Passion For Plants

Passion For Plants

For 25 years, the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has raised a blooming industry by bringing together professionals who share a passion for perennial plants. This month, Greenhouse Grower will present PPA its Medal of Excellence for Industry Achievement to recognize the association’s dedication to elevating perennials as a crop category and growing the market.

The seed was planted in 1983 when landscape horticulture professor Dr. Steven Still of The Ohio State University (OSU) organized the very first Perennial Plant Symposium in Columbus, Ohio. He was already a respected expert in the field after publishing the “Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants”–the first textbook related to herbaceous perennials.

“When I took a perennials class at the University of Illinois, there were no textbooks,” he says. “We talked about 200 plants but only saw 20. I decided that was not a good way to do it and started teaching from slides and images. My textbook covers annuals, perennials, bulbs and biennials. It is being revised now but current versions are still being used by students at 150 universities and colleges today.”

Still received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Illinois, where he conducted cutting-edge research on using hardwood bark as a growing medium and was a teaching assistant to the influential Dr. Michael Dirr in woody plants. He then taught courses in woody and herbaceous plant materials, landscape management and nursery management at Kansas State University, before coming to OSU in 1979, where he retired two years ago.

At OSU, Still worked closely with Ohio growers to get plants for the classroom and expose students to real-world opportunities. To assess interest in a perennial plant symposium, he sent a comprehensive questionnaire to growers and industry leaders to determine topics and timing. Much of what was presented then is still of interest today: propagation techniques and finished production methods, pest control, overwintering, research findings, marketing strategies and retail considerations.

Based on the responses and advanced registration, Still expected about 100 growers to attend the first symposium, July 12-13 at the Holiday Inn on Lane Avenue near campus. Interest in the Perennial Plant Symposium turned out to be much greater than he realized, when 250 growers came and lined up out the door. 

Building A Community

These growers realized they were experiencing something very special, just for them, and they wanted it to continue. “The big question for perennial growers at the time was, ‘Where do we fit in?” Still says. “Other groups were focused on bedding plants, mums, poinsettias and Easter lilies. On the woody plant side, perennials were considered weeds. So we decided to start a separate organization.”

The list of 20 growers at the first organizational meeting reads like a who’s who in perennials, with many who are still in the industry. PPA was incorporated with its first board of directors in 1984 with Still as executive director. The organization has been nurtured by his entire family at their home in Hilliard, Ohio, ever since.

The first PPA officers were Jim Beam of Sunbeam Farm as president, Pierre Bennerup of Sunny Border Nursery as the first president-elect, Jim Kyle of Spring Hill Nurseries as vice president and Ainie Busse of Busse Gardens as treasurer. A board of directors represented key regions of the country.

It’s not unusual for PPA board members to serve the organization for 12 years–three two-year terms as regional board members and six more years through the officers’ rotation. This continuity enhances stability and helps keep PPA true to its mission.

“The board has a lot of good industry people who are recognized in other parts of the industry,” Still says. “I think any organization needs to have people who are recognized. It brings credibility and validity to what we are trying to do.”

Today, PPA has more than 1,800 members and draws more than 1,000 perennials professionals to its Perennial Plant Symposium. (For details on the 25th symposium in Columbus, see page 36.) The program appeals to growers, retailers, landscapers and allied industry members. Workshops and seminars provide vital information on horticulture, design, business management and other topical areas. Since the symposium is held in a different part of the country each year, tours of notable nurseries and gardens are a big attraction, along with networking opportunities. The published proceedings have become a valuable reference library.

PPA’s current president Janet Anderson of JEA Perennials in Strathroy, Ontario, fondly remembers attending her first symposium 14 years ago. “It was just the experience–meeting all the plant geeks, talking to them and not having their eyes glaze over. The symposium draws likeminded people, who keep coming back every year. When we ask why they come, the overwhelming answer is networking.”

PPA also has a number of outreach activities to support the industry. These range from regional educational opportunities to funding scholarships and research grants and supporting legislative activities by industry advocates, including the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and the Society of American Florists (SAF). 

Recognizing Excellence 

The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) will be the first industry association to receive Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence for Industry Achievement. This special award honors companies, individuals and organizations that have dedicated themselves to advancing varieties and creating new markets for growers. PPA most certainly has elevated the perennials industry in every possible way. The award will be presented during the OFA Short Course at 5:30 p.m., Monday, July 16 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center. Congratulations, PPA!

Maximizing Marketing

In addition to helping growers produce perennials, PPA has developed cost-effective tools to help them sell their great new and tried-and-true plants.

