Nursery & Landscape notes Publication of the North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association, Inc.
How NCNLA Members Met the
Challenges of 2020 SPRING 2021
NCNLA Fundraising Underway
NC State’s New Plant Breeder
No Need To Sweat It!
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Contents SPRING 2021
COMMENTARY President’s Message 5 Executive Vice President’s Message 7
NCNLA NEWS Fundraising Campaign Underway 9 Member Spotlight: Pro Green, Inc. 10 Philip Dark’s Passion for Gardenias 12 Morris Newlin’s Successes, Succession and Retirement 15
AROUND OUR INDUSTRY
Nursery & Landscape notes FEATURES
How NCNLA Members Met the Challenges of 2020
Custom-Branded Containers: The Growing Differentiator You Need
Student Spotlight: Dalton Hough 18
Meet NC State’s New Plant Breeder 20 Follow Guidelines for Teen Employees 26
INDUSTRY RESEARCH Watch for New Tomato Plant Virus 28
EVERY ISSUE Calendar of Events 3 New Members 3 Advertisers’ Index 32
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Johnson Nursery Company Willard NC • 910-285-7861
Sampson Nursery Godwin, NC • 910-567-2937
Country Ridge Nursery Roaring River, NC • 336-984-4050
Latham’s Nursery Monroe, NC • 704-283-5696
Settlemyre Nursery Valdese, NC • 828-874-0679
Gossett’s Landscape Nursery High Point, NC • 336-454-2548
Pender Nursery Garner, NC • 919-772-7255 email@example.com
Taylor’s Nursery Raleigh, NC • 919-231-6161
Fair View Nursery Wilson, NC • 252-243-3656 Five Oaks Nursery Wilmington, NC • 910-762-8637
Piedmont Carolina Nursery Colfax NC • 336-993-4114
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Nursery & Landscape notes Published by
North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association, Inc. 968 Trinity Road, Raleigh, NC 27607 NCNLA Staff Richard Lawhun Executive Vice President Katie Rodrigues Director of Meetings & Education Kathryn Stansbury Director of Business Development Victoria Torino Chief Financial Officer Cindy Whitt Director of Marketing & Communications Nursery & Landscape Notes is published quarterly by the North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association, Inc. (NCNLA), covering news, research, education and business in the nursery and landscape industries. The publication is distributed to approximately 825 horticulture producers, landscape professionals and industry suppliers. Nursery & Landscape Notes is provided as a member service. 2021 NCNLA Board of Directors Leslie Herndon President Greenscape, Inc. Holly Springs, NC Kevin Cagle Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer Greenthumb Nursery, LLC Ether, NC Hugh Crump Past President Greenline Design, Inc. Charlotte, NC Tim Johnson, II Tim Johnson Landscaping Statesville, NC Dana Massey Plantworks Nursery Rougemont, NC William ”Bill” Bynam Site One Landscape Supply High Point, NC
NCNLA Day at Caterpillar
Caterpillar Edward J. Rapp Customer and Training Center, Clayton, NC www.ncnla.com
July 10-13, 2021
Sept. 16, 2021
Cultivate ’21 Columbus, OH
Green & Growin’ 22
Garden Center Conference & Expo
Jan. 10-14, 2022
Sept. 28-30, 2021
John Clark Pro Green, Inc. Morganton, NC
Oct. 20-22, 2021
Ariel Montanez Pender Nursery Graham, NC
www.gie-expo.com *Event dates and locations subject to change
Trey Warrick Scottree & Shelby Nursery, Inc. Shelby, NC Educational Advisors Justin Snyder Alamance Community College Graham, NC Anthony LeBude North Carolina State University Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center Mills River, NC
Advertising For advertising inquiries and publication schedule, please contact Cindy Whitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-819-9119, ext. 1002. The inclusion of products or brand names in this publication is not an endorsement by the North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association.
