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Todays FACE of Birmingham is Kelly Hulsey of Hulsey Garden Designs. Kelly has a keen eye for elegant landscapes and a huge heart for humanity. As graceful as the gardens she designs, Kelly’s creative mind and hands on, roll-up-your-sleeves approach to life has cultivated a vitality that blooms from here to Bolivia.

Tell us about your landscape design business. When did you first know this was the career for you? Did you grow up gardening? Is there anyone who really influenced you or mentored you?

I have always loved the outdoors. My mother was an avid gardener all of my life, and in my late 20’s I met a local landscape architect and took an interest in his work. All it took was one day on the job with him and I knew that I was going to design gardens. I returned to school that year to study Landscape Design. This landscape architect, along with many of the early English Garden Designers, have had a strong influence on my work.

In addition to landscape design, I hear you are heavily involved with an orphanage in Bolivia. Tell us about AMISTAD and the work you do for them?

Amistad Mission is an orphanage that provides a home for abandoned and abused children in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. I am on the board of Amistad Mission, which means that I am often traveling to meetings here in the US and also to Bolivia to visit with the children and the staff who run the orphanage.

How did you get involved?

I would have never imagined 8 years ago that I would be involved to the extent that I am today. I was just looking for a mission trip to go on, and possibly take my family. While the timing was not right for the travel, (we had very young children), we adopted a prayer friend -a young teenage girl we would write letters to and pray for. I was surprised when this beautiful relationship developed between her and my family. One thing led to another and the Executive Director of Amistad asked if I would like to become involved as a board member. For me, it has been life-altering and I am very grateful for God’s work with these children.

What are AMISTAD’s biggest challenges, and what do you love most about the work you do for them?

So many challenges. As many abandoned children as there are, the current government is allowing very little adoption from Bolivia and most of the indigenous people do not adopt within Bolivia. So the number of children is growing each year. There is the obvious challenge of raising money to house, feed and school these children until early adulthood. And then there is the psychological challenge of rehabilitating those who have been abused and neglected. What do I love? The children!!!! And watching them grow each year.

What else are you passionate about?

Well, I am very passionate about my husband and 2 children and my work in landscape design. And with Amistad Orphanage, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. However, I do try to find time to cook and read most days.

What music are you currently listening to?

I can always listen to some good country music.

What books are on your eReader these days?

Right now I am reading An Invisible Thread, a true story of a friendship between a USA Today executive and a homeless boy in New York City. I am also a big fan of the Outlander series – a little science fiction mixed with historical fiction. Sounds strange, but they are addictive!

Favorite date night spot?

Almost anywhere with my husband, Duncan! And I do love the wine at Botella Restaurant.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

It has taken me a long time to realize that I need to slow down to recharge my batteries. Spending time in prayer and study when my children go to school has been very refreshing. I also think vacations are really important in putting down the phone, email, work and home responsibilities.

Favorite vacations spot?

I love the western United States – Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montana, pick a state. Hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter – it doesn’t get more fun than that!

Best advice ever given to you?

“Slow down!”

Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?

I cook most nights of the week for my family, so my favorite thing to do on Saturday night is to have someone else cook for me, at Botella.

Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?

I have been told that I am full of personality quirks. But I think that I will keep those to myself!

Name three things you can’t live without (excluding God, family & friends!).

I could probably live without a lot of things. What do I not want to live without? My books, good food and hot tea!


Thanks, Kelly! And a big thanks to Beth Hontzas for today’s fabulous photos!!


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About the Author
Catherine Romero