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Say Hello to VISTA’s Wildflower Garden Resident Experts!

Updated: Jan 16

VISTA’s Wildflower Garden along the berm will soon be moving to the next stage; after solarization comes soil prep and planting! And, VISTA has Resident Experts who have volunteered to dedicate time and expertise to the various plantings. These Resident Experts are learning about the plants selected for the Wildflower Garden, including proper planting and care techniques, and preparing to guide volunteers who will assist in transplanting native trees, vines, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers in late October. Our VISTA members are excited about this Native Wildflowers project and welcome all of our community residents to enjoy and learn about these fabulous Florida native plants. The Wildflowers project is funded by the Florida State Wildflower license plate program, the Florida Wildflower Foundation, and other generous donors.

Vicki Kuse, who also tends VISTA’s herb collection and its many butterfly gardens, is enthusiastic about how the wildflower garden will benefit the pollinators, beautify the neighborhood and educate people about native plants. She chose the Grasses section since she has similar species at her home and is already familiar with them. For her, “Grasses provide interest and beauty during the months the flowers fade or go dormant so they can be enjoyed all year round.”

Ann Wallace, one of VISTA’s earliest gardeners, was excited to hear about the wildflower garden and even more excited to hear about the Florida Wildflower Foundation grant . She hopes the wildflower garden will show people the benefits of this kind of gardening and that it is something they can manage at home using the Right Plant, Right Place approach. Ann chose the Bushes and Shrubs section since, while she doesn't know much about Florida natives, she realizes that bushes and shrubs are often the backbone of the garden. As Ann noted, “Bushes and shrubs can be long lasting and once established, they don’t require the care that many other plants need. I’d love to show people what types of bushes and shrubs are available for our area and help our neighbors be successful in their home gardens.”

In addition to their volunteer work at VISTApicking up and composting "expired" produce from the Community Food Pantry one day each week and regularly volunteering as compost sifters, Ellen and Hernado Bernal have also volunteered to become resident experts to be more involved in VISTA in a meaningful way. In her second year at VISTA, Ellen admits to being new to gardening and learning all she can. She realized that the best way to learn and participate is concentrating on one specific project and becoming knowledgeable in it. By being involved in the Wildflowers project the Bernals hope to learn more and give back at the same time. The Bernals are excited to “contribute to this street-side project that makes the garden more visible to the community.” Ellen laughed when asked why she chose her group of Aster plants: “Because the nicknames caught my attention - ‘green eyes’ and ‘paint brush.’ ”

Sue, Vivian and Kaydence Mao love flowers and are looking forward to the experience of planting and watching wildflowers grow, learning something new about native wildflowers, and getting some exercise. They chose Feay’s Palafox in the Aster family, because, “Its flowers are interesting and attract butterflies and bees!” You have probably seen these three energetic women volunteering at VISTA on Saturday mornings, tending fruit trees, herbs, and pollinator gardens. They cut and mulched the most cover crops at the end of our last summer season!

Leyla and Ruth Wedoski volunteered to become Resident Wildflower Experts due to their concern for Florida’s native wildflower species. “It is such a seemingly untouched, unnourished area that receives little attention or expertise from the public eye—despite what a critical role it plays in the sustainability of our local ecologies. Native plants, but especially wildflowers, are the one true key to recovering what has been lost through habitat degradation, fragmentation, the inadvertent spread of invasive species, pollution and excessive fertilizer runoff, and most of all the rejection and miseducation that surrounds the benefits and impact of native flora. There is a stigma around the prefix ‘wild’ as though it is something that is untamed and dangerous— a blemish to what is considered the ‘orderly’ cultivated concrete landscape, mildly decorated with exotic plants. With this objective, we hope to flip that narrative, to be a part of the project that could help start that for our own community: Begin the process of re-education and show the benefits of our wildflowers in their natural domain, in their entire essence. That their benefits outweigh the fertilizer, the pesticides, the water use. Pull together what is the ‘wild’ and what is the ‘tame’ to create something that can only be described as beautiful.” Ruth and Leyla believe that, “When knowledge is handed to you, it is wise to accept it.” They see this project as a stellar learning opportunity, to take on the Verbena plant family they have very little to no previous knowledge of, and as an incentive to peruse a plant family that would have gone unacknowledged any other way. Ruth has also been busy at VISTA regularly sowing seeds and up-planting seedlings for VISTA's House of the Rising Seeds.

Here is a complete list of who the Resident Experts are and which plantings they will focus on:

Small Trees

3 Flatwoods plum, Prunus umbellata - Rolfe Evenson and Justice Umbyia


10 Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris – Vicki Kuse

37 Elliott’s lovegrass, Eragrostis elliottii– Vicki Kuse

21 Wiregrass, Aristida stricta– Hena Niazi

10 Lopsided Indiangrass, Sorghastrum secundum – Hena Niazi

Bushes and Shrubs– Ann Wallace

1 Bahama cassia, Senna Mexicana ‘Chapmanii’

3 Buttonsage, Lantana involucrata

3 Garberia, Garberia heterophylla

3 Dwarf Saltbush, Baccharis Dioica

1 Tarflower, Bejaria racemosa

1 Wild lime, Zanthoxylum fagara


Verbena Family – Ruth and Leyla Wedoski

5 Beach Verbena,Glandularia maritima

4 Pineland Lantana, Lantana depressa var. depressa

4 Blue Porterweed, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

Mint Family- Jennifer Grebenschikoff and Diana Rao

11 Calamintha, Calamintha georgiana

7 False Rosemary,Conradina canescens

1 Dotted Horsemint,Monarda punctata

Aster Family- Gigi Yeun-Reed and Naomi Reed

7 Elephants Foot, Elephantopus elata

5 Blue Mistflower,Ageratum maritimum

5 Sweet Everlasting, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium

Aster Family -Ellen and Hernado Bernal

15 Florida paintbrush, Carphephorus corymbosus

12 Florida Greeneyes,Berlandiera subacaulis

23 Aster Family- Janet Stanko

10 Ironweed, Vernonia Angustifolia

7 Maryland goldenaster, Chrysopsis mariana

6 Starry rosinweed, Silphium asteriscus

51 Aster Family- TBD

51 Narrowleaf silkgrass, Pityopsis graminifolia

22 Aster Family- Sue Mao, Vivian and Kaydence Rao

Feay’s Palafox, Palafoxia feayi

21 Blazing stars, Liatris- Lynn Burke

6 Liatris gracilis

5 Liatris tenuifolia

5 Liatris spicata

5 Liatris chapmanii

2 Vines – TBD

1 Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens

1 Maypop,Passiflora incarnata

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