By JOHN GONZALEZ, AP WriterGardeners in the desert north of Phoenix, Arizona, are getting ready to celebrate the holidays.
They’re using their annual harvest to build the most ambitious human-animal garden ever conceived, a “plant-in-a-box” that’s meant to serve as a showcase for the many species of plants that can grow in containers.
“We have more than 150,000 species of plant, and the diversity of these species is not easily expressed in a box,” said James Olbrich, a botanist who leads the Gardeners of the Desert.
“What makes this garden special is that the plants are all available to you, and you can make them into food for yourself and your family.”
Obrich has been leading the garden for three years and is now in his seventh year.
He and other gardeners have developed a way to produce the vegetables, meats, and nuts from plants grown in a glass-encased container, as well as produce them from seeds.
It’s not yet clear how the containers will be used, but Olbrigich hopes to sell the fruits, vegetables, and other products in them to restaurants, grocery stores, and others.
“If you think about what people love about food, we’re really into the human element,” he said.
“And we’re not about to turn our backs on it.”
Olbrich is not alone in trying to transform the garden into a showcase.
The California-based gardeners of Cesar’s Garden and Garden Center are planning to open a “fruit farm” near their farm near Phoenix that they hope will serve as the first human-made farm in the U.S.
Cesar’s Gardens is the oldest of its kind in the world, but its founders, who started as a small-time operation in 1997, have grown the garden to become a thriving, community-driven operation that attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year.
The Cesar Gardens of the Pacific Northwest is a new project that is partly funded by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The first plant was created in 2010 in a container-sized box made from cardboard.
It has since grown into a thriving garden of more than 200 species of edible and medicinal plants and animals, including boll weevil, bluebonnet beetle, cactus and red cactus.
“The idea is to have a place where you can grow and have fun,” said Cesar Garden’s co-founder, Mike Egan.
Egan is also the founder of the Botanical Gardens of California, which opened in Los Angeles in 2013 and now has four other gardens in the country.
He hopes to open more in the next year.
“There are so many more things to learn,” Egan said.
The gardens are also designed to serve a broader audience.
“It’s very different from just a place to go and eat,” Eagan said.
“It’s about having fun.”
To learn more about the Garden of the Sun, click here to view a YouTube video of a tour of the Cesar gardens.
“I’m a little worried about our ability to grow vegetables,” said David Poulton, the executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Botanical Garden Association.
The association, which has about 20,000 members, has raised money to buy and build more containers for its members.
Poulton said the gardens are a way for the gardeners to show their dedication to creating and sustaining an ecosystem that supports human health.
“When we see these things grow and flourish, it shows the community that we care,” he added.
“In the end, it’s about being a part of nature and nature’s food chain.”
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