September 08, 2021
Community and Services
Phillie Stoford, a 79-year-old Orlando resident, decided to enroll in the UFS Extension Orange County Master’s Volunteer Program thirteen years ago. A fourth-generation Florida native, who grew up on a beach, she always admired the state’s pure beauty. As she got older, she developed an interest in plants, so the program matched her desire to help her homeowners grow Florida native and Florida-friendly plants.
Stoford, who has volunteered for 12 years, says: “Ever since I was in the program, I have re-evaluated the beauty of the compound, which is not necessarily a colorful plant, but a very useful part of the environment.” I teach people about native plants and invasive plants that are very harmful to our environment.
For 40 years the UF / IFAS Extension Orange County Master Gardener Volunteer Program has been helping homeowners with their gardens. The volunteer program includes more than 70 hours of instruction in all areas of fruit and vegetables. After the volunteers are certified, they promise to provide at least 75 hours of service the following year, usually by landlords answering questions over the phone. Other volunteer activities include gardening, soil pH testing, classrooms, and large-scale programs.
Stoford can sometimes be found in any of the three diagnostic plant clinics where homeowners come for advice. She can also find her in one of the Extraordinary Gardens, where she happily suggests suitable nectar and pollen as well as the variety and layers of plants to attract butterflies and bees.
She b Florida ideal landscape downt display garden in Orlando City in Orange County Administration Building. The garden, which is open to the public and helps homeowners see how to have an Indigenous container in their backyards, was recently thanked by the Florida Wildflower Foundation.
“We have been able to purchase more environmentally friendly plants that will attract more insects,” said Stoford. “Indigenous plants are important because they are a source of pollen. We have more than 300 native bees in Florida, and the local plants support their population, as well as help with stormwater runoff, landslides and more.
For Stopford, the most exciting part of volunteering is meeting and mentoring other people involved in the program. “Gardeners are good people, and what we do is good for the environment,” he said. I am constantly learning, and helping homeowners is incredibly satisfying.
If you are interested in participating in a Master Horticulture Volunteer Program, please contact John Roberts, Ph.D. Go to the UF / IFAS Extension website to learn more about the Florida native and Florida-friendly herbal benefits.
Photo Line: Phyllis Stoford, UF / IFAS Extension Orange County Master Volunteer, stands in front of a suitable garden in the Orange County Administrative Building Florida.