Broward County’s 50th Plant Affair sells Florida native plants, unites plants lovers

A plant affair vendor and attendee discuss plant sale. (Maya Washburn/SFMN)

Plant and garden lovers from across South Florida came together recently for Broward County’s 50th Annual Plant Affair.

At Volunteer Park in Plantation, local nurseries and vendors lined grassy areas with tents covering their many plants and garden accessories for sale–including orchids, native plants, rare plants, cacti, succulents, palms, fruit trees, vines, flowering plants, garden art, pots and furniture and more.

From a young event that moved around parks in the Broward County area, finally settling at Volunteer last year, it has become a gathering for horticulturalists to buy and sell the plants they spent their lives curating.

This was the case for plant vendors Jeff and Andrea Searle, a married couple who owned the Searle Brothers nursery in Southwest Ranches for 40 years before retiring last year.

Jeff, who has a degree in horticulture science from Broward College, said that he originally planned to become a firefighter before his dad recommended he take “plant classes” at Broward College.

Jeff and Andrea Searle stand underneath the tent that they sold plants from at the plant affair. (Maya Washburn/SFMN)

He said that he has witnessed an increased interest in plants in recent years, especially among young people.

“This is a great sale; the plant industry and enthusiasm and excitement for it is very high right now,” said Jeff. “Like everything in life, there are ups and downs. And right now, the interest in plants is very high.”

Alexander Lopez-Perez, a 23-year-old plant fanatic and affair attendee, is one of those young people. He currently cares for around 40 plants.

“I am obsessed with plants,” said Lopez-Perez, who studies anthropology at FIU. “Normally, whenever I’m surrounded by plants, like, obviously house plants and all that, I get really excited, because it’s just like, it’s a way to improve a space and literally add more life.”

He said that he started caring for plants just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, but most of the other young plant owners he knows started while quarantining.

Alexander Lopez-Perez (left) holds up his plant purchases with a friend, Gabi Garcia (right). (Maya Washburn/SFMN)

Another vendor, Asa Lesku, started working with plants when she came to South Florida from Sweden in 2000. Ever since, she has worked alongside her husband with landscaping and lawn maintenance.

Lesku said that many of the vendors at the plant affair are a part of a larger South Florida community that shares a love for plant care.

“A lot of the vendors that are here today come to the same shows. We’ll go to Mount Botanical next weekend,” said Lesku. “It’s always nice.”

She emphasized the importance of gaining first-hand experience when undertaking plant care.

“I know that there are a lot of people that go to school, but it really is hands-on experience that teaches you how to grow things,” said Lesku. “You just have to experiment and learn by yourself and learn from your mistakes.”

Asa Lesku has worked with plants for the past 22 years after coming to the U.S. from Sweden. (Maya Washburn/SFMN)

The Plantation Garden Club attended the event with plants that were donated for sale by its members.

The money received from their sales goes towards their community service work, which includes donations to local schools and scholarships for City of Plantation graduating seniors.

Peggy Tingle, Plantation Garden Club president, joined the club after she retired in 2008 from working as an elementary school teacher. Her interest in plants sparked when she found dying plants around her apartment complex, Hawthorne Village.

Peggy Tingle started caring for plants after she retired in 2008. (Maya Washburn/SFMN)

Tingle said that even her dog followed suit, and brought a small dying cactus to her front porch a few days ago.

“I call myself a plant rescuer,” said Tingle. “As I was walking around, I would see plants laying on the ground. I like to get the plant, put it in some soil and watch it grow.”

Maya Washburn is an SFMN DC bureau summer correspondent studying digital journalism with a concentration in criminal justice at the FIU Honors College. Her primary focus is reporting on previously untold stories, with her writing often involving investigations, underrepresented issues, crime, mental health, education, politics and more.