Perennial Personalities

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Perennial Personalities

The perennials side of our industry is an interesting and eclectic mix. You will find some of the most creative, passionate and progressive horticulturists. As part of Greenhouse Grower magazine’s 25th anniversary celebration, we thought it would be fun to present 25 “Perennial Personalities.” Just like perennials, they come back year after year and can be seen at all the perennial conferences, as educators, attendees or exhibitors. We present 12 of the 25 this month and the remaining 13 next month in our October issue.

DARREL APPS - Hybridizing daylilies has been a passion for Apps, who was an ornamentals educator for 25 years as an Extension agent in Wisconsin and Kentucky, associate professor at Penn State and the head of the education department at Longwood Gardens. With Centerton Nursery in New Jersey, he developed the Trophytaker Daylilies and Happy Ever Appster brand. He is retired in Wisconsin and still hybridizing daylilies, specializing in reblooming cultivars.

ALLAN ARMITAGE - Our own contributing editor, Armitage is from the University of Georgia and is a world-class writer, speaker and educator focused on crops that will not only perform but create new opportunities. He is well-versed in annuals and perennials and founded the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers with former student Judy Laushman. The fourth edition of his “Herbaceous Perennial Plants” book is hot off the presses. Armitage has received numerous awards from horticultural, educational and industry organizations.

PAUL BABIKOW - Paul Babikow of Babikow Greenhouses near Baltimore, received Perennial Plant Association’s (PPA) grower award this year. He and his brother Don are the third generation running the business founded by William and Sophia Babikow in 1875. Paul was the youngest son of Oliver and Ethel Babikow and Oliver was the youngest son and eighth child of William and Sophia. Paul was an early member of PPA and saw perennials as the next big wave for outdoor plantings and the emerging landscaping industry in the 1980’s. He helped plan and host PPA’s conferences in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. His home garden in Baldwin, Md., has been featured in mid-Atlantic magazines and considered one of the top ten private gardens in the Baltimore area.

PAUL BABIKOW - A nephew of Paul Babikow in Maryland, this Paul and his father, Dave, founded Emerald Coast Growers in 1991 to produce ornamental grass starter plants in Florida. In addition to grasses, production now includes perennials and other specialty liners. “Despite having a family history in the nursery business dating back to 1875, I did not intend on being part of the industry,” Paul says. “After four years of school and as many changes in major, it seemed apparent that all roads lead to a greenhouse.”
ADRIAN BLOOM–As president of Blooms Nurseries in England, Adrian Bloom has introduced unique varieties of perennials, along with his father, the late Alan Bloom. Bloom travels the world looking for new plants to introduce. Over the past 10 years, he has installed five demonstration gardens in public venues and six front-yard gardens to inspire gardeners to use perennials in creative and effective ways. He holds the Royal Horticultural Society’s coveted Victoria medal of Honour for service to horticulture.
ALLEN BUSH - From Louisville, Ky., Bush has been the face of Jelitto Perennial Seeds, coordinating North American sales and public relations. He was recently promoted to director of special projects. Based in Schwarmstedt, Germany, Jelitto breeds, produces and distributes more than 2,900 varieties of perennial flower seeds. Prior to coming to Jelitto, Bush introduced many of its perennials to the U.S. market through his mail order nursery, Holbrook Farm and Nursery in Fletcher, N.C. He’s also a correspondent for the Human Flower Project.
ART CAMERON - Firing up perennials has been a specialty for Cameron at Michigan State University. He and his colleagues have been unlocking the mysteries of forcing perennials into flower for about 10 years. His appointment is 70 percent research and 30 percent teaching. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Colorado State University and doctorate at University of California–Davis. Cameron also is an avid perennial gardener with a passion for ornamental grasses.
GUS CORSO–Last year, Corso of Corso’s Perennials in Sandusky, Ohio, received PPA’s Grower Award, which recognizes a member who exemplifies high standards for production. Featured on our cover last month, Corso’s was founded in 1941 and now spans 12 acres of greenhouses and 12 acres of outdoor production. Corso’s supplies garden centers and larger customers like Lowe’s in six states, along with its own retail garden center. Brands include Stepables and Herb Herbert herbs.
STEPHANIE COHEN–Also known as the “Perennial Diva,” Cohen has taught herbaceous plants and perennial design at Temple University for more than 20 years. She can be seen on QVC TV and cable channel CN8 TV and also contributes to consumer and trade publications. Cohen’s book, “The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer,” was Storey Publishing’s best seller for 2005 and was recognized by Garden Writers Association as best overall book. A new phlox, ‘Shortwood,’ was named after her private garden.
EVAN ELENBAAS - Elenbaas became president of Walters Gardens in Zeeland, Mich., last October, when Dave Walters retired after 40 years of service. Elenbaas had been vice president of sales for 15 years. His plans as president are to focus on maintaining high quality customer service, promoting good interdepartmental communication and fully utilizing the skills and talents of the staff. Walters Gardens has done an effective job communicating its sustainable practices, especially in recycling, alternative fuels and integrated pest management.
JOHN FRIEL–Known for his writing and humor, Friel is technical manager for Green Leaf Perennials, a division of Yoder Brothers in Pennsylvania. His columns include “The Perennial Cynic” in Grower Talks and “The Friel World” in Green Profit. He also contributes to local newspapers and an entertainment monthly. Friel has been active in PPA, serving as the Mid-Atlantic region director and co-chairing PPA’s Nomenclature Committee, sorting through botanical and common names for perennials.
MENACHEM GANON–If you import perennial cuttings, you may know Ganon, who recently became vice president of international business for McGregor Plant Sales. Prior to McGregor, Ganon was general manager of Florexpo, the world’s largest producer of perennial cuttings in Costa Rica. He also was a cut flower grower in Israel. In his new role, he will develop and execute growth strategies in Europe, Asia and emerging international markets. In addition to perennials, Florexpo produces grasses, woody ornamentals and organic herbs.
JIM & JAN GULLEY - This Colorado couple began their business across the street from Colorado State University and moved to their current location after purchasing two greenhouses from a carnation range owned by Jim’s father. As a well-diversified, mid-sized operation, Gulley’s produces more than 1,000 perennials, 100 herbs and 650 annuals. The three divisions are retail, wholesale finished and Poppers, which are plugs. Gulley Greenhouse is a licensed distributor for Stepables, Rock Stars and Nursery Select and is an exclusive grower of Live Roof Modules.
Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at donofrey@gmail.com

