Born in Santa Monica, California, Evans was the son of Hugh Evans, a well-known horticulturist who traveled the world collecting exotic plants. Jack Evans and his younger brother, Morgan (known as “Bill”), grew up watching their father experiment with the flowering trees and shrubs that he successfully introduced to the Southern California climate. The Evanses partnered with Jack Reeves in the 1930s to establish Evans and Reeves Nursery, specializing in exotic plants, in Brentwood, California. The nursery’s clientele included plant enthusiasts, as well as Hollywood celebrities such as Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, and Walt Disney. Disney hired the Evans brothers to create a landscape design for his residence in Holmby Hills, which led to their work on Disneyland, in Anaheim, California.
The Evans brothers worked with landscape architects Ruth Patricia Shellhorn and Joseph Linesch on the original design of the park. To supply their needs, they scoured California to salvage trees, creating an on-site nursery suited to the Anaheim climate. They also invented a method for moving large trees (which involved inserting a pin through the trunk) without damaging their root systems. For Disneyland, Jack Evans helped create landscapes that emulated those found along the Mississippi River, New Orleans, the African jungle, and other locations featured in the park’s imaginary environments. These fictive landscapes co-existed alongside stylized planting beds of colorful annual flowers and permanent shrubs and trees, which required that the site’s sandy soil be transformed into a suitable medium. Two weeks after Disneyland opened in July 1955, Evans suffered a heart attack. He died three years later. In addition to his work at Disneyland, he played a key role in passing legislation (enacted in 1954) requiring the licensure of landscape architects in California.