Even if you have never met George Spiliotis, you probably know the name. George does so much for the Gardens that his name is in just about every newsletter and in multiple places in each newsletter. George lived locally for about 30 years before his first visit to the Gardens. He had heard there was a Botanic Gardens at UCR but didn’t know where it was. A coworker who was a UCR alumni introduced him to the Gardens in 2013 and about six months later George signed up for the Docent Training Class. He was looking ahead for something to occupy him in retirement, even though it was a few years off.
In December of 2018 George retired from a 29-year career as the Executive Officer for the Local Agency Formation Commission for Riverside County. George had already been a dedicated docent since 2014 so we already knew about his knowledge of California native plants and were anticipating his retirement day. George has been able to share his love and expertise of native plants to educate many people. He has taught several Docent Training Lectures on the topic, and during the pandemic he made short videos about 33 native plants found in the Botanic Gardens (www.youtube.com/UCRCNAS). This spring we held a garden tour at George and his wife Elaine’s garden. George gave a short lecture followed by a tour of his beautifully landscaped, drought tolerant, front and back yards which are almost entirely planted with California native plants. Doing the research to design and plant his own 3/4-acre garden is how George gained his knowledge.
Another love of George’s is butterflies. He is part of the Master Gardener team that regularly maintains the UCRBG Butterfly Garden. They also have an information table the first and third Sundays of each month (excluding winters) at the Butterfly Garden to teach the public about gardening for butterflies. George is also a regular Garden Steward, greeting visitors at the entrance and answering any questions they may have. There are many other areas where George has enjoyed his retirement at the Gardens, including helping with online and in-place Plant Sales, and joining staff and other volunteers for work days. The Botanic Gardens has truly benefited from George’s retirement!
To show appreciation for all that George has contributed to the Gardens, an autumn sage, hybridized by Dr. Giles Waines, has been named in honor of him, Salvia x jamensis ‘George Spiliotis’.