WELCOME NEW NCNLA MEMBERS! Gravely Newnan, GA
Stockhaven Nursery LLC Springfield, SC
Lawn Life Supply Company LLC Wendell, NC
As of May 12, 2021
Mission: To provide essential value to our members through education, marketing and advocacy. Vision: To promote and protect the interests of North Carolina’s green industry. Connect with NCNLA facebook.com/NCNurseryandLandscapeAssociation twitter.com/tweet_ncnla instagram.com/ncnla ncnla.com | BuyNCPlants.com | GreenandGrowin.com | NCGreenprints.com ©2021 NCNLA
SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES
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NCNLA 2021 PRESIDENT’S LETTER
Happy Spring! I know we are all excited to leave
Leslie Herndon Greenscape, Inc. Raleigh, NC
behind the gloom of this past winter and are ready to enjoy the blooms and warm temperatures of the season instead! Many of you I have spoken with over the past few weeks are enjoying an ”off to the races” kind of start to our industry’s busiest time of year, and I am excited to see our collective momentum continue into 2021. However, that boom brings challenges — challenges we are all working hard to overcome as plant supply becomes short, material costs increase and workforce labor supply grows even tighter. At North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association (NCNLA), we hear your concerns and are positioning programming and support efforts around these issues facing our industry. With that in mind, we have a few upcoming events that I would love our members to consider supporting. First, on Thursday, June 17, in Raleigh, we have our GIC Technology Symposium, during which some great speakers will discuss how they are using technology to run their businesses in an increasingly competitive market, in terms of attracting both clients and employees. NCNLA member Eric Blevins will be speaking about his use of drones in his business (take a look at his LinkedIn page at linkedin.com/in/ericblevins1/ if you would like a preview). Dean Linton will be giving an update on the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and we also will have speakers discussing topics such as soil health in North Carolina, advancing green infrastructure, using drones to enhance your business, and implementing emerging
technologies in the green industry. A formal conference agenda, including continuing education credit information, is available. We look forward to having you join us! More details are available at www.ncnla.com. Another great event that supports our mission of assisting with workforce development is our 2021 Robert Cagle Memorial Golf Tournament on Friday, June 18, at the Lochmere Golf Club in Raleigh. Please come join us as we tee up to support our student scholarship funds. (I’ll be the one without the clubs!) We would appreciate any support you can provide as we gear up to provide student scholarships in 2021 and beyond. This is also a great opportunity to come out and network with your fellow green industry peers for the day. Our NCNLA staff has been hard at work on all of these programs, as well as other upcoming events! We also hope you are enjoying the new look for Nursery & Landscape Notes, as well as our improved eNews and other communication platforms. We enjoy hearing your feedback on these improvements. I also want to formally welcome our new NCNLA board members, Dana Massey of Plantworks Nursery, Ariel Montanez of Pender Nursery, and Trey Warrick of Scottree and Shelby Nursery (who is starting his own term after finishing mine). Thank you for agreeing to serve the industry! We are also happy to welcome a new staff member in May, but I’ll let Rick introduce her in his letter. One final note: As vaccines continue to roll out and the state begins to roll back restrictions, we are full steam ahead on having an in-person Green & Growin’ 22! We hope you will join us in Greensboro in January! Best wishes for a great spring season!
SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES
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NCNLA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT’S LETTER
NCNLA Summer Activities on the Horizon I don’t know about you, but I seem to have a little more “spring” in my
step these days. The warm weather and early sunrises have done wonders for my energy and state of mind — and it could not have come at a better time. Without a doubt, it has been a difficult year in many ways. Thankfully, things are appearing to trend towards normal — or a reasonable facsimile thereof — and I am more than ready! NCNLA leadership and staff are in the process of planning several events that will offer some semblance of normalcy, while staying within current public health guidelines, as established by Governor Cooper. (Note: By the time you read this, the governor is expected to have loosened some of the guidelines.) Future events include: • June 17 — NCNLA hosts the 2021 GIC Technology Symposium at the McKimmon Center on the North Carolina State University campus. The program includes seven sessions covering a variety of topics, including soil health, stormwater management, inventory management, social media and irrigation. • June 18 — Kevin and Robby Cagle host the 2021 Robert Cagle Memorial Golf Tournament at Lochmere Golf Club in Cary, N.C. Proceeds benefit the NCNLA Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to horticulture and landscape students who plan to pursue careers in the industry. Join NCNLA members and industry colleagues for an afternoon of fun in the sun.
Richard “Rick” Lawhun NCNLA Executive Vice President
September 16 — Caterpillar will host an educational event for NCNLA members at its facility in Clayton, N.C. The all-day program will give members a chance to tour one of the area’s leading equipment plants to learn more about the solutions Caterpillar offers the green industry. You can find information about the events above at www.ncnla.com.
On a different note, I am pleased to announce that Katie Rodrigues joined NCNLA on May 3 as our new Director of Meetings & Education. A graduate of Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in hospitality administration, Katie also holds a Master of Science degree in management from Troy University. Prior to joining NCNLA, she was Guest Experience Manager for the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala. She has also served as Program Manager with U.S. Army Morale Welfare & Recreation, and as Event Manager with American Heritage Railways. We are excited to have Katie join us, and I know she is looking forward to working with everyone as we start the process of preparing for Green & Growin’ 22. As always, stay well and stay passionate about the industry you love!
