On October 16, 2019 Ms. Valann BUDISCHAK & Tracy WOOTTEN spoke to us on the Horticulture/Greens Industry. This was the first guest lecture where the guest speakers were actually at the Georgetown campus, instead of the Newark campus. Each speaker took turns, giving information on their professional journey as well as current information on the industry around the state.
First to speak was Ms. WOOTEN. She informed the class that she had an extensive background in agriculture, with her grandparents having farmed ad she herself growing up on a farm. She majored in Plant Science and Vegetable Education to become a horticulture agent for home horticulture. She earned a BS in Plant Science where she observed 1/3 of the samples that were brought in suffered from ‘environmental problems’, i.e., problems due to how the plant grew on the weather , rather than disease or bacteria.
Next, Ms. BUDISCHAK spoke on her background. She took a very different path that Ms. WOOTEN, working at Black and Decker for 14years and commuting between Baltimore and New York before deciding to make a change. She decided to work for the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Organization before managing grants for the Delaware Dept. of Transportation (DelDOT) and then becoming an extension agent for the University of Delaware. She then volunteered for the Botanic Garden of which she eventually became director.
After those brief biographies, the two speakers told us about nurseries. First, that nurseries are usually selling products for the home garden- over 60% of sales a container plants. Most nurseries are located in Maryland, though there are a few noteworthy establishments in the first state. Many nurseries are plug and container nurseries. Many nurseries sell floriculture crops of bedding and garden plants- the biggest purportedly in Lanesboro, PA. Cut flowers may even be sold at CSA’s.
A nursey might sell broadleaf evergreens, trees, and shrubs- ‘ball and burlap’ evergreens that begin as cuttings. A garden nursery might sell field or container plants, plants for garden store and centers, and zero-scaping for low-water, native plants. Sod and turf nurseries may sell bent grass- used on golf courses- or tall fescue and Kentucky Blue- used for home lawns. Sod generates $13.8 billion in revenue.
Other retailers might earn revenue by selling videos and how-tos for independent garden centers. Others my reach consumers through radio shows, displays, and unique offers.
Certain garden centers specialize in particular services. The Gateway Garden Center for example, specializes in ponds, as landscape, providing consumers with the service of install and maintenance. Another garden center might only market major brands like Proven Winner brand, sell only annuals, or sell directly from growers. Sposato Landscape is one of the top three landscaping business in the US, located right here in Delaware. Sposato Landscape has implemented a container rental program where last seasons’ planters may be replaced according to consumer. Other noteworthy garden centers include Coast Garden Center, RSC Landscaping, Ronney’s Garden Center, Lakeside Greenhouse, & Bess’ Buds. These garden centers will aid consumers with the name recognition of plants and provide care instructions and ‘How-to’ tutorials. Though landscaping is a big industry there are a small number of garden centers.
There is a growing market within the industry for indoor plants. Landscapers will go into large corporate buildings and office parks to maintain or change out potted plants. Landscaping is a very science-oriented field. However, in addition to helping to design and build, a landscaper may also be expected to maintain by handling mowing, pest, and invasive control, fertilization, lighting, and water features. A landscaper may also use soil conservation techniques such as stormwater management, irrigation, and hardscaping, or by assessing plant health. One such technique, accessing the health of plants, namely trees, is handled by Delaware Arbor Care.
Those jobs are not without risks however. While working on some landscape maintenance, a Mr. Steve JOHNSON, a nationally-known plant pathologist from New Jersey dies via tree limb. The limb fell from a pine with shallow roots due to the sandy soil of the area. The pine was part of a stretch of trees in a homeowner’s property that posed a risk to the people living and working there. Because of this, insurance had the rest of the trees taken down.
Landscaping is a large component of ‘Land Management’, particularly of parks, schools. The largest landholder in Delaware is DelDOT. DelDOT’s responsibilities include enhancing highways with warm season grasses & meadows. DelDOT does this by conducting minimal invasive management in the roadside, planting pollination strips flanked by mowed edges to cut down on labor. These mowed edges show the public that maintenance is indeed ongoing, while giving a less intensely manicured look that a simple mowed strip would provide. These plantings help curb the spread of invasive weeds like Japanese Knotweed, though the speakers note the mowed turf itself is not so healthy as water runs over it as opposed to seeping into the water table. Creating rain gardens & bioswales is an effective solution, as these improve water quality by filtering run-off.
In addition to highways, DelDOT also has a part in maintaining railroad tracks. By maintaining the vegetation around the tracks they prevent obstruction and mitigate fire risks by cutting back encroaching plants to prevent ‘railspark fires’, which pose a risk to farmers and can burn crops. The risk of fire also allows them to impose burning bans. They will also scan for and remove invasive weeds.
Lastly, DelDOT contributes to the management of parks and recreation areas, like sportsfields. Replacing turf is often cheaper than replacing mature trees and shrubs, as such, sod is a big component of volume purchases. When designing and maintaining these fields there is a choice to be made between cool and warm season turf grasses or simply synthetic groundcover. Warm season grasses grow with rhizomes & stolons that knit together & create a smoother playing surface than cool season grasses, which grow clumped in bunches and spread via seed. To keep the fields in optimum condition, they must be aerated, especially in high-traffic areas such as those found in front of goals, where compaction of the soil causes sand to crust on clay pockets. To amend the soil, compost may been used.
To conclude, the lecture ended with the speakers informing the class on the various in-state opportunities for anyone who might be interested in pursuing landscaping. To begin, it is helpful to know certain definitions such as annual, perennial, and bi-annual. An annual plant grows in one season, i.e., Impatiens plants, while a bi-annual plant has a two-year lifespan, and lastly, a perennial dies and comes back, for example, the invasive Japanese Knotweed where pieces of the plant may break off and it’s underground runners can generate a new plant. In Delaware, a license is required to sell plants, but for the average homeowners, there are tools to inform them of the best ways to manage their properties. For example, a rain garden cannot be created from, ‘wet spots on the lawn’, but rather, must be able to drain. This information and more is available from Delaware Livable Lawns, a program that helps homeowners and lawncare professionals mitigate run-off from nutrient applications from drifting into waterways. In addition, they also have 2.5 month internship gardens. For professionals, there’s the Delaware Nursery & Landscape Association (DNLA) at https://www.dnlaonline.org/.