by Amanda Rose Newton
With both the solstice and Father’s day around the corner, it’s safe to say Summer has officially arrived. For many I’m sure the Florida heat has not let you forget!
To honor the dads in our lives, we decided to focus the blog this week on the many important contributions the American founding fathers of the garden made to the plant world.
Be sure to check out the end of the post where we share a few gift ideas for the difficult to buy for Dad (like mine) who loves to grill, chill, and get the most out of summertime.
Food For Thought: Luther Burbank
During the 1800s, Luther Burbank created no less than 8000 different strains, varieties, and hybrids of important agricultural crops.
One of his greatest achievements (someone might be biased towards stone fruits) is the PLUMCOT!
A combination of a plum and an apricot, this special fruit prolonged the season of apricots and made them easy to ship, making them widely available countrywide for the first time.
Red delicious apples, adored by many and despised by others, is also his doing. All fun fruits aside, he also made some major contributions to address food security issues, including the Burbank potato that provided an alternative for the Irish potato which had led to the famous famine in Ireland.
He also dabbled in flower breeding and created many unique cultivars of poppies and the Shasta daisy among others, which he marketed through the famous Stark Bros Nursery, for whom his sons later worked.
Designing Dads: Frederick Olmsted
Frederick Olmsted wore many hats: sailor, farmer, superintendent of Central Park, Administrator of the US Sanitary Commission, and Dad to name a few. In addition to perhaps the longest list of odd jobs in history, he is also the Father of Modern Landscape Architecture.
A lover of nature and the beauty it held, he eventually took over the renovation of Niagara Falls and Yosemite Valley, being the first to approach the sustainable design of natural areas. Often taking his wife and kids along for the ride, he worked until his death in 1903.
Nuts: Every Family Has One! George Washington Carver
The average American will consume 2984 peanut butter sandwiches in their lifetime.
George Washington Carver invented those famous sandwiches to achieve the ultimate cheap protein power meal. Peanuts contain 8 of the 9 essential amino acids we need that our bodies don’t make, and by combining it with bread you can call it complete!
In addition to this marvel, he was invested in providing food and income for poor farmers in the South. An early pioneer of food security, he invented over 105 ways to use peanuts and almost as many for sweet potatoes.
Carver is less known for his accomplishments in social justice, an arena he spent hours in through mentoring children, and fostering the belief that hard work and positive attitudes get you far.
Oh, and he was an excellent father, husband, and had an envy-worthy home garden, just in case he didn’t do enough in his professional life!
Uncharted Territory: David Fairchild
David Fairchild, whose namesake garden in Miami is worth a summer road trip to, had the ultimate cool dad job as an explorer who brought back exotic plants from around the world.
Some of his notable contributions include mangoes, the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., cotton, soybeans, bamboo, and even kale! In 1938 his garden in Miami became the center of plant research in the United States and a welcome escape during a tough decade.
David Fairchild eventually settled in Florida with his family and continued his research into rare plants until his death. His son, Alexander Graham Fairchild, followed in the horticultural footsteps of his father by becoming an entomologist (bug scientist) for the US Government, helping to protect plants from the spread of invasive pests.
Local Legend: Harry Witte
Rockledge Gardens would not be the iconic Route 1 nursery it is today without the vision of one special dad, Harry Witte.
What started out as a bulb business grew into a thriving, important pillar for the community that has continued thanks to his daughter, Theresa, and her husband Kevin.
In addition to the garden center we all know and love, Harry was instrumental in promoting green industry education, serving on the board for the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association and helping to develop the first Florida Certified Horticulture Exam.
He also cared deeply for our community, donating time and funds to many local projects. The beautiful butterfly house on the property was built in his honor, and we are honored to have his grandchildren continuing to spread joy throughout Brevard.
Garden Gifts for Dads
Dads can be the most difficult members of the family to shop for! If you are stumped on ideas, we have you covered!
Below are a couple of fun DIY ideas for creating a unique or memorable gift for the dad who has everything.
If grilling is a family pastime, giving a gift that pairs great with burgers is a sure win. With a variety of peppers, greens, and tomatoes you can put together a themed garden with ease!
Don’t forget the spices like cilantro and oregano for rubs! If your dad is more of the premade-type over DIY, consider gifting a basket of goodies from the farmer’s market, including jams, relishes, and spreads from Space Coast Spreads, spice rubs from Bitchin’ Bohemian Blends, and fresh bread for those burgers.
While you are spicing up creativity on BBQ night, don’t forget about drinks! Herbs like mint pair well with iced tea and for those that seek a harder edge (we love our botanical cocktails around here), you can put together a container of herbs to help make cocktail hour easier! Mints for a mojito, basil for a Bloody Mary, the possibilities are endless!