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


Since you received our last quarterly newsletter in early March of this year, there has been a great deal of activity at the Wilmot Botanical Gardens. I would like to share some of the highlights from those past three months.

I am pleased to announce that in late March the B.J. and Eve Wilder Family Foundation pledged a gift of $225,000 to construct the B.J. and Eve Wilder Therapeutic Horticulture Garden at the Wilmot Botanical Gardens. We are now in the early stages of selecting a landscape architect to design this 6,000 sq ft facility. We anticipate completion of the project in the Spring of 2024. The addition of this outdoor venue will allow us to greatly expand the number of participants we can serve and also make it possible to add an outdoor gardening curriculum to our therapeutic horticulture program. We sincerely thank Dr. B.J. Wilder and his daughter, Ms. Karen Scott, for this truly transformative gift.

 In early April the 6th annual Spring Plant Sale took place at the gardens. Although a bit windy, especially on Saturday, the sale enjoyed large crowds and eager buyers. The result was our most successful sale to date. I wish to thank the public for their support and the more than 70 volunteers whose hard work guaranteed the successful outcome. A special thanks goes to John Swanson and Jerry Hogsette who donated over 100 camellias on behalf of the Gainesville Camellias Society for the sale.

During the past several weeks Steve Pritchett, our superintendent of grounds, has been expanding the population of azaleas at the gardens. The plantings have included 20 each of Mrs. GG Gerbing and Red Formosa in the three-gallon size and several varieties of an additional 20 Encore azaleas. Sadly, an unknown visitor decided to remove two of the Gerbing azaleas shortly after they were planted in the Mendenhall Family Camellia Walk. I am sorry to say that this is not the first-time plants have been stolen from the gardens.

When strolling through the gardens it is important that you occasionally look up to avoid missing our stable of seven staghorn ferns. All are hanging from various trees throughout the gardens. Each has been donated including the two most recent specimens provided by UF Grounds (See figure). Our collection began in 2014 with a fern gifted by the late Dr. Suzanne Spanier, a fern that was planted by her mother in 1955 (See figure). While some believe that staghorn and elkhorn ferns are one in the same, that is probably not true. Staghorn ferns (the most common being platycerium bifuratum) are epiphytes that grow naturally in trees in Africa, Australia, Madagascar and tropical Asia. In contrast, elkhorn ferns (polypodium grandiceps) are terrestrial and commonly grow on the ground, ideally under a canopy of tropical trees. They are found most commonly in the East Indies.

In this issue of our newsletter you will find a special article written by Ms. Caroline Crist, a graduating senior at UF and recent intern in sustainability at the gardens. The article describes the history of the acquisition of the Hippocratic Tree from the Greek Isle of Kos that was planted on the medical campus in 1969, and our most recent experience in its care.

Those of you who have had to contact our business office at the gardens lately have heard a new voice on the telephone. That “new voice” is that of Ms. Courtney Cribbs, our Administrative Assistant II who now serves as our business manager. Courtney has replaced Ms. Allison Burns who spent the last year with us before accepting a promotion to another position at the health science center. Our thanks to Ali for a job well done and a warm welcome to Courtney who has taken on the position like an experienced veteran.

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