MYAKKA CITY -- Running an exotic plant nursery can be a lot like performing a circus act.
If anyone would know, it's Lynn and Veno Berousek.
The couple owns and operates Pomello Park Nursery on a 10-acre tree farm in Myakka City. In a previous life, the Berouseks were better known as "The King of Swords" and "Miss Fantasia and her Feather Fantasy" as they awed crowds in Las Vegas and around the world.
"Show business or any other kind of business; it's how you present it," Veno said.
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Coming from a long line of circus performers in his native Czechoslovakia, the 64-year-old applies the same creativity and sense of showmanship in his exotic plant displays as he once did in his sword and balancing act.
A life in the circus
Berousek was only 5 when his family fled the Communist regime in what is now the Czech Republic, leaving young Veno behind as a "hostage" in a promise to the government that his parents and six older siblings would return. But the family never did, and Veno was 16 when he could finally renounce his Czech citizenship and rejoin his family in America, where they had by then established themselves as circus performers.
The Berouseks adopted the stage name of the Berosinis, with Veno and his three brothers gaining fame as an acrobat troupe. The Berosinis were the first attraction at the Circus Circus Hotel-Casino in Vegas, with Veno's father and his trained gorillas and chimpanzees serving as the headlining act. (In the 1976
comedy "Every Which Way But Loose," the orangutan that shared top billing with Clint Eastwood was trained by the Berosinis.)
Veno eventually branched out in a solo act of juggling knives and leaping through a ring of steel swords. He can rattle off a "Who's Who" list of Hollywood A-listers he's shared a stage with, including Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Tom Jones, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Liza Minelli, Flip Wilson, Ike and Tina Turner and B.B. King.
He appeared a handful of times on the "Ed Sullivan Show," performed at Radio City Music Hall and was the halftime act for the Harlem Globetrotters.
An off day during a tour in Canada led him to meeting Lynn, a performer in her own right, and their eventual career change.
Just like 'Green Acres'
Lynn Berousek grew up in Montreal as part of a musical family. She was singing and dancing when Veno spotted her on stage in 1979.
Three years later they were married, and Lynn was incorporated into Veno's act. She performed as "Miss Fantasia and her Feather Fantasy," working with 100 trained pigeons and donning elaborate costumes and headpieces. Together, they toured the world.
Eventually they grew tired of the travel and decided to trade the glitz of Las Vegas for farm life, moving to Florida permanently in 1990 and eventually settling on their rural Myakka City property in 1998.
"Just like the 'Green Acres' story, you know?" Lynn said.
The couple dove headfirst into their new hobby, just as Veno once did through a ring of razor-sharp swords. He planted the dozens of palm trees that crowd their land and built his own 1,500-gallon cistern to collect rainwater for an irrigation system. She educated herself on hundreds of rare plant species. For 11 years they operated a storefront in Sarasota County, the past eight in Venice, before closing in April to spend more time at home and sell directly from their nursery.
Rare and unusual
Today, the Berouseks are involved in the business community in Manatee County and spreading the word about Pomello Park Nursery.
You can find them at the Lakewood Ranch Farmers Market every Friday morning, where their tales of life in the circus are as attractive as the stunning and exotic flowers they sell.
"It's not like an everyday thing, you know?" Lynn said. "That's how people know us."
Lynn hosts seminars and orchid workshops to teach people about caring for their plants. She and Veno make flower arrangements for exhibits and often donate them for charity auctions, raising money for causes such as the American Association of University Women and others -- anything that will help people in need, Lynn says.
The Berouseks import flowers from far-off locales such as Guatemala and Thailand, including exotic species with names like jade vine, lobster claw, angel trumpet and desert rose. Prices range from $2 for a pretty little air plant that lives outside of the soil, up to $750 for one of Veno's ornate, hand-crafted driftwood creations that stands more than 5 feet tall.
Their customers have remained fiercely loyal since they closed their Venice shop.
"If people like things that are unusual and rare, they come to me," Lynn said.
That goes for her and her husband's story as well as for their plants.
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. You can follow him on Twitter Pomello Park Nursery
Where: 7005 245th St. E., Myakka City