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Rebekah Maynard Selected as National HortScholar

Rebekah Maynard, M.S. student under the direction of Dr. John Ruter, has been chosen as a HortScholar for the Cultivate conference this year. While the conference has moved to a virtual setting this year (as have most events), this is an excellent opportunity for Rebekah to meet horticulture professionals and learn more about the green industry. When asked to describe what the award meant to her, Rebekah provided the following insight.

“I started my college journey intending to become a research chemist, but during my junior year at UGA, I volunteered at UGArden and fell in love with horticulture. I was excited to discover I had enough time left in my degree to add a minor in horticulture and started breeding research under Dr. Matthew Chappell to learn more about working with ornamental species. After a year of assisting with ornamental breeding research, I decided to change my career path and pursue horticulture further. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in May 2019 and am currently working on my Master of Science in Horticulture under Dr. John Ruter. My research focuses on improving the ornamental value of many wild accessions of Salvia through classical cross pollinations, chromosome doubling, and mutation breeding. In addition to my love for horticulture, I also have a passion for teaching and hope to become a horticulture professor in the future. I believe the HortScholar program will help me reach my dream and make me a more effective horticulture educator by providing me the opportunity to learn from industry professionals. I would like to thank AmericanHort for investing in my education by selecting me for this unique experience.”  

GA Green Industry Association Seeks New Executive Director


The Georgia Green Industry Association (GGIA) is a statewide trade association whose mission is to promote and advance the economic, lifestyle and environmental benefits of Georgia horticulture for our members, families and communities. GGIA is deeply rooted in the horticulture industry and continues to work for the betterment of the industry’s future through education, legislative monitoring, certification exams, trade shows, and conferences. GGIA has a diverse membership and serves as an umbrella association for the entire horticulture industry in Georgia. GGIA is comprised of six divisions: Floriculture, Irrigation, Landscape, Wholesale, Retail, and Sales & Marketing.



The ideal candidate will possess outstanding dedication to the nonprofit sector.  In addition, this individual’s strengths will include broad based business skills with a minimum of 3 years comparable executive-level experience including P&L and leadership roles of progressive responsibility.  The new Executive Director will have demonstrated ability in developing relationships for advocacy efforts, fundraising and/or direct sales experience, fiscal management of budgets and providing leadership in the management and development of paid staff and volunteer leaders.  

The Executive Director will be a person of strong ideals and integrity who possesses a combination of skills that include vision, strategic and operational planning, serving as a role model of best management practices, and effective decision-making. The Executive Director will possess a style of leadership that is collaborative, embraces partnerships, and empowers stakeholders to achieve their highest potential, all the while satisfying accountability measures mutually agreed upon by the Board.  The Executive Director will be recognized as a community and business leader in Georgia, or have the personal and executive presence to achieve this quickly after appointment. Experience with the nursery and landscape industry is preferred.

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Dr. Marc van Iersel to receive D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Research

Portrait of Marc van Iersel

The D.W. Brooks Faculty Award for Excellence in Research was established in 1983 to honor University of Georgia alumnus D.W. Brooks who devoted his professional life to improving the quality of society through continued service and support of agriculture, agribusiness, and the environment. Mr. Brooks was a graduate and faculty member of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Dr. Marc van Iersel, Dooley Professor of Horticulture, has been named the 2019 awardee. The award recognizes Dr. van Iersel’s research in drought stress physiology and irrigation control. Dr van Iersel says ‘Although I am the one who will get this award, many, many people contributed to my success. There have been many graduate students and visiting scientists who did most of the hard work. And many colleagues without whom my group could not have achieved what we did. My contribution to all of this was simple: find good people, provide guidance when needed, and more than anything, stay out of their way!’

To read more abut the award, please see:

To learn more about Dr. van Iersel’s lab, please visit


Hort Farm Open House – Free Online Registration – October 4, 2019

UGA Horticulture Farm Open House

October 4, 2019 – 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM
UGA Durham Horticulture Farm
1221 Hog Mountain Rd, Watkinsville, GA

Cost: Before October 1 at 5PM EST – FREE

Online Registration
After October 1 – On-site registration only – $15 (check or cash only)

* Donations will be accepted to benefit the UGA Horticulture Club


Topics and Speakers:

Breeding Pavonia for Southern Landscapes
Yongjun Yue and Dr. John Ruter
The genus Pavonia has potential to be used as ornamental plants because they are drought tolerant and flower consistently during the summer months in the southeastern United States. Pavoniaspecies we are working with are: P. hastata, P. lasiopetala, and P. missionum. Traditional and mutation breeding, as well as chromosome doubling are being utilized to develop novel growth forms, flower colors, and sterility so plants don’t reseed in the garden.

New Woody Plants from UGA
Dr. Donglin Zhang, Jordan Baylor
After returning to his beloved UGA seven years ago, Dr. Zhang and his students have worked on improving many woody species. Donglin and Jordan will show you some potential new woody plants for your gardens and landscapes.

Evaluation of New and Old Muscadine and Winegrape Cultivars in the Georgia Piedmont
Dr. Cain Hickey
University breeding programs have historically and recently produced muscadine and winegrape cultivars that are highly sought after by commercial growers. Cultivars were purposefully developed for specific attributes such as consumer preference and/or pest tolerance. The performance of these cultivars are being evaluated by the UGA Extension Viticulture Team through applied research trials located at the Durham Horticulture Farm.

Landscape Establishment, Pruning, and Mulching Studies
Dr. Tim Smalley
Do Hydrosource Hydrogels Reduce the Need for Fertilization of Salvia. Hydrogels absorb water and fertilizer. This study examines the effect of Hydrosource hydrogel on growth of Salvai at the recommended rate of fertilization and the reduced rate of fertilization.

