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Perennial Plant Association celebrates 40th annviersary

In 2024, the Perennial Plant Association is thrilled to celebrate 40 years of connecting professionals, providing education, and promoting perennial plants. Since 1984, the Perennial Plant Association has welcomed horticulture professionals to a community where passions for perennials run deep and professional camaraderie is nurtured.

In 1983, Dr. Steven Still, professor of landscape horticulture at the Ohio State University, sponsored a perennial symposium. This program, believed to be the first symposium devoted only to perennials, was held in Columbus, Ohio, and attracted 250 attendees. During the two-day program, visionary leaders held an informal session to review the future of the perennial industry—the conversation turned to the need to form an association of perennial industry members, leading to the incorporation of PPA in 1984.

The Perennial Plant Association initially comprised six regions with a director for each: Northeast, Southern, Great Lakes, Central, Western, and Canada; PPA added the Mid-Atlantic region later. The first three meetings were held in Columbus, but since 1987, the symposium has circulated through the seven regions. Attendees enjoy and benefit from visiting and touring a new region of the United States or Canada each year.

Pierre Bennerup, of Sunny Border Nursery and a founding PPA member, best explains the impetus for the creation of the PPA. "What you have to understand is that if you were growing perennials in 1980 in, say, Illinois, you had no idea who was growing what in Maryland or Connecticut," says Bennerup. "You might know one or two others, but otherwise you were totally disconnected. PPA brought everyone together."

PPA has also established several well-recognized programs and awards in the horticultural industry. In 1990, the successful Perennial Plant of the Year® program was started with the selection of Phlox stolonifera. A new Perennial Plant of the Year has been selected by a vote of PPA members in each subsequent year. In 1992, the Landscape Design Awards Program was initiated to honor designers with a merit or honor award for exceptional landscape designs that highlight perennial use.

The PPA family will gather this year for its 2024 National Symposium in Asheville, North Carolina, July 29-Aug. 1. PPA will commemorate 40 years of history on Wednesday of the Symposium, with a special celebratory dinner following the famed horticultural tours hosted that day. PPA will honor this momentous milestone by reflecting on and recognizing those who helped build the organization and nurture the perennial industry. In recognition of today's organization and members and the bright industry future that lies ahead, Special Recognition Awards will also be presented that evening. PPA 40th Anniversary merchandise will also be available for purchase this spring.

"Happy 40th Anniversary to the PPA!" said PPA President Richard Hawke of Chicago Botanic Garden. "From Columbus to Asheville and every place in between, it's been an awesome journey. I've been a proud member for 38 years and am honored to be part of PPA leadership at this auspicious time."


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