Who’s Scrambling Up Our Ladder?

Who's Scrambling Up Our Ladder?

I am about to “semi-retire” and will be cutting my time at the University of Georgia to less than half. The university gets to save money but by rehiring me can still keep me on its list of faculty. It seems like a good idea for everyone, although my wife is convinced I will do just as much and get paid less.

However, the “R” word is not something that should be bandied about thoughtlessly, and those I’ve told have been a little confused, asking “why,” along with other profound questions. More than a few have looked aghast and asked, “Who is out there to take your place?”

I have no doubt there are many others who can do what I do, but I also have no doubt it will be harder to fill my current academic position. Although my duties include teaching classes, advising students and serving on countless university committees, I have been able to wear many hats: for producers, retailers, cut flower growers, greenhouse and nursery people and gardeners. Sometimes I confuse even myself, but I have been able to travel widely to speak to all these groups, write pithy columns like this one and still be in good stead with my employer. I have no idea how that happened but I know that if one wanted to follow such a path today, it would be very difficult.

Today, a young Ph.D. is hoping for a job–any job–but many universities are not hiring. When these postgraduates do obtain employment, they quickly learn the rules of survival. They are simple enough: submit grant proposals and write papers for scientific journals. It is academic roulette to take innovative directions too often, especially early in your career. Branching out was the purview of extension agents, and good ones quickly took the national stage.

However, if an extension position is even filled today, you can be sure it will include a healthy dose of teaching and research to keep them home. And, as we all know, the extension service is in dire straits and most who retire will not be replaced.

Our Next Leaders

I recently spoke in Portugal about the genesis and evolution of the Trial Gardens at UGA. At the end of my presentation, I told the audience this “endeavor should not be attempted” by a newly hired professor. It took too much effort and generated too few papers.

The questions came: “If a young enthusiastic person can’t do it, who will?” The short answer: Very few universities will be doing trial gardens in five years.

Securing grant funds and writing scientific papers must be accomplished early in one’s career. Overseeing a trial garden is seldom grant worthy and results in few, if any, scientific papers. Ergo, fewer such gardens, fewer objective data, far less access to results.

The news is full of stories of overall failures in public schools. Too many students, too few teachers, poor facilities. The same problems affect our public universities. When my colleague Dr. Michael Dirr retired a few years ago, he was not replaced. He was, and is, recognized as one of the world’s experts in woody plants and one of the nation’s finest teachers, and even his position was not filled.

Will Carlson from Michigan State University was probably floriculture’s greatest cheerleader, and is now gone. So many others who spread our word to each other and to others outside our industry have not been replaced. This is not sustainable.

Some suggest the industry is backed by hundreds of garden writers, so the loss of the academic opinion may not be missed. This is hardly accurate. Garden writers are terrific, they do their best talking about this new plant and this new design concept, but very few can make a decent living as a garden writer. There are too few (usually competing) outlets, and the pay is often miserly.

Yes, many have blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts where they post their personal comments, but nearly all this writing is empirical, based on observations only. Few have talked to true experts in the extension and academic community–those who have had their hands in the dirt for years–and those who have tried complain there are fewer to talk to every year. Even fewer have true research experience.

In fact, some blogs don’t like us at all. One of the more popular blogs is Garden Rant, on which I have posted a few comments myself. It is an excellent forum–they have snarky fun, they sing praises of this and that–and one plank of their manifesto reads: “Convinced that gardening MATTERS.” But below that is another more troubling (to me) caption: “We are suspicious of the horticultural industry.”

Mistrust may be a human condition, but unfounded suspicions are no better than rumors. They can easily, if unintentionally, put the entire horticultural industry in a poor light.

These thoughts are based on my travels and discussions with others, and while my observations may seem a little pessimistic, I am not. The generation of researchers and inspirers before me thought the cupboard would soon be bare, but we’ve managed.

Although people may question where the next group of broad-based academics will come from, I know they’re out there. I’ve met many at academic meetings and horticulture meetings. Many young researchers are doing excellent work hand in hand with industry leaders. I know we will manage just fine with the next generation. It may be more difficult for them to enjoy the same latitude I have, but give them a little time; they will emerge and do well.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More

June 30, 2015

Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Dosatron International’s Lela Kelly

My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today. I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.     I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 30, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s Choice And Industry’s Choice Awards

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Medal of Excellence Award

June 30, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s …

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More

June 24, 2015

Perennial Container Combos And New Intros Shine At 2015…

Despite a rainy start to the day, more than 300 perennial enthusiasts showed up at 2015 Darwin Perennials Day to see the latest perennial introductions first-hand and connect with some of the best suppliers in the business.

Read More
2015 Readers' Choice

June 24, 2015

The 2015 Readers’ Choice Finalists Up Close And P…

You’ve narrowed the Readers’ Choice Finalists down to top picks in the Annuals, Perennials and Best of the Rest categories. Now it’s time to pick the overall winner. Here’s a closer look at the three finalists to help you make your choice. Then join us during Cultivate'15 at Greenhouse Grower's prestigious Medal of Excellence reception on Monday, July 13, where we will reveal the winner.

Read More
WavePetunias-GrowIt_contest_featured

June 18, 2015

Wave Petunias Sponsors Photo Contest Through GrowIt! Ga…

The gardening season is heating up and the Wave Petunias Team wants to see the #WildestWave. The popular plant brand has joined forces with the GrowIt! Garden Socially app to host a two week contest in June that encourages Wave Fans to share and rate photos of their favorite Wave Petunias. The grand prize is a $100 gift card to the garden center of the winner’s choosing. “We are excited to work with GrowIt! and see our Wave Petunias tagged in cities from coast to coast,” says Claire Watson, brand manager for Wave. “Seeing gardeners’ creative photography, awarding a winner, and learning what each region likes about Wave Petunias will be extremely useful as we further promote our ‘Wow ’em With Wave’ ad campaign this season.” Gardeners can place an entry into the contest by downloading GrowIt!, filling out a profile, and uploading photos of Wave Petunias. Placing the tag #WildestWave in the photo’s comments section […]

Read More
Kaleidoscope Abelia (Plant Haven International)

June 17, 2015

PlantHaven International Launches National Campaign To …

PlantHaven International has partnered with BlueSkye Creative to initiate a national consumer ad campaign that carries across radio, video, print and social media to increase sales of Abelia Kaleidoscope.

