Planter Profile: Doyle Hicks
What is your job title?
Grower. I’m responsible for half of the annuals. I work with mainly petunias, salvias, verbenas, vegetables, herbs, dianthus, lobelia, and calibrachoas. And I work with annual combinations—all the different combinations. I’m the Combo Guy.
How long have you worked at Costa Farms?
12 years and 4 months
How do you work with these plants?
I start with plants that are grown from seeds (plugs) and cuttings (liners)—it’s our starter material. We are basically caretaker as well as doctor when needed. We know exactly what our plants need to look like before they go to the stores, so we inspect them constantly. They need to be healthy and growing, but not too fast, and not too slow, and with no disease. If the plants are not doing what we want them to do, i.e., if they are not growing fast enough or if they are lacking anything, this is where the "doctor" prescribes the specific treatment needed. It takes on average 5 weeks to grow finish a plant from a plug or liner, that then goes to the potting line, then into the field where we receive it and ultimately to the customer.
How did you get into horticulture?
I’m from Trinidad & Tobago and there are so many different colors and kinds of plants there. My interest in horticulture really started with my grandmothers on both sides. These ladies yards were always littered with various tropical flowering plants. And my father who always had a well-manicured kitchen garden, which was very immaculate, straight, and neat. These were my earliest influences.
What first inspired you about plants?
In school I was interested in science, and how things work. I was fascinated with plants: The leaves, the textures, the colors, the roots. I remember my first science project studying tropism (the study of stimuli, such as light, affects plants) where we planted kidney beans on tissue paper and a contraption that rotated them continuously. We were observing the growth of the roots and shoots which was fascinating.
I visited the US and Epcot at age 9 and saw the ride “Living with the Land.” I wanted to grow up and become an astronaut and grow plants in space. Imagine a 9-year old coming from a third world country and seeing Epcot. That overwhelmed me. I didn’t know that these things existed.
How are you like the plants you raise?
I have a big personality. I have a very colorful personality. I see myself brightening people’s lives with my smile and my big personality. I see my plants, my combinations having the same effect on people.
What plants do you have in your own home and why?
What plant don’t I have in my home? (Doyle laughs).
I love the combinations. The new petunias and calibrachoas are very showy, very bright. They offer instant color.
In the landscape, I have a lot of foliage plants—colorful, hardy, croton types as well as Plants of Steel like our ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamifolia). I’m a busy man. I have a 3 year old and 1 year old. I find gardening very therapeutic to me. What I use in the landscape are plants that are hardier, that can take a drought. But they have to be colorful, with interesting foliage, texture, and height.
How has working with plants changed you?
Colors are exciting. They make me happy. They make me feel calm. There have been studies done, that gardens can ease anxiety. Growing plants, they play on my mind. I feel more connected to my maker when I am in the field with my plants or in my garden, it is my “happy place” As a kid, I always wanted to live on a street well lined with big trees. There is something about a street lined with large oak trees. There is a sense of order, peace. Seeing a well-manicured landscape makes me relaxed and calm. A barren landscape isn’t for me. Plants make me feel comfortable. I just have to have life!