Magnolia stellata 'Chrysanthemumiflora' is now blooming at Powell Gardens! Photo (taken March 14, 2016) by Alan Branhagen.


Powell Gardens Director of Horticulture Alan Branhagen Realizes a Dream with Position at University of Minnesota

When Alan Branhagen began his journey as Powell Gardens' director of horticulture in December 1996, the Gardens consisted of the Perennial Garden, Rock and Waterfall Garden, Meadow and Pavilion and Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel and 2,000 plant records accessions.

Today, under Alan's guidance, Kansas City's botanical garden now has 22,000 plant records accessions and is home to the Powell Gardens Conservatory, the Island Garden, Fountain Garden, Memorial Garden, the Byron Shutz Nature Trail and the Heartland Harvest Garden. 

Powell Gardens and Alan's team also manages and maintains the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden in Kansas City.

During his time at Powell Gardens, Alan was a frequently-requested speaker and he authored two well-received books: The Gardener's Butterfly Book and his latest, Native Plants of the Midwest: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 500 Species for the Garden.

Twenty years later, Alan has the opportunity to do something he has dreamed about since he was a teenager.

"When I was 16, my parents let me drive to the Minnesota Zoo from Decorah, Iowa, and shortly after, to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, " Alan said. "I remember thinking that I wanted to work there someday, as it was so inspiring with so many unique plants and natural landscapes, from the 'Big Woods' to bogs and wetlands."

On March 17, Alan's dream will be realized when he begins his next journey as the Director of Operations for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum at the University of minnesota, a role that includes horticulture, facilities and research. The Arboretum, which boasts more than 1,270 acres of gardens and tree collections as well as prairie, woods and miles of trails, offers alan a new challenge with northern plants.

The Powell family, who donated the land to establish Powell Gardens nearly 30 years ago and who continue to support the Gardens, issued a statement to express the family's deepest gratitude to Alan for all he has accomplished for Powell Gardens over the past 20 years:

"We were fortunate to find the right person for the job of horticulturist at the right time. His vast knowledge and ability have added greatly to the prestige of the Gardens. While we are sad he is leaving, we are excited for the new opportunity that awaits him in Minnesota."

Tabitha Schmidt, President and Executive Director of Powell Gardens, said Alan will be missed by everyone at the Gardens. "Alan has been a tremendous support and inspiration as I transitioned into my new role with the Powell Gardens family," she said.

"In Alan, I have found a kindred spirit in our mutual love for Powell Gardens and the uniqueness that is the Midwestern landscape," Schmidt said. "I will truly miss having Alan at Powell Gardens. He has earned this tremendous opportunity and we are so fortunate to have his indelible stamp on our beautiful Gardens."

Alan said Powell Gardens remains a favorite public garden. "It celebrates the spirit of its place like no other, looking like it belongs here on the edge of the Great Plains, and is uniquely Kansas City. Its architecture is like no other — keeping the timeless architecture of E. Fay Jones, Maurice Jennings and now Walter Jennings," he said.

Eric Tschanz, Vice Chairman of the Powell Gardens Capital Campaign and former Powell Gardens President and Executive Director, said Alan has been a tremendous asset to the Gardens, shaping the landscape, collections and programs. "His deep understanding of the natural world is only surpassed by his willingness to share that knowledge," he said.

While powell Gardens begins a search for the Gardens' next director of horticulture and Alan's expert teams continue to nurture the Gardens, Alan's imprint will forever remain throughout Powell Gardens, the Kansas City community and the Midwest. 

Join Us to Celebrate Alan Branhagen and Wish Him Well!

All Friends of Powell Gardens, volunteers, partners and the public are invited to a special Good Luck Farewell and book signing to honor Alan Branhagen and his 20 years shaping Powell Gardens, Kansas City's botanical garden, and bringing it much attention and national recognition.

The event takes place at Powell Gardens from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 17, in the Visitor Center Grand Hall. Alan's latest book, Native Plants of the Midwest: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 500 Species for the Garden, will be available for sale that evening at Perennial Gifts (inside the Visitor Center) and Alan will be signing copies throughout the evening.

No reservations are required. A cash bar of wine, beer and a special St. Patrick's Day drink will be available. For more information, please call 816-697-2600.