DEL MAR — Master gardener and horticulturist William Henry “Bill” Teague died Sept. 29 in his home in Del Mar. Teague, who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2009, was 66 years old. Teague, who had lived in Del Mar with his wife of nearly 50 years, Linda, since 1978, was known both in San Diego and in the horticultural world, for his natural and environmentally sensitive landscape designs and for generously donating his time to design public gardens and landscapes.
Teague once remarked that his goal in life was to make the world a more beautiful place, and this he most assuredly accomplished, said Sally Sandler, a personal friend of Teague’s who worked with him as docent at the San Diego Botanic Garden.
“During his tenure as a horticulturist at the San Diego Botanic Garden, Teague was personally responsible for bringing most of the beauty to the botanical. In recent years, he contributed to the Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden, Undersea Succulent Garden, Hamilton Children’s Garden, Landscaping for Fire Safety Garden, Succulent Display Garden, and the newly remodeled African Bank Garden,” Sally recalled.
“A modern day Johnny Appleseed, Teague filled his truck to the brim with favorite plants, cuttings and seeds to share with friends and clients. Several of the most unique and bullet-proof plants in our gardens today were introduced in this area or propagated and promoted by Bill Teague, including succulents like Calandrinia grandiflora and Othonna capensis. There is even a bamboo hybrid that bears his name. Not the least of his passions was teaching. Teague generously and patiently gave his time to inspiring others and sharing his immense plant knowledge. He continued to conduct garden tours and talks until within a month of his passing.”
Teague was born May 2, 1944 in Palo Alto and raised in Corona. His great-grandparents laid the foundation for citrus production in Corona with the Jameson Citrus company. In 1967, Teague graduated from Cal Poly University Pomona with a bachelor of science degree in Ornamental Horticulture. He then spent a long and successful career — 33 years — as a protea and eucalyptus grower in North County, where he was one of the early commercial floriculturists specializing in protea and Australian flowers. Teague retired as a commercial grower approximately a decade ago, and began working as a horticulturist at what was then the Quail Botanical Gardens. At this time, he also began to design private gardens and donate many hours of time and expertise for public landscaping and garden projects. He often collaborated with the Del Mar Garden Club, resulting in the Del Mar Post Office garden, the landscaped median across from the Del Mar Fairgrounds, just to name a few. For the last several years, Teague designed numerous award-winning gardens for both the San Diego Horticultural Society and Quail Gardens at the annual Del Mar Fair.
In spite of his advanced ALS, which confined him to a wheelchair, Teague continued to consult with others and offer his landscape advice (always free) up until the very end of his life. In fact, according to his wife, Linda, Teague’s last day was most fitting: he died on the way home from a trip to the San Diego Botanic Garden to show his daughter, Susan, one of his recent landscape creations.
“Bill Teague has had a very important and lasting impact on this garden, which began with his having helped establish the American Bamboo Society at Quail Botanical Gardens in the late 1970s,” said Julian Duval, president of the San Diego Botanic Garden. “His ability as a plantsman and garden designer and how he was able to share this and develop these talents in other people will clearly live on forever. He will be so terribly missed not only for his amazing talent but also for the welcoming and unique and gentle manner he expressed to all. Also never one to permit —let alone tolerate— the recognition he so rightly deserved, it will be impossible for anyone to recount his many accomplishments.”
A Celebration of Teague’s life is planned for Nov. 14 at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. For more information, call (760) 436-3036. A service is also planned for the Del Mar community at Del Mar Powerhouse Park. In lieu of flowers, the Teague family suggests donations to: San Diego Botanic Garden, Bill Teague Garden Fund, P.O. Box 230005, Encinitas, CA 92023; Friends of Powerhouse Park, P.O. Box 297, Del Mar, CA 92014; or the ALS Association.
In addition to his wife, Linda, Teague is survived by his sister Mari Lynn Teague of Corona; his son Christopher Teague and wife Marilyn of Irvine; his daughter Susan and husband Michael Bergevin of Tustin; and grandchildren, Katie, Cassady, and Kevin.
Teague loved plants so much that this was even reflected in his choice of a mate. Like Teague, Linda holds a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from Cal Poly and was a founding member of the Del Mar Garden Club. Teague and Linda opened their unique and eclectic garden to several garden tours to raise money for public landscape projects. “Teague was a naturalist and a plants man in the truest sense of the word,” said fellow Del Mar gardener and author Pat Welsh. “His passion for the natural world can be seen in countless gardens throughout San Diego County. He so loved landscape design, he often joked he would ‘pay people to let him design their gardens.’ Teague favored the natural look as opposed to more formal designs, but could bring magic and something new and unique to both. Key elements of a Bill Teague design are year-round color, expertly placed boulders, and varied elevations. His design aesthetic was also informed by the travels that he and especially his artist/floral designer wife Linda made to Japan.”
Welsh and other Teague friends and neighbors recall the days before Teague became ill, when he would rise before dawn and — while most folks were still asleep —drive around the neighborhood, depositing well-chosen plants in public landscapes and medians throughout Del Mar, without charge or fanfare. Many people who saw Teague unloading plants from his familiar gray van and sticking them in the ground didn’t have the vaguest idea who he was. At the Del Mar Post Office garden, members of the Del Mar Garden Club would weed out a patch of earth on a Tuesday morning and by Wednesday morning, as if by magic, it would be filled again with an excellent choice of new plants — all freely chosen, donated, and planted by Teague. More often than not, he would discover new and exceptional plants that few people knew about. He would plant and promote them so that eventually they became widely used.
“Teague liked doing his good deeds secretly and then driving away unseen like the good angel he was,” said Welsh. “He did not care for any kind of thanks or publicity. I can imagine that now he will be one of Heaven’s best new angels since he already was well-practiced at doing good deeds in secret ways so no one could guess who did them.”