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

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
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 
Ainie Busse
Tom Vasale
David Tyznik
Joe Kunkel
Ron Dieter
David Sanford
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