Bill Evans: A Legacy of Fantasy Landscapes

Sunset, May 1998 | Go to article overview

Bill Evans: A Legacy of Fantasy Landscapes


MORGAN "BILL" EVANS is internationally known as the landscape genius behind the Disney constellation of theme parks. For nearly 44 years, he has helped clothe the fantasies of Disney's talented designers with appropriate landscapes, be they simulated mangrove swamps for a jungle river, storm-battered conifers for the Matterhorn, or municipal cannas and geraniums for Main Street. Along the way he has learned how to create or move entire forests to meet the parks' changing needs. But to those who know him best, he is above all a dedicated plantsman, eager to seek out the newest and best and just as eager to maintain in cultivation choice plants that are in danger of being forgotten. "It's not only necessary to find new plants; you have to preserve the older ones," says Evans. "If they're not written up, they're not grown, and they disappear from the nursery trade." In the early 1920s, Bill's father, Hugh, established a remarkable garden on 3 1/2 acres in Santa Monica, California. The variety of plants he grew was so immense (and the volume of visitors so great) that Evans senior-with the help of sons Bill and Jackestablished a nursery, moved it to Brentwood, and took in a partner, Jack Reeves of the Beverly Hills Nursery. Thus was born the Evans and Reeves Nurseries, a treasure house of new and rare plants. The company slogan was "It's different."

A big break came when Walt Disney engaged Jack Evans to design his Bel Air garden in 1951. Pleased with his work, Disney sought both brothers out in 1954 to do the landscaping for Disneyland. …

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