Throughout his life, Robert Herman has enjoyed almost parallel careers in both education and horticulture. He spent more than 30 years as a professional horticulturist, almost seven of which were spent in Europe as “Meister” for the Countess von Zeppelin Nursery in Germany. At the Missouri Botanical Garden he served in the horticulture and education departments and he was Director of Horticulture at White Flower Farm in Litchfield, where he initiated an internship to introduce young Europeans to American horticulture. He also managed the greenhouses and gardens at the 450-acre Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island.
“I’ve tried to work as a ‘bridge’ between these cultures by teaching, lecturing and writing on both continents and by creating internships that have led to an exchange of information and to new relationships.” ~ Robert Herman
Several motivating goals, both personal and professional, directed Robert through life. First of all, he wanted to communicate the importance of plants in our world, as well as the joys and rewards that can be had by working with them. Secondly, he yearned to experience different cultures in depth, especially with regards to the field of horticulture. A final goal was to teach on the college level to educate knowledgeable, professional horticulturists, who will improve our environment with responsible attitudes and methods. Robert is quick to add that a rewarding and supportive partnership with wife, Frances, also played into his ability to achieve his goals.
Now retired, Mr. Herman spent over eight years as a full-time instructor in the horticulture program at Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) in Waterbury, where he involved students in campus and community projects. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. as well as the International Master of Landscape Architecture program at Anhalt University in Bernburg, Germany.
“When a student feels that the instructor can be trusted, it means the instructor has acknowledged the student’s own sense of status, worth and dignity.” ~ Robert Herman
In 2009, Robert received a national Award for Teaching Excellence from the University of Texas. In 2010 he was presented with the American Horticultural Society’s Teaching Award, which is “given to an individual whose ability to share his or her horticultural knowledge with others has contributed to a better public understanding of the plant world and its important influence on society.” That same year he also received the Perennial Plant Association’s Academic Award and was nominated for the U.S. Professor of the Year Award.
Robert’s writings have appeared in American Nurseryman, Fine Gardening, Pacific Horticulture, the German magazine Garden and Landscape, and the Hardy Plant Society Journal in England.
Heck, he’s even appeared with Martha Stewart!
Where did Robert Herman’s illustrious career begin? In the small town of Lebanon, Illinois where a young Robert enjoyed being in the wild when hunting with his dad. So, he began studies in Forestry in college until he realized the focus was on cutting trees! Perhaps it was the influence of his maternal grandmother, Ida Weygandt, that placed him on track for a degree in horticulture. Her home was named the “Most Beautiful Place in St. Clair County” back in the 1950s. For years, she had worked for wealthy clients who would share their divided plants with her. And without any formal schooling in gardening or design, she proceeded to cultivate magnificent gardens that included a koi pond and a wonderfully designed woodland walk.
It is with great pride that we add Robert Herman to the list of CT Hort Mehlquist Award recipients.