Lance Russell (left) of England-based Fleurie Nursery, was the IPPS European Region’s international exchange delegate. He met with Darren Barshaw (middle) and John Hoffman of Hoffman Nursery to learn more about ornamental grasses.
Brie Arthur

Professional development is paramount for creating a workforce that is competent, forward-thinking and capable of meeting the changing demands of the nursery industry. Research shows that individuals who access continued professional development are more engaged and committed to meeting the challenges of working at a dynamic organization. When supported by the employer, young professionals are more likely to be loyal and apply all their newly developed skills and knowledge to the success of the company they work for.

Russell traveled throughout North Carolina, learning about North American horticulture. He traveled nearly 1,600 miles and visited 25 horticulture facilities, including research stations and public gardens.
Brie Arthur

Cultivating an environment of continued professional development comes in many forms, including active membership in industry-related associations. The International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS) is an association of plant production professionals providing a forum for sharing knowledge with the aim to improve the professionalism and skills of its more than 1,600 worldwide members. True to its mission, to seek and share plant knowledge globally, the IPPS exchange program is a unique opportunity offered to members 35 years old and younger. This collaboration between the IPPS European Region and Southern Region occurs yearly and involves travelling to Europe to attend the annual meeting and tour nurseries and gardens. The IPPS Southern Region provides $2,000 for travel expenses. The exchange delegate represents the Southern Region by giving a presentation at the European meeting. Participants will also give a presentation at the southern region annual meeting the following year to share the experience with the membership.

As a recipient of the exchange in 2014, I had the opportunity to visit nurseries and gardens throughout Denmark and Sweden. This Scandinavian experience provided me a unique perspective into the global business of horticulture. The meeting revolved around the theme “The Digital Nursery,” and the presentations provided many insights into the opportunities and challenges we face as plant producers in a time of rapidly changing technology. The tours included visits to innovative floriculture production greenhouses with automated transplanters and high spectrum lighting at Gartneriet PKM, the world’s largest producer of campanula. New plant varieties in an extensive trial garden at Gasa Young Plants gave insights to the future of the global perennial marketplace, and organic fruit production was the focus at Aqua Vitae Sydfyn, a Danish schnapps distillery. Touring the bio-dynamic farm at Kiselgården was a favorite stop of mine. This family-run operation has a holistic approach to growing edibles. Their produce is sold through a CSA and to exclusive, world renowned Michelin-starred restaurants like Noma and Geranium. The exchange tour is a professional experience that I reflect on frequently, and I strongly encourage all young professionals to consider this opportunity.

In 2016 I had the pleasure of hosting the IPPS European Region delegate, Lance Russell from Fleurie Nursery in southwest England. During his two-week stay we toured 25 horticulture facilities with leading professionals such as Dr. Tom Ranney of the North Carolina State University Mountain Research Crops Station and Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery. We spent time at the JC Raulston Arboretum and learned of the diversity of ornamental grasses at Hoffman Nursery. This was an enriching experience for both Lance and me as we discussed the differences and similarities of the American and British green industries.

Brie Arthur took Russell to some of North Carolina’s top horticulture stops.
Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur

During this 1,600-mile journey, I developed a greater appreciation for all that the nursery industry offers. As horticultural production continues to diversify globally, I am grateful to have the network of IPPS members to learn from.

The international exchange program is an ideal platform for continued professional development. IPPS offers valuable resources for its membership to develop their careers with collaborative influences including planting strategies that fulfill ecological needs, food production and urban infrastructure. We all have so much to learn from enterprises around the globe to make our own businesses more efficient and successful. To learn more, visit

Brie Arthur is a green industry communicator, IPPS Southern Region board member and author of The Foodscape Revolution;