History of the Perennial Plant Association

The Perennial Plant Association was officially incorporated in the state of Ohio in 1984. However, the inception of the association occurred during the previous year. Dr. Steven Still, professor of landscape horticulture at the Ohio State University, sponsored a perennial symposium in 1983.

This program, believed to be the first symposium devoted only to perennials, was held in Columbus, Ohio and attracted 250 attendees. During this two-day program an informal session was held to review the future of the perennial industry.

Conversation in this session turned to the need and possibility of developing an association composed of perennial industry members. Four industry members along with Dr. Still, volunteered to return in the fall to develop the guidelines for the Perennial Plant Association.

The founders included Jim Brady, Sunbeam Farms, Westlake, Ohio; Ainie Busse, Busse Gardens, Cokato, Minnesota; Jim Kyle, Springhill Nursery, Tipp City, Ohio; Pierre Bennerup, Sunny Border Nurseries, Kensington, Connecticut; and Ohio State's Dr. Steven Still.  

The group later met and developed the bylaws of the association. The four industry members contributed $250 each to open a banking account so printing and postage could be provided. Jim Beam was tapped to assume the position of president and Ainie Busse was asked to serve as treasurer. Dr. Still was identified to manage the membership database and develop methods for soliciting members. He served as Executive Director of the association through 2017.  

The Perennial Plant Association was initially composed of six regions with a director for each: Northeast, Southern, Great Lakes, Central, Western, and Canada. The seventh region, MidAtlantic, was added later. The first three meetings were held in Columbus. In 1987, the Perennial Plant Symposium was held in Baltimore, Maryland and has circulated through the seven regions since that time.  


Early Meetings

The first three meetings consisted of lectures held during a two- or three-day period. Since the early days, the symposiums have evolved into 6 to 7 day programs that include lectures, workshops, and tours. It still remains the only annual symposium dedicated solely to the education and networking for the perennial industry.  

Propagation, culture, pest control, overwintering, promotion, retailing, and perennial research at universities were subjects covered on the program at the first symposium. Speakers at the program were a Who's Who of the perennial industry. They included Pierre Bennerup, Mark Zilis, Richard Simon, Jim Brady, John Walters, and John Elsley.

The 1984 symposium attendance grew to 440 while membership in the association increased from the original five to 400 in January 1985. The 1984 symposium marked the start of the trade show.

The 1985 event highlighted the arrival of Alan and Adrian Bloom (England) as keynote speakers.   The 1986 Perennial Plant Symposium was the last of the early symposia to be held in Columbus; it featured speakers from Germany, including the Countess von Zeppelin; Anja Maubach, Arends Nursery; and Klaus Jelitto, Jelitto Perennial Seeds. Mr. Jelitto remains a PPA member who has received the PPA Award of Merit.

Since the early start of the symposium in Columbus, subsequent symposia have been held throughout North America.  


PPA Programs & Awards

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.  

June is Perennial Gardening Month™ was initiated in 2001 and remains a nationally recognized program today.  


Past Leadership

Past Presidents

  • Janet Draper - 2017-2019
  • Jennifer Brennan -2015-2017
  • David Sanford - 2013-2015
  • John Friel – 2011 to 2013
  • John Hoffman – 2009 to 2011
  • Caroline Kiang – 2007-2009
  • Janet Anderson – 2005-2007
  • Joe Kunkel – 2003-2005
  • Ruth Baumgardner – 2001-2003
  • George Pealer – 1999-2001
  • Kurt Bluemel – 1997-1999
  • Dave Schultz – 1995-1997
  • David Beattie – 1993-1995
  • Ainie Busse – 1991-1993
  • Andre Viette – 1989-1991
  • Richard Simon – 1987-1989
  • Pierre Bennerup – 1985-1987
  • Jim Beam – 1984-1985  


Past Directors

Great Lakes Region

  • Jim Kyle
  • Mary Walters
  • David Schultz
  • George Pealer
  • Susan Siebenthaler
  • Calvin Bordine
  • John Murray
  • Irvin Etienne    

Southern Region

  • Bill Funkhouser
  • Carleen Jones
  • Ruth Baumgardner
  • Louis Stacy Jr.
  • Robert Bowden
  • Jimmy Turner
  • Leslie Finical Halleck
  • Robert Bowden  

Northeast Region

  • Mary Anne Brady
  • Andy Messinger
  • Lois Woodhull
  • Mary Ann McGourty
  • Matt Horn
  • Ellen Talmage
  • Caroline Kiang
  • Jim Costello
  • Karen Olson
  • Laurie Sullivan  

Western Region

  • Al Rogers
  • Charles Wilson
  • Steve Schmidt
  • Barney Barnett
  • Nanci Allen
  • Grace Dinsdale
  • Ellen Egan  

Canada Region

  • Bill Spaans
  • Lynnette Bucknell
  • John Schroeder
  • John Valleau
  • Janet Anderson
  • Paul Zammit
  • Gary Lewis  

Central Region

  • Susie Stone
  • Doug Gilberg
  • Michael Heger
  • Harlan Hamernik
  • Cindy Gilberg
  • Martha Smith
  • Jennifer Brennan  

MidAtlantic Region

  • Paul Westervelt
  • Richard Simon
  • Andre Viette
  • David Beattie
  • Kurt Bluemel
  • Stephanie Cohen
  • Jim Snyder
  • John Friel
  • Janet Draper
  • Jerry Fritz   
  • Beth Engle
  • Ainie Busse
  • Tom Vasale
  • David Tyznik
  • Joe Kunkel
  • Ron Dieter
  • David Sanford
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