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NCNLA Fundraising Campaign Underway The nursery and landscape industry were fortunate to be deemed an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our association’s efforts in securing this status were funded by nearly $880,000 in operating revenue generated from Green & Growin’ 20. The revenue covers expenses from Green & Growin’ Education and Marketplace, and from non-revenue initiatives like advocacy, industry promotion and marketing. To help offset the deficit from canceling Green & Growin’ 21 Marketplace, each member of the Board of Directors pledged $500 to the association and challenged
members to make a similar contribution. As of mid-May, you have contributed $63,881 towards our goal of $250,000. A healthy, vibrant association is crucial to the well-being of the nursery and landscape industry. With your assistance, we will continue to provide essential value to our members through education, marketing and advocacy during this difficult time and beyond. If you have not donated yet, please considering sending a check using the pledge card and postage-paid envelope we mailed in April. You can also donate online at www.ncnla.com/donations.
Thank you for your support!
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SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES
NCNLA MEMBER NEWS
NCNLA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
Pro Green, Inc. Morganton, NC President John Clark
Five Minutes with
How did you get into the business? I started working when I was 15, picking river rock (large and small) out of a field for an entire summer! That work was in preparation to establish a bentgrass sod farm, which at the time was the only such farm in North Carolina or the Southeast. I’m not sure if it was my relentless days of harvesting rock, or if the owner felt sorry for my having to work in the heat, but that got me my first job as a sod farmer. I worked in that position through high school and attended Catawba Valley Community College, where I received a degree in turfgrasss management and horticulture. The year I graduated, I had the opportunity to buy into the general partnership of the company. I worked as the general partner for the next seven years, as we provided quality bentgrass sod to the golf course industry. In 1995, my brother, Barry Clark, and I bought a piece of property and formed what is now known as Pro Green, Inc. We provide quality turfgrass sod, such as bentgrass, fescue, bluegrass and zoysia grass. Our farm also includes a B&B nursery and a container nursery, which we are expanding every year.
In business 26 years NCNLA member 10 years Number of employees 5 Favorite NCNLA benefits
The educational opportunities provided by NCNLA, as well as Green & Growin’ networking and the feeling of being part of an organization that has your back — no matter what type of green industry business you have
10 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
What is a typical day like for you and your staff? Our day begins at 7 a.m. with filling any sod and nursery orders from the day before. Barry manages all sod-related orders, and I concentrate on all nursery stock orders. It sounds good on paper, but no one day is like the day before, as we are usually going in several different directions throughout the day. What is the most rewarding part of your career? Working outside, being my own boss and watching plant material grow to maturity. Watching a plant mature to a marketable quality gives me a sense of accomplishment. What is your company best known for? Producing high-quality bentgrass sod to high-end golf courses throughout the Southeast, as well as providing high-quality container plant material to landscapers and retail nurseries. What issues are you concerned about as a company in the green industry? Taxes! Government regulation, labor shortages and a potential downturn in the economy, like we all experienced in 2007 and 2008.
What have you gained from your involvement in NCNLA? As a member of NCNLA, I have gained many new friends, as well as knowledge and advice that would not have been possible otherwise. I have been part of many organizations and served on many boards, but NCNLA gives me a sense of family and friendship you won’t find in any other organization in the green industry.
What advice do you have for someone interested in or just starting in the industry? Do your homework! Make sure you have a passion and love for what you are preparing to do for the rest of your life. It doesn’t make a difference what career path you choose — just make sure you are excited about getting up early every morning to go to work. Anything less will result in disappointment and unhappiness. SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES
NCNLA MEMBER NEWS
Philip Dark’s Passion for
Gardenias Phil Dark with his beloved gardenias
‘Prince Charles’ gardenia
Philip Dark of Oakmont Nursery, Siler City, sold his business in March in order to enjoy retirement with his wife, Jane, and focus on his passion: breeding gardenias. Established in 1987, the nursery provided trees and shrubs to retailers and wholesalers, as well as new cultivars to the national and global marketplace. Dark will work with the new owners (who are under wraps for now) until they are acclimated, but he is eager to create bigger, better gardenias through projects with North Carolina State University and the JC Raulston Arboretum. 12 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
Dark’s passion for gardenias was sparked by JC Raulston, the arboretum’s namesake, shortly before his death in 1996. “While at a field day at the arboretum, he talked about a climate-hardy gardenia that was going to change the gardenia trade in North Carolina,” said Dark. “When he explained the potential for breeding gardenias, I became enamored with it.” He later attended a propagation seminar held in Raulston’s memory, which inspired him to go home and cross two plants that eventually became the ‘Crown Jewel’ gardenia, the first plant he patented in 2009. The compact hybrid is cold hardy with a double bloom. In 2018, Dark was granted a patent on the the equipment and supplies needed to keep the ‘Prince Charles’ gardenia, a heat-tolerant, cold-hardy ‘Crown Jewel’ NC State horticulture department at the forefront of gardenia plant with continuous blooming. Proven Winners will plant breeding. bring the plant to market next year under the name Throughout this career, Dark served on local Steady as She Goes™. and statewide agriculture advisory boards, including Dark and his wife established an endowment with JC those of the JC Raulston Arboretum and the North Raulston Arboretum that will sustain all areas of ornamenCarolina Agricultural Foundation. In 2017, he was tal plant breeding, including supporting graduate students named Grower of the Year by North Carolina Nursery & and research technicians, as well as helping to provide Landscape Association.
