VNLA salutes Roger Harris, Doug Hensel


Bob Dolibois, executive director of the American Nursery and Landscape Association, brought news of a joint venture with OFA – an Association of Horticulture Professionals to the annual membership meeting of the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association in Baltimore, Md., on Jan. 12. The joint venture will initially focus on business education and advocacy. Working together means there are 3,000 members instead of 1,200, Dolibois said. "We will build on the strengths of both organizations." As to whether the two groups might merge, he said, "I don't know. For now we will focus on program activities."
Danny Summers spoke some encouraging words about the industry and the Southern Nursery Association. "SNA is alive and doing better," Summers said. He and his wife Karen have returned to the association and relocated back to Atlanta. They are rebuilding the membership. Summers said, "2011 was the turn-around year. We are committed to building the market." He also noted the third revision of SNA's “Best Management Practices Guide” will be out this spring. Hard copies will be for sale, and the guide will be online and searchable.
Dr. Roger Harris, head of Virginia Tech Department of Horticulture, received the VNLA Professional of the Year Award for 2011. Harris has been actively engaged in the horticulture industry since 1973. For 11 years he was the chief horticulturist for the largest landscape contractor in Northern Florida. He returned to Virginia Tech in 1993 as an associate professor of horticulture. After obtaining his doctorate from Cornell University in urban horticulture, he focused much of his professional research on tree establishment and root growth and has authored more than 60 manuscripts in scientific journals.
His dedication to the horticulture industry has led to many positive transformations including the creation of new horticultural research positions. While working feverishly on the research side, he has never lost sight of his No. 1 goal at Virginia Tech, to educate students. He recently created the Horticulture Advisory Board for the department to ensure that all his students are receiving the knowledge they need to be successful in the industry.  Not only has he increased enrollment in the department, but he has increased industry involvement as well creating a very engaged department.
Doug Hensel was recognized for his 20-plus years of service as one of three VNLA directors on the MANTS Board. The MANTS Trade Show is owned equally by Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland and provides a major portion of revenue to support the work of the VNLA.
Mark Maslow, VNLA president, recounted Hensel’s history at The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond where he has worked since 1977, becoming president of the company in 1999. “Doug has shown commitment and leadership to our industry groups as well. He has carried out the responsibilities entrusted to him with the highest degree of honesty, dignity and old-fashioned hard work!
"MANTS has become one of the top horticultural trade shows in the nation, and that didn’t happen by accident. Doug’s hard work and leadership, along with that of many other board members, has allowed all of us to reap the benefits.”
Virginia Rockwell, new legislative chair, noted a bill regarding invasive, alien plants has been introduced in response to homeowners. "There's already a list, vetted over the years." VNLA will meet with the bill's sponsor to explain the three-tiered list.
Noting the potential impact of boxwood blight, Maslow forwarded a request for research funding to be conducted in North Carolina. Members approved an allocation, pending details in the final proposal.
The Environmental Steward Award was presented in absentia to Eastern Shore Nursery in Keller, Va. The nursery launched its environmentally friendly Greener Plants brand in 2010.