Flower Show Livens Up Dry St. John

April 16, 2005 – The Marketplace shopping center on St. John was abloom Saturday as hundreds of residents and a smattering of visitors arrived for the first annual Plant and Flower Show.
"I'm intoxicated. I'm addicted. I was here before they opened," St. John resident Maya Powell said as she browsed among the plants. She bought a rare white desert rose. The plant is seen all over St. John with its pink flowers blooming, but the white variety is unusual.
St. John nursery owner Bob Farmer had some plants from Madagascar for sale. "They're good for here. They take dry conditions and drought," Farmer said.
St. John gardeners are facing hard times because of the current dry weather. In fact, St. John resident Ann Glenn said she was buying plants to replace the ones she lost because she's been unable to water them.
"We've been out of water for two weeks, and will have to wait another two weeks or up to a month to get water," she said. She's getting five gallons a day from a neighbor, but that doesn't begin to meet their needs.
The V.I. Water and Power Authority hasn't been able to keep St. John water haulers supplied with enough water to meet the demand through the dry spell. (See St. John Faces Water Shortages).
Although most of the vendors had plants for sale, St. John resident Amos Rutnik of Artistic Landscapes was busy promoting his irrigation systems.
"Lots of big houses want lawns and sodded walkways. They take lots of water," he said, adding that he knows of one big house that is using two truckloads of water a week because the island has had very little rain.
Rutnik had several different types of systems for sale, but said the drip irrigation system was the most efficient use of water. However, it needs the most maintenance. An irrigation system will run about $1,000 per zone covering 50 plants, he said.
Alfredo Del Olmo of Alfredo's Landscaping had plants grown on St. John, Florida and Puerto Rico for sale. He said business was brisk.
While most of the vendors were pros, Mimi Roller and Sarah Burks were busy selling plants to raise money for the St. John Kids and the Sea program.
"We've sold quite a bit. We've made over $200," Roller said.
St. John resident Eleanor Gibney was on hand to sign her book, "A Field Guide to Native Trees and Plants of the East End, St. John" at Windwords Bookstore. "We've sold some," she said.
St. John resident Fran Talbot came to learn more about orchids.
"I picked up a lot of information on where to get them," she said.
She didn't have to go far. Many of the several dozen vendors had orchids for sale, and the St. Thomas/St. John Orchid Society set up a table on the second floor to recruit new members.
Orchid Society member Mercedes Berruz of St. Thomas said the group also hoped to locate orchids growing on St. John's construction sites so they could save them. She said the members would transplant them to safer growing areas.
Berruz said that orchids don't need much care.
"Once they're established, it's neglect, neglect. They take care of themselves," she said.
If you'd like to join the Orchid Society or know of orchids growing at construction sites, call president Frances Roberts at 774-1343.

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