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Horticulture's rapid growth in the state.

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DURHAM — Perhaps it's one of those twists of fate that one of the most famous ornamental plant experts was in Durham Wednesday. The Bull city was once home to a bustling tobacco industry - it's also home to one of the nation's premier gardens where Dr. Mike Dirr with the University of Georgia was conducting a walking tour.

"This is actually a very good plant it could be a substitute for cherry laurels"

Although tobacco is by no means dead, it's been passed by the nursery and greenhouse crops in sales and the walking tour in the Duke gardens sold out as soon at it was offered - perhaps a sign of that growth. He has seen the industry in the Southeast increase by leaps and bounds. Indeed here in North Carolina it grosses nearly a billion dollars a year. "I'd say that ornamental horticulture, landscape horticulture is enjoying it's day in the sun"One reason for the growth is demand.

"I think peole feel a great sense of spirituality, peace, as I mentioned sanctuary when they are in thier own garden. It's thier own little space on God's green earth"

The growth potential in this "farming" business is also stunning. with over 18 million square feet of greenhouse space and an industry that has seen double digit growth in recent years...it's more than just the thumbs that are green.

"Actually I just ate a bacon, lettuce and tomato snadwich and it's kinda gressy, but yes, it is green", said Dirr. The nursery and greenhouse industry here in the state has generated more money in gross sales in 2000 than cotton, cattle, soybeans, corn, and peanuts COMBINED! Dan Wilkinson WRAL-TV 5 NEWS Durham

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