Brian Sullivan started his career at Descanso Gardens with no experience. But after 18 years at the La Cañada Flintridge facility, he is moving on to a larger garden in New York City.
Sullivan will leave his role as Descanso's director of horticulture on Friday. On April 1, he will become vice president for landscape, gardens and outdoor collections at the New York Botanical Garden, a 250-acre site in the Bronx that was founded in 1891.
After living in California for more than 20 years ago, Sullivan said he never expected to leave. But the Boston native is ready to care for a new set of plants.
“I've really enjoyed myself,” he said, “and I look forward to the next chapter. I'll be working for a pretty amazing organization.”
Sullivan started at Descanso as a gardener. He worked his way up, gaining traction in the public garden world. In 2009, he won a Professional Development Scholarship from the Chanticleer Foundation, which houses a garden in Wayne, Pa. He was one of three experts selected to judge floats in Pasadena's 2013 Rose Parade.
Descanso Executive Director David Brown said he is sad to see Sullivan leave, but called his new position a “tremendous opportunity” that reflects well on Descanso.
Sullivan has a deep passion for his work, said Brown. “It wasn't a surprise to me that he would be a success in landing a position with a much larger and considerably more famous institution.”
Brown and Sullivan recently worked together on the Sturt Haaga Gallery, which stands near Descanso's Boddy House. Sullivan fondly remembered working on the gallery.
“It's so beautiful and it was so interesting to create a roof garden and a vertical garden,” said Sullivan. “That area needed it. It really helped Descanso become a better place.”
Sullivan said he will miss the La Cañada Flintridge garden.
“I really love this place,” he said. “I've watched it grow.”