Fernwood Botanical Garden executive director announces retirement

Published 4:13 pm Monday, April 22, 2024

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NILES — After 17 years of dedicated leadership, Carol Line has announced her plan to retire as Executive Director of Fernwood in December 2024. 

Fernwood traces its roots back to the country estate of Kay and Walter Boydston, who laid the foundation for a beloved gathering place for garden and nature enthusiasts. In 2007, Line joined Fernwood as Executive Director, assuming the mantle of leadership with a vision fueled by Kay Boydston’s love of nature, gardening, and the craft arts. Line’s 17+ year tenure has been characterized by a commitment to excellence, innovation, and community engagement. 

Line’s unwavering dedication to Fernwood’s mission has been evident in every endeavor. From navigating the challenges of an economic downturn and a global pandemic while still seizing opportunities for growth and innovation, Line has led Fernwood with grace, passion, and a deep sense of purpose. 

“As a lifelong student of public gardens and how they work, I have been profoundly grateful for this opportunity to serve as Executive Director of Fernwood for 17 years,” said Line. “It has been a great responsibility–and amazing privilege–to lead this organization. I am humbled by the honor to work 

alongside our dedicated board and staff, volunteers, and supporters who make Fernwood a truly special place. As I enter into this new chapter, I am filled with gratitude and am excited for Fernwood and its future.” 

A Legacy of Accomplishments 

  • Prioritization of strategic and master planning to ensure Fernwood’s continued growth and sustainability for generations to come. 
  • Development of new gardens that include a rain garden, a stumpery garden underway with plantsman, Daniel Hinkley; a whimsical railway garden made of natural materials by Paul Busse; and entry gardens designed by plantsman, Roy Diblik. 
  • Enhancement of Fernwood’s natural beauty with interpretive panels in the preserve. ● Prioritization of a high-level lecture series introducing guests to the best in the areas of garden history and design, plant exploration, the arts, sustainable practice, organic growing, and beyond, with speakers including Piet Oudolf, Andrea Wulf, Doug Tallamy, Judith Tankard, Chris Woods, Panayoti Kelaidis, Michael Dosmann, Edwina von Gal, Amy Stewart, and many others. ● Development of the Sims Education Center, designed by noted architects, Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry, providing a model for learning and exploration that includes a library, bird viewing, and a green roof complete with active bee hives. 
  • Expansion of educational programming, including the establishment of the Mighty Acorns initiative in partnership with The Field Museum to nurture the next generation of environmental stewards. ● Revival of the holiday tradition, LIGHTS at Fernwood, offering visitors awe and wonder with its artful display. 
  • Reintroduction of the arts at Fernwood that have included expanded classes, enhanced gallery exhibits with Winifred Godfrey and Heeyoung Kim, and many others, an outdoor exhibit, Sculpture Fernwood, that included the works of Richard Hunt, Austin Collins, and other artists, and the introduction of Patrick Dougherty’s magical and community-building sculpture, Take Five, a testament to the intersection of art and nature. 

“Carol leaves a legacy of inspiration and accomplishment that will continue to shape Fernwood’s future. Her vision, leadership, and steadfast commitment to excellence have laid the foundation for continued growth and success, ensuring that Fernwood Botanical Garden remains a cherished destination in the future,” said Tracy Dippo, Chair, Board of Directors. 

Fernwood’s Board of Directors will establish a leadership transition committee to facilitate the search for Line’s successor.