Aaron Harpold, assistant director of horticulture

While Aaron worked as an actor based in major U.S. cities, public gardens were his favorite retreats. Between traveling and work, Aaron always found time to pursue horticulture as a passion and hobby, often helping friends in their lawns and gardens on nights and weekends.

After ten years of traveling from stage to stage, Aaron decided to settle down and turn his passion for plants into a new career, studying horticulture in California at Long Beach City College and completing an internship at Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden.

When Aaron’s wife Renee accepted a teaching position in the department of Law, Politics and Society at Drake University, the couple relocated from Long Beach to Des Moines, where Aaron later accepted a horticulture position at Drake.

After settling into the city in 2013, Aaron had a mesmerizing first visit to the Botanical Garden: “I walked through the parking lot garden for so long that the Garden closed before I could go inside,” Aaron laughed, recalling his admiration for the intricate planting designs just steps from his car. “So, I went back the next day and became a member.”

Now, Aaron is an integral part of the Botanical Garden’s horticulture team. He started as a conservatory horticulturist in 2017, then became the Garden’s first assistant director of horticulture in 2018. Aaron describes his current role as dynamic, requiring that he switch gears often throughout the day to support the Garden and the horticulture staff however needed.

When talking about his time at the Garden, Aaron still appears awestruck at how his love for plants and his constant pursuit of green spaces developed into this career: “I really did fall in love with this space the first time I visited, and it was always a dream of mine to work at a public garden. It’s still a little surreal to get to work here every day.”