The work Wendy Wilbur has been doing is impressive. The horticulturalist with Alachua County has taken the UF/IFAS "Florida Friendly" program to a new level and it would be nice to see this same effort in every Florida county.
Wilbur has been named the 2013 winner of the Search for Excellence Award in Horticulture from the National Association of County Agriculture Agents for programs she's implemented to promote and encourage using Florida Friendly practices to conserve water use and improve water quality.
The Florida Friendly program promotes the use to native Florida plants for landscaping purposes. The plants that are used were in the state thriving long before any European plants were introduced. The vegetation is perfect in Florida's soil with less threat from pests and nowhere near as much need for excessive watering to keep them healthy.
Wilbur promotes Florida Friendly, as do almost all counties, but she took it even further by providing tours and workshops, and tracking homes that use the practice. If approved, homeowners who use Florida Friendly plants and practices allow others wanting to learn about it to visit their gardens and plantings for ideas and knowledge.
Planting Florida Friendly plants saves landowners lots of money on water bills, according to a story in this issue of Central Florida's Agri-Leader. Sixty-four respondents to a survey said they saved $83,000 and 3.6 million gallons of water as a result of the program. That's impressive no matter how you look at it.
It's estimated that homeowners use about 50 percent of their water on landscaping. Planting native plants drops that a large amount, and the need for fertilizers and insecticides also are greatly reduced, which helps the environment.
We hope more counties take on aggressive campaigns like Wilbur's to increase the usage of Florida Friendly landscapes. It's good for Florida, the envirnoment and homeowners.