In the February newsletter I began my comments by noting that the COVID-19 pandemic was raging on in many parts of the world including the United States, but with the recent availability of two vaccines against the virus with a third on the way there was hope and anticipation that some degree of normalcy would return to our lives. For those who availed themselves of one of those vaccines (approximately 55 percent of the US population), some degree of normalcy has occurred. However, with the more recent emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus and the continued reluctance of a large segment of our population to become vaccinated, we are seeing another, predictable major spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The preponderance of individuals contributing to the spike are unvaccinated. Regrettably, Florida is one of the states with the greatest involvement. Thus, instead of returning to normalcy, many of us though vaccinated are again observing social distancing, wearing masks, employing frequent handwashing as part of our daily routine and avoiding large crowds where one is more likely to come into contact with COVID-19 carriers. The problem is now even more complicated by the emergence of the virus in an increased number of children, many of whom are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine because of their age. Thus, a return to normalcy appears to be much farther away then I had envisioned in February of this year. Fortunately, visiting our gardens should be viewed as a low risk activity, especially if wearing a mask when in a group where social distancing may not be possible.
I am pleased to announce that after careful consideration, our therapeutic horticulture program will restart in mid-September. Protocols to ensure the safety of both participants and our volunteers are again in place that incorporate recommendations from both the CDC and the University of Florida for avoiding COVID-19 exposure. Inquiries regarding this programming should be directed to Ms. Leah Diehl, director of this activity at Leah.Diehl@medicine.ufl.edu or Ms. Allison Burns, our business manager at (352)273-5832 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plans are now being developed to hold our seventh annual fall plant sale. This 2-day event will take place on Friday, November 19th and Saturday, November 20th at the gardens. As in the past we will offer the opportunity to pre-order from a large selection of camellias as well as azaleas and other plants including grasses, shrubs and trees, all carefully selected to enhance the beauty and enjoyment of your yards and gardens. You will soon receive more details via email about this very popular pre-order option.
Our ability to maintain and enhance the Wilmot Botanical Gardens for the enjoyment of our visitors depends extensively on the work of volunteers. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted negatively on the availability of volunteers over the past 18 months and as one might expect, the gardens suffered greatly. We extend an invitation for you to join us during the regular work week or at one of our regularly scheduled Saturday morning work sessions, and enjoy both the gardening experience and the comradery this opportunity offers. Our lead gardener, Mr. Steve Pritchett, and several volunteer master gardeners combine to share their extensive gardening experience, thus making it possible for even a novice gardener to both learn and contribute during these sessions. More information can be obtained by visiting our website, https://wilmotgardens.med.ufl.edu, or by contacting our business manager, Ms. Allison Burns (352) 273-5832 or email@example.com.
Finally, I am pleased to introduce our new business manager at the gardens, Ms. Allison Burns, who began her position with us as an Administrative Specialist II, in late May of this year. She joins us from her previous position in the Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics. She is a native of Gainesville, a graduate of Buchholz High School and received her B.A. degree in psychology from St. Leo University. For activities related to the Wilmot Botanical Gardens she can be reached at (352) 273-5832 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
C. Craig Tisher, M.D.
Director, Wilmot Botanical Gardens, College of Medicine