Director of Horticulture at Blithewold Mansion, Garden & Arboretum (Bristol, RI)

Application Deadline


Bristol , Rhode Island

Position Title: Director of Horticulture at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum
Department: Horticulture
Reports to:  Executive Director
Status: Full-time, Exempt

Position Description:

The Director of Horticulture oversees the daily operations of the Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum’s Horticulture department, ensuring the highest-quality care of the living collection and historic landscape. Working with the leadership team and volunteer Garden & Grounds Committee, the director develops a long-term horticultural vision for Blithewold’s 33 acres and conservatories. In addition, the director is responsible for strategic planning, design and implementation of the living collection.

About Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum ( is a 33-acre historic estate located on the shores of Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. The property is nationally significant as one of the most fully developed and authentic examples of the Country Place Era. Blithewold's owners Augustus and Bessie Van Wickle planted species from Europe and the Far East as well as North America.  Today there are about 500 species in a collection of approximately 2000 trees and shrubs. Blithewold now boasts a variety of flowering trees and shrubs, weeping forms of deciduous and evergreen trees and venerable specimens of native trees.

Blithewold's trees have attracted attention throughout its history. The collection had its first recognition as an arboretum in 1926 when Ernest Henry Wilson and Alfred Rehder from Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum visited Blithewold. Today the maturity of the collection is one of the character-defining features of the property, and it continues to draw visitors including botanists, garden groups and home gardeners looking for ideas and inspiration. The collection also is the home of nine Rhode Island state champion trees and has achieved a Level 2 arboreta accreditation by Arbnet.

Currently owned by Blithewold Inc, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve New England’s finest garden estate through excellence in horticulture and historic preservation, and by example to educate and inspire. Each year Blithewold welcomes more than 50,000 visitors and is one of the area’s most desirable wedding venues.

Primary Responsibilities/Activities:


  • Establish and implement horticultural standards that result in an aesthetically pleasing experience throughout the property.
  • Develop and recommend policies and guidelines to protect, enhance, manage, and preserve the Blithewold’s living collection.
  • Initiate strategic improvements to horticultural operations; stay up to date on industry best practice, implement where needed.
  • Direct organic and integrated pest management strategies to ensure health of the Garden’s collection.
  • Lead design, development, and installation of new horticulture projects and spaces. 

Organizational Collaboration:

  • Coordinate with the Board of Directors and the Capital Projects Committee to provide a horticultural perspective where appropriate.
  • Provide leadership to strengthen Blithewold’s mission by collaborating with department heads of Facilities, Visitor Services, Archives (interpretation), Education, and Administration
  • Represent Horticulture in interdepartmental projects and events such as public programming, fundraising events, venue rental, and educational activities.

Human Resources:

  • Manage the Horticultural staff which currently includes five full-time horticulturists and groundskeepers, as well as seasonal part-time paid employees, volunteers, and interns.
  • Maintain department’s staffing levels by recruiting and hiring individuals that will meet the needs of the organization. And by following best practices in training, professional development, and evaluating individual performance.
  • Plan the safety training program/training for the Horticulture department; ensure practices are OSHA-compliant.


  • Oversee the department’s fleet and equipment including gas- and electric-powered vehicles, machinery (i.e., ride-on mowers, tractors, and heavy equipment) and small power tools, responsible for ongoing assessments and maintenance, organization, upgrades, and replacements.
  • Responsible for Horticulture’s inclement weather/emergency response; communicate with operational departments, coordinate activities, communicate with staff, and ensure safety of the collection, wherever possible.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with the Garden’s horticulture vendors; select vendors, manage relationships, and approve invoices for payment.
  • Once completed, ensure that new spaces are managed by providing in-field follow-up and feedback.


  • 15 years or more experience in managing public horticulture or another horticultural institution
  • Bachelor’s degree in horticulture or a related field, or the equivalent combination of education and experience
  • Strong knowledge of horticulture, arboriculture, living collection care and management, pest control
  • Excellent supervisory skills
  • Commitment to interdepartmental collaboration and building relationships with Blithewold staff.
  • Demonstrated ability to find creative solutions to problems, analyze situations, and implement actions in a timely manner
  • Knowledge of public safety standards and ADA requirements
  • Excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Strong written and oral communication skills; ability to effectively communicate to staff and other Garden stakeholders
  • Experience in hand-on and classroom teaching
  • Ability to work with living collection database to document and manage changes to the landscape.
  • Ability to walk, reach, and crawl; ability to lift 50 pounds of equipment
  • Ability to work nights and weekends upon request
  • Pesticide Applicator’s License and Arborist Certification highly desired

Compensation and Benefits

  • Salary Range – $70,000 - $85,000
  • Blithewold offers a comprehensive benefits package including:
    • Health Insurance that begins the date of hire and 75% coverage for an individual.
    • Dental/Vision/Prescription Benefits
    • HSA/HRA accounts for medical expenses.
    • TIAA-CREF Retirement Plan: 6% Employer Matching with Employee participation of 4%.
    • Generous Paid Time Off including sick time, vacation time, personal time
      and 12 annual holidays

Next Steps

  • Resumes are being accepted on a rolling basis.
  • Please submit letter of interest and resume to Karen Binder, Executive Director, [email protected].

Based on a candidate’s experience and qualifications an initial zoom interview will be set up followed by an in-person interview.