A palpable sense of strife can be felt across the horticulture industry as its members struggle to staff their operations with qualified individuals. One nonprofit organization – the Perennial Plant Association Foundation, established in 2001 by the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) – is actively working to alleviate this predicament through its annual student scholarship program.

During the past 20 years, more than 120 outstanding students have received scholarships to attend the PPA’s National Perennial Plant Symposium, which equates to $240,000 in value. The scholarships were originally funded by the PPA and generous individual donors. Most recently, the scholarships have been almost entirely sponsored by the PPA Foundation.

The Foundation is funded entirely through the generosity of individuals and corporations who share the common belief that their gifts are vital to enhance the future of the herbaceous perennial industry. One hundred percent of donations go toward funding scholarships and future research for the Foundation.

Scholarship recipients receive full access to the entire six-day national Perennial Plant Symposium, which includes educational sessions, tours and a trade show, as well as complimentary lodging and a $1,000 stipend. Undergraduate students who are enrolled in a two or four-year program with a major or minor in horticulture or a related field are eligible to apply. Applications for the 2018 Symposium Scholarship Program will be available online this fall.

Celia LeMaistre-Matthys, a 2015 scholarship recipient, works with members of the container decorating committee including garden designer Tina Gibson, a 2012 symposium scholarship recipient, at the 2015 symposium.

Industry support makes an impact

This year’s program is awarding scholarships to eight students who will attend the 35th Perennial Plant Symposium in Denver July 23 to 28. One of those scholarships is generously being donated by Cavano’s Perennials, which has sponsored students for the past three years. North Creek Nurseries and six individual donors have also donated full scholarships in the past. The PPA Foundation is openly accepting donations by additional companies who are interested in sponsoring student scholarships.

Ferenc Kiss and Taylor Pilker of Cavano’s Perennials recently expressed the reason for their sponsorship. “In our opinion, the PPA Foundation Scholarship Program is of great importance to the industry. It gives a handful of chosen students from across the U.S. and Canada an opportunity, which they otherwise might not have, to join a wonderful group of people at the PPA Symposium which includes perennial experts, writers, growers and business owners from across the world. In addition, they will attend great lectures and visit many marvelous places during their stay. The networking opportunities for these students are amazing.

“Cavano’s Perennials has been a PPA member for many years. We are sponsoring one student to attend the PPA Symposium because we believe these young students will become the future of our industry. By giving them the chance to attend the PPA Symposium, we feel that we are giving them a head start on their journey towards becoming horticultural icons.”

Meet the 2017 Scholarship Recipients

Lisa Gramse

Utah State University, junior

Focus: Plant Science, Emphasis in Horticulture and Cropping Systems

Upon completion of her education, Lisa aspires to run a nursery that specializes in perennials that thrive in the high mountain, desert climate of Utah. While working as a teaching assistant, she discovered a passion for education and is interested in working as an extension agent. Her horticulture professor describes her as a “bright, respectful, capable individual” who is well-respected by her peers.

Megan Haresnape

Kansas State University, sophomore

Focus: Horticulture, Agribusiness

Megan’s aspirations after graduation include owning and operating a greenhouse where she will grow and sell both herbaceous perennials and vegetable plants. Her vision includes offering fresh produce to her local community through partnerships with grocery stores and agriculture-related businesses. One of Megan’s professors describes her as “one of the top performing horticulture students” who maintains a “strong focus on doing well academically, is willing to learn and eager to get involved.”

Tyler Holtzman

Northern Virginia Community College, sophomore

Focus: Horticulture Technology, Landscape Design Specialization

Cavano’s Perennials has selected Tyler Holtzman as its 2017 scholarship recipient. Tyler is an ambitious individual who runs his own landscaping business while attending school. He has worked in the green industry for the past 15 years. After graduation, he wants to own a perennial nursery that would supply his own landscape design firm. One local designer describes Tyler as a “savvy horticulturist who has a good understanding of plants and their role in design and nature.”

Rebecca Hutchison

Olds College (Alberta, Canada), junior

Focus: Horticulture

Rebecca is one of many students who must learn to juggle employment and schooling while raising a young family. She maintains a 3.9 GPA while also volunteering for the Girl Guides of Canada and her school’s Horticulture Club. She enjoys her work in the Olds College Botanic Garden where her manager says, “It is clear that Rebecca has a great love for horticulture, exhibited in her work in the greenhouses and gardens.”

Laurie Niven

Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, freshman

Focus: Horticulture

Horticulture is a second career for Laurie, who graduated with a B.A. in Literature and an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations. She has also managed a successful garden center and floral shop for 12 years. Upon completion of her horticulture degree, Laurie hopes to find a career that links her interest in teaching sustainable garden design with her passions for therapeutic recreation, social justice issues – – and community development.

Megan Severance Shaner

Columbus State Community College (Ohio), senior

Focus: Landscape Design and Management

Megan owns her own estate gardening business while also working at Oakland Nurseries, one of the largest nurseries in the Columbus area. She obtained her associate’s degree in Landscape Design and Maintenance in December 2016, but desires to further her education in business management so she can grow her gardening business profitably. One of her professors described Megan as “maturing into a sensitive and exceptional designer and an excellent plantswoman.”

Sandra Vernon

Utah State University, junior

Focus: Residential Landscape Design and Construction

Sandra is working to build upon her associate’s degree in ornamental horticulture with an advanced degree in landscape design, emphasis in waterwise gardening. She thrives on the energy created when passionate plantsmen come together and is excited about her opportunity to attend the PPA Denver Symposium. Sandra currently works as an Extension agent for Utah State University and was previously a manager at Highland Gardens.

Brett Zylstra

Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, sophomore

Focus: Ornamental Horticulture

Brett is a stellar student, earning a 4.0 GPA and sweeping all five first year academic and practical awards in his first year of horticulture school. In addition, he received first class honors for his classical music training with the Royal Conservatory of Music. Brett’s career goal is to become a grower- retailer specializing in perennials and flowers for the cut flower trade. His diverse experience working for independent garden centers and botanical gardens has taught him much about plant propagation, pest management, growing techniques and landscape maintenance.