On December 12, Natural Lands Trust (NLT) announced the selection of Ethan Kauffman as Director of Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden, the 42-acre Villanova property that NLT acquired in April 2016 from the estate of the late John and Chara Haas. Kauffman, who relocated to the Philadelphia region for the position, has a distinguished 17-year career in public horticulture.
“It’s an honor to be a caretaker of the garden legacy that the Haas family has given us all,” said Kauffman. “I’m excited to oversee the transition of this property from a private home to a natural garden open to all.”
Kauffman spent the last nine years at Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City, South Carolina, located about 90 miles east of Columbia. During his tenure, he led the transition of Moore Farms from a private pleasure garden to a non-profit botanical garden.
“Having grown up exploring the wild places of southeastern Pennsylvania, I’m thrilled to return home to the region that sparked my passion in the natural world and, ultimately, led me to a career in public horticulture,” said Kauffman.
Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden includes stately trees, winding pathways, and lush gardens that the Haas family carefully stewarded over the decades. The gardens were designed by a number of notable landscape architects over the past century—including the Olmsted Brothers, sons of the famed Frederick Law Olmsted.
“Our goal is to maintain the spirit and framework of the existing landscape design while expanding the use of native plants,” said Natural Lands Trust President Molly Morrison. “We envision Stoneleigh as a showcase for blending the aesthetic beauty of designed gardens with the natural richness of native habitats that are essential to the health of our planet.”
After a period of transition, Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden will be open—free-of-charge—to visitors. Natural Lands Trust will offer a variety of public programs with a primary focus on nature-based learning. The organization also anticipates hosting family and kids’ programs as well as volunteer opportunities.
It is expected to take approximately 18 months to make the improvements needed to transition the property from a family home to a public garden. Work began shortly after the property changed ownership this past spring. The public can stay up-to-date on progress by visiting natlands.org/stoneleigh or facebook.com/stoneleighanaturalgarden.