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. 

Founded: 1984 following the first Perennial Plant Symposium in 1983
Executive Director:
Dr. Steven Still, emeritus professor at The Ohio State University
Location:
Hilliard, Ohio
Members:
1,800 growers, retailers, landscapers, educators and allied industry members
Web site:
www.perennialplant.org
Mission:
“The Perennial Plant Association seeks to enhance the opportunities for the success of our diverse professional membership by providing education for the production, promotion and use of perennial plants.”

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. 

Perennial Plant Association Board Of Directors

Executive Director: Dr. Steven Still, The Ohio State University
President: Janet Anderson, JEA Perennials, Strathroy, Ontario
President-Elect: Caroline Kiang, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Suffolk County, Riverhead, N.Y.
Past President: Joe Kunkel, Akin’ Back Farm, Uncasville, Conn.
Treasurer: Ron Dieter, Sunnyfield Greenhouse & Nursery, Galva, Ill.
Canada Region: Paul Zammit, Toronto, Ontario
Central Region: Martha Smith, Macomb Extension Center, Macomb, Ill.
Great Lakes Region: Calvin Bordine, Bordine Nursery, Clarkston, Mich.
Mid-Atlantic Region: John Friel, Yoder Green Leaf, Lancaster, Pa.
Northeastern Region: James Costello, Prides Corner Farm, Lebanon, Conn.
Southern Region: John Hoffman, Hoffman Nursery, Rougemont, N.C.
Western Region: Nanci Allen, Bow, Wash.

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...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

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

November 17, 2014

Canada’s Plants Love You Campaign Educates Consum…

In a cooperative effort to promote the benefits of plants to consumers, the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance (COHA) recently launched its Plants Love You campaign to make consumers more aware of the health, environmental and economic benefits of plants.

Read More
Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum™ Petunia from Proven Winners

November 11, 2014

Plantbid Offers New Tool For Growers, Plant Buyers

Plantbid is touted as a revolutionary new tool that allows plant buyers to purchase their whole plant list at one time, from growers who provide their complete availability online. According to the company, this new offering could change the way growers and landscapers do business.

Read More
Dahlia Dahlinova Temptation Lavender from Dummen Fides Oro

November 10, 2014

Bas Pellenaars Takes On New Role As Brand Manager For D…

Dümmen group announces the transition of Bas Pellenaars from area manager to brand manager.

Read More

October 28, 2014

Zombie Adventures Are Back: GGS Releases Premiere Of Ne…

What's good for plants, but bad for zombies? GGS structures. The company released a new promotional video to get growers in the spirit of Halloween. GGS Structures ran a series of zombie movies last year, and this year, something new was released October 24.

Read More
Suzanne McKee

October 27, 2014

Use Your Data To Make Smarter Marketing Decisions

Learn which marketing metrics are important to your business, measure successes and learn where changes are needed.

Read More
Sara Tambascio

October 2, 2014

How To Measure The Success Of Your Digital Marketing

Take a look at these metrics in your digital marketing to see if you’re connecting with your audience or just adding to the clutter.

Read More

September 26, 2014

How To Get The Digital Generation Into The Garden: Gard…

Capture millennials’ gardening interests with these marketing tips.

Read More
The Joseph Shinoda Memorial Scholarship Foundation

September 9, 2014

Shinoda Foundation Contributes Nearly $15,000 In Schola…

Based in California, the Joseph Shinoda Memorial Foundation's mission is to encourage educational opportunities for young people interested in entering the industry. Since 1965, the foundation has awarded $790,000 to more than 660 undergraduate floriculture students.

Read More
Salvia 'Playin the Blues' from Proven Winners

September 9, 2014

Grand Gardening Show On Mackinac Island Draws Huge Audi…

Dates are already set for Proven Winners' 2015 Grand Garden Show after the great response the 2014 show received in late August.

Read More

August 27, 2014

New Gardening App GrowIt Connects Community Of Gardener…

Thanks to Ball Horticultural Co.’s Mason Day and Seth Reed, gardeners can now share photos of their plants, interact with other growers and learn about what grows best in their area with the duos new app, GrowIt!

Read More