Consumers can enjoy a vase of flowers longer than ever while florists can minimize shrink, thanks to the research of University of Florida Professor Emeritus Terril Nell, Ph.D., AAF. The preeminent scholar on postharvest care and handling of potted flowering plants and fresh cut flowers, Nell co-authored the Society of American Florists’ Flower and Plant Care Manual and has been a frequent columnist for Floral Management magazine. He’s steadfastly advocated for floral research and funding and held numerous leadership positions, most notably SAF President and Director of Research for the American Floral Endowment (AFE). For his decades of service and considerable contributions to the floral industry, Nell received its highest honor on Sept. 9: induction into the Floriculture Hall of Fame.
Nell spent 35 years as a professor at the University of Florida, chairing its Environmental Horticulture Department from 1991 to 2012. In 1983, he developed the UF Postharvest program, which concentrated on potted plant and cut flower performance for growers, shippers, wholesale and retail florists and interior plantscapers. His research results and work has led to the development of best practices that improve flower and plant longevity. Beyond his university research, Nell has served as an industry consultant for growers, wholesalers and retailers for more than 40 years. This includes working with Asocolflores, the Colombian association of flower exporters, to identify and solve growing challenges abroad.
In his acceptance speech, Nell credited several women in his life, especially his wife, Cathy. “I get the award, but she deserves at least 50 percent, if not 60 percent,” he said. “She was my ghost editor for years and years and years. I can’t thank her enough.” He also thanked his daughters, Amanda and Emily, for trudging through countless greenhouses with him over the years, as well as his grandmother, an avid gardener who helped him plant his first flowers as a small child. “We often ask, ‘What does it take to get someone interested in horticulture?’ Sometimes it’s just a pack of seeds and a little encouragement.”
Click here to read more about Nell and the Floriculture Hall of Fame.
The awards ceremony also honored others who have made an indelible mark on the industry. (See pictures of the awards celebration here.)
Paul Ecke Jr. Award
The Paul Ecke Jr. Award, which recognizes exemplary devotion to profession, industry, and community, was given to Mike Black, founder of Jet Fresh Flower Distributors, a business famous not only for quality product and customer service, but also a beacon of company culture and philanthropy. Black also co-hosts a weekly podcast, “2 Fat Guys Talking Flowers.”
In his remarks, Black mentioned that he’d been awakened with a 3 a.m. phone call that a water tank busted, flooding his Miami warehouse, the business’s new binding machine shorted out, and someone stole batteries out of his truck. “This is a great ending” to a not-so-great day, he said, adding, “I love this business. It’s helped me raise my family. This is a proud moment in my life.”
Click here to read more about Black and the Paul Ecke Jr. Award.
Next Gen Rising Star Award
The inaugural Next Gen Rising Star Award, which recognizes an individual profession 45 or under for their professional achievements and commitment to the industry, was given to Nicole Palazzo, AAF, the founder and chairperson of SAF’s Next Gen Committee, a group that includes several hundred members who engage regularly on Facebook, participate in monthly Zoom happy hour brainstorming sessions and gather annually at their own conference.
“This is a win for all of us Next Gen-ers,” said a teary Palazzo, who recalled feeling insecure at her first SAF convention due to a lack of similarly-aged peers. “I was excited, and I loved the industry, but I didn’t yet have ‘my people’ to collaborate with.” That desire for connection and a passion to ensure the industry’s future success propelled the formation of SAF’s Next Gen group. “I think we’re the talk of the industry now, which is fabulous. We should be proud how many young people are here today.”
Click here to read more about Palazzo and the Next Gen Rising Star Award.
Gold Medal Award
Deliflor Americas, the world’s largest breeder of chrysanthemums, received the Gold Medal Award in recognition of ‘Alma’, a white daisy spray chrysanthemum, which won Best in Show in the 2018 SAF Outstanding Varieties Competition. The award honors the originator or introducer of a widely distributed plant or flower that has become established as an outstanding product of significant horticultural and commercial value.
“I want to thank my convention family here, SAF for their constant support all these years, and every employee Deliflor has,” said J.D. Lecuona, commercial director. “What they do every day makes us look good.”
Click here to read more about Deliflor Americas and the Gold Medal Award.
Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education
The Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education, which honors someone who has contributed significantly to the advancement of horticulture studies, was awarded to Kansas State University Distinguished Teaching Scholar Kimberly Williams, Ph.D., one of the world’s foremost experts on floriculture crop nutrition and a mentor to countless students.
“One thing that we all have in common in floriculture and floristry is that our collective work makes the world a more beautiful place,” Williams sad. “It has been the greatest gift to spend my career with amazing colleagues, students and growers. I’m grateful and honored for this recognition.”
Click here to read more about Williams and the Alex Laurie Award.
Tommy Bright Award
The Tommy Bright Award, which honors PFCI members for lifetime achievement in floral education, was given to prolific speaker Tim Farrell, AAF, AIFD, PFCI. Farrell has shared his knowledge at industry and consumer events in 48 states and as far away as Kenya, was the voice of the Designers’ Room at the Philadelphia Flower Show for years, has been a leader of the American Institute of Floral Designers, and has served as longtime ambassador and educator for Teleflora.
“I’ve got to be one of the luckiest guys on the planet,” Farrell said in his remarks. “I have incredible family, friends all around this world from this industry, and I absolutely love what I do.” Farrell also made a point of thanking his wife, Bernadette, who missed the ceremony for the birth of their new grandchild. “She has been so supportive all these years,” he said. “If she hadn’t been, I’m confident that someone else would be standing here right now.”
Click here to read more about Farrell and the Tommy Bright Award.
Know someone who has made a noteworthy contribution to the floral industry? Apply or nominate someone for SAF’s 2024 awards.
Katie Vincent is the senior contributing editor for the Society of American Florists.