Meet Gary Henry, longtime wildflower advocate and enthusiast. Gary Henry is the former Florida Department of Transportation’s landscape architect and a founding member of the Florida Wildflower Foundation board. He also was a driving force behind the establishment of the State Wildflower license plate, which funds the Foundation’s work.
Why do you support the Foundation?
For quite a few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many people who love the natural beauty of Florida and treasure all that is unique about the state. Those of us who support the Florida Wildflower Foundation have worked hard to educate others about the value and importance of wildflowers to the environment and to mankind, but we still have a lot of work to do. We cannot educate ourselves and others without proper research and knowledge, and that is my endeavor in being a member of the Florida Wildflower Foundation.
Growing up, I was fixated on flowers. It didn’t matter what they were: If they caught my eye, I was interested. Spending summers during high school working in a nursery had the biggest impact on my future. Plants! Five years studying landscape architecture at the University of Florida galvanized my interest. But it wasn’t until I began working at the Florida Department of Transportation that I had a true education. There was an effort to use the plants that were available in the industry and required the least maintenance. Unfortunately, back in the early ‘70s, besides exotic tropicals, which required some care to survive or to look decent in our public places, there weren’t many choices.
About that time I was assigned FDOT’s Wildflower Program. We tried all kinds of species that were available nationwide, but they were tremendously unsuccessful. It wasn’t until a research project was funded that we learned the major problems: We were using non-native seed and planting out of season. The more I was challenged by my superiors and the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, the more focused I became on trying to make the program a success.
The Wildflower Program was one of the most rewarding programs I worked on; it became a personal interest that continued into retirement. Seeing a roadside or field covered in a fabulous display has never ceased to thrill me. To me, the creation of the Florida Wildflower Foundation was the best way to continue the program for the future and increase our knowledge of our native species and encourage public involvement.”
What wildflowers are growing in your yard?
Butterweed (Senecio glabellus). A great January bloomer!
What do you think is the biggest threat to Florida’s native wildflowers?
What is your favorite wildflower?
Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella). Very showy and spreads if allowed.