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New Botanic Garden director honors past, looks to future
Local connections, rare plants bring Todd Beasley to Statesboro
Botanic Garden director Todd Beasley
Seen through the branches of a blooming redbud tree, new Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University director Todd Beasley takes a stroll while assessing the current status of the grounds. (SCOTT BRYANT/staff)

The Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University welcomes Dr. Todd Beasley into the role of director. Beasley, 48, has deep roots in Statesboro and said he is excited to be able to bring new educational opportunities and programs to the Gardens.

The Garden encompasses more than 11 acres of cultivated grounds situated on the early 20th-century farmstead once owned by Dan and Catharine Bland. 

"Honestly, many people do not know what a botanic or botanical garden is, and we have to start with that to say we are a living museum, or a collection of living plants in a collection of gardens that serves to provide the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations and experiences to connect with plants that are embedded and directly connected to all cultures and subcultures,"Beasley said.

With the hiring of Beasley, the Botanic Garden is gaining a well-experienced horticulturist who has a Master's degree in Earth and Environmental Resource Management and a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) and is a former Clinical Professor in Education at the University of South Carolina. 

Beasley has also been the director and/or manager at a variety of other locations, including serving as the Nursery and Production manager at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden located in Columbia, S.C.; director of Programs at the San Antonio Botanical Garden; and director of Horticulture and Facilities at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. 

"(I) taught continuing ed courses in landscape design, greenhouse management, and annuals/perennials for over a decade in Columbia (South Carolina) at Midlands Technical College," he said, "(and) taught fifth grade for 10 years and had a nationally recognized youth gardening program that was recognized by the American Horticultural Society as they hosted the 2016 National Children and Youth Garden Symposium in Columbia — I wrote the proposal. I also co-wrote the proposal for Knoxville to host in 2023." 

Botanic Garden director Todd Beasley
New Botanic Garden director Todd Beasley, left, talks to student worker AJ Anderson about a garden project. (SCOTT BRYANT/staff)

Beasley and his wife, Amy Allen, reside in Columbia, and he commutes weekly to Statesboro. Doing so allows his wife to remain in a position she is passionate about, working in the local history department of the Richland County Library system's main location. 

Both husband and wife are passionate about their professions. Not only is Beasley currently serving as director of the Botanic Gardens, but he also owns a public garden consulting firm. Primitive by Design does high-end, sustainable garden design and owns the trademarked Hortication, which he describes as "a botanically inspired traveling exhibit company that provides to public gardens."

Family ties

Family ties and history in the community made the decision for Beasley to take on the Georgia Southern Botanic Garden director's role an easy one.

"My father, James Prather Beasley, was born and raised in Statesboro, living off College Street. ... My Grandma Lucille (Black) Young was also from Statesboro and passed away in June at the wonderful age of 99," Beasley said. "My cousin, Jan Tankersley, still resides nearby in Brooklet. Jan has been wonderful in wanting to help connect me and be a supporter for the Garden."

His oldest sister also attended Georgia Southern, and Beasley had his freshman year of college at GS before transferring to the University of South Carolina. 

The Botanic Garden has long been a destination for school field trips for area schools, but there are many things that the Garden boasts that are not well known to the community at large, including a selection of some endangered species of plants.

"There is a rare plant collection with a focus on plants that exist in Bulloch County," Beasley said. "People that know plants are becoming an endangered species; therefore, we serve many STEAM-related professions and are not just a collection of plants for enjoyment."

Because of the combination of Beasley's educational background and his love for plants, his reasoning for taking the job is more than just that. He wants to continue the work that has been poured into the gardens by his predecessor. 

Building on the legacy of Carolyn Altman

"The Garden is in absolutely wonderful physical shape thanks to the staff and recently retired director Carolyn Altman," Beasley said. "It is a great opportunity for the university to capitalize on through what I want to do to really elevate different social and physical science research in the garden, celebrate student work as an exhibit venue, provide an experiential opportunity for students and enhance this connection of people and plants that we have lost."

A variety of events have already been taking place at the gardens over the years such as weddings, and Beasley said that the plant sales and the Lunch and Learn series "Gather and Grow" will be continuing along with plans for more future events to include adult and family learning opportunities. 

Beasley is excited about the possibilities he can bring to the gardens and said that he looks forward to "the opportunity to utilize all of my skills and experiences to push to elevate an already wonderful place by bringing in new elements that have been successful across the country." 

Already in the works are new Saturday hours beginning in spring 2025. He is also working toward future event elevation during the Garden's down times — the hot Georgia summers and chilly winters. He hopes to be able to add a conservatory-style event venue. 

"Another fun element is the possibility for an experimental teaching kitchen to connect from the farm to the table in fun ways for programs and events. We also are hopeful to acquire a production greenhouse to grow the vast majority of our plant needs," said Beasley of other plans. 

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