Dan Heims, President of Terra Nova Nurseries, and Kelly Norris, Horticulture Manager at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, tag-teamed for a fun lecture on the ins and outs of bringing a new plant to market.
Since 1973, Heims has been deeply involved in all facets of horticulture. He’s currently the president of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc., a company noted for its many new introductions to horticulture. Terra Nova’s breeding programs have produced many international gold and silver medal winners and an astounding 700 new plants to horticulture.
Norris is a 20-something award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the first horticulture manager at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized 14-acre facility in Des Moines, Iowa. In 2011, he was honored by the Perennial Plant Association with the Young Professional Award, recognizing early contributions to the advancement of herbaceous perennials in American horticulture. His unique 10 years of experience in the industry began at age 15 when he talked his parents into buying a nursery. In that time he’s become one of the few go-to experts on marketing horticulture to emerging demographics. Norris holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State University.
“As plant breeders, we must find the culture in horticulture, and make the case that plants are necessary in our daily lives,” said Norris. “Our goal is to inspire.”
Part of the next generation of plant breeders, Norris summed up what he’s looking for by asking “Where is the wow? Tidy little box mums in pots is not wow. Plantago ‘Purple perversion’ is more like it.”
Meanwhile, Heims likened his approach to a botanical clock, where 12 o’clock is the time when a plant is at the pinnacle of popularity. He looks for plants that have fallen out of favor — equating to around 5:30 on the clock dial — but primed for coming back into vogue.
Right now, coleus and begonias are hovering around 7 or 8 on Heims’ watch. Heims predicts the time is also nigh for Kniphofia, another genus that he has worked to “bring up” by fixing its short bloom cycle, legginess, and lack of foliage.
Norris and Heims then discussed the complicated logistics involved in the selection, cultivation, propagation, naming, patenting and marketing of new plant varieties, aka “plantufacturing.” Bantering back and forth, Heims and Norris kept the audience chuckling while illustrating just how detailed a process it can be.