Raleigh, N.C. — Since he was five years old, Wake County native Tony Avent has been growing plants.
“My blood is green,” he said. “I get plants. It’s not something I’ve spent time learning. It’s something that was already there.”
Avent was seven years old when he started a greenhouse business, selling houseplants to his neighbors. Now, he owns a 28-acre botanical garden, with more than 27,000 different plant species, funded by an unparalleled plant nursery.
Avent went to school at North Carolina State University and studied under the late J.C. Raulston in the 70s.
“J.C. was the first person here, and he said, ‘Please tell me you didn’t quit your day job, because you can’t run a specialty mail order nursery and make a living,'” Avent said.
Avent did just that. He and his wife sold their home and invested all the money they had — a couple thousand dollars — into a former tobacco field.
“That was sort of my determination. I’ve got my mentor telling me that this can’t be done,” Avent said. “Not only are we going to do it, we’re going to start this world-class botanic garden and be able to fund that.”
Avent was determined. For hours each day, he would dig into the tobacco field to make a plant bed. He didn’t have much money, so instead he traded his friends plants for other services, like rocks needed to build his garden.
“I’m not going say it’s been easy, because it’s certainly not,” he said. “There’s times when you wonder how you’re going make payroll, but you know, 36 years, we’ve been very blessed to be able to make this work.”
Now, Juniper Level Botanical Gardens has 60 employees and it is open to the public free. The gardens make money by propagating and selling their unique cultivars to gardeners across the globe.
The importance of biodiversity in your home garden
It’s no secret that an increase in the human population, and as a result a warming climate, has resulted in a decrease of biodiversity.
According to a report from the Worldwide Fund for Nature, between 1970 and 2016, global populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have declined on average by 68%. Scientists say this is directly tied to climate change and deforestation.
Steve Hall, a biologist with the North Carolina Biodiversity Project, said it’s necessary for humans to learn to appreciate nature due to the threat of global warming.
“We cannot live without …….