PPA’s most successful marketing program is the Perennial Plant of the Year. Two years in advance, members nominate and vote for the plant of the year, giving growers and propagators adequate time to ramp up supply to meet demand. Most are proven performers throughout the country. Posters, flyers, plant stakes, bench cards and T-shirts are available for retailers to promote each year’s special plant.

Another campaign with promotional tools is “June Is Perennial Gardening Month.” Educational Idea Brochures are another resource that helps customers select and care for perennials for a variety of interests and conditions. Slide sets are available to those who would like to use them as a teaching tool. 

International Relations

PPA also has cultivated relationships overseas, which have led to fabulous tours and learning experiences for PPA members. “We interact with International Staudin (perennial) Union (ISU),” Still explains. “They have a congress every two years and three or four days of tours. It was a German organization that now encompasses Western Europe. Every two years our president goes and each year we invite people from ISU to attend our symposium.”

Next month, two weeks after its symposium, PPA will lead a tour to Denmark, Sweden, Estonia and St. Petersburg. The ISU tour alternates with a professional tour to England.

PPA’s nomenclature committee also participates in updating the comprehensive Naamlijst of plants published in The Netherlands every five years. PPA is the only organization in North America that sells the book. 

The Next 25 Years

Perennials are a maturing market, with more growers producing them than ever before. While there are still traditional perennials specialists, both annual and woody ornamental growers have added perennials to their offerings.

“Plug, cutting and tissue culture suppliers have allowed a generalist to get into the industry more easily,” Still says. “If you get a liner or plug for a pot, stick three in a gallon and water them and they are going to grow. Early on, there was no production information related to perennials. Our proceedings emphasized propagation, sold pretty well and were very valuable.”

On the woody plant side, growers have added perennials to provide one-stop shopping for landscapers. These growers will carry bread-and-butter landscape plants, like hostas, daylilies and echinacea, in 1-gallon and 2-gallon containers.

Topics that continue to be controversial include the rise of patenting and branding perennials and the great debate on invasive species. Both native plant enthusiasts and advocates of right plant, right place are part of PPA. From her own experiences, Anderson says it will become increasingly harder for plant people to succeed without strong business skills.

“The industry is changing immensely,” she says. “The last few years we’ve seen a lot of consolidation in supply and in retail customers. The big operations are getting bigger and smaller ones are dropping by the wayside. Retailers are expecting growers to do more. I’m a plants person. It’s becoming harder to be in the industry as a plant person if you don’t have the business skills. Or hire someone who does and listen to them–the bean counters we all disparage. A lot of interesting plants are not economical to grow.”

In the years ahead, we can expect PPA to be at the forefront helping growers, retailers and landscapers address these challenges. Members are still hungry for information on solving production problems, learning propagation techniques, discovering new plants, promoting perennials and creating profitable year-round markets.

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Innovation Day

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strategy

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Latest Stories
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

May 12, 2015

Suntory And GrowIt! Garden Socially Partner On A New Se…

Suntory Flowers and GrowIt! Garden Socially are working together on a new photo contest that both retailers and their customers can get involved in. GrowIt! Garden Socially is a free garden photo sharing app, and the photo contest is designed to promote Suntory’s plant brands and help consumers interested in those plants find them at local garden centers. Consumers who want to enter the contest can take these four steps: 1. Download GrowIt! for free from the App Store or Google Play store 2. Sign up with a username 3. In the app, add a photo of their favorite Senetti plant 4. In the comments, tag it #SenettiRocks The first photo contest featuring ‘Senetti’ pericallis runs from May 7-18. Three entrants will win gift certificates from their favorite local garden retailer — one $100 prize and two $50 prizes. After Senetti, the next featured brand will be ‘Million Bells’ calibrachoas […]

Read More

May 6, 2015

Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orang…

The day the news came out about the name change of DNA Green Group to Dümmen Orange, and everything that meant for the large flower breeding conglomerate, Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff talked with Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos about what the identity shift would mean for the company, its customers and ultimately for consumers. What’s going to happen to the brands and what was behind the decision to do away with those brands and consolidate? A key objective for our organization in moving to one corporate brand is to continue to stay true to the heritage and history of the individual brands that have made us what we are today and what we will build the future of our company upon. For this reason, some of those brands that have a deep-rooted history and much more recognition within the market, will have a longer persistence in our overall […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Nativ…

Restoration landscapes, depending on their purpose, often require straight native species, along with a confirmation of their known provenance. Research is key in this area and good recordkeeping is a must.

