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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Brevard County

Gardening, art, fun to flourish at Florida Tech's Botanical Fest
Rating: 4.65 / 5 (17 votes)  
Posted: 2013 Feb 22 - 06:37

Annual event scheduled for March 2

By Tammy Roberts Farmer

Managing Editor

BREVARD -- With more than 4,200 species of native or naturalized ferns and seed plants, Florida is the third most floristically diverse state in the United States, according to the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants.

Many of these species, plus a variety of information, will be brought to life Saturday, March 2 at Florida Tech's eighth annual Botanical Fest.

Hosted within the Florida Tech campus in Melbourne, Botanical Fest will highlight some of Florida's finest plant and garden vendors, showcasing everything from palms, exotics and native plants to fruit trees, ornamental shrubs, bamboo and flowering plants.

But flora isn't the only thing on display. Garden accessories will also be available, including decorative pottery, outdoor art and one-of-a-kind pieces that are difficult to find anywhere else.

Vendors will also be on hand during the free, family-friendly festival with a variety of food and drinks.

This ever-popular event has attracted nearly 4,000 people in past years, including gardeners from throughout the state, with even more expected this time around, said Stephanie Bacon, director of Annual Giving for the Florida Tech Office of Development.

"The idea for the Botanical Fest actually came from the Botanical Garden Committee," Ms. Bacon said. "They wanted an opportunity to showcase the garden to the community and raise funds to improve the garden."

In addition to its state-of-the-art academic and sports programs, the Florida Tech campus has been home to its very own Botanical Garden for many years.

Through the intense interest of founding president Emeritus Jerome P. Keuper and the inspiration and assistance of Dent Smith in the 1960s, the garden has grown to become one of the most unique campus botanical gardens of its kind in the U.S.

Open to the public, the 15-acre garden is open from sunrise to sunset and features a multitude of plant species, trails, natural water elements, as well as rental spaces.

Funds raised during this year's Botanical Fest will support the historic Florida Tech Botanical Garden, which also serves as a forum for horticultural display, education, research and outreach.

"The overall goal of the event is to build awareness of the garden to the community, as well as raise funds for improvements within the garden, or, as it is commonly called, 'The Jungle,'" Ms. Bacon said.

Plants, accessories and products will be available for purchase during the event, and free botanical garden tours are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the hour. Attendees can also visit the Master Gardeners table for free advice.

"One of the best parts of the event are the vendors, who take the time to teach the patrons about their purchases," Ms. Bacon said. "This tremendous benefit is proven, as many of our patrons come back year after year."

The 2013 Florida Tech Botanical Fest will be Saturday, March 2 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the campus' Crawford Green, 150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne.

For more information about the event, contact Ann Marie Kousari at (321) 674-6152 or akousari@fit.edu.

From the Expert:

In anticipation of the Florida Tech Botanical Fest, horticulturist and grounds manager Holly Chichester has provided some tactics that the operational team of the Florida Tech Botanical Garden is currently in the process of completing, so that Brevard residents may apply them to their own home landscapes.

Here's what she had to say:

Currently, we are dividing and transplanting flax lilies, ground orchids and several varieties of ferns.

There are many perennial plants in our garden that benefit from this practice. Dividing plants every few years is good for plant health and vigor, and it's a great benefit to your landscaping budget!

For the cost of the original plant, you can double, often triple, your plants to enhance you own landscape or trade with friends.

As we prepare for spring and Botanical Fest, the garden is getting a fresh addition of mulch. It's both aesthetically pleasing and beneficial to the plants and soil. In the Florida Tech Botanical Garden, we avoid relatively low-priced shredded cypress - one of the most popular mulches on the market - because of its high environmental costs.

According to University of Florida data, the timber industry grinds nearly 3 million more cubic feet of cypress than it replaces every year to produce mulch.

Slow-growing cypress, which stores and filters water and provides a vital wildlife habitat, is difficult to replace. Since we are striving to be more of a teaching garden, we try to practice what we preach!

Instead, we use two (technically three) kinds of mulch: pine bark nuggets and a custom blend of eucalyptus and melaleuca.

Pine bark minis: usually obtained as byproducts of other lumbering uses; pine bark chips retain their shape and color longer than shredded wood mulches.

Eucalyptus + Melaleuca: Renewable eucalyptus grows rapidly on commercial plantations, and its pleasing scent deters fleas and other lawn and garden pests. Eucalyptus ages from golden-yellow to reddish tones and may need to be replaced before the season's end because it settles into the soil.

Exotic Australian melaleuca, or paper-bark tea tree, has invaded more than half a million acres of Florida wetlands. Environmental groups seek to remove melaleuca and turn it into mulch. Termites do not favor melaleuca, the mulch will not significantly alter soil pH and it holds its shape well.

The garden also has a Facebook page, featuring tips, photos and postings of the changes and upgrades we make. Search for Florida Tech Botanical Garden.

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