John T. Manion, renowned curator at the Kaul Wildflower Garden at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, is the new arboretum curator at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center in Chattanooga.
As arboretum curator, Mr. Manion will work to establish Reflection Riding as a leader in botanical knowledge, establishing a leadership position in horticulture, native plant advocacy, invasive plant management and overall habitat restoration across the region. Mr. Manion brings nearly two decades of public and private gardens leadership to his new role at Reflection Riding. During his tenure at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Mr. Manion developed the native plant collection into the largest documented in the state of Alabama.
“John brings a wealth of knowledge about native plants—from propagation and planting to the fun stories of how they were named and how they have helped shape human culture. He’s a talented communicator who will help Reflection Riding tell the stories behind the plants we grow and study,” said Mark McKnight, CEO of Reflection Riding. “We also look forward to leveraging his expertise as we expand our rare plant conservation capacity. He will be the face of the botanical aspect of our mission to reconnect people with nature. We’re lucky to have him.”
Mr. Manion’s decision to focus on plants as a career came later in life. He spent the first half of his
professional career serving others as an emergency/trauma nurse. During all of that time, his
urge to make plants his career grew. He credits growing up in rural, upstate New York with
parents who were passionate about nature for his overwhelming love for plants. His father was
a forester and his mother had an incredibly green thumb and enjoyed growing flowers and
vegetables in the family garden.
“Being able to inform and inspire people,” Mr. Manion said, “about the countless attributes of plants, gardens and natural areas – particularly those native to our area, is why I followed my passion for plants. I’m thrilled to be in Chattanooga and at Reflection Riding, which has such an exciting future.”
Mr. Manion holds a master of professional studies in public garden leadership from Cornell
University and a bachelor of science in plant science from State University of New York at
Cobleskill. He completed year-long curatorial internships at Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore
College and another year-long internship at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Reflection Riding members and the public are welcome to come meet Mr. Manion by
coming early (any time after 5:30 p.m.) to the Campfire Concert Series featuring Behold the
Brave on Friday, Oct. 29 from 6:30-10:30 p.m. at Reflection Riding’s campus, 400 Garden Road in Chattanooga.