In an effort to advance its growing and trial programs, Hoffman Nursery in Rougemont, NC, has hired a new Research and Development Horticulturist. Leanne Kenealy will concentrate on establishing optimal growing methods and new product lines. Her research will address a wide range of options for best practices, plant health, and efficient growing systems.
Kenealy has a Masters in Horticulture from Clemson University in South Carolina. While there, she worked with Dr. Gregory Reighard on peach tree breeding and conducted annuals trials. Her most recent position was with Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City, SC, where she advanced from grower to production coordinator. She scheduled, produced, and maintained all nursery and greenhouse crops for the garden.
Greenhouse Grower recently caught up with Kenealy and asked her about her new role.
Greenhouse Grower (GG): How did your previous experience prepare you for this new role?
Leanne Kenealy: My work at the research orchard at Clemson involved formal plant trials, so that experience gives me great tools for coordinating our trial program. At Moore Farms, the research was less formal and more observational. That helped me develop an eye for subtle changes among cultivars and different plant selections, as well as an appreciation for perfecting growing processes. Those skills are directly transferable to my role at Hoffman Nursery.
GG: What are the biggest challenges this industry is currently facing? Conversely, what are some of the biggest opportunities on the horizon?
Kenealy: I think the biggest challenge for ornamental growers is reigniting excitement for gardening. It would be great to see the plant lust of England in the 1700s again. We want high demand and high market value for new ornamental plants. The strong interest young gardeners show in growing their own food gives us an opportunity. We can introduce them to companion plants that have additional seasons of interest and provide other great benefits.
GG: Looking ahead, what role can you play in moving this industry forward?
Kenealy: I hope to get more young people involved in growing plants and the horticulture industry. I also hope our trials lead to some great new introductions.
GG: If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing?
Kenealy: I would probably teach history or classical political theory at a university.
At Hoffman Nursery, Kenealy will initially concentrate on optimizing the new greenhouse facility to grow high-quality liners more quickly and efficiently. In early 2016, the nursery added 17,000 square feet of greenhouse space, and another 17,000 square feet will come online this month.
“I am thrilled to work with the new technology in the greenhouse and to be in an environment with the best tools at hand,” Kenealy says. “I enjoy the research process and believe it can help us streamline our methods and better understand our plants. The new facility and research program show Hoffman Nursery’s dedication to innovation and efficiency.”
Kenealy’s research efforts should reap benefits for Hoffman Nursery’s customers. The goal is to produce ideal trays that ship well, pot up easily, and finish quickly.
Customers will also get a boost from Kenealy’s expertise in plant trials. She will standardize and expand the existing trial program. New plants will move through the pipeline more quickly and get comprehensive assessments, resulting in sound selections for customers.
“With her experience in research and propagation, Leanne is a fantastic addition,” says Nursery Manager, Scott Epps. “Having someone who can focus on techniques will elevate our growing program.”
Hoffman Nursery owners Jill and John Hoffman are also excited about bringing Kenealy to the nursery.
“Leanne’s enthusiasm and dedication to the field inspired us. It’s great to see her diving into the work and starting new projects,” says John Hoffman.