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NCNLA MEMBER NEWS
Matt Hunter, Morris Newlin and Conrad Hayter
Successes, Succession and Retirement
Morris Newlin of New Garden Landscaping & Nursery has retired after 43 years, during which time he was an integral part of the North Carolina green industry. He will hand off the reins to Matt Hunter, who has served as the company’s President since 2017, and Conrad Hayter, a former President of the company. Newlin, who has been focusing on business development and serving legacy customers for the past several years, decided the time was right to retire. “Conrad, along with the New Garden executive team of Vera Gardner, Doug Berlin and Matt, had already pretty much been leading the company in recent years,” said Newlin. “So this seemed like the right time.”
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Hunter and Hayter have lengthy histories with the company. Hayter had known the Newlin family for many years when he started as an account manager at New Garden in 2005. “The family connection was really important to me,” said Hayter. “New Garden was like an extension of my own family.” Hayter himself brought Hunter onto the team. “We met for breakfast one day, and he asked me if I’d be interested in coming to work for New Garden,” recalled Hunter. “So I came to New Garden through my friendship with Conrad. I didn’t realize, though, that we’d end up as business partners in the long run.” Building a Business The origins of the company go back to the 1960s, when Newlin’s father started a landscaping business in the family’s backyard. “As far as the start of the business goes, it was really my dad’s backyard nursery,” said Newlin. “My brother and I grew up in that environment.”
“The most important time for me, in terms of growth in and knowledge of the industry, was when I was on the board with Tom Bland, Michael Currin and others,” said Newlin. “The North Carolina Landscape Association held retreats, and our families got very close — it was valuable time together where you could just let your guard down and talk about anything. The people I was working with helped me set my bar much higher.” Keeping the Vision Going Throughout the years and the many changes it has undergone, New Garden Landscaping & Nursery has remained committed to being a responsible corporate citizen, getting the best results for its customers, and finding and keeping the best employees. “The thing I’m most proud of is the people we’ve been able to attract, in terms of leadership, skill and passion,” said Newlin. “I always felt like I didn’t want to be the biggest company — I just wanted to be the best company,” added
We started New Garden Landscaping & Nursery out of my own backyard in 1977. A few years after graduating college in the mid-1970s, Newlin had the opportunity to start his own company when a real estate developer he was working for laid off much of its grounds maintenance staff, whom he then hired for his own venture. “We started New Garden Landscaping & Nursery out of my own backyard in 1977,” Newlin said. “We grew from a mostly maintenance and landscape operation and later added retail and other services.” From there, the business expanded. In 1979, Newlin opened a retail nursery on Highway 220 in Summerfield. In 1984, he opened a seasonal open-air retail location operated out of a gazebo, known appropriately as The Gazebo. Today the company has 124 employees. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Morris was involved with state-level landscape and nursery organizations, including North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association (NCNLA). His participation led to serving on the board of the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) in the 2000s and guiding the merger of ANLA with OFA, a combined entity now known as American Hort. He still considers his time working with NCNLA to be one of the most important experiences of his career. 16 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
Newlin. “And to me, part of that is being able to have a customer for life. I can’t tell you how many customers for whom we’ve landscaped their business, their home, their church and even their children’s home.” As Hunter sees it, part of taking New Garden into the future will be maintaining that commitment to the staff. “We have at least a dozen employees who have been with us more than 20 years,” he explained. “It speaks volumes for what Morris built for this company, and we’ve just been very blessed.” Hayter, for his part, sees areas for new growth. “We want to grow, but we want to be very strategic with our growth,” he explained. “We don’t want to go out and just start adding services — we want to be able to add higher-value services like irrigation and lighting.” In terms of the future of the business, Newlin is content with where things stand now. “I wanted to see the business continue as a family business or a small business because the people in that company are so important to me,” he said. “I wanted to see a team with active owners who were ready to lead the company into the future. And that’s pretty much where I feel like we’ve landed, which is a good spot.”
7801 Clinard Farms Road High Point, NC 27265 WWW.GOSSETTSNURSERY.COM
(336) 454-2548 1-800-487-2555 firstname.lastname@example.org Located: 5 miles west of Greensboro, on NC 68, two miles south of I-40
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Nursery & Landscape Notes is introducing you to the next generation of green industry professionals by featuring current and recent college students with plans to pursue careers in the field.
