John Conroy, owner of Fish Branch Tree Farm, was generous with his time and gave me an educational tour of his 300 acres of beautiful tree production. I was impressed by the cleanliness, the quality, and the quantity of trees produced here in the south-center of the state.
(Sorry I did not share any photos of their tens of thousands of young ‘Boardwalk’ Live Oaks, all standing up straight with their consistent central leaders. And their progressive planting and harvesting intervals where they produce 500 acres worth of trees in a 300 acre farm. Visit their website for pictures of their ‘Densa’ Slash Pines. This long-needled pine has a superior form with thick trunk caliper and lower, wider branching than our scrawny native tree.)
The highlight of my visit was seeing the preharvest cleaning procedure of one Sylvester palm. The worker was just tidying up with a broom when we arrived. It takes this craftsman about an hour to cut off the base of each frond, at a slightly sloping angle away from the trunk, careful to leave the trunk intact.
More information: https://www.fishbranchtreefarm.com
Thank you to FNGLA for this incredible honor.
The Wendell E. Butler Award is recognized as FNGLA’s most prestigious prize. This award recognizes an individual who serves the association and the industry by providing leadership, service, contributions and has shown a sincere interest in the advancement of the association and the industry.
Here is a video they made for the presentation at the annual meeting of 2016. https://vimeo.com/171630194
And my acceptance speech:
“First, I thank God for making me a gardener and giving me the passion for plants. I am closest to my Creator when I am on my knees in the dirt.
I thank my wife Cheryl. She tolerates my passion for plants and the trail of compost through the house. She is my encouragement, the woman of my dreams, the answer to my prayers.
We are grateful for our son John. He is often in the trenches with me, learning skilled labor. I don’t expect him to follow in my fertile footsteps but pray that he also finds a career that he loves with people he admires.
My parents get full credit for doing their best by steering me in the right direction. Mom was wise to send me outside to play. My father taught me the benefits of hard work.
Thanks to my previous employers who gave me opportunities, training, and priceless experiences.
I am grateful for my current employer, J.C. Diem of Southern Ag. who took a chance on hiring me 10 years ago. We share the same values of faith, family and service.
I thank the members of the Royal Palm chapter of FNGLA for even considering me as a nominee me for this highest honor.
Speaking of FNGLA, I have read the textbook for the Certified Horticulture Professional at least twenty times from cover to cover over the years. And there is one word that appears only once: Love.
“Knowledge of the product comes with love of the job, study, observation and seasoned experience.”
In another book, first Corinthians it says “If I speak the eloquence of men, but have no love, I become no more than a crashing cymbal…I achieve precisely nothing.”
My desire is not to be famous, to make followers or accumulate friends. When you visit my website and blogs you won’t find a bunch of selfies, but a lot of vivid color photos of beautiful plants.
I hope that my delight in plants is contagious.”
She was a plant pioneer. The first woman landscape architect in Florida (license #3), the first female president of the Royal Palm Chapter of FNGA (1965-1966), grower, landscaper, designer with the largest palm growing nursery in Florida (Everglades Nursery) and namesake to one of the most popular blooming vines in the world: ‘Helen Johnson’ bougainvillea.
Helen Johnson Hendry’s life and accomplishments were on display at the Edison Ford Winter Estates last night as friends and family gathered to honor our home town historic hero. The highlight of the evening was watching a movie of an interview of Helen Hendry, recorded five years ago.
Today I was invited to San Carlos Park Elementary to see the progress the children made this year on the gardens. I was surprised by the number of excited kids, the great work they had done and the quality of their produce.
The surprise continued with their appreciation for the work we did to make the beds for them to plant in. I got choked up with their ceremony of card giving and sharing the harvest.
I applauded them for their efforts and complimented them at how good everything looked.
We did more than build a garden, we built a fun classroom.
Inside their cards the children wrote; “Thank you for your hard work…Thank you for making our school garden. It looks really pretty when I go by the garden…we really appreciate it…We all love our garden its beautiful…”
Tuesday, April 12th. The Royal Palm chapter of FNGLA met at the Iona House at the Caloosa Nature Center in Ft. Myers. I am very grateful to the members for nominating me for the Wendell Butler award. The official ceremony will be in Orlando this June.
My talk was on local people and places worthy of our recognition over the years. Since 1964 we have been blessed by the contribution of so many talented and generous people. These men and women of our first generation formed the foundation of our industry and our chapter. It’s encouraging to know that so many continue today: the Kelley’s, the Kinzies, the Renfroe’s, the Pottingers, the Walsh’s and Ms. Hendry.
The second generation (1980’s) spawned many other leaders. Here is a “plant finder” booklet published in 1985. Members include Clark’s Nursery, Square’s Landscaping, Albert O’Donnell, Inc., Pelican Nursery, Schuetz Briarcliff Nursery and more. Do you remember Glades Tree Farm and Szabo’s?
After an historic rain event (7″ in three days) I expected soil and mulch to be washed into the next county, but they were unscathed. The beds are level and the mulch is thick so all these bulky materials just settled down.
I just stocked the tool box benches with new gardening tools. The short bench accommodated three totes perfectly. A dozen kids will be busy with
trowels, transplanters and cultivators. Ames has a nice line of long-handled tools with a 15 year guarantee. Here we have a round shovel, flat shovel, hard rake, leaf rake, hoes and a broom. And the cutest short handled shovels too.
We will give Mrs. Williams a $50.00 gift certificate to Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They have a full line of flower and vegetable seeds for her to plan the fall and spring garden.
Last March, this garden was just an idea. San Carlos Park Elementary Resource Teacher, Mrs. Williams wanted an activity for the after-school kids. Then, members of nearby Parkway Baptist Church wanted to benefit the school with volunteers and talent and the idea took shape. Then came the issue of funding. We asked the Board of Directors of the Royal Palm Chapter (Florida Nursery Grower Landscape Association) for grant money and they obliged.
The funds bought lumber, hardware, paint, soil, mulch, tools, and more. This fall there will be money for seeds, fruit trees, fertilizer, and pots. The investment will benefit the students and teachers for years. We are grateful to the Royal Palm Chapter for their generosity and their commitment to horticultural education.
How I spent the first day of summer: at FNGLA’s annual convention. Robert Olinger, his wife Mary and I enjoyed two days of activities at the Marriott Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach (north of St. Augustine, south-east of Jacksonville, Florida). The first business meeting went smoothly with our organization ending the year with a surplus. Robert (our new State Representative) will be meeting with the board next month to decide on spending decisions and direction.
After the meeting we toured the Jacksonville Zoo and Botanical Gardens. That evening the Frontrunners Chapter opened their hospitality suite, stocked with plenty of food and drinks.
The next day we enjoyed applauding the winners of FNGLA’s awards. There we gave our annual donation to FNGLA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) and to the University of Florida Research Endowment Fund.
That evening concluded with the President’s Gala reception and banquet.
Royal Palm Chapter and friends learn from Dr. Aaron Palmateer. Thanks to Dr. Doug Caldwell (Collier Co. Extension) for hosting this meeting.