Santa Barbara Independent: Bruce Reed

Santa Barbara Independent interviews Bruce Reed, Garden Horticulturist. Read the full Independent article.

May 11, 2017

Tyler Hayden

Bruce Reed

Horticulturalist // Santa Barbara Botanic Garden // 17 Years


What was the scariest thing about your job when you first started? Giving incorrect information, which I’m sorry to say, I probably have done in the past. Early on, I changed my thinking about being very clear with guests about what I think I know and what I actually know. I take pains to explain to the public what I’m certain of ​— ​what I’ve read or taken from my own observations ​— ​versus what are my hypotheses.

Bruce Reed, Horticulturalist at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden photo by Paul Wellman

What did you like best when you began? What do you like best now? One of the things I enjoyed most in the beginning was working with the volunteers. They’re a great group of people. Many are retired folks, but they’re also all ages, and there’s a story behind each one of them. Nowadays, I really enjoy communicating information about native plants to the public.

What personality type best thrives in this position? Plants are creatures that require patience and tenacity to observe. Type A personalities might have a harder time. You need the focus to stay with the plant and watch it grow and change to find what happens when you water it this much or give it that much light. That might take days or weeks to find out.

What would others find surprising about your job? That there aren’t simple answers for why a plant does or doesn’t grow. It’s a very complex equation of factors, and there’s quite a lot we still don’t know about why plants do what they do. When people come into the retail nursery asking questions, they often assume I can give them easy answers. When the conversations get longer, sometimes they’re surprised.

Bruce Reed, Horticulturalist at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden photo by Paul Wellman

What are the formal education or background experiences required for your job? There’s not a lot of formal education required. I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve kept my ears open, and I keep learning. Even before I started working in the horticulture field, I was reading about plants. Many people get a degree in horticulture, but that’s not the path I chose. I’m really lucky to be in the milieu that I am here at the garden. There are so many people I can rub up against and absorb information from. And I’m really lucky to have taken classes from Bob Haller when he was still teaching classes here.