Dalton Hough Dalton Hough of Goldston will graduate from Sandhills Community College (SCC) in May 2021 with a degree in landscape gardening. SCC students have unique opportunities to learn through hands-on training in the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, a 32-acre living laboratory, as well as through the work-study program, which requires students to complete 320 hours of on-campus, work-based learning and a 320-hour internship before graduation. How did you discover horticulture? I got into horticulture in high school, when I first started taking horticulture-related classes. I was also involved in my local FFA chapter for two years and served as chapter Vice President.
What were your most valuable experiences, either in school or from other exposure to the industry, and why? Gardening lab has been the most fun because we get to go out and do handson work in the garden. What are your plans for after graduation? I’m going to intern at Moore Farms Botanical Gardens, a 65-acre garden in a rural region of South Carolina. I will be working under the eight horticulturalists there, doing roughly the same type of work that I have done at SCC. What advice would you give to a student interested in the field? The biggest advice I can give to someone interested in the field is to work hard — that is what gets you noticed in the industry. What is your favorite plant, and why? My favorite plant is Lagerstroemia indica, the crape myrtle. I love this plant because it has beautiful flowers, and I enjoy pruning them.
18 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
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Meet NC State’s New Plant Breeder Hsuan Chen, Ph.D., joined the Horticulture Science team at North Carolina State University earlier this year to support nursery and landscape plant breeding. Ornamental plants developed by their researchers have contributed nearly $400 million in retail value to the largest crop commodity in the state, according to university statistics. Chen’s research will help breed new cultivars of drought-tolerant, pest-resistant plants that require fewer inputs, grow faster and perform better in the landscape. He is interested in versatile technologies, including conventional plant breeding, cytogenetics, ploidy manipulation, molecular marker–assisted selection and interspecific hybridization. “We wanted someone who could go from traditional, old-school plant breeding to employing cutting-edge technology,” said Mark Weathington, JC Raulston Arboretum Director and Search Committee Member. “That’s what 20 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
Hsuan does well: He can work on the high-tech aspects but also knows how to do the work in the field.” As a doctoral student at Oregon State University, Chen’s research included breeding tree-form rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) hybrids that yielded more robust stems with flowers spanning up to two inches larger than usual. In another project, he discovered the molecular markers that identify which lilac cultivars will rebloom, in an attempt to lengthen their short flowering season. Chen hopes to visit local nurseries this summer to learn what challenges they face, so he can apply his research to crucial issues in the area. In the meantime, he is busy with two ongoing research projects on redbuds and camellias. Working alongside NC State’s Dr. Dennis Werner, a longtime redbud researcher, Chen hopes to develop his own unique combinations of traits to improve their characteristics and novel features. Ultimately, he would like to introduce desirable redbud genes to other species. “We’ve found some interesting traits in redbuds, and if we can find the trait’s gene, eventually we can deploy gene editing on other species,” said Chen. “We won’t have to wait to discover the desired gene in every species we want to breed.” Redbud trees are native to the area, but Chen would like to use polyploidy manipulation to breed an infertile cultivar. An infertile redbud would be easier to control and would allow growers to sell it in regions where it is considered invasive. Chen is also working with Dr. Tom Ranney, NC State Plant Breeder, to develop a protocol for creating polyploidy in camellias, which will increase the plant’s performance and vigor. Camellia Forest Nursery, a partner in the project, created some interspecific hybrids with yellow pigment that
Advanced PlantBreeding Techniques: Key Terms to Know Ploidy: The number of sets of
chromosomes in a cell, usually represented by x. In humans, this is written as “2x,” meaning two sets of chromosomes.
Polyploidy: A state in which the
cells of an organism have more than two sets of chromosomes. Most animals cannot survive with polyploid cells. Plants, on the other hand, not only can often survive polyploidy, but it can even produce positive landscape characteristics such as infertility, vigorous growth, and larger or thicker-textured leaves and flowers.
Chen wants to introduce to other cultivars, but the hybrid is infertile. Once he develops the right protocol to increase the ploidy, which might rescue the fertility, he can introduce the yellow pigment to other cultivars. Although developing better-performing cultivars is an important objective of plant breeding, Chen knows it can also help growers and landscapers keep up with consumer trends. Homeowners like seeing new colors in flowering plants, and they want to see them bloom multiple times a year. Introducing new ornamentals to the market helps the local industry evolve so that it can compete economically. A side project for Chen is to uncover methods for controlling invasive plants
in the state. After moving here from Oregon, where wisteria is not considered invasive, he discovered that the fast-growing plant can be destructive in this region. He plans to breed an infertile plant that still blooms but does not spread seed, preventing it from quickly overtaking an area. While Chen is excited about his new role at NC State, he does not want to work without participation from the industry. He encourages growers to contact him to discuss the challenges they face and how his research can help facilitate solutions. “I want to know what topics matter to people,” said Chen. “I want my research to have a positive impact to help the green industry.”
