Virginia’s Beautiful Gardens grow with confidence

To strengthen Virginia’s quality and diversity of ornamental plants, in 2009 the Virginia Nurserymen’s Association Horticulture Research Foundation Inc. implement their own plant introduction program, Beautiful Gardens.

March 3, 2010
Lawn & Landscape
Industry News

Richmond, VA– To strengthen Virginia’s quality and diversity of ornamental plants, in 2009 the Virginia Nurserymen’s Association Horticulture Research Foundation Inc. implement their own plant introduction program, Beautiful Gardens. Since implementation, Virginia’s ‘Beautiful Gardens grow with confidence’ through the use of selected plants sustainable to Virginia’s landscape as well as to its economy.  Details of the expanded 2010 ‘Plants of Distinction’ list and retail distribution sites are available at web site,

Beautiful Gardens Difference – 
While many plant introduction programs tempt the gardening public’s need to acquire the latest and greatest plants, Beautiful Gardens focus is ‘Plants of Distinction’, plants tested across the state of Virginia’s varied climactic zones. Resulting in the fact that Independent Garden Center partners and their customers have confidence in the success of a Beautiful Gardens selection.   

With some funding from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (VTICRC), Beautiful Gardens is a project designed to enable the development of new and promote underused varieties of ornamental plants that adapt well to a wide range of planting zones. 

“After we applied for the VTICRC grant,” says Virginia nurseryman Fred Duis of Duis Nursery located in Bedford, “the grant was used to fund the initial stages of the Beautiful Gardens program. Then, through other sources, we gained additional grants that fund the establishment of 1-acre test sites in Glade Spring, Bedford, Halifax County and Blacksburg. Further grant resources helped expand our test sites to other regions of the state such as Norfolk Botanical Garden and allowed us to hire support positions assigned responsibilities that include the gathering of data from the test sites.” 

By creating a production and marketing infrastructure and research-based technical and educational information, Beautiful Gardens expects to boost ornamental horticulture production and sales across the state of Virginia. One specific goal is to provide alternative crop choices in the tobacco regions of south-side Virginia. 

Beautiful Gardens Retail Sites – 
One of 30 state-wide participating retail sites, Doug Hensel president of Great Big Greenhouse & Nursery (GBG&N)  located in Richmond says, “We are proud to be selected by the Beautiful Gardens program to participate as a retail garden center. Beautiful Gardens offer retailers a unique opportunity, to participate in a program that is specific for plants proven successful throughout the state of Virginia.  Founded by the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association and Virginia Tech, this program gives the public assurance that selected plants have proven success.  While ‘Plants of Distinction’ are not new, these plants are determined by Beautiful Gardens to be underutilized in the landscape. This program is a great way to enable public appreciation for the value of chosen plants.” 
“Beautiful Gardens plant introduction program has taken shape since 2003,” says Rick Baker, Market Development Manager for the VA Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDA&CS). “A group of interested and proactive individuals from many segments of the Industry came together and formed an organization that would introduce new plants to the market and expand production opportunities for Virginia growers.”   
“I have participated,” says Hensel, in many plant branding programs, but nothing gives me more pleasure than to support a program like this one, specific to the state of Virginia.”

Beautiful Gardens State-wide Reception – 
From spotlighted as the center piece of the 2009 Virginia GoGreen Garden Festival to plant testing coordinated by master gardeners and events host by garden clubs, Beautiful Gardens in 2009 became a recognized brand.  
“As spokesperson,” says Neal Beasley, , “for the plant introduction program which was featured by the Festival, I found initial plant development to be diverse: range from Tyler’s farm Pine Knott located in south-side Virginia to a grower for the Stokesia located in Mississippi. A few plants are quite old and difficult to credit to any particular developer; and of course, some are native; so, God gets that one. Still regardless of the plants initial origin, the result is Virginia consumers have a wide-range of choice supported by demonstrated sustainable use.”
Richmond based The Wright Scoop –Sylvia Hoehns Wright, recipient of the ‘Turning America from Eco-weak to Eco-chic’ award sponsored by Project Evergreen and Hines Horticulture – encourages Virginia consumers to garden green, create sustainable urban/suburban landscapes. An advocate of the Retail Merchant’s ‘Think Shop Buy Local’, Wright challenges  consumers to take the concept of sustainability a step further, not simply a use of plants that work-well in their region but those that contribute to regional economic sustainability: developed, grown and distributed within their community.

Beautiful Gardens Plants of Distinction – 
To initiate the 2009 program, Beautiful Gardens promoted the following underutilized plants with stable performance in USDA hardiness/AHS heat zones 6a/2 to 8a/7, and excellent ornamental display:   Cercis chinensis ‘Don Egolf’ Chinese Redbud,  Helleborus x hybridus Pine Knot Strains, Lenten Rose,  Agapanthus x ‘Monmid’ Midknight Blue Lily of the Nile, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ Oakleaf Hydrangea,  Ilex x ‘Virginia’ Holly,  Thuja x ‘Steeplechase’ (PP) Arborvitae,  Buxus x ‘Green Velvet’ Boxwood,  Stokesia laevis ‘Peachie’s Pick’ Stokes’ Aster,  and Musa basjoo, Hardy Banana. 

For 2010, the program added eight plants:  Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’ Eastern Redbud, Buxus sempervirens ‘Dee Runk’ American Boxwood, Corylopsis pauciflora,  Goldleaf Buttercup Winterhazel, Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’ Autumn Fern, Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ Pineapple Lily, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ Coneflower, Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ Little Bluestem Grass and Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’. Details and high resolution pictures are available by linking to option ‘Plants of Distinction10’.