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Women’s Speaker Series | Women of Filoli’s Horticulture

March 23, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


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Hosted by Haley O’Connor

Formal Garden Manager

Haley began as Filoli’s new Formal Garden Manager in November 2020.  Before coming to Filoli, she was on the horticulture team at the Presidio.  Having a biologist father and poet mother, “ I think their equal influence of nature and humanity birthed a horticulturist.”  What excites Haley in horticulture today is seeing the field reflecting more ecologically progressive designs and practices. Being a woman in horticulture hasn’t always been easy for Haley and she’s had to deal with her fair share of mansplaining but has also had amazingly supportive teachers, mentors, and peers.

Gillian Johnson

Formal Garden Lead Horticulturist

Gillian first came to Filoli as a garden intern in 2015. After one more year to complete her plant science degree at CalPoly, where she also worked at the campus arboretum, she was hired onto Filoli’s horticulture staff. Drawn to horticulture through her love of the natural world, the desire to work outside made the decision to work in horticulture and easy one. Asked what excites her most about working in the field she noted, “I get to work at a beautiful place and see things grow and change over the seasons.”

Louise Webster

Formal Garden Lead Horticulturist

After moving to Hawaii, Louise was entranced by the beautiful flora around her and started to experiment with propagating plants and growing food. This led her on a journey to begin a career in horticulture: the beauty and mystery of plants in the landscape sparked a fire in her, a curiosity to gain more knowledge in order to get closer to the plants themselves. She started in organic agriculture, then got into caretaking properties, and then went to school for horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden, which included an internship at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai. Louise joined Filoli as a lead horticulturist in 2019. The art of aesthetic pruning very much fits into her horticulture passions: the marriage of artistic beauty with functional utility. The more she works in horticulture and the more she learns about plants, the greater her curiosity becomes. Louise says, “It feels like an endless mystery unraveling, and the more I find out, the more I want to investigate and learn.”

Leslie Freitas

Formal Garden Horticulturist

Leslie is drawn to the incredible diversity of plant uses from fibers and food to sound barriers and beautification. Leslie was drawn to Horticulture because she started out as an art major and was interested in the idea of designing with plants. Prior to being hired onto the staff in 2019, Leslie completed a six-month apprenticeship in 2018. But Filoli’s apprenticeship was by far not her only experience in horticulture! Leslie also completed year-long internships at both Longwood Gardens and the Indianapolis Museum of Art (now called Newfields), and also worked at Temple Square in Salt Lake City while studying at the Utah State University. Part of Leslie’s work at Filoli includes assisting in plant collections. When asked what gets Leslie excited about horticulture today, she responded, “I get excited about learning plant stories, where they originally grow, what they’ve been used for, who discovered them or why they got their names. Each new one feels like a new friend.”

Olivia McCandless

Production Horticulturist

Growing up in the Bay Area, Olivia was attracted to horticulture through countless hours spent visiting public gardens in San Francisco and the East Bay. She was inspired to pursue the field formally after spending two weeks of every summer on her aunt’s farm in upstate New York. It was there that she learned how to grow vegetables and raise animals; the time she spent there learning and reflecting, paved the way for where she is today. Before coming to Filoli she graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Agricultural Sciences and interned at Jewell Gardens in Skagway, Alaska in the summer. On the heels of interning at Filoli she was the Sustainable Plant Health Care Intern at Ganna Walska Lotusland in the summer of 2018. Olivia interned in spring 2018 and joined the staff in 2019. Asked what excites her the most about horticulture today, Oliva replied, “… the opportunity to create spaces of healing and empowerment for all women.”

Lisa Griffin

Production Horticulturist

Both of Lisa’s parents were avid gardeners, and in fact, both sets of great grandparents were farmers, so she believes she has horticulture in her genes.  Being lucky to grow up with a yard and gardening alongside her parents, and learning in middle school about the achievements of Luther Burbank were two important factors that led her to want to study horticulture. While attending Oregon State University, Lisa was a member of the horticulture club, which changed her life, “Initially, I was focused on becoming a professional gardener, but the experiences at the club, especially winning a Bromeliad during a raffle and being co-chair of the houseplant committee, introduced me to tropical plants and greenhouse production.  My college education shifted away from gardening and became focused on production in greenhouses and nursery environments.”  Lisa interned at both the Smithsonian Institute and the National Zoo during university.  After working as a wholesale greenhouse grower, Lisa landed on Filoli’s horticulture team in 2001. Lisa appreciates the variety of work available in horticulture and the positive effects it can have on people and the environment from rooftop gardens, vertical wall gardens, rainwater swales and many others

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March 23, 2021
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
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