Under the Glass: News from the Greenhouse

Greetings from the Greenhouse!

Leah Diehl

Our spring programming is off to a great start, and we are happy to welcome a new group to the therapeutic horticulture program. This semester we started a women veterans group and it is a small but growing assemblage of wonderful women who are keen to learn more about horticulture. They have already planted seeds, stem cuttings, and leaf cuttings, and all of their plants will be available at our spring sale in April. This new group is supported by our yearly plant sales and we thank you for supporting us through your plant purchases at the greenhouse!

We have a lot of great things planned and growing in the greenhouse, both for our participants to take home and our customers to purchase. One of our favorite plant donors, Mark Elliot, brought us a large staghorn fern to work with and that has kept many of our participants busy: the alumni group divided the huge fern into many smaller sections, the long-time veterans group built mini wood pallets for mounting the sections, and others have helped tie the staghorns onto the pallets. Several are already finished and hanging in the greenhouse, but we still have lots more to mount.

This is the season for our vanilla orchid to bloom, and we expect to see buds forming any day. The flowers only open for about 6 hours, and since we don’t have natural pollinators in the greenhouse we must hand pollinate them while they are open. Last year we had over 60 blooms so everyone got to try pollinating. We pollinated most of the flowers successfully and are expecting even more flowers this year. We will also propagate the vanilla vine for our sale – it is always a popular item. However, as sweet as vanilla is, it also has a bitter side – the sap causes a burning irritation so it is important to protect your skin when cutting the vines. With risk comes reward!

The other exciting news is that the development of our new undergraduate certificate program in horticultural therapy is moving along. The course syllabi are working their way through the university approval system and I am preparing content for the first course. Lots of people have expressed interest in taking the courses, from as close as Gainesville to as far away as Asia. It will be an exciting mix of students. Please contact me if you would like more information on the program.

We hope to see you at the spring sale on April 12 & 13 – or any other time!


Elizabeth “Leah” Diehl, RLA, HTM
Lecturer, Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Director of Therapeutic Horticulture, Wilmot Gardens, College of Medicine