Excerpted from our Society of Fellows e-newsletter, June 2016
The gardens of landscape architect and Fellow John Troy have graced the pages of Garden Design, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and Architectural Digest, and have been featured in countless publications, all of which showcase his talent for blending the unique styles of his clients with the natural beauty of San Antonio. It might be somewhat surprising, then, that John had nearly completed a pre-med program before his true passion for garden design emerged.
Already pursuing a minor in fine arts, John decided to focus on design after realizing that he “didn’t want to make other people’s health decisions; I wanted to help them make artistic decisions,” he says. After earning a B.A. in Biology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, he decided to pursue a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan.
Today, John is president of the San Antonio Botanical Garden, after having served on its board for nearly three decades. He is overseeing a master plan—in the making for over twenty years—to make the garden an invaluable community resource. “The garden’s mission is to connect people with the world of plants and that’s my personal mission as well,” he says.
Expansion plans include a parking garden with bio-swales; new welcome/discovery complex with classrooms, gift shop, and offices; a one-acre culinary garden complete with outdoor teaching kitchen and shaded pavilion for interactive cooking classes and events – all aimed at encouraging healthy eating and bringing people closer to their food sources. A two-and-one-half-acre multi-generational family adventure garden will engage children in nature play and ensure that hands-on nature experiences cultivate environmental stewardship.
Since 1981, John has also helped countless local residents turn their outdoor spaces into stunning natural landscapes. He explains that his passion for working on residential gardens stems from his love of working with people, as well as being inspired in his childhood by his mother's beautiful garden.
Before moving to San Antonio, John spent six years at West Virginia University teaching history of landscape architecture, introductory design, and site construction. In 1980, he received an Outstanding Educator award from the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. In 1989, the Texas Agricultural Extension Service of Texas A&M recognized him for Outstanding Leadership, and he recently received the Texas Chapter of the ASLA 2016 Community Service Award.
John and his wife, Alice, joined our Society of Fellows in 2008. He says that “the Garden Conservancy has helped to open my eyes to some of the best gardens in America.” Two of the residential gardens he’s designed in San Antonio have been featured during Garden Conservancy Open Days, and three have been opened for special Fellows tours — programs John is thrilled to be a part of because they “educate the general public about the importance of gardens while teaching them to appreciate the beauty of nature."
Several years ago at a Garden Conservancy educational program in Golden Gate Park, John met Christy Ten Eyck after she gave a presentation on water-wise gardening; John then recommended her to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, and now her firm, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, is designing the current expansion project.
Does someone who spends so much time giving back to his community have time for himself? John says he still makes time to garden and, while he admits that his personal garden is modest, he is nonetheless passionate about it. His front garden is full of mixed perennials in what he describes as "controlled chaos," balanced by a serene back garden containing layers of greenery and rounded shrubs that show off John's other passion, bonsai.