AGE: 43. LIVES IN: Rogers Park. CLAIMS TO FAME: Beckner is the lead plant designer at SageGreenLife, a West Loop vertical garden innovator that uses its own soil-free hydroponic system to feed water, oxygen, and nutrients to plants. GREENING THE CITY: Beckner’s “living walls” appear in both public and private spaces, including Onward restaurant in Rogers Park and Illinois Masonic Hospital in Lake View. “I make each strong enough to look like an art piece,” he says, calling out the tartan-inspired wall commissioned by Tishman Speyer for a Loop office building (shown here). A ROSY PAST: Growing up in rural Flora, Indiana, Beckner’s love of plants really bloomed. “I spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s rose garden,” he says. “She taught me how to plant and prune.” ROOTED IN STYLE: Beckner had a successful 15-year career in fashion and celebrity photography before deciding to pursue horticulture. His first big break in the plant world was in 2008 when he became a rosarian (grower and procurer of ancient and heirloom roses) for Gethsemane Garden Center in Andersonville. GOOD, HEALTHY OUTLOOK: Since Beckner’s breakthrough, the benefits of living among plants have become well known — and Beckner is at the forefront of it. “There is a whole biophilic movement happening,” he says. “Plants provide air purification and [are shown to] improve your mood, behavior and productivity.” ALWAYS INSPIRED: Beckner calls Lurie Garden in Millennium Park “a masterpiece in the city” and spends his spare time there. You’ll also find him in his backyard, where he and his husband, architect Nicholas Sieger, not only have a garden but also nine chickens.
For more information on Beckner’s work, go to sagegreenlife.com
Photo by Lisa Hinsberger