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Meet Andrea Doonan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrea Doonan.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in the Bay Area running through my grandparent’s orchard, exploring trails and making art. After studying and showing art in community college, one day it all clicked, that although art is forever a passion of mine, landscape design and horticulture was my jam. So, I pursued a degree in landscape horticulture at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz.

From there, I got my start doing fine gardening and design at estates and homes for companies and myself and eventually landed a job at a residential landscape architecture firm for Rhadiante Van de Voorde where I learned the ins and outs of running a small design business. I was very lucky that the companies I worked for allowed me to grow my own business on the side and eventually I was mostly doing my own thing.

I’ve been a certified arborist for over ten years, and in the horticulture and design field professionally for almost 15 years. I’ve been in San Diego over four years now and love being part of the ecological movement here, helping folks reduce water use, building community, and introducing plants that support habitat for our local birds, pollinators, and other wildlife.

Has it been a smooth road?
Oh man, It’s been a windy road! For starters we don’t get into the business because we want steady and amazing income, I turned down many “great jobs” early in my career because I wanted to stay true to myself. I know that I work best on my own schedule and I need the opportunity to be constantly learning and growing. Had I taken those jobs they would have led me off track and I know I would have lost interest and my performance would have suffered. There were many points in my career where I had to get busy and creative to make ends meet.

I have faced many challenges to reach this point in my career, and one thing I have learned along the way is that you have to be brave enough to go out of your comfort zone to succeed. I remember taking on a job pruning hundreds of roses on a huge Atherton estate that was still under construction. There were at least 100 male workers on the job site that were staring at me, the only woman on site. I remember walking in there with my toolbelt the first day and wanting to leave, but I stayed and finished the job, spending months on the project with my new friends.The next year I had a job consulting their landscape company’s crews on proper pruning techniques.

Fast forward several years of building a solid biz and being in a good groove- I got thrown a crazy curve ball. In Feb 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis coincided with my moving into a new office with other colleagues while work was really picking up. Cancer threw me for loop and then some. Emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically – cancer tests you, challenges you and changes you. I like to say it put me through the fire and now I am stronger in all those areas because of it.

Managing my business was challenging during the two years following my diagnosis, mostly because I had to turn down a lot of the work that was coming in or extend my usual deadlines. The work that I did take on, I did at a slower pace, and my clients were all understanding. The more I would open up about my situation and experience, the more I allowed myself the space to heal, and in doing so I ended up finding connections with many other survivors who shared my experiences. I am now cancer free!

September 2018 I had my last surgery, and this year I finally feel like myself again. I have renewed energy, plenty of work, I’m on the board of directors of the San Diego chapter of APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers) as 2019 VP & 2020 President-Elect… oh, and I’m engaged!

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’m a landscape designer, artist, horticulturist, and certified arborist. I specialize in ecological residential landscape design and consulting. I like reclaiming spaces for my clients to foster community, beauty, and nature connection. Every project is a collaboration between the homeowner, myself, and the contractor, and changes from client to client based on site and personal needs. Some people want spaces for play, family, social gatherings, solitude, and meditation, raising food, attracting wildlife and pollinators, or all of the above.

I love removing lawns and creating gardens where people can sit and enjoy their garden, interact with their neighbors all the while conserving water and natural resources. I incorporate CA native plants into all of my designs although I’m not a strictly native designer. On a larger scale, I am passionate about the environment and educating people on how we can fight global warming and conserve water and resources.

In my free time, I like to make art, hike, and volunteer. I especially enjoy lending my time with the colleagues I met through the Pomegranate Center placemaking and community development training. I also spend my time giving talks and workshops on many topics from design, to pruning to foraging. I’ve worked on several school gardens locally and collaborated on restoring and repurposing several vacant lots in the local community into multi-layered community spaces.

I hope to continue activating more spaces as the projects present themselves. These projects are especially great because they are all about “We” not “I.” These are about multicultural and multi-generational communities taking ownership of spaces.

Currently, I work in an office space on Voltaire shared with two other women-owned businesses. Eventually, I would love to be part of a larger space shared with other professionals and artists where we would have a storefront selling our different art and related products, an event space where we would host workshops and events, and separate zones that professionals would rent and work out of.

Artistically, I paint and make mosaic sculpture and would love to have a large space to create and learn more sculpture mediums to sell and use in my gardens.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and the least?
I love the food and drink scene- I was really involved in Slow Food before I got on the APLD board and I am passionate about good, clean, fair food and the power it has to connect us all on a very basic level. I also love how there is ALWAYS something going on in San Diego and that there is something for everyone here.

I am a big fan of the distinct neighborhoods and historical residential architecture as well. We currently live in South Park, and it’s so charming- the craftsman bungalows and Spanish colonial revival homes… it’s a designer’s dream to work on all these adorable homes throughout San Diego.

What I like least about our city is the congestion (traffic) and concrete. We need more trees and plants in our urban environments. But don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be planting trees and knocking out concrete next time you see me.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


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