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Meet the Fellows
After a rigorous selection process, we are pleased to announce the talented professionals selected for the 2019–2020 cohort of our prestigious Fellows Program. These passionate individuals are joining our 13-month residential program that develops global leaders in the field of public horticulture.
Shawna Jones arrives at Longwood having been the Adult Education and Volunteer Coordinator for the Santa Fe Botanical Garden in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for more than three years. Jones reached her position at the botanical garden by working and collaborating to build a school garden for her students as a social worker with Communities in Schools. Jones received her bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University in social work and Spanish, and her master’s degree in public administration with a focus on nonprofit development. Her passion for community development began with her time in the Peace Corps, when she was a Youth and Family Development volunteer in El Salvador.
Abra Lee is from the University of Georgia, where she serves as an Extension Agent for Fulton County. Lee has worked in the green industry for 18 years, in both the public and private sectors, having held landscape manager positions for two international airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where she received the Urban Ag Council's Grand Award. Lee is a graduate of the Auburn University College of Agriculture, and owns Conquer The Soil, LLC, a brand that focuses on gardens, fashion, and culture.
Becky Paxton has previously served in roles from development to education at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens in Nashville, Tennessee. Her most recent position was leading the garden’s government and foundation giving initiatives, helping to secure Cheekwood’s first federal grant in more than three decades and developing programming and philanthropic support for Cheekwood’s acclaimed Japanese garden, Shōmu-en. With a background in art history and historic preservation, Paxton has worked to advance the care of significant landscapes and structures through resource development for historic homeowners and past board service on North Carolina's Orange County Historic Commission. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and is a member of the U.S.-Japan Council.
Mae Lin Plummer
Mae Lin Plummer serves as the Garden Director at The Duke Mansion in Charlotte, North Carolina. Plummer’s journey into public gardens began after leaving an 18-year career in the financial industry. Her fascination with plants matured into a healthy obsession after volunteering at the University of North Carolina Charlotte Botanical Gardens. She soon realized the influential role of public gardens in the betterment of the human experience, in education, and in plant conservation. Over the past five years, Plummer has been immersed in the plant world, receiving certificates in horticulture and native plant studies, and engaging with the community as a horticulture instructor, children’s program instructor, garden speaker, and garden designer.
Barbara Wheeler serves as Collections Supervisor at the Dunedin Botanic Garden in New Zealand, where she has overseen and managed the operational management of the garden’s plant collections for 16 years. Wheeler has worked in public horticulture for 28 years, undertaking her initial apprenticeship training at Dunedin Botanic Garden before further training at Longwood Gardens in the International Gardener Program and later completing a Practical Diploma in Horticulture at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden, Wisley. She has been awarded several scholarships that have taken her to Israel and to Tresco Abbey Gardens in the Isles of Scilly. Additionally, she worked in Australia as a Gardener at the Australian Governor-General's residence in Sydney, and at Dunedin Botanic Garden in a Collection Curator role, managing and maintaining the Rock, Water, and Alpine Collections.
Nanette Wraith comes to the Fellows Program from her role as Head of Crops and Aromatic Collection at Keyneston Mill in Dorset, UK. Keyneston Mill is the home of Parterre Fragrances, a privately owned and newly created estate that grows perfume ingredients. During her three years at Keyneston Mill, Wraith established the horticulture team, designed and orchestrated the creation of the botanic gardens, and managed crop production. Prior to that, she worked for The Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley, as part of the Edibles Team. Additionally, she worked for the National Trust at Nymans in Sussex, and at the historic London garden of the Inner Temple, learning about successional planting and creative border design.
