Meet a Gardener: James Gagliardi

GagliardiJames Gagliardi, horticulturist at the Smithsonian Gardens. James supervises the gardens outside the Natural Museum of Natural History, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Castle, Haupt, Ripley, and Rose Garden.

James’s Philosophy for the Pollinator Garden: this garden used to showcase four planting zones: wetland, meadow, woodland edge and urban. James wasn’t using those distinctions to teach anymore, so he decided to create a unity and flow through the garden that may look wild at times but also perfectly at home in the city. Much of the landscape looks like a lush and beautiful meadow, plus the garden provides the shade, open space, wet and airy spaces that pollinators need, plus any urbanite could find inspiration and write down plant names—as provided by small black signs—and have a great base of plants for a window box or city garden. When we met with James, he told us that he sat on one of the committees that were formed after President Obama signed a memorandum to increase pollinator population.  Because the Federal Government owns the majority of property in the U.S., government-supported habitats like the Pollinator Garden serve as an example of what can be done to help support pollinator population—even within a city’s walls!

James's heavenly hellstrip

James taught us an insider’s garden term.  Hell Strip (n):  An area between the sidewalk and the road that gets traffic fumes, road salt. He looks after one that is planted on 12 St NW between Madison Drive and Constitution Ave. He doesn’t seem scared.


Want to live vicariously through a gardener? Follow @SmithsonianGardens on Instagram or pick up the Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location, which James edited.


Want to do some more digging? During the run of The Secret Garden, STC is celebrating all things green and growing! You’re invited to share and explore all the beauty that can be found outside. Visit to learn more.

Photos courtesy of Smithonian Gardens and James Gagliardi.