Founded in 1983 by Steven Still, emeritus professor of horticulture at Ohio State University, the Perennial Plant Association promotes perennials by providing education, and connecting horticultural professionals. As summer approaches, the PPA is gearing up for the 35th annual Perennial Plant Symposium in Denver, which takes place July 23-28.

Each summer, the PPA hosts its symposium in a different city in one of eight regions of North America, says PPA president Jennifer Brennan. The three-day core part of the symposium includes two days of seminars and one day of tours. “The tours include private gardens, botanical gardens, arboreta, retail locations and wholesale or growing facilities,” she says. “There are extra seminars and workshops the day before the core series and tours after it that [have] extra fees, but [are] so worth every dollar. In the evenings, there are social events and other entertainment.”

The agenda

July 25-27 are the core days of the symposium, but attendees can add on the preceding Sunday and Monday and/or the following Friday for an extra fee.

  • On Sunday, six perennial professionals, including Pat Hayward, consultant at Phytologic Horticultural Services, and Brie Arthur, author of “The Foodscape Revolution,” will speak at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Hayward describes the Denver Botanic Gardens, which is also part of Tuesday’s evening schedule, as “world class.”

The Colorado Springs Tour also takes place Sunday, and includes stops such as Britton Nursery, Spencer’s Lawn and Garden, Phelan Gardens and Garden of the Gods.

On July 26, attendees will visit the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms as part of breakout tours.
Photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens
  • The Fort Collins Tour is held Monday, and includes visits to Gulley Greenhouse & Garden Center, Gardens on Spring Creek, Laporte Avenue Nursery and other locations. It also includes a stop at the Colorado State University Trials, where researchers are conducting LED lighting research.
  • Tuesday’s itinerary includes the Perennial Plant Trade Show, presentations from Al Gerace of Welby Gardens, Panayoti Kelaidis of the Denver Botanic Gardens, Raymond Cloyd of Kansas State University, Shannon Currey of Hoffman Nursery and more.

An overarching theme of the symposium will be a focus on low-water plants, Hayward says. Recently, drought conditions have affected California, the East Coast and the Midwest. “Our growers [in the Rocky Mountain West], are shipping to all those areas as that demand ebbs and flows,” she says. “They have learned how to grow those low-water plants in greenhouse conditions – we use different soils, mixes, for some of those kinds of plants. Of course, propagation techniques are a little different on those kind of plants – but this is the epicenter of growing cold-hardy, water-wise plants.”

  • On Wednesday, growers, retailers and designers will embark on three separate tours. The grower and retailer tours will both include Country Fair/Welby Gardens at Westwoods, Paulino Gardens and Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms. Growers will also visit Little Valley Wholesale Nursery, Greenhouse Growing System (a hemp operation) and Center Greenhouse, while retailers will visit Echter’s Greenhouse and Garden Center, Nick’s Garden Center & Farm Market, Tagawa Nursery & Garden Center and Silver Sage Garden Center.
  • Thursday will include a trade show, a new plant forum, and presentations from Duane Sinning, Joseph Tychonievich, Dave Leatherman, Stephanie Cohen and Tony Avent. Brent Heath from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs will introduce the Perennial Plant of the Year. The core three days of the symposium will wrap up with a wine tasting and dinner at Balistreri Vineyard.

Attendees who plan to stay Friday will take the all-day mountain tour, which includes a visit to the Betty Ford Alpine Garden, an alpine walk and a dinner.

To learn more about the PPA and the Perennial Plant Symposium, visit and

To read about GIE Media editor Karen Varga’s trip to the 2016 Perennial Plant Symposium, visit

Patrick Williams is the associate editor of sister publication Greenhouse Management.