Volume 2, Number 13 - March 27, 2012

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Maria Moscoso

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Plants Take Over Professor’s World

By Maria Moscoso

Jeff Wasielewski
Green Thumb: Jeff Wasielewski, a professor at Miami Dade's Kendall Campus, is a multimedia specialist and assistant curator at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. DONNALYN ATHONY / THE REPORTER

Jeff Wasielewski discovered his love for nature in 1992 when he helped clean up the debris left behind by Hurricane Andrew.

Wasielewski, a professor of horticulture at Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus, now practices his passion every day: He is a multimedia specialist and assistant curator at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where he shoots videos on horticulture for the Fairchild YouTube channel.

“He has always been passionate about horticulture and has applied this passion to tropical fruit,” said Richard J. Campbell, director of horticulture and senior curator of Tropical Fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. “He always brings in a core of excellent students that want to participate in all aspects of the botanical garden.”

Wasielewski, 41, describes his work environment as a place where plants from all around the world are looked after and preserved, like Amorpha herbacea var. crenulata, only found in Miami-Dade County.

Wasielewski has taught more than 10 different horticulture classes at Fairchild during the past 14 years. He believes his job allows him to use his skills as a writer, speaker and teacher.

Several of his articles, including a few explaining the dangers of over watering plants and step-by-step instructions on how to cultivate a plant have appeared on the Fairchild website as well as in The Miami Herald.

As the multimedia specialist at Fairchild, Wasielewski shoots, cuts and edits informational videos about the various activities that occur at Fairchild, as well as tips and instructions on how to take care of home gardens.

“I love getting information out to the public and I do that through talks, classes, articles and now through YouTube,” Wasielewski said.

After completing a degree in English at MDC, Wasielewski received a Landscape Technology degree. During the process he said he “devoured books” on plants and took the first of many trips into the Everglades—something he does every year with his 10-year-old daughter Samantha.

Aside from earning his master's degree in education, he has also taught intensive reading courses at Ponce de Leon Middle School for eight years.

Some courses he teaches at MDC include nursery practices, exterior plant maintenance, pesticide application and tropical fruit horticulture. He is also teaching a new class this summer called South Florida horticulture.

“I want my students to become responsible stewards of nature and see the beauty that South Florida has to offer,” Wasielewski said.

Wasielewski credits horticulture with changing his view of the world. He said he wants to instill this in his students and those close to him.

“Ever since I was little, he has taught me to respect and protect nature,” Samantha said.

Wasielewski said he and his daughter take annual trips to the Everglades and visit Fairchild often.

“When my daughter was born I planted a gumbo-limbo tree at Fairchild,” he said. “Now the love of nature has trickled down to the next generation.”

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