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SNA Announces 2019 Award Recipients

20 Dec 2018 7:51 AM | Karen Summers (Administrator)

Atlanta, Ga., December 20, 2018 – The Southern Nursery Association (SNA) has announced the recipients of the 2019 SNA Awards.  The awards will be presented at the 120th Annual SNA Business Meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, Md., during The SNA Conference.

The SNA Awards Program began in 1956, when the late John B. Wight, Sr., suggested to the officers of the Southern Nursery Association that an award be offered annually to the person of their selection who, in their opinion, had contributed most to the advancement of the industry in the South and to the welfare of the Southern Nursery Association. This first award, considered a lifetime achievement award, was named the Slater Wight Memorial Award in memory of the late J. Slater Wight, brother of the late John B. Wight, Sr. Nomination. Selection is made by the SNA Board of Directors.

This year’s recipient of the Slater Wight Memorial Award is Dr. Ted Bilderback of Raleigh, NC. Dr. Bilderback retired as an Emeritus Professor & Director of the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University July 1, 2014, after 37 years as a Horticulture Science faculty member at NC State.  His career included responsibilities for teaching, extension and research.  Ted’s research and extension programs focused on environmentally conscious cultural practices for growing nursery stock.    Irrigation, horticultural container substrates and plant nutrition were an emphasis of his educational programs that included advising or co-advising 24 graduate students. His research, extension and popular articles numbered over 500 publications and his career external funding resulted in approximately $2.2 million.

Ted received the American Association of Nurserymen's Extension Award in 1993, the Southern Nursery Association’s Porter Henegar Memorial Award for Research in 1995, the Extension Education Award from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in 1995 for his extension education program "Environmentally Compatible Nursery Production Practices" and in 1999, Ted received one of the six Environmental Awards from the Southern Nursery Association as one of the co-authors of the SNA Best Management Practices Manual.  Ted served as a member of the Board of Directors, President, and International Delegate for the Southern Region of the International Plant Propagators Society and in 2008, was elected as a Fellow of the Southern Region International Plant Propagators. In 2010, he was Awarded the Sidney B. Meadows Award of Merit from the Southern Region IPPS.  Ted served many years as an Educational Advisor for the North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association and in 2013 received an Honorary Lifetime Membership Award.  In 2014 Ted was recognized as a Distinguished Alumni by the Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources at Kansas State University.

Ted has always enjoyed outdoor activities including fishing and assisting in reducing deer predation at nurseries.  He also enjoys people with good humor.

Established in 1974 by David E. Laird, Jr., in memory of his father, SNA Past President David E. Laird, Sr., the David E. Laird, Sr. Memorial Award is presented each year to recognize qualified young men and women for outstanding service in the field of environmental horticulture and to offer inspiration for others starting out in the field. The recipient must be 39 years of age or younger and must be a member of his/her state nursery association. Nominations are made by the State Associations within the SNA region with final selection by the SNA Board of Directors.

This year’s recipient of the David E. Laird, Sr. Memorial Award is Jonathan Saperstein, current CEO of one of America’s largest nurseries, TreeTown USA. He began his career at TreeTown early in the company’s history working as part of the field crew before climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder; moving from field labor to farm maintenance and eventually working his way up to COO. While working at TreeTown, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he was elected to a

variety of leadership roles, including Vice President of Pi Kappa Alpha and President of Silver Spurs. In his personal time, Saperstein holds leadership roles in multiple organizations. He is a board member of the Pi Kappa Alpha’s Beta Mu Chapter Alumni Advisory Board, as well as a member of the Silver Spurs Alumni Board. He serves as a trustee on the Texas Nursery & Landscape Association’s Political Action Committee board and is also an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Saperstein’s strong talent and success have earned him several prestigious recognitions including being named a recipient of the Forbes 30 Under 30 award within the Manufacturing & Industry category in 2017. He was named 2018’s Gulf Coast Region EY Entrepreneur of the Year, and was a National Finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year award that same year.

At the age of twenty-seven, Saperstein became CEO of TreeTown after leading a management buyout in January 2015, which was later awarded by the M&A Advisor as the 2015 “Agricultural Acquisition of the Year.” With Saperstein at the helm TreeTown strategically completed four additional acquisitions as well as the sale of one non-core business. Today TreeTown and its subsidiaries, Village Nurseries and Hines Growers, produce on over 6,000 acres split amongst 18 facilities located in Florida, Texas, California and Oregon and produces over 30 million plants a year.

Saperstein divides his time between TreeTown’s locations in addition to visiting customers to ensure that they are receiving the highest level of service. Saperstein firmly believes that employee, vendor, and customer relationships are the driving force of any successful business. This is evident by the numerous initiatives TreeTown has undertaken since Saperstein acquired the business. Since becoming CEO in 2015, Saperstein has grown TreeTown’s employee base to over 2,000, which has helped to establish TreeTown as a leader in the horticultural industry. Not only is TreeTown a successful company, but in a time when other industries are trying to change to become better stewards of the environment, the very nature of its business allows TreeTown to do that.

