MOUNT DESERT — The Land & Garden Preserve of Mount Desert Island has announced that Rodney Eason has been named chief executive officer. Eason will succeed Carole Plenty, who is retiring after 15 years in the position.
Stephen Milliken and Kate Baxter, Co-Chairs of the Search Committee, said he will begin his duties on Oct 19. “Rodney is known as a rising star in the public garden world,” Milliken commented.
“He fully understands our mission to provide an experience of renewal without diminishing the quality of the places for which the preserve is responsible. We look forward to the horticultural skills he will bring along with his strong leadership experience.”
Eason will join the preserve after serving as the director of horticulture and plant curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay for the past three years. He has been responsible for all aspects of horticulture for this 270-acre public garden situated along Maine’s mid-coast.
Neva Goodwin, president of the preserve, said “The search committee and the whole board of directors are thrilled with this outcome. Rodney brings great gifts for the future of the preserve. I am looking forward to working with him.”
Prior to his work at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden, Eason served for eight years as the display leader at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. Longwood Gardens is considered a world-class public garden, recognized nationally and internationally as one of the finest examples of ornamental horticulture display in the world.
Eason’s creative contributions to the gardens included leading the conceptual design as well as participating in the installation of the largest vertical living wall in North America.
In addition, he was responsible for leading more than 35 staff in the daily preparation and presentation of more than 300 acres of display gardens, special plant exhibitions and 4 acres of conservatory gardens.
”I am ecstatic about being selected to lead the preserve, and I look forward to working with the team,” Eason said.
“I believe it was the summer of 1997 when I first visited Acadia and what is now the Land & Garden Preserve. Since that initial visit, my family and I have come back several times while on vacation. I often thought that this would be a fantastic place to work and to raise a family, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would happen.”
Eason earned a bachelor of landscape architecture from North Carolina State University and a master of public horticulture from the University of Delaware and the Longwood Graduate Program. Earlier this year, he was named by “Maine Magazine” as one of the 50 people who make a difference in Maine. He is a member of the American Public Garden Association, serving most recently on the annual conferences committee, and he is a frequent writer for blogs and is a contributor to several publications, including “Fine Gardening” and the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association.
Plenty said, “Rodney’s extensive experience in the world of public gardens will be enormously helpful to the preserve as it continues to expand and evolve. The staff and I are joined in welcoming Rodney to the preserve, and I look forward to working with him to achieve a smooth transition.”
During her long tenure, Plenty successfully steered the preserve through a period of growth and a complete organizational transformation.
The mission and purpose of the Land & Garden Preserve is to preserve, for public enjoyment, the aesthetic and spiritual heritage of certain horticultural and natural landscapes on Mount Desert Island.
“Carole Plenty has steadily moved us toward defining and realizing our mission,” said Goodwin. “Her vision has at all times taken in the future as well as the present, the big picture as well as the details. We are enormously grateful for her 15 years of outstanding management and a depth of care that is evident in the health of the organization.”
Preserve properties include two public gardens, Asticou Azalea and Thuya, as well as a botanical and horticultural library in Thuya Lodge. It also oversees 1,140 acres adjacent to Acadia National Park, including Little Long Pond, woodlands, carriage trails and hiking paths. The preserve offices are located in Seal Harbor.
Charles K. Savage was a life-long resident of Northeast Harbor and owner of the Asticou Inn. His love of native plants and his study of Japanese garden design inspired him to preserve the plant collection of Beatrix Farrand. When Farrand decided to dismantle her Reef Point estate in Bar Harbor, Savage garnered financial support from John D. Rockefeller Jr. to purchase the plants and to build two gardens in Northeast Harbor: the Asticou Azalea Garden in 1958 and the Thuya Garden in 1960.
Upon Curtis’ death, Savage was appointed trustee, a post he held for 37 years. Savage’s vision for the property was expansive. He designed Thuya Garden to be a semi-formal herbaceous garden in the style of England’s famous designer and author Gertrude Jekyll, as interpreted for coastal Maine by Beatrix Farrand. During his tenure, Thuya Lodge was renovated to accommodate a collection of botanical and horticultural books, the Asticou Landing was built, and the orchard adjacent to the lodge was transformed into Thuya Garden.