A Thousand Years

On June 21, I received the Thomas Roland Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The society was started in 1829. I was the 80th person to receive this award, which Thomas Roland established in 1927. Roland was a well-known breeder of orchids, roses and acacias. He also was president of the Society of American Florists in the early 1920s.

This event gave me time to reflect on what we do as horticulturists and why. One of our most famous colleagues, Luther Burbank (1849-1926), said, "Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul."

I had time to visit the Elm Bank Gardens of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, Mass. Over the past 10 years, they have built a great area for teaching and culturing gardens for people to see and become involved in horticulture.

Another place I had always wanted to visit was the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. My friend Mike Conner, who was the head of the Boston Parks Department for many years, put me in touch with Thomas Ward, the manager of the Dana Greenhouses at the Arboretum.

I took my granddaughter and her friend to this great place. I told them we would not see many colorful flowers, but we would see trees, shrubs, vines and bonsai.

Tom Ward is a very knowledgeable person. He knew every plant in the 265-acre arboretum and had the data on when they arrived, from where and who brought them into the collection.

The 4,500 kinds of woody plants cultivated in the arboretum’s collection are grouped by plant family. Each plant has the scientific and common name, its country of origin and an accession number that links the plant to its permanent, computer-stored record.

The arboretum was started in 1883 and was leased from the City of Boston for 1,000 years at a cost of $1.00 per year with the option to renew the lease for another 1,000 years at the same $1.00 per year. It is a National Historic Landmark and an international center for scientific research and education. It is an integral part of a series of parklands known as the Emerald Necklace and is a functioning unit of the Boston Parks Department.

While touring the arboretum, we got a special tour of the bonsai collection. Since my granddaughter and her friend had spent a year in Japan, they were extremely interested in this part of the arboretum. It is a wonderful collection and Tom explained how they manage it.

He said they actually drew pictures of what the plant might look like in five years. If they agree on the concept, the gardener manipulates the stems to the positions that will make the plan a reality. That is what I call long-range planning!

We spent two hours with Tom and every minute was worthwhile. I realized that many plants live longer than people live. The oldest bonsai in their collection is 240 years old. When I asked if that was a record, Tom smiled and said bonsai in Japan and China can be 500 to 600 years old.

This information made me really think about the need to train future horticulturists since it would take eight horticulturists 30 years each to maintain the oldest bonsai in the arboretum’s collection and 20 to 30 horticulturists to maintain those plants in China or Japan.

At the end of our visit, Tom said, "Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour. There is still a lot of work to be done and I only have 13 gardeners, but every night when I go home I can sleep well because I know we have 760 years to make it perfect!" His words put our profession into perspective. We are not the only persons responsible for the plants. In fact, the plants may need 20 to 30 horticulturists in their future in order to survive. 

Enjoy The Ride

Paul Rodgers, another friend who has been very active in the Society and who is also well known in New England for his radio shows and for teaching and consulting, gave me another bit of wisdom.

When I returned home, I sent Mike and Paul copies of my book One To Grow On. I always sign the book with the saying "Know, Sow & Grow." Paul wrote me a thank you note, which said "‘Know, Sow & Grow!’ Words to work by and live by. I’d add ‘Enjoy’ also."

I think many of us in the greenhouse industry have worked long and hard on very tight timeframes in order to make our living. Many times we have done the Know, Sow and Grow, but I believe Paul is right. We need to take the time to enjoy what we do and enjoy our families and communities as well.

When I came home from this trip to Massachusetts, I started looking at the plants in my yard and in my home. I figured out when I got them and how old they are. My oldest plant is 40 years old and the oldest tree in my yard is 60 years old. Then I went to the campus of Michigan State University and looked at the trees that were planted 150 years ago and some that are over 200 years old. I began to realize how many horticulturists it takes to help a tree survive for that period of time. This is what Tom Ward taught me!

Then I realized what Mike Connor meant when he told me to "be humble" when I accepted my award. This meant visualizing all the time he spent working in the park system and his sense of purpose "to provide a beautiful environment for all the people," but realizing that he was only the keeper of the plants. Many others will come after him to keep the Emerald Necklace alive. That’s what Mike taught me.

And then Paul taught me the last part of my lesson. Learn to enjoy the fruits of your labor. He has provided a great deal of information to consumers through his media exposure. He has worked with the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and outstanding garden shows and gardens. He can see the results of the work of the commercial side of our profession. His words are well taken in that too often we are so wrapped up in the work that we don’t see the end results, the joy that makes people better, happier and more helpful.

We have to remember that horticulture is the art and science of the cultivation of plants. The Massachusetts Horticultural Society has done a great job of trying to acknowledge both the art and the science.

The Society presented nine awards this year. Two were given to landscape architects and writers; two to directors of botanical gardens and arboretums; one to a garden club president; one to a teacher in a school for students who are blind; two to commercial nurseries; and one to a professor and commercial writer.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to take my granddaughter and her friend to see the whole area of horticulture. There are people with many skills that are involved in its continual growth. It showed me that people are working for plants and our return will be that plants will work for people.

One of my friends said that you can look at horticulture in two ways: 1) it is an easy way to make a hard living; or 2) it is a hard way to make an easy living. A third way might be that it’s a great way to make a great living!

I hope you had a great summer and had time to relax, get recharged and ready to help the plants grow for another year.

Just remember what Tom Ward told me: he has 760 years to get it perfect! That kind of long range planning puts everything into perspective.

Good luck in taking care of next year – and your 1,000 year plan!

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means For Greenhouse Growers

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig Regelbrugge

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig…

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]