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New Descanso Gardens director already has park roots

Rachel Young has worked on the grounds of Descanso Gardens for six years.

August 01, 2013|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • Rachel Young, director of horticulture and garden operations, in front of a lake that was inaccessible to the public for decades at Descanso Gardens on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. She has been named director of horticulture and garden operations, taking over for high-profile former Descanso horticulturist Brian Sullivan, who left this year after serving as a Rose Parade float judge.
Rachel Young, director of horticulture and garden operations,… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

With the departure of head horticulturalist Brian Sullivan in March, Descanso Gardens officials were left with some pretty big garden gloves to fill.

But they didn't have to look far to find the right fit.

Rachel Young, who for the past six years has managed various patches within Descanso's expansive grounds, was named director of horticulture and garden operations last month.

Sullivan, who served as one of three float judges for the 2013 Rose Parade before leaving La Cañada Flintridge in April for an executive post with the New York Botanical Garden, had started out 18 years earlier as a gardener at Descanso.

Young, 33, started at Descanso as an intern while completing her master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA.

The native of Pittsburgh, Penn., "just fell in love with the place," she said, and decided to stick around for the long haul.

For Young, Descanso's diverse landscape fits with her affinity for oaks while also satisfying a self-described "obsession" with plants around the world.

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But the job also offers a unique opportunity to inspire love of nature among urban dwellers within the urban sprawl of Greater Los Angeles, she said.

"Most of my [professional] goals are for this place. I definitely feel it can make a difference in terms of public green space," said Young. "Public gardens are becoming one of the first places [urban youth] see nature and wildlife. We're seeing more visitors but also seeing we have to educate them more. You'd be surprised how many kids come here and get excited to see a squirrel."

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Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.

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