Ploidy manipulation: The
science of manipulating the number of sets of chromosomes in a plant to achieve desired improvements. This can be achieved through various highly technical processes but also can be as simple as crossing a naturally occurring tetraploid (4x) of a species with a diploid (2x) of the same species to create a triploid (3x), which may be sterile.
Molecular markers: Specific
genes or segments of DNA that can be identified within an entire genome, at specific locations within that genome, and can be used as identifiers or flags for a particular trait or inheritance. For instance, a marker for reblooming in a specific species of plant, once identified, can be checked for quickly in seedlings, negating the need to grow huge populations of seedlings to flowering-size plants.
SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES
How NCNLA Members Met the
Challenges of 2020 ver the years, the North Carolina green industry has certainly seen its share of unexpected circumstances — like flooding, hurricanes and drought — but no one could have predicted that last year‘s biggest challenge would be a global pandemic. By late March 2020, green industry businesses were deemed essential and could remain open, despite local and state restrictions that temporarily shuttered other companies. In the face of such adversity, North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association (NCNLA) member businesses persevered, and the year actually turned out to be one of the busiest on record.
To understand how the pandemic affected members, we conducted a survey earlier this year. Although only a small percentage of members replied, there was a recurring sentiment among the responses: Business was booming in 2020. What processes did you put in place to keep employees and clients safe when the pandemic began? Provide personal protective gear (masks, etc.) for employees
Use signs to promote social distancingamong employees or customers
Offer alternative ways of shopping (online, pick-up, delivery)
Change work practices to reduce groups of employees
Require temperature scans upon entry
Hold meetings online with staff or clients
None of the above 0%
22 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
“Our retail sales and wholesale sales increased,” said Hope Ciferni, Nursery Manager at Five Oaks Nursery. “People had to stay home, so they decided to invest money in their yards.” Unable to experience much of the outside world in person, consumers sought the help of the green industry to beautify their outdoor spaces and provide a respite from the boredom of being largely stuck at home. “After a few months of lockdown, we had many people come to the nursery just to walk around. Parks were closed at that time, so we became a kind of field trip,” said Mark Gantt, Plant Protection Manager at Hefner‘s Nursery. “And lots of people bought something while they were here.” Cultivating New Ways of Doing Business During 2020, essential businesses could remain open if they followed safety protocols to protect employees and clients. The NCNLA members surveyed said they provided personal protective gear to employees, used signage to promote social distancing and modified work practices to reduce the number of employees working closely together. Some members took business transactions outside, so they could accommodate client visits without increasing the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus. “We closed the office to customers and moved outside to a pop-up tent,” said Gantt. “We are still using it now, and we may build a covered deck to replace the tent permanently.”
SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES 23
According to Ciferni, Five Oaks Nursery also closed their office, creating a checkout window for retail and an outdoor checkout tent for wholesale. Going forward, she said, they may not reopen the office to foot traffic. Members also turned to technology to transform how they worked. From adding e-commerce to their websites for online ordering, to communicating with clients via telephone instead of in person, members adapted their usual work styles to help ensure that their employees and customers could continue to do business safely. Mark Tamn, CEO and Founder of Freedom Lawns USA, said his franchise owners began using the company‘s mobile app to communicate with clients, provide service alerts and process payments. They also used the app to receive photos from customers to diagnose lawn and plant issues without having to visit their homes. “The app was available, but no one had really taken advantage of it before COVID-19,” said Tamn. “The pandemic helped us realize the benefits of being able to communicate with clients and disseminate useful information without social contact.”