Read More

June 17, 2015

Green Leaf Plants Plans Two Open House Events June 25-2…

Green Leaf Plants will hold two open house events this summer to give the public a chance to view trial gardens, take guided tours and learn about new varieties and programs. Both events will be held at Green Leaf Plant's facility in Lancaster, Pa. The event in July will coincide with Penn State University Extension Trials in nearby Manheim.

Read More
Suntory_EuroAmerican Propagators_CAST2015

June 17, 2015

ePlantSource Welcomes EuroAmerican to list of Partners

ePlantSource recently announced a new partnership with EuroAmerican. A complete assortment from EuroAmerican is now available on ePlantSource.com and varieties are available for sale now to customers for the 2015-2016 season. In addition to the innovative varieties included in EuroAmerican’s “Growing Opportunities — 365 Days a Year” program, Savvy Succulents, the Sunny Collection, the Senetti Collection and offerings from breeders such as Suntory and Ball Ornamentals, ePlantSource customers will also gain access to the well known Proven Winners assortment and combination containers. “During the recent California Spring Trials, I had the opportunity to sit down with John Rader at the impressive display in Ventura from EuroAmerican and I couldn’t be happier to now offer the complete EuroAmerican assortment to our customers,” says Gary Falkenstein, president/CEO of ePlantSource. “EuroAmerican is a visionary company and we are proud that they have chosen to work with ePlantSource for the coming seasons.” Catalog listings, […]

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Open House

June 14, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens And D.S. Cole Growers Open House …

D.S. Cole Growers and Pleasant View Gardens, both a short distance away from each other in Loudon, N.H., have set July 30 as the date for their open house events. Attendance is free, but registration is required.

Read More

June 13, 2015

Bailey Nurseries’ Minnesota Expo 2015 Takes Place…

Bailey Nurseries will hold its Minnesota Expo 2015, a jam-packed event showcasing its farm and plants, on July 30 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in St. Paul, Minn. In addition to farm tours, participants can enjoy new varieties, hot picks and merchandising displays, as well as attend various seminars through the day. Registration is required.

Read More
2015 Readers' Choice

June 12, 2015

Vote For Your Favorite Finalist For Greenhouse Grower&#…

It's time for you, our readers, to decide which variety is picked as the best new introduction in 2015. Voting is now open for Readers' Choice Finalists.

Read More
gapanthus DuchessofDazzle_featured

June 10, 2015

24 Plants That Can Handle Drought

These drought and heat tolerant varieties are both eco-friendly and worry-free garden performers.

Read More
hort couture_Asclepias Monarch's Promise_featured

June 9, 2015

ePlantSource And Hort Couture Partner On Variety Availa…

ePlantSource, a Colorado-based online broker of live goods to professional greenhouse growers, recently announced that the complete collection from Hort Couture is now available to be purchased through ePlantSource.com for the 2015-2016 season. The collection from Hort Couture, which offers exclusive varieties to be retailed through independent garden centers only, includes a full line of annuals, tropical, succulents, herbs, vegetables and ornamental grasses. “We are very excited to add the Hort Couture collections to what ePlantSource offers to professional greenhouse growers,” says Gary Falkenstein, president/CEO at ePlantSource. “We feel they have an exciting concept and they do a fantastic job at selecting products that bring a great draw to independent garden centers.” In making the announcement, ePlantSource touted Hort Couture’s pride in selecting varieties that will help independent garden centers stand apart from their big box counterparts, as well as its rigorous genetic evaluation program to ensure success for growers, […]

Read More
Allan Armitage At Tradeshow

May 15, 2015

Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank …

Allan Armitage tells why the horticulture industry is about the people, not the plants, not the marketing and not the social media, and why horticulture is here to stay.

Read More
Coleus-Campfire-BallFloraPlant

May 6, 2015

Costa Farms Releases 2015 Midseason Top Performers

Costa Farms has announced the mid-season top performers in its 2015 Season Premier Trial Garden. Its research and development team has been working to grow and evaluate hundreds of varieties and their findings have been published online.The plants presented in the report have thrived in Miami’s mid-spring conditions. Every spring, the company’s research and development team trials more than 500 varieties of annuals, perennials and tropical plants from plant breeders around the world. All of the varieties have been tested in Costa Farms’ 2-acre Season Premier Trial Garden in Miami, Fla. The team assesses the plants for abundance of bloom, crop uniformity and overall performance. Within the report, the varieties are organized by their color. “There’s one thing pretty much everyone who shops has in mind when they step into a garden center: color,” the report states. Because of that, the report is divided by hue, so everyone can zero in on their favorite. Click here to […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

18 New Grasses To Grow

Ornamental grasses fit in with the needs of today’s landscapers and consumers better than ever. Whether your customers are looking for creative solutions for patio containers or a mass planting in a landscape, some of the 18 new varieties included here are sure to meet the need.

Read More
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific …

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, H…

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
Danziger_Coreopsis_Solanna Glow1

April 22, 2015

Industry Perspective: McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletch…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence For Industry’s Choice Panel. Fletcher recounts some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Danziger "Dan" Flower Farms and Beekenkamp during California Spring Trials.

Read More