Darian Garden: Saving San Diego's rainforest - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Darian Garden: Saving San Diego's rainforest

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VISTA (CBS 8) - Just when you think you've seen it all, you stumble on to breathtaking beauty like Darian Garden and you're swept away.

Enveloped by the forest canopy that's perched on a Vista hillside is a living, breathing microcosm of Dr. M.E. Darian's passion to preserve the rainforest.

"This is a much greater variety than you see in one place in the world," Joanne Rodriguez said.

On just over three acres planted mostly from seed, Darian Garden is so spectacular it's surreal.

"Doctor Darian has spent 45 years cultivating this marvelous garden. He has six to eight microclimates on a hilltop in Vista, California. We have 70-foot tall canopy trees, all the layers of an actual rainforest.

"There's plant material here that doesn't even exist in the wild anymore because it's extinct. Doctor Darian has preserved the plants of Madagascar singlehandedly. He has the most diverse collection of palms in the world.

"You'd think you were in the middle of a rainforest in Southeast Asia or South America, and here you are next door to the subdivision of Shadowridge in Vista," Joanne said.

As much as time stands still in Darian Gardens, things change.

"Doctor Darian used to keep alligators in this swamp, but when he got grandchildren, unfortunately had had to give them away," Joanne said.

The price of water goes up.

"Initially it was $15 a month. Now it's $1,500 a month," Joanne said.

And as plants grow, people grow older.

"The Darian Garden is in need of assistance. Doctor Darian is getting on in years and he's unable to care for this marvelous garden. We're looking for benefactors who can help our 501C3 to help move the garden forward and to get it in the hands of a capable steward," Joanne said.

One man's passion for preservation, like so much of the rainforest around the planet, stands on the brink of extinction. As goes Darian Garden, so goes the world.

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