Horticulturist touts plants as value-added boost for communities

Contributing WriterJune 13, 2014 


    Governor's Mansion Summer Solstice Garden Celebration

    What: The mansion and gardens will open to celebrate the house's centennial and mark the first day of summer. Gardening, entertaining and culinary experts will speak.

    When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 21

    Where: Governor's Mansion and gardens, 704 Capital Ave., Frankfort

    Tickets: $100. Benefits Kentucky Executive Mansions Foundation. For reservations, go to Governorsmansion.ky.gov/solstice or call (502) 564-3000.

It's all about show business at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., and flowers are front and center stage.

Disney World's horticulture department maintains more than 4,200 acres of landscaped gardens throughout its four theme parks, 15 themed hotels and two water parks. There are more than 3 million bedding plants and hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs.

"Quality landscaping helps create and preserve the magical guest experience at the park," said Katy Moss Warner, former director of horticulture and environmental initiatives at Walt Disney World Resort.

"When Walt Disney was alive, he emphasized the importance of great horticulture, and it's a tradition that has continued to this day," said Warner, who retired in 2000 after 24 years with the resort.

Warner will be one of eight featured speakers at the Summer Solstice Garden Celebration on June 21 at the Governor's Mansion in Frankfort. The theme will be food, flowers and entertaining.

The focus of Warner's talk will be "How Horticulture Tourism Can Bring Your Town Revenue."

Plant-based beautification increases civic pride, business spirit and reduces crime, she said.

She serves on the board of America in Bloom, a national organization that promotes beautification through community involvement and the use of flowers, plants and trees.

"You don't have to be a Disney World to get results," Warner said during a telephone interview. "Any community can reap the benefits of beautiful landscapes, majestic trees and colorful flowers.

"It is very exciting to witness communities enhancing their own quality of life and ensuring their own economic vitality by focusing on beauty, and then experiencing all the other proven benefits: reduced crime, improved health and increased tourism."

Beautifying downtowns should not be seen as a frivolous effort, Warner said. "Beauty makes us feel better mentally and physically. People want to come where they can be surrounded by beauty. They will eat in your restaurants, shop in your local stores."

She pointed to the transformation of the Orlando suburb of Winter Garden, "a very derelict community that probably didn't have more than 30 percent occupancy of storefronts on their Main Street."

The town turned an abandoned railroad bed into a beautifully l andscaped, 40-mile bicycle path and walking trail that goes through the middle of downtown.

"They added benches, colorful flower displays and swings," Warner said. "They now have 100 percent occupancy of their buildings on Main Street. There are restaurants, bakeries, all kinds of shops. The town gets tons of cyclists because it has the kind of beauty they want to immerse themselves in. Quality landscaping has brought tremendous economic vitality to that community."

In Washington state, research showed that by incorporating gardens in a hospital complex, patients needed less medication, were nicer to their caregivers and got well faster, Warner said.

A study at the University of Illinois at Urbana concluded that beautiful, better-maintained parks had lower crime rates. Research a number of years ago by the National Parks Service showed how well-maintained parks were respected by visitors.

"People don't see trash, they won't put down trash," Warner said. "But if they see trash, they feel free to drop trash."

The Summer Solstice Garden Celebration is one of several events this year celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kentucky's Governor's Mansion.

Ann Evans, executive director of the mansion, said the event would highlight tips and techniques for making your own garden more enjoyable, entertaining more fun and your meals more delicious.

Speakers will talk about the inside story of the mansion's gardens, creating beautiful tables for summer entertaining, edible spots and pots, containers as art and bringing the garden indoors.

The daylong celebration will include breakfast and lunch using seasonal foods.

The breakfast speaker will be floral designer Roiann Ridley giving tips on designs for every occasion. At lunch, Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton, 2013 James Beard Award-winning chefs, will talk about national and regional food trends, including new Southern-style cooking.

Beverly Fortune is a Lexington writer and a former Herald-Leader reporter. Contact her at beverlyfortune123@gmail.com or (859) 948-7846.

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