|Recycled from an older post: Invitation to a secret garden at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park|
|One of many Camellias to be found at Maclay Gardens|
Having relocated from the Midwest, I still clung to my old favorites in the plant supply business. Park Seed Company, Wayside Gardens, and Jackson and Perkins Roses continued to wow me with their seasonal catalogues, and I was thrilled to finally be able to grow some of those Zone 8 plants I had always wanted to try. And then there were palm trees and citrus trees to consider. Could I order citrus from the companies I had trusted for years? Uh-oh. There are rules regarding the importation of citrus into Florida. It's a big, big monoculture in this state. What's monoculture? The dictionary defines it as "the use of land for growing only one type of crop." According to the bee guy who spoke at the recent Butterflies, Bees, and Bats seminar we attended, some of the latest research being done on honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder indicates that monoculture style farming may be greatly contributing to the pollinator's decline. But that's another story, and this post is already getting out of hand and running away!
I've learned a lot about gardening since we first moved here, and that education is due in no small part to becoming a Florida Master Gardener. Does the designation mean I'm suddenly an expert or will it ensure my progress on a path to everlasting fame and glory? I'd rather eat dirt than become an "expert" in anything. That title and a few dollars might still buy me a cup of strong coffee, if I'm lucky. I have discovered a few interesting things along the way, like where to turn for valuable, research-based information on landscaping and related topics: EDIS--the Electronic Data Information Source of UF/IFAS (University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Services)--has over 4000 articles to help guide consumers. One of the more interesting ones I've found regarding invasive plants details quite a bit of the history behind Florida's and other states' growing problem.
It's nothing new, this introduction of plants into a once-pristine environment. According to the article referenced above, "welcoming non-native species into our landscapes for centuries [emphasis mine] has created a multi-billion dollar ornamental plant industry and a gardening public that takes this largesse for granted, selecting primarily on the basis of color, shape, and size. Today's public is unaware of the origins of most ornamental plants and of the danger some species pose to natural areas." And I've always thought the farming industry was to blame for ruining nature. Ha! John Q. Public and his cohorts are in on it too. That means me--and you, if you like to garden or golf or shop or even just admire those beautiful urban and suburban landscapes where you work and live.
So, is there any hope for recovery or at least respite from this constant assault on the environment? It's doubtful, considering the 2.5 billion dollar annual wholesale trade in plants alone here in the U.S. The Great Depression in the 1930s slowed nursery sales somewhat, but we know that slump didn't last long. Sluggish economies always rebound, and a public hungry for lovely ornamental plants will clamor for satisfaction once more. I just wish that public (including me) would exhibit better table manners by learning as much as possible from reliable sources of gardening information like EDIS. We all should be taking smaller bites and chewing slowly--thinking critically--if Florida or any other state in this union has any hope of retaining a shred of its true, natural identity.