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Growing Together: Beasley’s Plans for Education and Growth at the Botanic Garden

“It is simply a beautiful garden with a passionate staff and a steadily growing audience.” Those are the words of Todd Beasley, Ed.D., the new director of Georgia Southern University’s Botanic Garden. And he has a lot of ideas on how to build on the legacy left by his predecessor, Carolyn Altman, who retired in August 2023 after 16 years at the Botanic Garden.

This isn’t Beasley’s first foray into botanic garden life, and there are a lot of important and necessary changes coming to the beloved space.

“Aside from always bringing in the plant side within my education postings, I worked at three other botanical gardens,” says Beasley.

Those postings were at: Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens in Columbia, SC, where he was the nursery and greenhouse manager; San Antonio Botanical Garden, where he served as the director of programs; and Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, NC, where he was the director of horticulture and facilities. It was this love and passion for plants that made him focus on ways to spread that appreciation through his education and career, which has always revolved around horticulture.

Botanic Garden Director Todd Beasley, EdD, discusses salvage plans for plants student workers are relocating.
Botanic Garden Director Todd Beasley, EdD, discusses salvage plans for plants student workers are relocating.

“I’ve been in and out of education and public gardens,” says Beasley. “I have a Masters in earth and environmental resource management and a doctorate in education, both from the University of South Carolina. I taught fifth grade for 10 years and had a thriving school garden. I also taught horticulture continuing ed courses in the evening while running my own garden design company. I’ve managed a retail garden center and consulted at two major public gardens. I also taught at the University of South Carolina in the College of Education as a Clinical Assistant Professor.”

Beasley has been a fan of the Garden since the early 90s.

“I knew this garden in the early 90s when I had a trial year of college at GSU,” he jokes.

With a change at the helm comes a change in directions, but it’s not much different for Beasley. He wants to normalize horticulture.

“By that I mean to have aspects of educating the public in all areas that we do from our displays to our written message. We are planning to open on Saturdays beginning March 22, 2025. Our large, signature project that we are planning a campaign around is a conservatory style education and event structure with an experimental teaching kitchen to connect to GSU and Statesboro’s past as a largely agricultural area while connecting to the present and future with small niche agriculture, healthy eating, and the loss of valuable farmland to development.”

Part of the journey will involve improving visibility along the road, having more educational and experiential offerings, and providing the takeaway that people need in order to realize the magical place that the Garden is.

“That can be started on a smaller scale at their own homes, from small patio gardens to large acreage,” says Beasley. “We are brainstorming a new model for the famously past wine tasting event as well as future adult and family opportunities including a date night.”

Part of that model is a new conservatory event and educational space for year-round teaching, complete with a kitchen area. Look out for some social media chatter for this initiative soon. On October 3, there will be a cocktail hour event to launch the giving campaign.

Another idea taking shape is change to the pollinator garden. It will be revitalized to not only be active in the winter but to be a revenue-generating space. Pollinators play a significant role in the environment, and the Garden will aim to help them do their job with a specifically designed area that will make it easy for them to thrive year-round.

Another initiative Beasley is putting together is obtaining a true production greenhouse.

“This would be an educational-institutional model to allow growing all year long for continuous sales and support of plantings in the garden,” he explains. “This would be a mostly student and volunteer initiative that would also allow for some research.”

If that sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry. Beasley started his career off managing four production houses on a nursery that sat on a single acre plot.

Also of note is that starting in March 2025, the Garden will be open on Saturdays.

Events are still going on in the Garden. The next event taking place at the Garden is another Gather & Grow (formerly called Lunch & Learn). High school student Xavier Deckard will present his state fair project, titled “Hot-scapes, Cool Solutions.” It will dive into the effect of urban and suburban landscaping practices on surface temperature and soil characteristics. Taking place on May 23 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., register by clicking here.

Discover the captivating beauty of the Georgia Southern University Botanic Garden, spanning 11 acres of enchanting landscapes rooted in Statesboro, GA. Wander through winding trails and serene courtyards to uncover the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Southeastern Coastal Plain, where native and heritage plants thrive alongside protected species. From the intricate beauty of pitcher plants to the towering longleaf pines and fragrant confederate jasmine, every corner offers a glimpse into the region’s resilience and ingenuity. Explore woodland trails, native azalea collections, and heritage gardens, or immerse yourself in the Garden’s role as a hub for research and education, offering programs, projects, and internships for students and the community alike. Whether embracing the past, marveling at the present, or learning for the future, the Botanic Garden invites you to experience the wonders of Georgia’s natural world in a single, captivating setting.

Last updated: 5/1/2024