Joseph Hillenmeyer is a sixth generation horticulturalist based in the bluegrass region of Kentucky. His family’s love for plants is historic, beginning in 19th century France and Germany. Francis Xavier Hillenmeyer, Joseph’s great-great-great grandfather, first came to the United States in 1838 to fight in the Mexican-American War alongside Sam Houston. He earned a land grant in newly independent Texas, but slowly migrated north away from the heat and the mosquitos, planting gardens along his path that still stand today. After acquiring a new plot of land in Kentucky, Francis returned to Europe to marry his fiance and sail her back, on a boat weighed down with Francis’s extensive plant collection, to their new home in the bluegrass.
Joseph grew up under the legacy of Francis, which lived on through the myriad of nurseries, garden centers, and seasonal shops built throughout the generations. Each addition enhanced the landscape and horticultural history of Lexington. Yet from ` early age, Joseph did not follow a traditional path into the family business. Carving out his own, unique way into the horticulture industry, Joseph began his education as an apprentice under Don Shadow, of Shadow Nurseries in Tennessee. Two years in academia followed before Joseph left university behind to trace Francis’s footsteps of exploration. Joseph built his foundation in landscape design by traveling through the classic gardens of Europe. In New Zealand, Joseph split his time between work as a gardener on a horse farm and work as a gardener on a perennial nursery. After, Joseph spent a year in Turkey, working on the 33 acres of Karaca Arboretum just south of Istanbul.
Joseph returned home with newly alighted passions and his own burgeoning design aesthetic. His travels instilled an appreciation for fine art, a belief in experimentation, and a design philosophy sophisticated in style and inspired by the natural world. Initially, he set to work rebuilding and rebranding a family garden center. Joseph’s work at the garden center helped him launch his career. He formed relationships with horticulturalists nationwide as he began traveling to source plant material, guide trainings, and speak at industry events. Joseph’s design expertise quickly outgrew the garden center and his subsequent landscaping company, and in 2013 he reinvented his firm as Joseph Hillenmeyer Garden Design. For Joseph, landscape design has consistently provided the perfect combination of his two passions: science and art. Joseph expertly merges tradition with innovation, and the gardens he curates become timeless works of art.
Joseph has continued to be a landmark voice in the industry. With over fifteen years of professional design work under his belt, Joseph’s reputation as a self-educated and highly driven designer have cemented his important work in horticulture. For over a decade, Joseph enthusiastically gave back to his industry, serving on the Management Committee for the American Nursery and Landscape Association, as well as the boards of the National Landscape Association, the Kentucky Nursery and Landscape Association, and the Bluegrass Historic Trust Foundation. He was recognized as a “Legacy Landscaper” in lifestyle magazine, Garden and Gun, and his work has been featured in Southern Living, Landscape Management, and Keeneland Magazine. His expertise was recognized in 2013 when he received the David E. Laird Award, presented by the Southern Nurserymen’s Association to the South’s top horticulturist under 40.