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4 comments on “Perennial Personalities

  1. Anonymous

    I decided upon a whim, to type in Holbrook Farms Nursery, in hopes of finding some way possible of locating the exact variety of St. John’s wort bush I purchsed from Holbrook Farms back in the late 1990’s just before Allan Bush decided to close down the nursery after 15 years and do seeds. The St. John’s wort bush (among a fair amount of shrubs, ornamental trees, including something I bought called a “twig leaf dogwood, which turned out to be my favorite earliest blooming perennial ever, beating out even the steel Forsythia, a Cornelian Cherry) was a variety that grew to not quite four feet tall. Had over a few years, exfoliating bark (a winter plus, making it a four season plant) nice leaves, and incredible HUGE flowers that shrieked that it was indeed a member of the Hyperion family. Alas, without knowing exactly what it was I bought that day in the four inch pot (and when I lost my home in 2008, I lost a lot of perennial members of my home’s family that always gave me smiles every year regardless of weather, etc) I cannot replace it. If there is anyway possible of picking Allan Bush’s brain and finding out the exact variety, I would be very happy. Then I can search the internet and see if I can locate a seedling and restart one of the best ornamental shrubs I’ve had. I have a lot of favorites, but this is in the top of my list of “replace” that I lost. Thanks! I now have unfortunately relocated from my beloved East Tennessee, into West Tennessee where the challanges of tired soil, a warmer growing zone but humidity on a level even this old Tennessee girl finds a challange, contradictions of swamp and drought, horse flies that make even me duck and run (I love all the insects, even the black widow spiders I happen across, I just don’t antagonize or confront them)soil that I was so happy I could dig up with a shovel (East Tennessee had red clay, which I now realize was wonderful for perennials) but now know it’s seriously depleted……I’m growing where I’m now planted. Unless I hit the lottery, I’m here for the duration and possible last act of my gardening life. Thanks for the feedback! I still have a few decades of gardening to get under my fingernails at just 57. After all, that’s rather young for a tree.
    Maddie Stretch in the Delta region of Western Tennessee, zone 7b, Sunset zone 33

  2. Anonymous

    I decided upon a whim, to type in Holbrook Farms Nursery, in hopes of finding some way possible of locating the exact variety of St. John’s wort bush I purchsed from Holbrook Farms back in the late 1990’s just before Allan Bush decided to close down the nursery after 15 years and do seeds. The St. John’s wort bush (among a fair amount of shrubs, ornamental trees, including something I bought called a “twig leaf dogwood, which turned out to be my favorite earliest blooming perennial ever, beating out even the steel Forsythia, a Cornelian Cherry) was a variety that grew to not quite four feet tall. Had over a few years, exfoliating bark (a winter plus, making it a four season plant) nice leaves, and incredible HUGE flowers that shrieked that it was indeed a member of the Hyperion family. Alas, without knowing exactly what it was I bought that day in the four inch pot (and when I lost my home in 2008, I lost a lot of perennial members of my home’s family that always gave me smiles every year regardless of weather, etc) I cannot replace it. If there is anyway possible of picking Allan Bush’s brain and finding out the exact variety, I would be very happy. Then I can search the internet and see if I can locate a seedling and restart one of the best ornamental shrubs I’ve had. I have a lot of favorites, but this is in the top of my list of “replace” that I lost. Thanks! I now have unfortunately relocated from my beloved East Tennessee, into West Tennessee where the challanges of tired soil, a warmer growing zone but humidity on a level even this old Tennessee girl finds a challange, contradictions of swamp and drought, horse flies that make even me duck and run (I love all the insects, even the black widow spiders I happen across, I just don’t antagonize or confront them)soil that I was so happy I could dig up with a shovel (East Tennessee had red clay, which I now realize was wonderful for perennials) but now know it’s seriously depleted……I’m growing where I’m now planted. Unless I hit the lottery, I’m here for the duration and possible last act of my gardening life. Thanks for the feedback! I still have a few decades of gardening to get under my fingernails at just 57. After all, that’s rather young for a tree.
    Maddie Stretch in the Delta region of Western Tennessee, zone 7b, Sunset zone 33