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


                The hot and humid weather in Gainesville generally is a prelude to the beginning of the fall semester at the University of Florida. At the Wilmot Botanical Gardens it coincides with the beginning of preparations for the annual Fall Plant Sale that this year is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the 13th and 14th of October. Competing weekend activities in both October and November have forced us to hold the sale considerably earlier than usual this year. Nonetheless, the actual sale at the gardens and the online pre-sale component which began September 1st promises to be bigger and better than ever. Besides including many new and interesting outdoor plants suitable for fall planting, the camellia and azalea offerings have been greatly expanded in number and include many new and beautiful cultivars that are available for the first time.

                Plans continue to evolve for the construction of the 9th specialty garden at Wilmot, the BJ and Eve Wilder Therapeutic Horticulture Garden. The concept design was approved in late August and 60% construction documents are anticipated in September. The garden staff have worked assiduously with our landscape architect, Marquis, Latimer and Halback of St. Augustine, to design a garden that is both unique and extremely functional in which to conduct outdoor gardening exercises.

                The gardens have continued to thrive, in large part because of the extensive rainfall we have experienced throughout the summer. A significant downside, however, has been the onslaught of weeds that also favor these same growing conditions. We are looking forward to the return of a cadre of energetic UF students and other volunteers to augment the efforts of our fulltime staff to remove these unwanted plants.

                For those of you who have camellias in your yard, September is the time to begin gibbing to enhance the size of the blooms. Ideally, the process should be limited to 4 or 5 buds per plant at any one time. Repeat the process every other week through November. September is also the time to begin debudding with the goal of leaving just one bud on the terminal end of a branch. Also, some folks fertilize their camellias for a third time in September using a low nitrogen azalea-camellia product.

At the beginning of each academic year we identify those projects we hope to complete in the ensuing 12 months as manpower and our budget permit. In addition to construction of the BJ and Eve Wilder Therapeutic Horticulture Garden, we are especially interested in converting the remaining 350 feet of mulched pathways located in several areas in the gardens to brick paver walkways. These mulched pathways are susceptible to extensive damage due to flooding associated with frequent and/or heavy rainstorms such as those we have experienced this past summer. The mulch is washed away in many areas leaving nothing but mud. Frequently, the damage is sufficient to force temporary closure of some sections to regular foot traffic until repairs can be made. Completion of this project with an estimated cost of $30,000 will mean that those individuals who must rely on wheelchairs and other mobility devices for transportation will no longer be denied access to several sections of the gardens that are currently off limits even under the best of conditions. It will also insure that we have all weather walkways for everyone visiting the gardens. And, importantly, it will, greatly reduce the costs associated with the recurring maintenance of these mulched pathways.

Since beginning the composition of this Director’s Message, we have experienced the wrath of hurricane Idalia. Fortunately, the late shift of the hurricane track to the northwest saved us from extensive damage in the gardens.

Finally, we hope to see you at the fall plant sale!

C. Craig Tisher, MD

Director, Wilmot Botanical Gardens, College of Medicine