Introduction My Story

David

Founder
Staff member
#1
I touch briefly upon my history in my Nerd Nite talk, but decided to post a more verbose version for those who may find it interesting. It also has the added benefit of being able to link to something when people ask me too. :D

Growing Up
As a kid I've always been inquisitive and had a huge drive for learning. While I loved watching 90s Nickelodeon stuff, I also spent a good amount of time watching the Discovery and History channels. We didn't have money but my mom made every penny count wherever she could, which resulted in me spending a lot of time in Downtown Miami visiting the library, art museums and galleries, spending hours riding around on the Metromover, zoos, botanical gardens, and other things I really can't remember now. Quite frankly looking back on it I'm amazing my mom managed to do so much with so little.

Over the years I've had a lot of pets come and go, including parakeets, a snake, dogs, cats, a tarantula, hermit crabs, fish, and others. I'm certain having such a variety of animals at home also fueled my initial interests in animals, as my mom and I frequently went to Miami MetroZoo Zoo Miami, Busch Gardens, Miami Seaquarium (even attended their summer camp one year). During this time period, I didn't give the ocean much personal attention though I still enjoyed when we went fishing off piers or, as a rare treat, get on a fishing boat. I still have vivid memories of weekends we'd drive down to Key West to catch the sunsets and sunrises over the water and watch the beautiful tropical fish dart around the piers there.

Technological Interests
Up until around the time I was getting into high school, I thought for sure I was going to head into something animal-related. I had very strong leanings toward marine biology by this time and was also considering zoology as well. I also had a great liking for science and technology, but it wasn't large enough to lure me as a career choice. Still, I'd enjoy watching documentaries and shows that touched up this and more. Besides knowing it was around this time period, I can't recall how I started my interest in web design but I know I had started playing with HTML and learning how to make a simple web page.

After 10th grade, I changed high school and moved to one where we had a choice of focuses. It just so happens this school also had a web design certificate upon graduation, and since I was generally skilled enough to be comfortable with it, I decided to pursue that academy. Aside from realizing that I had already known more than what the school curriculum was covering for web design (this time period included Flash as part of the course, to give an idea of how far back this was), I spent much of my evenings pushing to teach myself until I ultimately learned how to program and create my own software. This lead to a period where I did freelance development work, both increasing my skill and experience, and to me developing what I would consider a bit of perfectionism crept in, as I was determined that whatever software I created also worked flawlessly. What I created was by no means perfect, but it worked without any issues for what was there and I took pride in maintaining that quality.

Season of Change
In the background of all this, we've always had a few houseplants that we took care of but nothing odd. I liked plants, sure, but there was nothing there indicating I would turn my attention to them as much as I have recently. In the early 2000s (playing hooky from school), my mom took me to Fairchild Tropical Garden and it was there that I was introduced to the Amorphophallus titanum, named Mr. Stinky, that completely stunned me. The conservatory manager at the time, Craig Allen, gifted 2 relatives of Mr. Stinky, a carneus and bulbifer, and following the few weeks I kept them at home I got to see them bloom to the delight of my nose. My mom wasn't so enthused, but always supportive (as long as the flowers were outside). This experience was the key to my future, but I hadn't found the right door yet.

Over time I acquired more species out of general interest, keeping them as a passing hobby. Until about the end of 2015, I had maybe upwards of 120 plants. It was a nice collection, but nothing notable in my eyes at that time. It was here during a crucial point in my life where I was confronted with where I wanted my future to go. In July of 2016, it was reconnecting with Craig after over a decade of time between when he had, yet again, another Amorphohallus titanum in bloom.

It was seeing that flower yet again that it all made sense, and so began my conscious effort to collect, grow, and protect these plants. In pursuit of that, I ended up widening that vision, combining my technical skills and passions to create something completely my own.

So here we are now. 😊 LeafGardens is less than a year old, but I've already got 4 plant shows under my belt, did my first public talk to non-plant people, helped teach kids about plants, and have much more in store. I'm really excited to put into action things I've spent years dreaming about. Selling plants is secondary to my overall mission, and parts of that will be clear as time goes on.

Merging nature, technology, and people is what this is all about.