Benchmarks: People Make The Difference In The Horticulture Industry

A horticulturist’s high — it’s the only way to describe how I have felt this past month. Between attending Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio, then later the Perennial Plant Association’s 33rd National Symposium in Baltimore, Md., I feel pumped about plants and our industry in general. There’s a lot of energy and momentum out there. Good ideas abound and hope is alive and well.

What I like best about these events is the people behind the plants. I like hearing their stories. I like that they go out of their way to help and support each other. That’s where the energy is, where the passion is. The passion that drives new ideas and inspires innovation and creativity. Without it, what do we have to hope for?


I dare say that most of the people I talk to at these events don’t think of what they do as just their day job — it’s a way of life, an integral part of who they are. If only we could get others to think the same. Kelly Norris of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden said it best in his presentation at the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) Symposium.

“We have to change the thinking. Plants are not a luxury. They are a necessity.”

While this idea seems light years away from becoming a reality, especially in tough economic times, it’s not so farfetched. People feel strong connections to things they think they can’t live without. That type of connection to plants could ignite a spark of interest from consumers that fires across our industry and changes the very fiber of how we sell plants forever. It’s exciting to think about.

Another presenter at the PPA symposium, Jared Barnes, assistant professor of horticulture at Stephen F. Austin University, talked about the need to connect culture to horticulture. When I hear ideas like this, about entwining plants into the very fabric of people’s lives, the more convinced I am that we are on the right track for future growth. But it all hinges on the people behind the plants that make things happen.

Our September issue is a celebration of those people. We start off with Tom Wheeler from Bell Nursery USA, Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year and winner of the Excellence in Leadership award. When he was young, an influential mentor helped mold and shape him into the grower he is today. In “Building A Strong Foundation, One Grower At A Time,” you can read about how he is helping frame the future of our industry by mentoring other growers and recruiting young talent.

Then there are the people behind Sheridan Nurseries, Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Operation Of The Year and winner of the Excellence In Perennial Production award. “Sheridan Nurseries Raises The Bar,” talks about their efforts to set a high standard for perennials through innovative plant programs, technology and environmental initiatives.

And we can’t forget all of the great people and ideas we saw at Cultivate’15. “Excellence Defined,” gives you a small taste of the movers and shakers that make our industry great.

Last, but not least, there are the people on the front lines, the top young plant and cuttings producers. To find out what is new in this market, check out “The State Of The 2015 Young Plant Industry” and “Global Suppliers Of Unrooted Cuttings Raise Standards To Meet Demands.”

It’s the people that make the difference and keep us on a path toward growth. In that sense, we’re all one big team working toward a common goal — a better future built on a strong foundation.