Rejuvenation pruning practices. This is a long-term study comparing the effect of thinning main shoots of Loropetalum yearly versus cutting the shoots to knee level yearly.

Effect of mulching on survival of boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens). Plants were irrigated at two different levels and mulched or unmatched to determine the effect of excess soil moisture on the survival boxwood inoculated with Phytophthora.

New Ornamentals – A UGA/CANR Cooperative Effort
Dr. Matthew Chappell, Brian Jernigan, Mike McCorkle
In 2014, the Center for Applied Nursery Research and the University of Georgia Department of Horticulture initiated a joint effort to develop new woody ornamentals for the nursery industry. Those efforts have resulted in several newly introduced ornamental cultivars including gardenias, loropetalum, and camellia. We’ll describe the process of creating and evaluating these new cultivars, and even give away a few plants via raffle drawings at lunch.

Registration link:

Professor Pennisi Receives Public Service and Outreach Fellowship

Dr. Bodie Pennisi, Professor of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has been awarded a 2019-2020 Public Service and Outreach Fellowship.  Bodie is stationed at the Griffin campus and is heavily involved in the landscape industry and urban pollinator work. Her fellowship revolves around an approved project that was competitive and reviewed by the committee that selects PSO fellowships. Her project is titled “Empowering the New Landscape Entrepreneur: Increasing Business Training and Peer Engagement.” We congratulate Dr. Pennisi on this outstanding recognition!

Mary Lewis Wins Broadus Browne Student Competition & Receives the Paul Ecke Jr. Award

Congratulations to Graduate Student Mary Lewis (M.S., Fall 2019) who was notified on March 27 that she finished First in the CAES Broadus Browne Research Competition in the Masters Level Division. This is a very competitive competition open to all students in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Her research involves development of interspecific hybrids of Asclepias spp. (Milkweed) as well as developing propagation and production protocols for the taxa.

But Mary wasn’t done with her accolades! On April 3,  she was notified that she had been awarded the 2019 Paul Ecke Jr. Award sponsored by the Ecke family through the American Floral Endowment. This is a huge National honor, and comes with a $10,000.00, two-year scholarship. Mary was recruited to UGA by Dr. Tim Smalley, our current interim chair and undergraduate advisor, mentored as an undergraduate by Dr. Paul Thomas, and blossomed into a fine young scientist under Dr. Matthew Chappell, her graduate advisor. Paul Ecke Jr. was a huge influence in the floriculture industry and fostered the development of the industry via providing funding, mentoring and friendship. Even after his passing, Paul Ecke Jr. is still shepherding young floriculturists. We are grateful for the Ecke Family for their support of young scientists, for The American Floral Endowment for managing the program so effectively, and for Mary and her diligent work that earned her this scholarship and makes our department and all our Hort Dawgs look good! 



Horticulture Graduate Students Impress at SR-ASHS

A number of graduate students from the Department of Horticulture presented their research at the annual Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Sciences meeting in Birmingham, AL this past weekend.

Mary Lewis was awarded 3rd place in the Norman F. Childers M.S. Graduate Student Paper competition for her presentation entitled “Assessing Hybridization Compatibility within and Among Asclepias spp.”

Jorge Reyes was awarded 3rd place in the Warren S. Barham Ph.D Graduate Student Paper Competition for this presentation entitled “Detection of the Gummy Stem Blight-Causing Pathogens (Stagonosporopsis spp.) in Watermelon Using Species-Specific LAMP Assays.

Congratulation to Mary and Jorge, and all the participants.

Jorge Reyes (Ph.D candidate) receiving his award

Southeastern Regional New Grape Grower’s Conference – December 11

The Southeastern Regional New Grape Grower’s Conference will be held in Athens, GA on December 11, and again in Asheville, NC on December 12.

The Southeastern Regional New Grape Grower’s Conference is a collaborative effort between the University of Georgia, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State University. Personnel from those universities and industry members from the Georgia and North Carolina will give presentations at both locations.


The conference is intended to provide prospective and new vineyard and winery owners with basic considerations for starting up vineyards and wineries and to introduce the fundamentals of grape growing.

For more information, conference agenda, and registration:

please visit this link for the Athens, GA event… :


and this link for the Asheville, NC event:

For those blog subscribers who already have a vineyard – please make potentially interested parties aware of this conference by sharing this link. Thanks in advance.

Kimberly Cooper Awarded the First Oelschig Family Floriculture Scholarship

UGA Horticulture student Miss Kimberly Cooper was recently awarded the first Oelschig Family Floriculture Scholarship! The Oelschig family nursery and greenhouses in Savannah were established in 1882, making them the oldest nursery in the Southeast. Our former student, Kurt Oelschig is an Alum with an M.S. in Ag Economics from UGA, and took over the family business from his father George in the early 2000’s. The family has established this scholarship to support students with high achievement in the areas of greenhouse and floriculture. Kim was selected by the faculty for her leadership (Pax President), her great academic record and her 6 month internship at Green Circle Growers. Kim will receive a check for $1200.00 to support her senior year at UGA. Congratulations Kim! Its wonderful to see our industry leaders and former students contributing to the next generation of horticulture professionals. Go Hort Dawgs!!!

Hort Student Honored with Proven Winners Scholarship

We are very happy to announce that our very own Ruqayah Bhuiyan has been chosen to receive the National Proven Winners Grower Excellence Scholarship!!! This $5,000 scholarship is extremely competitive and was established by the Proven Winners Corporation to recognize the very best students in the floriculture industry! Ruqayah is the third UGA Hort Dept Student to receive this award over the last ten years! Well done Ruqayah! Many thanks to the Proven Winners Team for supporting our industry’s young professionals! Hort Dawgs bring it home!!!