What’s in a name?
Sweet peppers, mango trees and a bushel of local history, says a group trying to preserve the name of Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach.
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Who was Marvin “Red” Mounts?
Red Mounts arrived in South Florida in 1925 when it was little more than potential.
During 40 years as an agriculture extension agent, he helped transform Palm Beach County from a region of about 500 acres of small truck farms, to its reign, by the time he retired in 1965 as “the nation’s salad bowl,” with more than 500,000 acres in farms.
“We went from trying to feed our own people to feeding the world,” said Audrey Norman, the Palm Beach County agriculture extension director.
Mounts started Florida’s first 4-H club, was the conduit for farmers to receive the latest fertilizer and pesticide research from University of Florida’s scientists and helped growers find new markets for their crops.
When he started, a trip to the ‘Glades farms took two days, sometimes by canal boat.
“He’s more responsible than anyone in Palm Beach County for the early development of agriculture, not just in the Glades, but up and down the coast,” said George Wedgeworth, who recalls Mounts visiting his family’s Belle Glade farm. Wedgeworth went on to found the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
When he noticed local residents’ diets lacked Vitamin A, from a lack of yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, Mounts encouraged homeowners to plant tropical fruit trees, such as mango, sapodilla, tamarind and avocado.
“A lot of old neighborhoods up and down the coast have fruit trees that were the result of those planting,” said Norman.
Tthe genesis of the garden that would eventually be named for him are the fruit trees he planted on the 3.5-acre horse pasture behind the agriculture extension office on Military Trail, a 1954 Art Deco building also named for Mounts.
(Mounts’ son, the late Circuit Judge Marvin Mounts, made his own mark on Palm Beach County history, becoming one of the state’s longest-serving judges and a friend of novelist Elmore Leonard, who dedicated his novel “Maximum Bob” to Mounts.)
In 2000, Red Mounts was named to the state’s list of “Great Floridians.”
Spring Plant Sale Next Weekend
Area gardeners wait all year for the wonders of the Mounts Spring Plant sale, to be held next Saturday and Sunday.
More than 80 vendors will bring thousands of the tropical plants that make Florida summers such botanical extravaganzas. Gardeners will find unusual gingers, heliconias, bromeliads and mammoth-leaved alocasias, along with flowering and fruit trees.
Palm and orchid growers will also bring selections, some of them rare.
In addition, the Greater Palm Beach Rose Society and the American Hibiscus Sunrise-Conrad chapter will bring their contests and displays.
Plant pots and gardening supplies will also be on sale.
WHAT: The Mounts Spring Plant Sale
WHEN: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, April 28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members breakfast is Saturday at 8 a.m.
ADMISSION: $10; members free.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: go to www.mounts.org or call 561-233-1757.
(can go out front, or on jump)
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Mounts Botanical Garden, 531 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach (just south of Belvedere Road), with gift shop.
HOURS: Monday - Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays noon to 4 p.m.
ADMISSION: $5 per person suggested donation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 561-233-1757 or go to www.mounts.org.