Read More
Dummen_Begonia_UnbelieveableFirstKiss

April 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Is The New Name For DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group has a new name: Dümmen Orange. The company revealed its new name, logo and brand values at all of its facilities in 16 countries on Thursday, April 23. The well-known corporate brands Lex+, Bartels, Terra Nigra, Dümmen Group, Agribio China, Agribio Colombia, Oro, PLA, as well as the production locations, are changing their identities immediately to Dümmen Orange. Other established brands like Rijnplant, Ecke, Oglevee, Red Fox, Fides, Japan Agribio and Barberet & Blanc will convert over limited time. The company’s CEO Biense Visser calls it a logical next step. “All companies that have been acquired have a rich and successful history,” Visser says. “We have always tried to respect that heritage. Doing so, we created confusion for our customers. Our employees expressed a preference for a more uniform approach to the market, too. That is why we have chosen one large umbrella brand that embraces the entire product […]

Read More

April 15, 2015

Redesigned SunPatiens Website Offers New Tools For Saka…

Sakata Seed America's new and improved SunPatiens website launched March 1, 2015 and provides growing information, marketing support, product location and many more tools to encourage consumer success with SunPatiens.

Read More
Keenland

April 13, 2015

Proven Winners Partners With Award-Winning Designer Jon…

Proven Winners will partner with award-winning garden designer, author and fine living expert Jon Carloftis on a new series of four LIFE + STYLE events in 2015. In true Carloftis style, food and spirits will be paired with inspiring architecture and innovative garden designs featuring Proven Winners plants.

Read More

April 13, 2015

New Consumer Website Makes Buying Roses Easier

A new website has been created as a resource tool for gardeners who are looking for a rose that fits their needs. This website is 100% consumer focused and will inspire confidence and promote rose gardening to the next generation of gardeners. Visitors will also find links to connect on social networks, such as Facebook and Pinterest. The website promotes roses, not specific brands, and that is what makes it unique.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

February 18, 2015

Range Of Nursery Inspections To Protect Patented Plants…

Plant patents are under protection, and breeders are fighting for their rights to keep growers from illegally propagating protected varieties. It's something you don't want to take a chance on, because the risk is far higher than the reward. More than 300 inspections were carried out last year from New York to British Columbia and from Ontario to Florida to protect plant patents, Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and branded programs.

Read More

February 4, 2015

TPIE 2015: An Electrified Industry Vibe Boosts Cool New…

The general feeling at the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association's 2015 Tropical Industry Exhibition (TPIE) was upbeat and positive. Attendees were inspired by exciting new products and varieties, as well as creative new displays and innovative ideas and left energized for the season ahead.

Read More
Costa Farms Website

January 21, 2015

Costa Farms’ Launches New Interactive Website

Costa Farms is making efforts to educate consumers while pushing horticultural digital marketing forward with the re-design of its website. The new website features a fresh design and improved navigation, as well as a plant finder that gives gardeners easy access to plant information.

Read More

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Successfully Marketing The Benefits Of Pla…

Growers who are already marketing plant benefits and gardening as a lifestyle say they think this could be the best angle for the floriculture industry to promote our products.

Read More

January 5, 2015

Plants Love You Campaign Raises Plant Benefits To Foref…

Plants make us feel good. It’s a no-brainer, backed by numerous studies, but there’s more to the story. And it’s one the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance (COHA) hopes its Plants Love You campaign will tell in such a way that it will inspire people to make plants a part of their life, and on a bigger scale. COHA is an alliance between the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), the Fédération Interdisciplinaire De L’Horticulture Ornementqale Du Québec (FIHOQ) and Flowers Canada Growers (FCG). Inspiration for The Plants Love You campaign came from COHA’s research, which revealed that 96 percent of consumers surveyed have a favorable attitude toward plants. When COHA delved deeper into the numbers, one thing stood out loud and clear. “It quickly became apparent that while consumers like plants because they are pretty and make them feel good, few understood the environmental and health benefits plants offer.” says Frank […]

Read More

December 9, 2014

New Website For PanAmerican Seed

PanAmerican Seed's new website is mobile-friendly and has a fresh look and enhanced navigation.

Read More
What’s a pumpulent? It’s a pumpkin planted with succulents, and it’s also one of the ways Altum’s is catching customers’ attention with new products and modern marketing.

December 1, 2014

9 Digital Marketing Resolutions For 2015

Whatever your experience with digital marketing, here’s some advice for keeping your business progressing into the new year.

Read More

November 25, 2014

Conley’s Launches New Website

Conley’s Manufacturing and Sales recently launched its newly designed website, which was redesigned to create a user-friendly digital environment for customers to explore Conley's products.

Read More