Thank You Lee Mason, For 20 Years of Dedication and Service

May 29, 2020

Lee Mason has retired after more than 20 years leading gardens, plant propagation and facilities maintenance. 

In his time at Tohono Chul, Lee has been the moving force behind our millennial master plan that moved parking lots to the front, upgraded the Garden Bistro, built a Retail Greenhouse and added office and prep space for Exhibits. From repurposed parking lots he’s built the Sin Agua and Sonoran Seasons Gardens and the Desert Living Courtyard. With a new vision in place, he saw his dream of a Desert Palm Oasis come true. He expanded the Ethnobotanical Garden, adding our Heritage Orchard; built ramadas and gates and sign frames; made biennial Plant Sales and Bloom Night signature events; wrangled tortoises and pupfish; and turned his hand to just about any project that needed doing – and doing right. 

We thank you Lee for all your hard work, dedication, and love for the gardens at Tohono Chul. Now it is time to pass the torch!

Meet Bryce Beamish, General Services Manager

During the past three years, Bryce Beamish has become Lee’s right-hand man, honing his horticultural skills while learning the ropes of managing 49 acres of botanical gardens/facilities and adding golf cart maintenance and welding and to his many talents. 

His love of the Cactaceae family was first discovered on a trip to Oaxaca. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, his experience in the world of towering plants was limited to the forests of Washington. In Oaxaca, he found himself looking up in awe at massive Neobuxbaumia and Pachycereus. It didn’t take long for him to take root in the desert. He was lucky enough to start working at Tohono Chul as a Groundskeeper within a few months of arriving in Tucson. In his first summer here, he was introduced to a plant lovingly referred to as the “Queen of The Night”. It looked like a fallen, dead Mesquite branch. He was immediately and permanently intrigued. Last summer, he and his wife spent an evening watching one of those plants do its thing. It started with a series of slight jerking motions and then the plant began to gently sway back and forth. There was no breeze. The plant was moving on its own, exerting all the energy that it had stored over the previous year to produce just a few flowers. He’d seen the result of this process in photos and in the last few hours of their bloom cycle the morning after an event, but had never sat long enough to observe the process in real time. It’s truly a sight to behold and he’s honored to have been handed the Bloom Watch torch.

I look forward to updating you all on the progress of our collection, and sharing this special event with you.

Meet Leith Young

Born and raised in Tucson, Leith Young’s love of native plants started at an early age exploring the desert behind his home. By age 8, he already had a small collection on potted cactus and succulents on the back porch that he cared for. From that point on, plants have always played a major role in his life. In his twenties, he moved to a small town in northern Arizona bringing his love of cactus with him by creating a cactus garden at 8,000’ above sea level, shocking everyone that came to visit. Eventually, Leith made his way back to Tucson and found his niche at Tohono Chul were he has been for the past 5 years and has no desire to leave.

Read Lee’s last Bloom Watch blog here