The onset of the pandemic gave Carolina Native Nursery the push they needed to launch an e-commerce site for their wholesale buyers, according to President Bill Jones. “We upgraded our whole website at the beginning of 2020, with the intent of being ready to launch online ordering when the time was right,” said Jones. “After the initial shutdown in March, we decided to set it in motion.” While the e-commerce project was not completed until fall 2020, Jones is happy to have made the transition. Wholesalers now can view inventory and make purchases any time of the day and from any location, opening new avenues for doing business. Big Demand, Big Shortages Although last year‘s increase in demand for plant and services was a win for the industry, the rush of business did impact the 2021 supply chain, resulting in shortages and delays. 24 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
Tony Evans, District Sales Manager at Wyatt Quarles, a supply wholesaler, said delays began in February 2021. For instance, while the turnaround for supplies like nursery containers is typically three weeks, such orders were projected to arrive in three months. Manufacturers are also behind on production due to closures early in 2020. When they reopened with social distancing protocols in place, fewer employees returned to work, which reduced productivity and resulted in fewer goods. “In some cases, the products were just floating offshore on a container ship,” said Evans. “If someone on the ship had COVID-19 and needed to quarantine, the ship couldn‘t dock, so product deliveries were delayed.” Dana Massey, President of Plantworks Nursery, was disappointed to see some of her vendors canceling or shorting supply orders early in 2021. Although some manufacturers have offered product substitutions, not having the code for a new item in their computer system, for instance, can present logistical problems in day-to-day operations. “One of the hardest things for us is to know our customer‘s needs for large quantities of things a season in advance, so we can plan accordingly,” said Massey. “The increased demand, combined with lower supply, will continue to cause these hardships until the supply can catch up.” Jeff Allegood, General Manager of Old Courthouse Nursery, had gaps in plant production due to the increased demand, even though they have kept production at the same level, or even higher than normal. “The ripple effects of getting behind on production will be felt throughout the rest of the year and beyond,” said Allegood. “We have taken orders from existing and new customers for as far out as spring 2022.” He added that factories can increase staffing levels or work overtime to catch up after delays, but plants grow at
their own speed and can only increase in size over time. Shortages, delays and higher prices are going to continue to affect businesses across the industry. While there isn‘t an easy solution to the problem, wholesale clients and customers are encouraged to order materials early, be flexible with what is available and expect higher costs. Anticipating a Return to Normal If COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward and vaccination rates increase, a return to a new type of “normal” may occur by the end of 2021. Members are looking forward to seeing restrictions ease. “During the shutdowns, there were fewer options to build in-person relationships with new and existing clients,” said Leslie Herndon, President of Greenscape, Inc., and NCNLA Board President. “Zoom definitely did not replace that experience, and we can‘t wait for the opportunity to meet people in person again.” Planning is underway to hold NCNLA‘s annual event, Green & Growin‘, in person next year. Last year‘s cancellation of the Marketplace was the first time in the event‘s history that members were not able to see each other face to face to kick off the new year and impending spring season. “We are eager to return to Greensboro next January to reconnect after an unusual year,” said Herndon. “Green & Growin‘ has been a staple in the industry for decades because it gives people a chance to meet with friends and cultivate new relationships with colleagues. We will have a lot of catching up to do after a year like 2020!”
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www.kirkdavisnursery.com SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES 25
Hiring a Teen this Summer?
Be Sure to Follow Federal and State Guidelines David Shehdan Human Resources Consultant Jones Insurance Agency Garner, N.C.
ith the summer fast approaching, you may soon need to hire seasonal employees — many of whom may be teens. If you are planning to hire a teen, remember to comply with all federal and state youth employment regulations, which are designed to protect minors. The Fair Labor Standards Act provides the framework for federal child labor regulations, and North Carolina law features additional provisions. The North Carolina Department of Labor requires a work permit that must be signed by the youth, parent and employer. Here are some helpful guidelines: •
Youth under 14 years old are generally not permitted to
work, except when working for their parents. •
Youth 14-15 years old may perform work in retail busi-
nesses, food services, offices and other establishments. Work is not permitted in manufacturing, mining, construction sites, power-driven machinery, businesses holding alcohol permits, or hazardous or detrimental occupations. Federal child labor laws prohibit workers 14-15 years old from operating lawn mowers, trimmers and weed cutters. Total hours cannot exceed 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. A 30-minute break is required after 5 consecutive hours of work. •
Youth 16-17 years old are not permitted to work in haz-
ardous or detrimental occupations. Workers must be at least 16 years of age to operate a lawnmower. There are 17 hazardous occupations banned for minors under the age of 18 — even those employed by their parents. The prohibited occupations are: manufacturing and storing explosives; motor vehicle driving and outside helper (exceptions may apply); coal mining; logging and sawmilling; power-driven woodworking machines; exposure to radioactive substances; power-driven hoisting apparatus; power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines; mining, other than coal mining; slaughtering, meat packing, processing or rendering; 26 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
power-driven paper-products machines; manufacturing brick, tile and kindred products; power-driven circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears; wrecking, demolition and ship-breaking operations; roofing operations; and excavation operations. In addition to the prohibited activities, there are also restrictions on hours available to work during the school term, with some exceptions allowed by written permission. Any work on a farm is mostly exempt; however, there are differences between landscaping and agriculture. Agriculture focuses primarily on living things, and the industry revolves around the production of those living facets. The final result needs to be that plants and animals are healthy enough to sell. Landscaping, on the other hand, relies on both living and nonliving things to create a finished product. It is not just about plants, but how those plants work with the surroundings to create a cohesive look in landscaping. While there is certainly overlap, landscaping relates more to the art and design than agriculture, which focuses primarily on the science of growing, harvesting and handling. In many situations, nurseries and greenhouse production facilities may be classified as agriculture. Learn more here: https://www.labor.nc.gov/ workplace-rights/youth-employment-rules. If you have questions or need assistance in determining these similarities and differences, Jones Human Resources Consultants can help. Email us at AskJones@jones-insurance.com.
