For many of us 2018 is off to a wet and very chilly start. As I glance across the gardens from the conference center this morning, freeze cloth dominates much of the landscape as we try to protect our most vulnerable plants. The blooms of the sasanqua camellias are fading, while the japonica cultivars are providing most of the color as we begin the new year.
In looking back for just a moment, one must conclude that 2017 was an outstanding year for the Wilmot Gardens. In February, the beautiful Chapman Healing Garden and the Richard C. Christensen Memorial were dedicated and both continue to attract visitors on a daily basis. Our second major capital project, expansion and paving of the parking lot just west of the conference center, was completed in late September and represents a significant upgrade of our facilities.
The therapeutic horticulture program, under the direction of Ms. Leah Diehl, continued to serve several groups this past year, including those with cancer and their caregivers, veterans with various mental challenges, individuals with alcohol and drug addiction and an “alumni” group composed of individuals who were participants in previous programs including various research studies conducted in the greenhouse in the past. These folks wished to continue their relationship with our staff and programs.
The workplace skills and job skills training programs for young adults with autism spectrum disorders, under the direction of Ms. Jennifer Weis, continued to expand during the fall semester. We are pleased to announce that we were accepted recently as a Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Services Provider by the Florida Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. This will provide a source of funds to help sustain the program.
Our November and December plant sales were once again quite successful and will provide badly needed funds to maintain the gardens and sustain our therapeutic horticulture program in 2018.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that Ms. Peg Richardson, a well-known artist both locally and throughout the southeast, will join the Wilmot Gardens family as an artist-in-residence this month. Ms. Richardson specializes in watercolor media focusing on botanicals, garden designs, wreaths and the natural world. Her studio will be located in the Greenhouse at Wilmot Gardens where she will also serve as a receptionist. Her paintings will be offered for sale to the public with a portion of the proceeds retained by the gardens for program support.
In closing, the staff and volunteers at the Wilmot Gardens thank you for your continued support and extend our best wishes to each of you for an outstanding 2018.
C. Craig Tisher, M.D., Director, Wilmot Gardens