arboretum of equal organizational sizes is unprecedented.

“A combined organization would have a strong scientific foundation of research, plant collections and community outreach while also being attractive to families and visitors— hallmarks of the nation’s finest public gardens,” says Clement W. Hamilton, President and CEO of The Holden Arboretum in Lake and Geauga Counties.

Both Holden and the Botanical Garden would realize significant benefits through unification. Holden would receive a much-desired foothold in University Circle near the region’s other top research centers, as well as a one-of-a-kind conservatory and impressive visitor center unlike anything Holden currently has. The Garden, meanwhile, would retire its long-term debt and bolster its applied-research program through the significant resources and technical expertise of Holden’s long-standing scientific programs. Integration of the organizations’ outreach and education programs would have meaningful impact on the people, natural spaces and public schools throughout Northeast Ohio; and unified organization would gain the ability to educate more students and adult learners in a three-county area, expand the scope of urban-greening and community-forestry initiatives and make more people passionate about plants.

The idea of bringing the Botanical Garden and Holden together has been broached over the years, as the two nonprofits have similar missions focused on inspiring connections between people and plants; but serious talks began in late 2013. The concept now has support of the Boards of Directors for both organizations and local philanthropic leaders.

Leaders of both organizations are continuing their due diligence around unification. A transition process would occur over a period of months and include strategic planning for the new entity. All decisions about combining operations would be made with careful attention and sensitivity to mission, members, visitors and employees.

About Cleveland Botanical Garden
Cleveland Botanical Garden is an ever-changing urban escape featuring beautiful gardens, an exotic glasshouse and enchanting events. Founded in 1930 and located on 10 acres in the heart of Cleveland’s University Circle cultural district, the Botanical Garden attracted 188,000 people in 2013 and has its highest membership ever – 8,300 households. As a year-round attraction, the Botanical Garden educates and inspires guests inside its Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, which is the only conservatory in the country with two distinct biomes – the rainforest of Costa Rica and the spiny desert of Madagascar. The Botanical Garden also is committed to making the community greener and healthier through its community outreach programs, which grow young lives and restore land throughout Cleveland. The Botanical Garden manages six learning farms in urban areas as part of its signature outreach program, Green Corps, which provides work-study opportunities for teens and school gardens for students of all ages.

About The Holden Arboretum
The Holden Arboretum is an outdoor living museum that promotes the beauty and importance of trees and other woody plants to create sustainable and healthy communities in the Great Lakes region and beyond. Covering more than 3,600 acres, Holden is one of the nation’s largest arboretums.   It is home to a diverse collection of trees from around the world, themed gardens, over 2,000 acres of protected forests, and more than 20 miles of hiking trails.  Holden envisions a Northeast Ohio in which trees, forests, and gardens provide maximum ecological and social benefits to the region’s communities. To that end, Holden focuses its mission programs on growing trees and communities, conserving native forests, and engaging children with plants. Founded in 1931, Holden is supported by The Holden Trust, earned revenue, and many generous donors. Holden attracts over 90,000 visitors annually and has a membership of around 6,500 households.


Cleveland Botanical Garden receives public support through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom O'Konowitz,, 216.707.2818


<< Back