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


Now that our very successful Fall Plant Sale is behind us, we have been working on projects we hoped to conclude before the end of the year. We were extremely fortunate to receive a very generous gift from longtime supporters of the gardens that allowed us to move forward with conversion of all remaining mulched pathways to brick paver walkways. Upon completion access to the gardens will be greatly enhanced, especially for visitors who rely on wheelchairs and walkers for mobility. It will also significantly reduce the cost of maintaining these pathways.

Fig 1.

We are now entering one of the most beautiful times of the year in the gardens. This year, the sasanqua camellias began to blossom in early November and have been joined by several japonica species including Kiku Toji, Mark Chason, Debutante, Brooke, and Happy Birthday. Many others are not far behind which suggests that we are experiencing an early bloom this year, quite possibly due to the unseasonably warm weather this past fall. The mini-drought we experienced in late October and early November was finally broken by mid-November rains for which I am certain all gardeners were quite grateful. This moisture should be of great benefit to both the camellias and azaleas.

Our superintendent of grounds, Steve Pritchett, ably assisted by several UF student volunteers was busy planting both traditional azaleas such as GG Gerbing, and Red and Lavender Formosa and several varieties of Encore azaleas throughout the gardens. Many planted along our network of garden walkways will be highly visible during their bloom season.

As the year draws to a close it seems appropriate to review the many upgrades that have occurred in the gardens in 2023. In January we embarked on a major project to begin conversion of all remaining mulched pathways to brick paver walkways (Fig. 1). We are hopeful that the remaining segments will be finished by the end of the year.

Fig 2.

The eighth specialty garden, the Ben and Renee Bolusky Garden that was designed, constructed and funded by the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, was completed in mid-April (Fig. 2). A dedication ceremony followed by a catered dinner in our Central Commons area capped off the days events. Once again we thank the members of the FNGLA for making this possible.

In late April we hosted the unveiling of a statue of Hippocrates located in the greatly expanded Hippocratic Garden (Fig. 3). The 30-inch bronze bust created by the sculptor, Vangelis Ilias, in his studio in Athens, Greece sits atop a 4-foot pedestal carved from white Pentelic marble. Generous contributions from several friends of the Wilmot Botanical Gardens made this addition possible. Additional details can be found in our June 2023 newsletter.

Fig 3.

Due to the generosity of Dr. Bart Schutzman, Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Horticulture and a member of our Steering Committee, several very interesting plant specimens were added to our gardens this year. A partial list includes Blue Bamboo (Bambusa Chungii), Oliver’s Maple (Acer Oliverianum), Wall Street Red, a japonica camellia, a Curley Willow (Salix Matsudana), a Terry’s Pink Hibiscus, a Toona Tree (Toona Sinensis), a China Fir (Cunninghamia) and a Slender silhouette sweetgum.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that a research study conducted in our garden facilities received special recognition recently by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). A paper entitled, “A pilot randomized controlled trial of group-based indoor gardening and art activities demonstrates therapeutic benefits to healthy women” describing the research that was published in the open access journal, “PLOS ONE”, received the 2023 Charles A. Lewis Excellence in Research Award from the AHTA. This yearly award is given to honor Charles A. Lewis, a pioneer in the field of people-plant interaction and innovative horticultural programs throughout the community. The authors of the study included Raymond Odeh, Elizabeth R. M. Diehl, Sara Jo Nixon, C. Craig Tisher, Dylan Klempuer, Jill K. Sonke, Thomas A. Colquhoun, Qian Li, Maria Espinosa, Dianela Perdomo, Kaylee Rosario, Hanna Terzi and Charles L. Guy. This study was performed to fulfill in part the requirements for a Master’s Degree in Horticultural Therapy (Mr. Raymond Odeh).            

All of us associated with the Wilmot Botanical Gardens extend our best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy New Year!

C. Craig Tisher, MD

Director, Wilmot Botanical Gardens, College of Medicine