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Gardeners & Homeowners

In memoriam, Rick McDonnell, Hickory Hill Native Nursery

Rick McDonnell, owner of Hickory Hill Native Nursery in Brooksville, is no longer with us. A FANN member for 31 years, Rick was an early supporter of using more scrub species in landscapes and one of our first nurseries to grow Quercus geminata, sand live oak, and Q. myrtifolia, myrtle oak, as well as the majestic Q. michauxii, swamp chestnut oak. A solid supporter, Rick and his wife Jaime Hendry came to every Native Plant Show to maintain their ties with the native plant industry as it evolved. Hickory Hill started out as a small wholesale specialty grower and over time became more of a critical, rare retail source for hard-to-find native plants in Pasco and Hernando County. Rick and Jaime have been long and loyal FANN members but also long and loyal members of their Hernando Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. We asked Rick’s longtime friend and former business associate, Ben Mercadante, to share a few words about Rick.

It’s not an easy task reviewing a 52 year friendship, in order to write about the passing of it, but I will do the best I can, in speaking to the community that our friend and colleague, Rick McDonnell, touched along the way. We lost Rick early in December of 2021, and it caught us off guard, even in these odd times. Rick was a true Floridian and naturalist, following that path all the way from his childhood, with a fascination he and a few of his friends had searching out and deciphering artifacts and fossil remnants of Florida’s original inhabitants. Specializing his focus and expertise on the early human cultures through an anthropological lens of study, it’s no wonder that Rick found a botanical niche in the native plant community, who welcomed him, and many friendships were formed.

Over thirty-one years ago, Rick started Hickory Hill Native Nursery. It was a time of learning and growing, and meeting so many like-minded individuals (and characters) who all had a similar focus in the propagation and distribution of native plants, along with that special horticultural perspective found within most “plant people.” Like many in the native plant movement, Rick promoted the use of native plants in responding to the environmental impacts our current culture had made in Florida, in urban or natural habitats. Rick remained an active member of FANN and FNPS for decades, ready to share information, knowledge, and a commitment with members and public alike. Rick’s wry humor and wit will certainly be missed by everyone. I will certainly miss that the most, as it was an integral part of our long friendship. As our senior members of this community age out, a little reflection on the lives and contribution of so many is in order, so we better know our roots, and the many efforts made by individuals like Rick. Rick is survived by his partner and wife of 43 years, Jaime, who spent time with him at the events and Farmer’s Markets they frequented during the later phase of Hickory Hill Native Nursery.