Director’s Message

Every good gardener knows that you can’t grow a strong plant on weak roots. At the UCF Arboretum, we are continually reminded that our success is rooted in our past. Our founding director, the late Dr. Hank Whittier, spent over 20 years laying the foundation for our program. We are excited to announce that we will honor Dr. Whittier at our upcoming friend-raising event, “Cultivating Our Roots,” during which we will recognize his founding contributions, and share our bold, new vision for the future. We hope you will be able to join us for this special event on the evening of March 23—please see the announcement in this newsletter for more information and an RSVP.

Cultivating roots takes time. Like a newly planted bamboo shoot that sits quietly for several years before erupting with tremendous growth, the Arboretum program has been quietly laying the groundwork for new growth, and we are ready for take-off! In addition to master planning the original Arboretum area that Hank Whittier worked tirelessly to build, we are expanding our role as a campus-wide living laboratory that focusses on public horticulture and gardens, urban ecology, and the importance of natural connections to human well-being.

I hope you will take time to read our featured newsletter stories. Our biggest current news is that we are moving our organic community garden and farm to a new location. Started in 2009, the community garden has become a major focus of our student engagement and volunteering, and it supports our emerging partnerships related to health and well-being. Another story focusses on our pioneering prescribed fire program, which demonstrates that carefully planned prescribed fires can greatly increase diversity of native plants and animals in urban and suburban conservation areas, while simultaneously reducing wildfire risk.

We are excited about our new crop of students that are helping lead program initiatives, such as expanding our plant sales, and developing horticultural training materials for our landscape staff. One of our student staff members, Shannon Monahan, is a civil and environmental engineering major who is assisting with our campus stormwater management system. Shannon was recruited to our program directly out of high school through a College of Sciences iSTEM Summer Biology Institute created by Arboretum Program Director, Jennifer Elliott—another example of how our program is tangibly transforming students’ lives.

It has been several years since we put out a newsletter, and we are excited to launch this new dynamic and engaging format, which we will issue three times per year in spring, summer, and fall. This new design was made possible by another of our student staff members, Caitlyn Kennedy, who is assisting with our social media and newsletter production. Please feel free to share this newsletter with other people you think would be interested in our program, and who might like to be added to our contact list.

Comments are closed.