Botanical Gardens in need of green

The USF Botanical Gardens will be holding its 14th annual Fall Plant Festival this weekend despite heavy damage from this year’s barrage of hurricanes. The hurricanes have caused the cancellation of two major fundraising events this year, throwing off the fundraising goals of the Botanical Gardens. That makes this year’s Fall Plant Festival crucial for the Gardens.

“This event is the main support for the Botanical Gardens for the next six months,” said Kim Hutton, special events coordinator for the Botanical Gardens.

The storms have put the Botanical Gardens in a tough financial position — along with regular operating costs it must fund hurricane clean up.

“You can see damage as soon as you reach the entrance,” Hutton said. “We had a huge bunya-bunya tree fall over, blocking the road to get in.”

The tree was so large that it also crushed surrounding plants, she said.

Budget cuts in 2002 forced the Botanical Gardens to be completely self-sustaining, which is why the festival is so important this year.

“This event has to hold us over until April,” Hutton said.

There will be over 70 vendors representing local plant clubs, societies and commercial growers from all over the state selling “anything you could possibly imagine as far as plants are concerned,” Hutton said.

Along with the plant items for sale, offerings will include food, refreshments, free lectures and children’s activities.

“We usually get around three to four thousand people for this event,” Hutton said. “We are extremely tired from the constant cleanup from the storms, but the vendors are all ready to go, so we hope we can get a good turnout.”

The festival starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $3; children under 12 are free. The entrance to the Botanical Gardens is at the intersection of Pine and Alumni Drive.