A Grand HORT Love Affair

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My love affair with plants began when I was a tiny first-grader. Inspired by some gardening tips printed on a pack of yogurt, mom enlisted my brother and me to help start a mini vegetable garden using seeds, soil, and yogurt cups re-purposed as garden containers. Mom didn’t know at the time – heck, I didn’t either – that her son’s newfound appreciation for plants, would endure the test of time and lead him to his current career as an up-and-coming horticulturist.

As exciting as that garden project was, though, I thought of it as nothing more than just a cool hobby to partake in with the family. Six-year-old me had other career aspirations, like growing up to be a Pizza Hut pizza maker. Ambitious, right? Oh, to be a kid again. The middle school years ushered in another career change (to become a news anchor) and high school was dominated by my dreams of becoming a meteorologist, a recording engineer, or working in the film industry.

But on one fateful day, I changed career paths once again…

For the first time in my young life, I had actually enjoyed studying for something and was bothered when an adult told me to stop.  The adult was my FFA adviser acting as the chaperone for me and my classmates participating in a series of Florida FFA 2004 State Career Development Events (CDE).  Being part of the Floriculture CDE, I was studying through flash cards with notes and images of all the possible ornamental flowering plants which I would be tested on. So here I was, surprised at my reaction to stop studying plant facts and features. The reemergence of my love affair with plants solidified on the day of competition when a 17-year-old senior new to the CDE competition circuit armed with an entry-level FFA Greenhand degree outperformed and outlasted the formidable students from Florida’s rural heartland with a Top 15 individual finish. On a chapter/team level, the suburban kids representing an FFA chapter from Miami placed third in the state. Now, working with plants was not just a cool hobby to pass the time. The signals were clear: I was fascinated with the subjects of floriculture and horticulture, and kicked butts and took names during the competition. On that day, the love affair with plants revealed itself as a promising career path in horticulture.

If the seeds were sown on my first garden project, and if a seedling emerged from the soil with my participation in the floriculture competition, then my completion of a bachelor’s degree in 2010 and subsequent start of a career in the horticulture industry represents a plant taking shape with its roots spreading underground.

This blog, a web-based garden project I call Hortipopia, will serve as a platform for me to express my love for gardens, nature, and green spaces open for the public’s enjoyment. And from this day onward, Hortipopia’s general purpose is to serve as fertilizer for the figurative plant specimen I consider my life.

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