We had the good fortune of connecting with John Beaudry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, what are you inspired by?
I am inspired by nature. I grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago. We were surrounded by woods, creeks and a river. One of my first memories was discovering a Jack-in-the-pulpit, a highly unique wildflower. I asked for my first garden at five years old. I am a garden artist. Nature continues to inspire me. As a landscape designer, I paint with plants. I use them as they grow naturally, in drifts in dappled shade or in crevices in rocks. Every garden presents a new opportunity to work with the land and its inhabitants to create a cohesive design that is at once functional and in harmony with nature.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My work began with my love for plants. I have spent my entire life learning about new plants and what plants go well with other plants. I asked for my first garden at five years old. My first job was in a garden center. I got a BS in Horticulture. My first job was a park superintendent where we did a lot of tree pruning. That led to my first business: Rope and Saddle Tree Care, a tree pruning company. I ran that for ten years, became ill, sold it, reinvented it as a design/install business called The Gregarious Gardener. As such, I was invited to work for the City of Chicago. There I ran a program called GreenCorps Chicago, oversaw brownfield redevelopment project and ran Mayor Daley’s Landscape Awards Program. After that I became Senior Horticulturist for Chicago Botanic Garden. I started John Beaudry Landscape Design in 2003 in Chicago. After meeting the love of my life, I moved to San Francisco Bay for five years where I managed the landscape on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena in the SF Bay. All of my staff were either formerly incarcerated or had mental health issues. I have been working in San Diego since 2010. Here is a link to the first two chapters of my book. The first chapter tells my story of being infected with HIV in 1985 and how I discovered that, when my life felt out of control and I had no place to belong, it was my garden where I felt a sense of belonging and a connection to something larger than myself. And that gift is available to everyone. Ultimately, this is what I provide for my clients. The natural world is a complex system. Birds, butterflies, bees and a host of other fauna abound in this type of system. Plants link up underground with the aid of fungus. Most of these processes goes on beyond our notice. I work to restore this interconnected system so that when my clients come home from their busy lives, they can step out into their gardens to be unwound by the restorative benefits of the natural world. One cannot create this type of environment by simply planting a few bushes and throwing down some mulch. It takes careful observation and paying attention to details. I do not do this alone. I have a team that works together as a collaborative organism, much like nature itself.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
San Diego is so rich with things to do. My greatest joy besides my husband and my dog, Lila, is my own garden. Lila goes everywhere. I know where all the dog parks are. Every Friday we celebrate what we call Margarita Friday. We love to go to Baja Betty’s in Hillcrest for Margaritas and a very lively street scene. Be sure to eat outside, that’s where all the action is. Point Loma dog beach is another favorite. For special occasions we like Eddie V’s or Peohe’s. A trip to La Jolla to walk along the shore and a drop down to Black’s Beach would round out the day. Stay for the sunset!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have been inspired by many people. Perhaps my first inspiration was my childhood neighbor. I am including below a short story about her below that I wrote for the dedication for my book. I had the privilege of being Senior Horticulturist for the Chicago Botanic Garden. One of the gardens I managed there was the English Walled Garden. That garden was designed by the late John Brookes. Mr. Brookes was a garden designer who also taught others and owned a public garden in England. I spent two weeks on a guided tour of the history of garden design from its roots in England to contemporary gardens in France. Mr. Brookes taught me the importance of understanding the history of gardening and the need to give back in the fields where we excel. I continue to enjoy teaching horticulture and sharing the joy of working with plants today. My first book, Garden Sanctuary: Designing for Comfort, Wholeness, and Connection is a how-to garden design book that takes readers on a transformative journey of creating their own connection to nature. My neighbor, Mary Jane Mueller was a wiry woman who wasn’t afraid to get her hands in the dirt. She generally wore pants, always ready for work in the garden. She didn’t have a husband, so I suppose she did much of the work around the house herself, especially work in her garden, which wrapped around her patio. That garden was a mystery to me, full of intrigue. In my earliest years, I recall waiting for spring, when the plants, which had retreated into the earth for the long Midwest winter, began to sprout. As the days of spring grew longer, I voyaged to that garden to see if the plants had awakened from their sleep. Though Mary Jane’s garden was only next door, to me it seemed like a very long trek. Weaving my way up the gentle hill, through the shrubbery between the yards, I made my way to that magical place. Once at the garden, I would go to the places where, before the snow and cold had buried them, huge plants nearly as big as me, with long green and white leaves, had grown. I knew they were hiding now, deep inside the earth; I also knew they would be coming back soon. I watched for the purplish-red tips to peek out from the ground. And once those plants began to sprout, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the garden would return. I loved watching those tiny, fragile tips grow into the massive green giants I knew them to be. Mary Jane was patient with me and generous with her time. In the summer, when the garden was in its glory, I would ask her the names of the plants. But I could never remember them for long, so at my next visit, I’d have to ask again, and the next day, again. Mary Jane always answered with just as much patience and pride as the day before, as if it were the first time I asked. I now see that my early experiences in Mary Jane’s garden were the seeds of my passion for gardening, which has now become both my vocation and my avocation. It’s funny how certain threads weave their way through life. This morning, I ventured out to my vegetable garden to look for sprouts from the seeds I had recently planted. The spinach is up now. So are the radishes and scallions. No coriander or carrots yet. I’ll check back tomorrow to see who’s come up from the mysterious earth.
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