The Kinney Azalea Garden is the end product of the efforts of 4 generations of horticulturalists and educators. The University of Rhode Island's first botany professor, Lorenzo Kinney Sr., began planting conifers on his son's newly purchased land in the 1920's. Though planted to explore timber production in RI, selective harvesting created micro-climates and garden "rooms"
This turned out to be a perfect canvas for Lorenzo junior's passion, creating a garden with an extended period of color. In his duties as 4-H director at URI, Lorenzo Kinney Jr. traveled the east coast of the United States.During those trips he fell in love with the future Elizabeth Kinney and azaleas. He resolved to bring both back to RI. Lorenzo began visiting gardens, nurseries, and hybridizers. He began collecting newly introduced species and hybrids from several sources, including Everett Hershey and Joseph Gable. Most importantly, he became fast friends with Ben Morrison, designer of the National Arboretum and hybridizer of the Glendale Azaleas.
After Lorenzo's death in 1992 at the age of 100, proprietorship of the gardens was transferred to Tony and Elizabeth Kinney Faella. Their love of the gardens resulted in its expansion from 6 to 16 acres and the creation of it's signature Moongate. Both Faellas were professional educators and continue to be invested in children, education, and their community. This has resulted in the gardens remaining open to the public, with emphasis on enjoying and exploring the natural world. Susan Gordon, PhD, has been retained since 1976 as horticulturalist and garden manager.
The Gardens are supported through donations and the sale of plant material.