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Donald Rakow

Associate Professor

149 Plant Science
(607) 255-1045

I conduct research, write, and speak on the history, management, and social dimensions of public gardens in Europe and North America, and on the human benefits of spending time in nature.

Research Focus

I research the rise of public gardens in Europe and America, and how these movements reflect societal developments in science, technology, religion, and cultural attitudes. I am currently conducting research for a book on public gardens as agents of social change in urban communities.

Outreach and Extension Focus

I speak frequently to Cornell alumni and other community groups about the significance of public gardens and parks as environmental, cultural, and social organizations.

Teaching Focus

My instruction focuses on all aspects of public garden management and related issues. , and includes ‘Public Garden Management’ (a senior/graduate level course on all aspects of planning, curating, managing and supporting public gardens); and two new courses: ‘Arboriculture: Applied Tree Care’ and ‘Coffee, Cloves, and Chocolate: Plant Explorers and Thieves’ that explores social, political, and economic issues related to how the major crops came to be in use in the Western World. I also organize and serve as instructor for the Horticulture Seminar series, PLHRT 6000.

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

  • Tay, J., Rakow, D. A., Skelly, S., & Trowbridge, P. J. (2011). Public Garden Design: Perspectives from the Field. The Public Garden. 26:29-31.
  • Rakow, D. A. (2011). What is a Public Garden. The Public Garden. 26:#N/A.
  • Rakow, D. A. (2006). Starting a botanical garden or arboretum at a college or public institution. Part I. The Public Garden. 21:33-37.
  • Rakow, D. A. (2006). Starting a botanical garden or arboretum at a college or public institution. Part II: Moving from planning to reality. The Public Garden. 21:32-35.
  • Goodwin, D., Rakow, D. A., & Skelly, S. (2005). Paths to the Community: How Public Gardens Link to Their Neighborhoods. The Public Garden. 20:35-37.
  • Rakow, D. A. (2003). The evolution of college and university gardens. The Public Garden. 18:7.

Book Chapters

  • Halverson, A., Wells, N., Rakow, D. A., & Skelly, S. (2008). The Growth of Children's Gardens. p. 161-174 Elizabeth N. Goodenough (ed.), National Institute for Play, Carmen Valley, CA, United States.


  • Rakow, D. A., & Lee, S. A. (2011). Public Garden Management. A Complete Guide to the Planning and Administration of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA.