Jesse Durko feels most relaxed when he is around flowers and plants. An avid gardener, he opened his own 10-acre tropical nursery and plant garden twenty-five years ago, and since then it has become one of the best-known nurseries in South Florida. He takes pride in being an openly gay entrepreneur and believes very strongly in gay businesses supporting the local community, and vice versa.
He has traveled all over the world, bringing some of his favorite plants and flowers back to Florida for resale, working very closely with customs to ensure that everything sold in his nursery will fit in well with the local ecosystem. He told me recently that his favorite place to visit is South Africa, where he went just this year, because their climate is similar to ours and their wet and dry seasons roughly correspond to our own.
I asked Jesse about his nursery and his love for horticulture in this exclusive Hotspots interview.
Tell us a little bit about the plant collection you have in your nursery.
Sure. I used to work at a botanical garden, and like many gay men, I’m a collector — in my case, I collect plants. I’ve amassed one of the largest collections of plants in South Florida. In the nursery, there’s 200 different species of palms, a dozen different kinds of bamboos, and many kinds of laconias and gingers. I’m particularly proud of my native plant collection; in just the last few years, I’ve added over 90 different species of wildflowers alone to the collection. I think having a large selection to choose from is important because I can pick out the right plant for the right person and the right place.
When you first opened the nursery, did you think that 25 years later, it would still be open and serving the community?
I did. I have such a love of horticulture that I think, back then, that I anticipated having the nursery even twenty-five years from now! I think the epitaph on my grave will say something like, “All my life I grew flowers…now look at me, I’m pot ash!”
I love being in the garden and I think it’s important for people to use flowers as a way to express themselves. I’m a big believer in having flowers and plants that are very colorful, since we live in such a beautiful place like Florida…and why not use color to express yourself?