When you go onto any field in Plant Sciences (Public Horticulture, Landscape Design, Horticultural Production, etc.), the key to success is to find what you're passionate about. Finding your passion will drive you to find the newest and coolest cultivars of the plants you love and install them in your landscapes, gardens, or greenhouses. Some people are passionate about one thing and one thing only, while others may go through phases of collecting all the plants they can't live without. Dr. Armitage has said before that he went through a Salvia phase, and if you are into plants and haven't gone through that yet, its possible you will. Other people may never be able to escape the Salvia phase, but this isn't a bad thing. These salvia nuts are the ones who develop, propagate, and sell all the cool new varieties like Salvia 'Hot Lips' which look like the flower is wearing lipstick. When you plant a new, rare, or unusual plant it sets your landscape or garden apart from all the ones laden with 'Stella de Oro' daylilies and Dwarf Chinese Hollies, but its hard to keep track of unique plants unless you have passion!
Here are some examples of passionate people:
Benny Zhang is originally from Japan, and he creates and sells bonsai trees (or as he calls them, "bonsai art"). When asked why he has taken up a career in bonsai, his response was that he sees bonsai as a way of bringing part of his culture to the West. "This is not a hobby," Benny stated. His business is bonsai: Celestial Gardens, Inc. has been around since 1991, and Benny himself has 20 years of training. "My hands have touched and shaped every bonsai I sell." Passion for artistry and culture is what sets his business apart, which includes more than only selling bonsai trees. He brings the beauty of bonsai to corporations and wedding receptions. For more information on Benny, go to www.celestialbonsai.com
Benny Zhang and his bonsai art
The gentleman I spoke to from Owen's Orchids (I forgot to ask if he was the Owen or not), had been in the orchid business about 30 years. When asked if developing, growing, and selling orchids was what he had wanted to do originally, he laughed and said, "No!" He actually had a degree in marketing, but orchids had seduced him (as they do many plant lovers) into the industry. A passion for orchids has driven him to develop many new orchids, many of them named for his home town, his friends, and his family. For more information on Owen's Orchids, go to www.owensorchids.com
Representative of Owen's Orchids with an orchid named for his father
Now we get to the inspiration for this blog. I went to find a cool variety from the current plant list, and settled on a dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress that only grew half an inch per year. The one I was looking at was seven years old and not even four inches tall. When I asked for more information, I ended up getting a crash course in variegated, dwarf, and weeping conifers. Jody had a golden umbrella pine he wouldn't part with for less than $500! When asked why he went into the rare conifer industry, he said, "I don't want to sell all the plants you can get anywhere else. They're boring!" Jody's passion for rare conifers has led to him landscaping ten acres of his land with these plants. "I look at it this way," he said, "I've already seen the world. When I'm gone, I'll leave these beautiful plants. By then they should be big enough to propagate and sell or donate or something!" You can learn more about Jody's business at www.jawsnursery.com
Jody Karlin with his collection of rare and unusual conifers
So in conclusion, find what you're passionate about -- there's lots to choose from! It will make you more successful in your plant sciences classes (like this one) and in your future career.