CareerNext Summit 2017 | "The Southern Public Garden" with Tom Johnson, Mary-Ann Johnson & Herb Frazier
The Southern Public Garden
Session Description coming soon!
Tom Johnson is a lifelong horticulturist whose penchant for sharing horticulture with his professional colleagues and friends has taken him to Europe and Caribbean. Tom’s love of working with plants developed in his youth on a middle-Georgia truck farm. As a member of the Future Farmers of America in high school, Tom oversaw the redesign of downtown Perry, Georgia. The landscaping project won for the city a prestigious national award. At age 16, Tom went to work for a local garden center and landscaping company. After high school, he attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College where he majored in plant propagation. In 1985, when President Jimmy Carter began building his presidential library in Atlanta, he enlisted Tom to help oversee the building of the gardens. That experience lead to Tom being selected for the design team for the construction of the Evan Allen III Pavilion and the Cecil B. Day Chapel. During the development of the Carter Center Gardens, Tom apprenticed for five years under world-renowned Japanese architect Kinsako Nakane. Tom is among a handful of Americans to have had this opportunity. Later, Tom worked with Shiro Nakane, Kinsako’s son. After a decade at the Carter Presidential Center, Tom returned to middle Georgia as the national horticulturist with the American Camellia Society. For the next eight years, he managed the society’s camellia collection at Massee Lane Gardens, the society’s national headquarters. In that role, Tom traveled the “Southern camellia belt” advising garden and camellia growers on cultural and propagation issues. He also gave camellia lectures and passionately advocated for a need to preserve older varieties. While at Massee Lane, Tom was approached by John Drayton Hastie Jr., one of the owners of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston. Hastie had attended one of Tom’s lectures. Tom’s presentation was not limited to the preservation of older azaleas and camellias. He also shared his affection for romantic-style gardens. Hastie was so impressed that he pursued Tom for the next several years, finally convincing him to become Magnolia’s executive director. At Magnolia, Tom’s responsibilities include the restoration of America’s oldest romantic-style garden. Tom is charged with returning Magnolia to the vision the Rev. John Grimké Drayton had when he designed the gardens for his homesick bride in the mid-1800s. This project launched Tom on a worldwide search for azalea and camellia varieties that predate the 1900s. It also spurred him to share his gardening expertise with colleagues in Belgium, France, Barbados and Cuba.
Tom’s association with some of the world’s greatest gardeners and horticulturists has been fruitful for Magnolia. The gardens have garnished the honor of being the first garden in America approved to receive interns from Versailles’ school of landscape design in Paris. Magnolia also took the lead in the creation of the Great Gardens of America Preservation Alliance, a group of gardens, colleges and individuals interested in the preservation of older varieties of azaleas and camellias. Tom is a sought-after speaker across the South. He uses his Southern charm and humor to promote the preservation of azalea and camellia collections around the world. When Tom is asked about his mission at Magnolia, he states simply: “Magnolia is a grand old lady. My job is to shine her shoes, dress her in some new robes, and get her ready for the thousands of suitors that come calling each year. I can think of no better place to finish my career.”
Mary Ann Johnson
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Mary Ann Johnson is the director of operations and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina. At Magnolia, Mrs. Johnson is responsible for overseeing the daily scheduling and operating of the tours at Magnolia to maintain the highest standard so that visitors leave with a memorable experience and staff members are able to meet their needs and expectations. Before joining Magnolia in 2007, Mrs. Johnson was the floraculturalist at the Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta, Georgia. For four years at the Carter Center, she supervised the selection and care of the exterior color, the pruning and care of the Japanese Garden, interiorscape of the center and arranged floral designed for President and Mrs. Carter for events that attracted national and international guests. Prior to the Carter Center, Mrs. Johnson was the interiorscape site manager at the Coca-Cola Co. headquarters in Atlanta. In this position she designed and selected interior plants for the five-building company complex. For five years before joining the Carter Center in 1989, Mrs. Johnson was an entrepreneur. Her company, Talents, designed floral arrangements for specials events, including weddings and commercial and residential clients. In the late 1970s, Mrs. Johnson’s floral career began by accident. When she decorated her home in Cobb County, Ga., with floral arrangements, her friends where impressed with her creativity and encouraged her to pursue a career in design. Her first big break came in 1978 when the executive director of Avon Products saw her work and contact her to provide floral arrangements for their company’s special events. Among her interest is designing with tropical plant material for interior spaces. She was initially hired at Magnolia to re-design the Barbados Garden, which is currently called The Conservatory. Among her numerous awards and honors in juried competitions, Mrs. Johnson received an award in 2006 for a whimsical garden entry in the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta, an annual garden design competition.
Mrs. Johnson's entry in the annual Festival of Trees, sponsored the Scottish Rites Children’s Hospital in Atlanta to raise money for the hospital, received a second-place award in 1997 from among 379 designers who submitted entries.
Public Relations and Marketing Manager, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Herb Frazier is the public relations and marketing manager at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Before he joined Magnolia in November 2010, Frazier edited and reported for five daily newspapers in the South, including his hometown paper, The Post and Courier. In 1990, the South Carolina Press Association named him Journalist of the Year. He has taught newswriting as a visiting lecturer at Rhodes University in South Africa. He is a former Michigan Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. Since leaving daily journalism in 2006, Frazier has led journalism workshops in Sierra Leone, Zambia, Ghana, Suriname, Guyana and The Gambia for the U.S. government and a Washington-based journalism foundation. His international reporting experience includes West Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall, humanitarian relief efforts in Bosnia and Rwanda during its post-genocide. He also reported on the conflict in Sierra Leone. While he was in Sierra Leone, Frazier wrote about the historical ties with West Africa and coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Frazier is a member of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, which advocates for the preservation of Gullah Geechee cultural along the coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Frazier is the author of “Behind God’s Back: Gullah Memories.” He is also co-author of “We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel.” His forthcoming book, “Crossing the Sea on a Sacred Song,” is the story of an African funeral song that links a woman in Georgia with a woman in Sierra Leone.
"In the fast-past world in which we live in we provide our guests with a tranquil setting in which they can forget the troubles of the modern world. But to do so, we have to plan ahead and be nibble on our feet to meet the unexpected challenges of managing a public garden. As a public relations and marketing practitioner I have to think of all of the possible ways available to reach the public to tell the story of America’s oldest garden."
Books Published: We Are Charleston, Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel, Co-Author of Behinf God's Back, Gullah Memories