Established by the SNA Board in 1992, the SNA Pinnacle Award is given to the individual within the allied industry who, in the opinion of the SNA Board, has contributed most to the advancement of the industry in the south and to the welfare of the Southern Nursery Association. This award is limited to SNA members. Nomination and selection of recipients is made by the SNA Board of Directors.

This year’s recipients of the SNA Pinnacle Award is Scott Martiniere, Southeastern Sales Director for Harrell’s. Scott began his nursery career in 1983 as a grower for his Uncle’s nursery in Magnolia Springs, AL. This lead to a sales position for Tri-State Plant Food in Dothan, AL. Scott traveled AL, MS, LA, and the Panhandle of FL selling to nursery and greenhouses. Often meeting trucks in the early morning hours on the side of the interstate to off load 20 bags of fertilizer to deliver to a potential customer.

In 1989 Scott was offered a position with Vigoro Industries to manage the horticulture business in the state of Florida. He and his wife moved to Bradenton, FL and begin working with over 1,000 nurseries. Scott was then promoted to Regional Sales Manager over Turf and Horticulture for the Southeast. In 1991 Pursell Technologies offered Scott the position of National Sales Manager/Product Manager and he helped launch Polyon into the nursery market throughout the world. Not only did Scott travel the US and Canada he also traveled thru Europe selling Polyon.

In 2003 Scott joined the Harrell’s family as Sales Manager and along with Rick Helpingstine began building Harrell’s Horticulture business nation wide. After building Harrell’s horticulture business from coast to coast and acquiring a soil plant in FL, and making it a viable success, Scott was promoted to Sales Director for the South East. Along with nine sales associates, Scott continues to make a significant impact in the horticulture market.

Scott’s philosophy of hard work and dedication to the success of others has made his career in the Horticulture market enjoyable and very rewarding.

In 1969, an Award of Merit was created to honor those individuals who have made outstanding contributions to ornamental horticultural research and, more specifically, to SNA. In 1972, the SNA Board of Directors resolved that the Award of Merit would be renamed the Porter Henegar Memorial Award for Horticultural Research in memory of the late Porter Henegar, Past Executive Secretary of SNA (1959 - 1972), to commemorate his years of tireless effort and service to the SNA. The recipient is selected annually by fellow research workers for his/her concern and work toward improving the nursery industry.

The recipient of the 2019 Porter Henegar Memorial Award is Dr. Allen Owings, Professor Emeritus, Horticulture, LSU AgCenter. Dr. Owings was born and raised in Hammond, LA. He holds a BS degree (plant science) from Southeastern Louisiana University, MS degree (Horticulture) from LSU and PhD (Horticulture) from Mississippi State University.

Dr. Owings began his career as professor at the LSU AgCenter - Calhoun Research Station in 1992 and continued as resident coordinator at the LSU AgCenter – Hammond Research Station before retiring in 2017 after 25 years of service. He provided statewide extension service programming for nursery growers, landscapers, garden centers and secondarily to master gardeners and home gardeners.  Dr. Owings coordinated the LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plant program and conducted research in the area of ornamental horticulture plant trials and evaluation programs.

Since October 2017, Dr. Owings has been employed as senior horticulturist at Bracy’s Nursery in Amite, LA and horticulturist at Clegg’s Nursery in Baton Rouge, LA. In this role he works in the area of new plant recommendations, social media education, horticulture outreach and customer relations. 

Dr. Owings has participated annually in the SNA research conference since 1987 and has published over 70 articles in the proceedings. He was an inaugural recipient of SNA’s Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship. Dr. Owings has been recognized by the Louisiana and National Agricultural County Agents Associations with their achievement award and distinguished service award. In 2017, he was honored with the Henry Covington Extension Award for Horticulture Professionals from of the Southern Region of the American Society for Horticultural Science. Owings has been a member of the American Society for Horticulture Science for 30 years. 

He is a life member of the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association (where he served as executive secretary for 13 years) and the Louisiana Society for Horticultural Research. Dr. Owings belongs to numerous horticulture societies in LA and across the south. He is current president of the Louisiana Chapter of the Azalea Society of America and the region 7 director for the American Rose Society. He has served on the educational program committee for the Gulf States Horticulture Expo since its inception.

Dr. Owings is a contributing author in the Louisiana Nursery & Landscape Association’s Quarterly Magazine and was a long time contributor to e Louisiana Gardener Magazine. He initiated the LSU AgCenter Trial Garden Report and the LSU AgCenter Ornamental Horticulture E-News Update, each continuing to this day. During his LSU AgCenter career he also wrote weekly landscape columns that were distributed statewide in Louisiana and also wrote for his hometown newspaper, the Hammond Star. Dr. Owings contributes regularly to local rose society and botanical society newsletters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. 

In his free time, Allen enjoys gardening, golf and LSU sports.

