Mardy Darian was in rough shape. Suffering from dysentery in a Madagascar jail was the last thing he expected on his most recent trip to Madagascar. After all, he had been several times before and had quietly been building what would eventually become the largest collection of exotic palms in Southern California.
Mardy was on an airplane and had spotted what looked to be a palm species that he had not previously encountered. Impetuously exiting the aircraft, he hurried across the tarmac to inspect the specimen. Little did he realize that he had broken Madagascar airport security protocol by running in front of a machine gun embankment. To add insult to injury, the "rare" palm species turned out to be a common Hyphane.
Mardy was eventually released. He would return to Madagascar for several more seed collecting trips. In addition to Madagascar he traveled to South America, The Solomon Islands, The Seychelles, South East Asia and Australia collecting rare species that he thought might survive on his 3.2 acre estate in Vista, California. He also spent a small fortune along the way.
Mardy's story is a reminder of how the costs of building a world class botanic garden have plummeted within the past twenty years. Improvements in global logistics and the advent of the internet have made it easier than ever to acquire rare plant species.
I order my palm species online through a firm called Floribunda Palms and Exotics. One can peruse their online price list for over 300 different palm species. Jeff and Suchin Marcus own Floribunda and offer the most competitive prices and are noted for their attention to detail. Jeff will spend a good amount of time on the phone with clients to ensure their order is suitable given their objectives and constraints. The seedlings mostly come bare rooted (except for some of the species sensitive to shock which come in small pots). The roots of the meticulously labeled plants are wrapped in a moss which is in turn wrapped in aluminum foil. They arrive as though they were plucked that day and have been known to survive for up to a few weeks outside of a planting medium.
We now grow over 350 species of palms, 120 species of heliconia, over 100 different bromeliads and over 100 different types of plumeria. Most of these were ordered online and the logistics were (in most cases) seamless. The internet was responsible for allowing us to create this tropical paradise and allowed us to differentiate ourselves from competitors (all without spending a small fortune).
Many have used the internet to drive down traditional costs across myriad industries. What was previously cost prohibitive can suddenly become well within reach with productivity driving technology. I embrace technological change and know that it won't be the last time it makes a significant impact on my life.