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We are FNGLA Strong: A Tribute to One of Our Industry’s Greats!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Article by: Greenline

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A successful Landscape Show Redux is now in the books, thanks to The Landscape Show committee and our fearless FNGLA staff. The herculean task of re-planning, organizing and executing this event with all its moving parts could not and would not have been possible without the seasoned experience and professionalism of all the folks who clock in and out at the FNGLA State Office. This show above all that came before it, was truly for the benefit of members that we serve. 

There were companies who could not attend because of scheduling conflicts and others who were still dealing with the trauma and damage from Hurricane Irma. They are never far from our thoughts and remain in my prayers. We have witnessed great destruction on recent trips, but we have also seen a resolve and determination to rebuild. This industry and the people who operate the farms, nurseries, and landscape companies in it are bending but will not be broken – they are FNGLA Strong. 

There was one company who missed The Landscape Show Redux for a very different reason. Their creative costumes and award-winning theme booth displays will be sorely missed. Earlier this year Alan Shapiro announced Grandiflora would be closing after 36 years in business so that he and his wife Ellen Shapiro could retire. 

I first met Alan Shapiro in 1981 when he had just started San Felasco Nursery Inc. on a 15 acres parcel in Gainesville. He had one employee, a shed for an office/storage and was beginning his second overhead mat, all on less than 1 acre. In 1985, San Felasco purchased an additional 16 acres at the Stein’s Greenhouses’ location on Millhopper Road and a retail store in town called The Plant Shoppe, which Ellen Shapiro would manage. Between 2001 and 2005, San Felasco had consolidated to one location with over 100 acres in production; a state of the art chemical mixing facility; cold frames; potting barns; shade structures; and, a 2-acre retractable roof ‘Cravo Greenhouse.’ 

San Felasco became Grandiflora in 2004 with a new logo and branding program “Grandiflora grown… long lasting southern blooms.” Grandiflora weathered four hurricanes in 2004 and the recession beginning in 2008 by maximizing efficiency, eliminating wastefulness, streamlining the infrastructure and upgrading its marketing/website. 

Grandiflora and Alan have had many trade affiliations over the years. FNGLA, GCS, FNPS, AFNN, ANLA, AHS, ALNLA, The Florida Museum of Natural History (Butterfly Rainforest) and NFBS (Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.) Alan and Ellen have also supported many other groups with their time and generosity, the FFA Student Contest, Master Gardeners and Extension Services, Orchid Society, Camelia Society, Arbor Day programs, Horticulture Career Day, Sensory Garden for the Blind, Keep Alachua County Beautiful, The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House, Humane Society, St. Francis House, Hope House and the Hospice of North Florida. 

San Felasco was recognized as the top operation of the year in 2003 and listed in the top 100 growers for 1998, 1999, 2000 by Ornamental Outlook Magazine. Grandiflora has won so many booth awards at trade shows that it is sad to see them coming off the office walls and into the boxes and stacked up like cord wood on table tops. Alan has also received many awards for his contributions to the horticulture industry. 

Accolades - Alan Shapiro accepts the Wendell Butler Award - FNGLA's most prestigious honor, in 2000. FNGLA PHOTO
From the City of Gainesville, The City Beautification Award in 1987, The Teeny Thomas Tripp/Service Award in 1989 and the Bob Gasche Award in 1995. 

From FNGLA, the Outstanding Committee Chairman from 1990-1991, Spring Garden Festival – Leadership and Service Award from 1991-1994, Silver Leaf Club Member in 1995, Golf Leaf Club Member in 1996, Platinum Leaf Member in 1999, and Outstanding Floriculture Division Member in 2007. In 2010 he received the Balentine Award from Southeast Horticultural Society, and in 2000, the Wendell Butler Award - FNGLA’s most prestigious honor for lifetime achievement. 

As ambassador for our industry Alan has represented FNGLA in many educational events as a speaker, writer, and even hosting many workshops, conferences, and tours; including the IPPS Symposium in 2005. His concept of an annual Perennial Field Day and open house would ultimately become the FNGLA Flower Trials. In 1998, Alan served as FNGLA State President and focused his attention on the members and their issues. He served as FNGLA Frontrunners Chapter President in 1982 and again in 1985. Alan was co-founder of the Spring Garden Festival at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and serves on the Spring Garden Festival Committee to this day. 

Every year since 1999, Alan has decorated the O’Connell Center with plants and trees in conjunction with a theme for the Stop Children’s Cancer fundraiser “Putting on the Ritz,” which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. Ellen served on the Board for the Stop Children’s Cancer until 2012 and has been the driving force behind landscape projects with Habitat for Humanity, Secret Garden Tours, Women’s Garden Club, the Children’s Garden at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and was co-founder of the Gainesville Junior Women’s Club festival of trees. 

Grandiflora/San Felasco Nursery has also won several local and statewide awards for their recycling efforts. Alan and Ellen are legendary for a lifetime of community service here in Gainesville. They loan or donate plants on a regular basis for charity fundraisers, local garden projects, schools and educational facilities. The entire company participates in the annual United Way Drive, contributing thousands each year from their paychecks. 

After 36 years of leadership and service to FNGLA and the Horticulture industry, Alan Shapiro has earned the respect of his peers and the gratitude of those of us who now stand on his shoulders to see into the future. “We are FNGLA Strong” 

Ed Bravo 
Big Trees Plantation (Gainesville, FL) 

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