The SNA Board of Directors also honors individuals that have served this association and the nursery industry in various capacities throughout the years and have made outstanding contributions during their active participation in the Southern Nursery Association with honorary membership awards. This year, one deserving industry member has been selected to receive an SNA Honorary Member Award. He has, no doubt, made outstanding contributions to the association and the indus­try during his participation in the Southern Nursery Association.

This year’s recipient of the SNA Honorary Member Award is Donna Foster who served the South Carolina Green Industry Association (formerly the South Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association) as Executive Director for 22 years. Along with SCGIA she also was and continues to be the Secretary/Treasurer of the International Plant Propagators Society - Southern Region and the South Carolina Greenhouse Growers Association. Her career began at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture as the ornamentals Marketing Specialist.

Donna earned a B.S. Degree in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.  She serves as an ex-officio member of the Trees South Carolina Board of Directors, as the Treasurer of Boy Scout Troop 4, and an active member of the A.C. Flora High School Football Booster Club.  She has served on the South Carolina Scenic Highway Commission Board and on various committees at her church.

Donna was an active leader in SNA’s regional activities for many years, representing South Carolina. She was always willing to share and eager to help in way she could. She has always been admired by her follow state executives for her energy, level of knowledge, and her passion for excellence.

The Don Shadow Award of Excellence, named for the first recipient, Don O. Shadow, Shadow Nursery, Winchester, TN, is presented to an individual, corporation or organization that has provided exemplary service, leadership and generosity in the development, promotion and use of new and improved landscape plants. Recipients must demonstrate a sincere commitment to and passion for expanding knowledge and use of new and improved plants for the landscape. Nominations are accepted from attendees of the Southern Plant Conference and SNA Members. Nominees may be carried forward from one year to the next. Selection is made by the SNA Board of Directors.

The 2019 recipient of the Don Shadow Award of Excellence is Tony Avent, Horticulturist and Proprietor, Hybridizer of Hostas, Rare Bulbs, and Hardy Ariods. Freelance Garden Writer, International Garden Lecturer, and Plant Auctioneer. He and his wife, Anita Avent, own Plant Delights Nursery and established Juniper Level Botanic Garden in Raleigh, North Carolina. In addition, Tony is a well-known plant explorer, author and public speaker.

Tony began his career in horticulture in 1978 at NC State Fairgrounds as Landscape Director during which time he was a Volunteer Curator at the Shade House at NC State Arboretum. In 1988, he and his late wife Michelle established Plant Delights Nursery, a small, family owned, mail-order nursery, offering unique, rare, well-grown, and properly-named perennials to passionate gardeners around the world.

Their love for interesting plants, and making them widely available, is equaled only by their passion for enriching the gardening lives of their customers. Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden has one of the most extensive perennial trialing programs in the country. Their concern goes far beyond selling plants… it matters how they perform in the gardens. Despite being best known as a mail-order nursery, they actually exist for their work as a private 28-acre botanical garden, spiritual retreat center and plant research facility focusing on ex-situ plant conservation, plant exploration, breeding, and propagation. They have had several new plant species named from their collections, and more in the pipeline.

Their horticultural educational efforts are visible in our catalog, our website, their presentations around the country, in public and scientific publications, and now on social media.

Since their inception, 15% of our retail sales at Plant Delights Nursery have been given to Juniper Level Botanic Garden to support their mission and they now currently display over 23,000 taxa (different kinds of plants). They are working towards opening as a full-time public botanical garden and spiritual retreat center for all to enjoy.

Tony’s plant explorations have led him to Argentina, Bosnia, China, Crete, Croatia, Korea, Mexico, Montenegro, Slovenia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, plus 67 plant expeditions in the U.S.

Tony was a weekly garden columnist for The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC (1987- 1998). He wrote a monthly garden column for the Walter Magazine, Raleigh, NC (2012-2017). In addition, he was a contributing editor to Horticulture magazine (2002-2008) and is a contributing editor to Fine Gardening Magazine (2017 to present). He has been featured in numerous media including HGTV Martha Stewart Living, The Winter Garden Series, The Secret Garden Series, and PBS Cultivating Life. Tony has also authored So You Want to Start a Nursery (Timber Press, 2003) and a chapter in The Roots of My Obsession (Timber Press, 2012), and My Favorite Plant (complied by Jamaica Kincaid, 1998).

No doubt why Tony has been recognized with awards too numerous to list.

The SNA Awards Program is designed to recognize professionals for their distinguished talents, extraordinary service and life achievements, and who have demonstrated their commitment to the Southern Nursery Association and the industry through these annual awards. For a list of previous SNA award winners, visit the SNA website at

Founded in 1899, the Southern Nursery Association is a non-profit trade association representing the horticultural industry in the southeastern U.S. SNA provides member services to wholesale growers, brokers, retailers, landscape contractors, landscape architects, grounds maintenance contractors, interiorscapers and allied suppliers. The SNA strives to unite and advance the horticulture industry through educational, research and marketing efforts.

For more information on SNA, contact the Southern Nursery Association, Inc., PO Box 801454, Acworth, GA 30101, 678.809.9992,, or visit the SNA website at


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