2018 Florida Flower Trials - Session Spotlights

April 13, 2018

Bringing insights from across a wide cross-section of industries, 11 top experts are set to join together at the 2018 Florida Flower Trials for a super shot of professional development.

Each presenter is prepared to bring their A-game, while focusing on imparting actionable items to help attendees gain the most value.
All sessions will take place Thursday, May 17 at UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, in Orlando, Florida.

Here’s a rundown of the presentations on the agenda:

Adding Edible Gardening to the Landscape - Presented by Jason ‘Farmer Jay’ Mc Cobb, Farmer Jay Pure Organics, Delray Beach, FL


In today’s world of rapidly expanding social media platforms, consumers are constantly being touched by the rising trend of wellness and sustainability. Growers have seen an increased demand for edible plants and consumers are asking for edibles to be incorporated in their landscape, according to Jason McCobb, an expert in sustainable agriculture.

McCobb, who specializes in urban gardening, will share creative ways landscape professionals can successfully add edibles to their landscape designs.

About the Presenter

With the belief that the garden is an extension of nature and something that must be protected and nurtured, McCobb says he never uses pesticides or synthetic chemicals.

In addition to farming and building gardens, McCobb has also developed Jay’s Jr. Sprouts, a non-profit which teaches kids where food comes from and helps to pass along the lost art of sustainable agriculture. Together, McCobb and his wife, a program co-creator, look forward to making an impact in their local community by teaching kids how to grow their own food.

Bringing Innovative Business Strategies Back to Horticulture -Presented by Seth Reed and Mason Day of Growit, Chicago


Advances in technology have rapidly changed the world around us. Seth Reed and Mason Day  will help show how the horticulture industry can think outside the box and borrow strategies for success. Working in the fast-paced environment of consumer technology has given these two a behind-the-scenes look at what other companies are up to. Now, the pair seek to bring those insights back to horticulture.

About the Presenters

Seth Reed began his career in the plant industry when he was 15 years old at a local garden center. Reed currently manages team and industry partnerships, and stewarding app functionality at Growit, an app which assists users in digitally sharing their gardening experience.

Mason Day grew up on a farm in rural Michigan. He graduated from Cornell University in 2012 and currently handles marketing, public relations and user experience at Growit.

The Benefits of Consumable Water Management Products - Presented by James J. Spindler, Ecologel Solutions, LLC


In addition to advancements in irrigation hardware and software, there are a variety of consumable technologies and products designed to manage water in the soil and maximizing watering efficiencies.  Spindler will lay out how and why to use those technologies, and how to maintain healthy turfgrass and landscapes during periods of drought or watering restrictions. Spindler will also cover the economic benefits of using water management solutions.

About the Presenter

Spindler serves as both president of BioPro Technologies, LLC, and director of agronomy for Ecologel Solutions, LLC. He also serves as agronomist and research director for the O.J. Noer Turf Research Foundation, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in agronomy  and a Master’s degree in forestry. 

Beneficials and Pesticides, How to Make Them Work Together - Presented by Suzanne Wainwright of Buglady Consulting


Suzanne Wainwright will lay out how pesticide selection can really make a difference in a pest management program. She will also cover insect identification, pesticide modes of action, and  how sprays and beneficials can work together.

About the Presenter

Involved in the Green industry for more than 25 years, Wainwright is an ornamental entomologist who specializes in integrated pest management. She holds degrees in both entomology and environmental horticulture, and has worked both domestically and abroad consulting for greenhouses, nurseries, landscapers and interiorscape companies. 

Wainwright has also spoken in the past  at the Smithsonian Institute and has appeared on the PBS television program “Growing a Greener World.” 

It’s all about Getting the Right Soil Mix - Presented by Guillermo Maldonado of Berger


Berger’s technical team members are conducting groundbreaking work in growing mixes to achieve unmatched results in the field.  Learn what Berger is doing to achieve better production time, higher crop yields along with longevity in the landscape.

About the Presenter

Guillermo Maldonado, a grower adviser at Berger, studied at the University of South Carolina, and later completed an agri-science degree at Massey University in New Zealand. For the past 17 years, he has been involved in many aspects of the horticulture industry exploring a wide range of products and techniques. He is experienced with hardening of tissue culture plants, growing media -- especially bulb crops, rooting processes, forcing and hydroponics in commercial environments.    

Discovering Niches - Presented by Jenny Hardgrave, Simply Flowers


Have you ever wondered how seasonal color fits into your business plan? This is the session for you.  With a dream to start her own business -- and only $10 in her pocket, Jenny Hardgrave set out to launch a successful company based solely on seasonal color.   Today, Simply Flowers has more than 800 commercial and residential accounts and has roughly $3 million in sales. 

About the Presenter

After earning her college degree in nursery and landscape management, Hardgrave moved to Atlanta where she founded Simply Flowers Inc. in 2001. Prior to that, she gained experience in the horticulture world as a seasonal color designer and production manager for a prominent Atlanta landscape company.

Containers and More! - Presented by Jacob McCall, AIFD, AAF, CFC, FSMD


A seasoned designer in the floral industry, Jacob McCall is experienced in all aspects of the industry including retail, event, mass market, competition and education. He will share his cutting-edge ideas on trends along with his color expertise.   McCall will also impart great ideas for container combinations.

About the Presenter

McCall is an award-winning designer with more than 17 years’ experience in the floral industry.

He has traveled throughout the U.S. teaching design and creating events for clients.

McCall has also in the past designed floral arrangements for notable people including Tiger Woods and Diana Ross.   

Summer Survivors of 2017 - Presented by Melissa Shepherd, Walt Disney World, and Kelly Greer, UF/IFAS Orange County Extension Services


Every year, Florida Flower Trials’ program organizers work hard to bring attendees in close contact with the season’s new varieties -- but what happens to those varieties when attendees leave the conference? What varieties finished out the summer strong?

For this session, two trial site managers from 2017 will team up  to share their thoughts on the best performers. Hear which varieties beat the odds, lasted longer, proved to be great pollinators and offered great new options for many seasons to come.

About the Presenters

Melissa Shepherd is a 29-year veteran of Walt Disney World serving as a plant production specialist and trial manager at the Walt Disney World Nursery.

Kelly Greer provides education in Florida-FriendlyTM Landscaping, irrigation, pollution control, pesticide use, integrated pest management, recycling, composting and resource conservation. Greer holds both a Master’s degree in management and leadership, and a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture.

What’s Working in the South - Presented by Angelica Cretu, Costa Farms


Angelica Cretu serves as research and development director for annuals and perennials at Costa Farms in Miami, Florida. She will share the criteria Costa uses to select items for its programs. Learn about the varieties the company plans to add to production in 2018-2019 based on garden performance and information gathered from extensive  trials the company is conducting with bio pots.

About the Presenter

Cretu earned an agriculture degree from Romania and later relocated to the U.S. as an intern for Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses. In 2009, Cretu earned a Master’s degree. Her first job at Costa Farms was as a research  and development manager.

For more information on the 2018 Florida Flower Trials, visit







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