Sadie Barber is on sabbatical from the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she worked in the Horticulture Division since 2006. Her role as senior horticulturist includes the curation of a large Gesneriaceae collection, leading to species discovery, taxonomic revisions, and answering questions on evolutionary development. As part of the “Floristic Diversity of Indonesia” team, Sadie participated in expeditions to Sumatra and West Papua, and was an expedition leader for fieldwork in Sulawesi. These expeditions succeeded in building strong partnerships in Indonesia, bringing unique living collections to cultivation and discovering species new to science. Recently, Sadie led a cross-divisional team to deliver a hugely successful titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) flowering event at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The flowering was a first for Scotland and attracted 20,000 visitors to the Garden. Sadie holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in Photography, Film, and Television from Napier University, a Higher National Diploma in Horticulture with Plantsmanship from the University of Glasgow, as well as Certificates in Field Botany and Media Communications. She is interested in how public gardens can work together to engage audiences in an effort to address “plant blindness.” Sadie intends to eventually sit as an Executive Director of a public garden where she can collaborate with those in research, public engagement, and education to help study and conserve the increasingly threatened flora of the world.
Eleanor Gould arrived at Longwood having served as Curator of Gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. Prior to that role, she was assistant gardener in Monticello's fruit, flower and vegetable gardens. Her most recent work includes maintenance, management, interpretation and documentation of the historic gardens. She also served on the program committee for the annual Heritage Harvest Festival. She has worked to expand the Jefferson-documented plant collection at Monticello and shared her daily photographs of the garden on social networks. She attended the University of Virginia and graduated with a masters degree in Landscape Architecture in 2010. Eleanor intends to maintain the spirit of a “young gardener” throughout her career while continuing to advance into a senior position within public horticulture.
Erin Hepfner joined the Longwood Fellows Program from Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha’s Vineyard where she served as the Visitor Services & Resource Specialist. In this position, she managed the Visitor Center, volunteer and tour programs, and supported botanical outreach programs. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Horticulture from the University of Maine, Erin completed horticulture internships at Longwood Gardens and The Filoli Center. She has held seasonal horticulturist positions at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and at Mytoi, a property of The Trustees. Her educational pursuits include a Master of Arts in Sustainable Landscape Design from The Conway School and completion of a National Outdoor Leadership School course. Erin is passionate about inspiring people to connect with public gardens and is seeking to develop a greater understanding of community engagement and marketing and communications to ensure public gardens remain vibrant in their cultural and ecological landscape. As she broadens her professional experience, her long-term career goal is to serve as a garden’s Executive Director and to be a role model in the horticultural industry.
Chelsea Mahaffey most recently served as Conservatory Horticulturist at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to managing the highly visible Conservatory and Community Kitchen Garden, she worked closely with the Garden’s social media program to curate engaging content and worked with staff members on community engagement initiatives to train neighborhood gardeners. Through this work, Chelsea discovered her interest in connecting her passion for plants with people to engage a new generation of gardeners and community activists. She has also worked as a Greenhouse Grower at Peace Tree Farm in Kitnersville, Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Meadowbrook Farm in Jenkintown. In both roles, her focus was on forcing annuals and perennials for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show. Chelsea is currently the Vice Chair of the Emerging Professional Community of the American Public Gardens Association. She received a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Temple University. Following the Fellows Program, Chelsea plans to pursue a Director of Horticulture position; in ten years she sees herself in an Executive Director role, using her position to actively promote horticulture as a viable, rewarding career.
Caroline Tait is a self-taught nursery propagator, gardener, florist, designer, and business woman with a strong desire to make gardens and gardening inclusive and easy for all. She is completing the Fellows Program while on sabbatical from Coton Manor Garden in Northampton, UK, where for more than 25 years she developed the nursery from modest beginnings to a thriving business. As designer and implementer of projects in her own business, Caroline completed garden builds for London townhouse plots and country garden acreage while teaching clients the skills and confidence to love and nurture their own garden. A silver-gilt medal winner at the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Flower Show 2013, Caroline collaboratively designed a recycled fridge mountain garden planted with alpines as a comment on our fragile relationship with the earth and its resources. Caroline received a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Ecology from Queen Mary College, University of London. As a Longwood Fellow, Caroline is looking forward to learning about future-proofing a business while developing staff and broadening visitor experience and knowledge. Caroline envisions herself leading a large public garden and then going on to develop a consultancy role visiting gardens around the world, advising on projects related to community engagement and change management.