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NCNLA’s mission is to provide essential value to our members through education, marketing and advocacy www.ncnla.com SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES 27
What you need to know about tomato brown rugose fruit virus, and how you can help safeguard North Carolina plants By Hsien Tzer (HT) Tseng, Ph.D. Plant Pathologist
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services – Plant Industry Division
omato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) was first identified in Jordan in 2015 and has since been reported in numerous other countries, including Mexico, China, Israel, Turkey, the United Kingdom and nine European Union countries (Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain). Some cases have been reported in the United States since 2018, but have all been eradicated by regulatory agencies. The pathogen has not been detected in North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) – Plant Industry Division hopes to spread the word about this new virus and encourage greenhouse growers who would like to participate in the survey to contact their respective Regional Plant Pest Specialist.
Figure 1. Early symptom of ToBRFV on tomato leaf includes chlorosis and leaf curling.
Figure 2. Narrowing and blistering of tomato leaf caused by ToBRFV.
28 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
Figure 3. ToBRFV caused wilting and dying symptoms under glasshouse condition.
The United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has issued a federal order restricting the importation of tomato and pepper plants, propagative material, and plant products to help ensure that imported host material is free of ToBRFV. Natural hosts of the virus include tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), peppers (Capsicum spp.) and, less frequently, eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), but no resistant varieties have been developed yet. Symptoms of the virus include yellow mottling, mosaic and deformation on leaves, yellow or green discoloration, or brown necrotic areas on fruits. Symptoms may vary with the age of the plant, variety and growing conditions (see figures). ToBRFV is carried in infected seeds and can be easily transmitted during handling of contaminated seeds while sowing, as well as through plant-to-plant contact and propagation
Figure 6. Tomato fruits showing marbling and discolorations caused by ToBRFV.
Figure 4. Symptom of ToBRFV on green fruits.
Figure 5. Symptom of ToBRFV on tomato cluster fruits.
materials such as cuttings and grafting. The virus also can be transmitted mechanically through contaminated tools, farm equipment, clothing and workers’ hands. Increased handling makes greenhouse-grown plants more vulnerable than field-grown plants to exposure and spread of the ToBRFV pathogen. Prevention and early detection are critical to safeguarding North Carolina tomato and pepper production. The NCDA&CS – Plant Industry Division is taking action by conducting visual surveys at greenhouses throughout the state. If you are a greenhouse producer who would like to participate in the survey, please contact your Regional Plant Pest Specialist for more information. Contact information can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ plant-pest-specialist.
For more information about the virus, visit: https://tinyurl.com/tobrfv. SPRING 2021 || NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES 29
Provided by The HC Companies
Custom-Branded Containers: The Growing Differentiator You Need Provided by The HC Companies Custom-branded containers are often an afterthought for nursery growers in North America. With challenges surrounding labor, regulations, pests and diseases, as well as the unpredictable nature of the environment, both large and small growers have heavy burdens on their shoulders, which doesn’t leave much time for creating or leveraging their company’s brand. According to experts at BrandingMag.com, “Branding helps to identify a product and distinguish it from other products and services.” When the trees, ornamental shrubs and plants nurseries cultivate for commercial and residential sales are offered in unmarked, black plant containers — like every other nursery grower in the market — they have done little to distinguish themselves or to establish and support their brand. Custom-branded containers stand out at garden centers, big-box stores and retail nurseries across North America, helping to promote a nursery grower’s brand while also increasing sales. They are the most impactful marketing differentiator for this type of business. Additionally: •
Brands tend to provide peace of mind to customers — especially if the grower provides consistent results and a positive experience, which builds trust.
Brands save time in decision-making by distinguishing between products and helping customers find what they need in a crowded field.
Brands offer reassurance by lowering a customer’s chances of being disappointed.
Brands offer word-of-mouth marketing that allows customers to become brand advocates based on consistent, positive experiences.
Custom-branded containers can have a colorful, eye-catching design that supports a company’s branding standards. A recognizable brand often influences customer purchasing due to increased perceived value — a belief that the product is superior to others on the market. Furthermore, they afford opportunities for a grower to provide education and information directly on the container, which solidifies that brand as an industry authority. 30 NURSERY & LANDSCAPE NOTES || SPRING 2021
“Customers are reassured by brands that are recognizable and familiar,” explains branding consultant and author Alina Wheeler. “Great brand strategy is a basic building block of good business strategy.” Now is the time for nursery growers to prioritize their brands and differentiate themselves in the market. Custom-branded nursery pots can be an impactful and cost-effective way to make that happen.
For more information on branded containers, visit hc-companies.com or call 800-225-7712.
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BASF................................................................................ 6 Buy NC Plants.............................................................. 4 CAM Too Camellia Nursery...................................... 9 Caterpillar..................................................................... 8 Davis Insurance Agency......................................... 32
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NCNLA’s mission is to provide essential value to our members through education, marketing and advocacy
January 10-14, 2022 Greensboro, NC
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