Joseph’s passion for plants was part of his birthright. Born into a family with a horticultural tradition dating back to the 1700’s, Joseph comes from a long line of horticulturalists that put down roots in Lexington, Kentucky six generations ago. As he grew up, Joseph shadowed his father in the family nursery, taking up odd jobs and helping where he could. At six years old, Joseph’s parents built raised beds so he could experiment with his first gardens and stay out of their hair.

Although proud of his lineage, Joseph is not your traditional designer; he is primarily self-taught. It wasn’t until he spent time with renowned horticulturalist Don Shadow, of Tennessee’s Shadow Nursery, that his future in horticulture materialized. Joseph pieced together an esoteric education. After two years of college, Joseph left the academy to travel extensively throughout Europe, New Zealand, and Turkey. 

In New Zealand Joseph split his time between working as a gardener on a horse farm and working on a perennial nursery. In Turkey, Joseph spent a year at the Karaca Arboretum, a 33 acre sanctuary just south of Istanbul. During his two years abroad, Joseph began formulating his own design aesthetic, emphasizing the connection between the natural world and the built environment of the garden and home. 

Joseph returned to Lexington in 2001 and hit the ground running, managing a garden center and beginning his work on landscape design. Focused on creating timeless yet innovative gardens for his clients, Joseph began sourcing plant material locally and nationwide, forming strong relationships in the horticulture industry. 

Joseph refocused his passion and moved onto his first landscaping company. Within nine years, Joseph became one of the South’s youngest and most sought-after designers. In 2013 Joseph reinvented his business again, leaving the traditional landscaping industry and creating Joseph Hillenmeyer Garden Design, a firm focused on design, acquisition and management. 

Continuing to live up to the long history of the Hillenmeyer name in horticulture, Joseph recently acquired and rebranded the Hilllenmeyer Christmas Shop, a booming holiday business lifestyle magazine, Garden and Gun, calls, “part workshop, part plant nursery, and completely charming.” 

For Joseph, landscape design is the perfect combination of his two passions: science and art. During the same year he received the David E. Laird Award, an honor bestowed by the Southern Nurserymen’s Association to the South’s top horticulturist under 40. He hasn’t looked back since.