Newburn Appointed Managing Director for the UT Gardens, Knoxville

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Well-known Gardening Expert Officially Takes Reins

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Well known throughout the state’s gardening community for his efforts on behalf of the University of Tennessee Gardens, Knoxville, James Newburn has been appointed the Gardens’ managing director. Newburn has been serving in an interim role since 2019.

Long before 2019—in fact, since 1993—Newburn has been learning and growing along with the UT Gardens. His relationship with the Gardens started when he planted annuals in the trial beds as a student assistant. Newburn has been instrumental in planning, implementing and maintaining various expansions of the Gardens ever since.

Among Newburn’s accomplishments, he has overseen the trails program—evaluating new plant material that has yet to come to market or has recently been introduced for sale. Also over the years, he has worked closely with student interns, mentoring dozens of students as they pursue their education. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job, he says.

Newburn also serves as an ambassador for the Gardens giving educational presentations and tours to green industry professionals, garden clubs and civic groups and represents the Gardens to the media. For many years, he worked as assistant director under Sue Hamilton, professor emeritus of plant sciences and retired director of the UT Gardens. Together they developed the Gardens into the showplace they are today and contributed to the UT Gardens, Knoxville, being one of the three official sites of the State Botanical Garden of Tennessee.

“James has spent the last 25 years working to improve the beauty and impact of the UT Gardens,” says Gary Bates, head of the Department of Plant Sciences within the UT Institute of Agriculture. “His last four years as interim director have been the most productive years in the Garden’s history, setting records for visits, funding and programming.  James has an incredible enthusiasm for plants and has led the Gardens so that they can be enjoyed by everyone in our community.”

As the official managing director, Newburn will oversee the overall maintenance, development, special events, fund-raising initiatives and human resources associated with the Gardens. Newburn received his Bachelor of Science degree in ornamental horticulture and his Master of Science in plant sciences from what is now known as the UT Herbert College of Agriculture. He considers himself a Vol-for-Life.

Learn more about the UT Gardens, Knoxville, online at

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is comprised of the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch and UT Extension. Through its land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach, the Institute touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. to Tennesseans and beyond.

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James Newburn, UT Gardens