Apopka-area foliage growers face uneasy times

Article from the Orlando Sentinel

Foliage was king in the 1980s when Wayne Mercer arrived in Central Florida, lured by a cousin making good money growing houseplants.

“I was just amazed at how easy it seemed,” said Mercer, 57, a struggling home-builder in Michigan who moved south to learn the nursery business from his cousin, Gene Batson. “I just put these green things in little pots, took care of them a while, then some people would come and take them away and pay me.”

Back then, Mercer could hardly pronounce aglaonema or dieffenbachia, two plants that helped build Mercer Botanicals’ success. “Don’t get me wrong: We worked hard, very, very hard,” he recalled. “It was just simpler.”

Today, it’s neither simple nor easy for independent foliage growers in Apopka, where the shrinking number of nurseries has led the mayor to suggest a rebranding of the city known for more than 90 years as either “Fern City” or the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World.”

read the rest of the article at the Orlando Sentinel

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