The Perennial Plant Association’s (PPA) 33rd Annual Symposium, held July 27 to August 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Md., delved into the rich history of perennial suppliers and landscape architects in the Baltimore area and their influence on the perennial market today and in its bright future. Perennial horticulture made its debut in the U.S. in the Baltimore area thanks to landscape and horticulture visionaries like Wolfgang Oehme, whose unconventional designs of sweeps of lush grasses and perennials were the start of the New American Garden look and the use of perennials en masse.
Perennial Combinations For The Urban Environment A Big Hit
Perennial enthusiasts attending the conference listened to German horticulturist and landscape architect Cassian Schmidt, director of Hermannshof Gardens in Weinheim, Germany, share planting ideas based on his naturalistic planting designs, also known as the “New German Style.” During his “Formulaic and Assessed Mixed Perennial Plantings” presentation, he shared the research he is doing with natural plant communities as models for sustainable plant combinations in the urban environment.
Schmidt has developed 34 habitat-based, low-maintenance perennial combinations for diverse situations and habitats. They are designed to be dynamic and mostly self-regulating systems with colorful seasonal changes, contrasting textures and graded heights. Each module has a maintenance calendar that shows what maintenance needs to be done month-by-month. These modules have been offered to certain growers in Germany who can offer them to their customers and supply the plants needed for the combinations.
It was an interesting concept that could help promote greater use of perennials throughout the industry, not only in Europe, but also in the North America, as the idea catches on. In fact, Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm in Burlington, Wis., is already using Cassian’s ideas to create naturalistic perennial designs for his customers. During a concurrent session held for designers, growers and retailers, he shared with attendees how he has implemented Schmidt’s ideas to emphasize plant relationships to maintenance strategies and costs.
The Father Of Perennials Remembered
One of the most memorable parts of the conference was a presentation by Claudia West, ecological sales manager for North Creek Nurseries, “How Perennials Changed Our World,” which highlighted the life of Karl Foerster. A noted plantsman, author and philosopher, Foerster is often called the Father of Perennials. He is responsible for many of the European perennial introductions that we enjoy today. The popular Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed grass, with its vertical habit and beautiful, feathery blooms and creamy white flowers is named in his honor. This grass was also named as the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year.
As part of the presentation, West showed a video of the 92-year-old Foerster in his garden, and some memorable quotes from him include:
“The satisfied gardener does not deserve his garden.”
“Perennials are not luxury plants that require air conditioning.”
“If I could be born again, I would become a horticulturist. This profession is too big for one life.”
Grower Tour Visits Perennial Growers Kurt Bluemel, The Perennial Farm And More
The PPA grower tour was a full day of visiting notable perennial growers in the Baltimore, Md., area who have been a major part of the perennial movement in the mid-Atlantic, including Babikow Greenhouses, Cavano’s, The Perennial Farm, Kurt Bluemel and Emory Knoll Farms. Attendees had the chance to see all aspects of the growers’ operations from propagation to production and shipping.
The extraordinary green roofs showcased at Emory Knoll Farms, which specializes in plants just for green roofs and is an industry leader in green roof technology, were a big hit on the tour. Another fun part of the operation was the greenhouses — each one named after famous Blues singers. At The Perennial Farm, attendees learned about the company’s marketing thrust with its Deer-Leerious plants to sell solutions that solve landscaping problems to consumers. Tour-goers also had the chance to see its diverse collection of landscape-sized perennials, as well as unusual and hard-to-find varieties.
A great collection of speakers, informative presentations, stellar tours and abundant networking opportunities combined to make the 33rd Perennial Plant Symposium a great event to get a pulse on the current perennial market. If you haven’t yet had the chance to attend, consider it for your travel itinerary for next year. The 34th Perennial Plant Symposium is planned for August 1-5, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minn. See the Perennial Plant Association’s website for more details.