About Gardens by Joan

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Our team is a group of professional designers, certified horticuluralists, and gardeners with an extended family of skilled carpenters, masons, and irrigation specialists.


Joan McDonald began her fantastic journey into horticulture in 1997 when she started volunteering at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There she operated the Plant Discovery Carts, designed for children and families to learn more about plants and science through sensory experiences. In 1998, the Garden re-opened its Gardener’s Resource Center which provides reference services to home gardeners, staff, and the professional horticultural community. It also is the home of the Gardener’s Help Line which answers questions by phone and e-mail. Joan began volunteering there also as she is an enthusiastic reader and researcher. She was hired on staff as Plant Information Specialist in 1999, soon to be promoted to Assistant Manager and then Manager in 2001. She ran the Gardener’s Resource Center from 2001 to 2003.

In 1998, Joan completed the Certificate in Horticulture at BBG and became a certified horticulturist. Also at that time she founded Gardens by Joan, a garden design, installation and maintenance company.

In the summer of 2000, Joan created, in collaboration with her colleague, James Russell, a curriculum and workbook for a garden design course entitled Your Garden Tutorial, which is a popular class at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It is designed to help the homeowner design the gardens of their dreams.

Continuing to volunteer at BBG is important to Joan. After being active  as an officer and then President of the BBG Auxiliary, an enhanced volunteer experience, Joan now co-chairs the Annual Plant Sale, a major friend- and fund-raiser for the Garden.

The study of the native plants and animals in the creek nearby her childhood home in Falls Church, Virginia, turned Joan into an avid naturalist. She is particularly fond of native plants, wildflowers, and birds, which is often reflected in her garden design. She studied the fine arts in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. and was a successful multimedia producer and designer for 20 years in both Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Leaving Manhattan for the greener pastures of Brooklyn in 1991, Joan happily tends a wildlife garden with her husband, Steven, and menagerie of cats in Gravesend, Brooklyn and upstate New York.

In addition to her garden writing, Joan also lectures and gives workshops on various horticultural topics throughout the NY Metropolitan area and is a member of many conservationist and horticultural groups.

 The Team


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