From the Director’s Desk: Thoughts of a Weed Puller

Dr. C. Craig Tisher

We are now one month and a few days into the new year. While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in many parts of the world, the recent availability of two vaccines with a third on the way, all against the virus, brings renewed hope and anticipation that some degree of normalcy will return to our lives in 2021. In fact, several regions of the United States report a decline in new infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. An early sign of a return to normalcy was witnessed recently at the Wilmot Botanical Gardens. We experienced a very successful group work day on the last Saturday of January with the return of many volunteers including master gardeners and UF students. While readers may not view the event as particularly earth-shaking, the importance of this volunteer effort to help with maintenance of the gardens cannot be overestimated. Weeds continue to grow during a pandemic!

Our therapeutic horticulture program under the direction of Ms. Leah Diehl was victim of the COVID-19 pandemic with cancellation of the weekly sessions in the spring of 2020. I am pleased to report that plans are nearly complete for resumption of the program, albeit on a limited basis. Protocols to ensure the safety of all involved have been developed and incorporate recommendations for avoiding COVID-19 exposure from both the CDC and the University of Florida. Classes will commence in March and continue through the rest of the spring semester.

Plans are continuing to evolve for our fifth annual spring plant sale scheduled for Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10. The format will be similar to our very successful fall sale that was held entirely outdoors. We are also planning to offer the opportunity once again to pre-order from an interesting group of plants, shrubs, grasses and trees grown locally by Tropic Traditions. You will soon receive more details about the pre-order option via email.

It is now time for everyone who loves the sight of camellias in bloom to visit the gardens. In addition to the more than 400 camellias already in our collection, 13 additional cultivars were added in the past month and more are on the way. In this initial group eight are entirely new to the gardens and include ‘Dennis Vaughn’ and ‘Dennis Vaughn Variegated’, ‘Elegans Supreme’, ‘R. L. Wheeler’, ‘Mary Alice Cox’, ‘Laura Walker Variegated’, ‘Gustav Gerbing’, and ‘Happy Higo Variegated’. While camellias in bloom can be found throughout the gardens, the Mendenhall Family Camellia Walk is especially beautiful at this time.

We hope to see you at the gardens in the near future.

C. Craig Tisher, M.D.
Director, Wilmot Botanical Gardens, College of Medicine