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Retired Vista Vet Creates Rare Plant Rainforest

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This segment originally aired December 4, 2006.

San Diego County seems an unlikely place to find a rainforest. But go to Mardy Darian’s property in Vista, and you can feel like you’ve been transported to Colombia or Madagascar. Producers Guillermo and Elsa Sevilla explore Darian’s man-made rainforest.

At least half of the world’s plants and animals live in the rainforest. But at the rate the rainforests are being destroyed, it could all be gone within years. Not if a San Diego botanist has his way. World renowned palm specialist Dr. Mardy Darian is motivating people around the world to create their rainforest to help mother earth.

It is a rainforest like no other in the world because of its location and variety of species of plants. The diversity of plants are incredible – with 75-foot trees serving as a canopy, more than 500 exotic species of palms, tree ferns, orchids, vines and many other plants  all in one place. It is a three acre, subtropical rainforest in the middle of North County in Vista.

It is all part of one man’s dream and mission to promote rainforest preservation and reforestation, especially after nearly half of the 8 million square miles of rainforest in the world have been burned, bulldozed or obliterated, according to the Nature Conservancy. If the destruction continues at the current rate – Scientists estimate that all rainforest ecosystems may be destroyed by 2030. But Dr. Mardy Darian has a solution. It began in his backyard more than four decades ago.

Dr. Mardy Darian, backyard rainforest creator : The forest – the higher it is, the more density the plant grows. It makes it an efficient air cleaner, the best in the world. It removes the gasses produced by the fossil fuels – it is better than any man-made idea. Nothing cleans the air like a forest. It takes in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and releases oxygen.

Darian is a retired veterinarian and world-renowned palm specialist. His passion for plants has taken him around the world exploring and cultivating tropical species – bringing them back and growing them in his greenhouse – then transferring them outside to his garden. On this day, Darian is hosting professors from the University of Southern California, talking about his life’s work.

Darian : Most people won’t even try to grow Catalyses orchids. Catalyses, in my opinion, are the most beautiful of all flowers in the world. I had 1,000 orchids with 100 in bloom in one day.

Darian has created a rainforest in arid Southern California by changing the environment. The large number of different species of plants helps to moderate temperature, light, wind and humidity in his garden, thus creating up to eight microclimates. Once established, the rainforest takes care of itself. It also allows Darian an opportunity to grow fruits and vegetables.

Darian : Over the last 43 years period, I found out the highest concentration of microclimates in the world – I have walnuts and apricots in the coldest, avocados in the middle and mangos, papayas and bananas at the top.

Growing plants has been a life-long dream for Darian, but at the age of 84, he is facing his most difficult task, yet: preserving the garden for future generations to enjoy.

Dr. Myrna Jacobson, USC : He’s taken through simple Mandelean genetics - you take something, grow it, take the best of what’s grown and plant it - he’s been able to cultivate what grows in subtropical environment in a tropical environment. Plants outside beginning he wasn’t able to grow at first it.

But it could all be gone in an instant. Caring for the garden has become consistently more costly to maintain. With the exception of a few donations, Darian personally pays for all the expenses to keep his garden growing.

Darian : The big cost – cost of water – when I first started the property 43 years, ago, the bill was bimonthly only at $15.00 – never more than $7.50 a month – now it exceeds $1,500 a month. It has finally broke me.

What he wants most is to save Darian Garden before it is too late.

Darian : I hope an oil company can come in and say they will take on the garden and explain how they’ve polluted the world and how the rain forest can help clean and protect the environment. That’s what I hope happens. 

For more information about starting your own rainforest – or if you would like to help Darian Garden continue to flourish – call 760-731-7142 .

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