MUBG Senior Horticulturist Jenna Rozum poses in front of a flowerbed on MU’s Francis Quadrangle.  ,

MUBG Horticulture Manager Jenna Rozum poses in front of a flowerbed on MU’s Francis Quadrangle. Rozum designs and plants the displays of annual flowers featured on the MU campus. For many years, she has worked with Vintage Hill Nursery owner Jeff Oberhaus to obtain plants for her designs, which Oberhaus either grows or orders.

MUBG PARTNER PROFILE: Area nursery is a perennial source for annual plants

Designing and installing revolving displays of annual flowers in selected Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG) beds and container gardens falls to Horticulture Manager, Jenna Rozum.

Annual flowers are disparagingly described by some as “one and done” bloomers because they last only one season. In truth, annuals furnish Rozum the opportunity to easily plant and replant landscapes two to three times each year in a revolving color palate and structure variations.

In a MUBG 20-plus year plant partnership, Rozum works closely with Vintage Hill Nursery proprietor Jeff Oberhaus (BS AG ’88 AF&NR) to obtain her selections.

“I start thinking about spring flowers in late summer and give my orders to Jeff by the end of October,” Rozum said. “I use Pinterest a lot. It’s an easy way to picture a lot of different flowers to see what colors work.

“One of the groundskeepers, Jennifer Smith, has a really good eye and is good at putting containers together.”

Rozum said there are several ways she puts her designs together, sometimes choosing a plant she is especially drawn to to showcase and then building around it, and sometimes by selecting a color scheme and then choosing complementary plants within that color set.

“The designs are never the same, which is a little more difficult in spring. Some of the plants are the same but the colors and layout are always different.”

Because showcasing plants suitable for area gardens is one of MUBG’s missions as a botanic garden, Rozum said she likes to pick things that people who view the beds can find for their home gardens but that she doesn’t necessarily plant things that are commonly available.

Jeff Oberhaus, owner of Vintage Hill Nursery, poses with an elephant ear growing at his nursery.

Jeff Oberhaus, owner of Vintage Hill Nursery, poses with an elephant ear growing at his nursery. Oberhaus works with MUBG Senior Horticulturist Jenna Rozum either growing or ordering the plants she will use in the annual display beds and planters at MU.

Vintage Hill connection

“Jenna gives me her order in October, and that gives me time to place orders, propagate seeds and to obtain rooted cuttings for patented plant selections,” Oberhaus said. “Jenna and I consult back and forth on her selections.”

Contracted spring selections are started in January in a cordoned off area at Vintage Hill for a mid-March delivery date, which is about the same time MUBG summer selections are being started.

“I love the fact that she tries new stuff every year. That makes me try new stuff, and we now carry many of those varieties,” Oberhaus said.

He always plants extras of contracted plant selections, sometimes planting the starts in his own annual showcase beds.

“I use those beds to see what grows and how things do in order in this area to make future selections,” he said. “Working with Mizzou Botanic Garden has been a win-win relationship.”

Pandemic bump on the garden path

“We realized with what was going on [Covid-19] and had the spring order delivered a week early because we were nervous,” Rozum said. “We got the order on a Friday, and the day after, campus closed for two weeks.”

In the short turnaround time, Rozum’s crew was able to get containers planted but didn’t get the flats of annuals intended for beds in the ground.

Rather than take a hundred flats of annuals out to Capen Park to the compost site, she and MUBG Director Pete Millier came up with a lemonade-from-lemons plan to offer flats of annuals to members of Friend of MUBG for a donation to the garden.

"Someone came and watered them daily, and they still looked good,” she said. “But by the time we would have been able to plant the flowers, it would be too late for us. But it’s a different story for homeowners."

An electronic message went out to MUBG’s Friends group with a number to call to reserve a flat or two that also included pick-up times and locations.

“It was quite successful,” Millier said. “We received enough donations to cover the cost of the annuals. I’d like to personally thank all of our members who took advantage of our first ever plant sale.”

Gardening as an essential activity

“It’s been a boon year for gardening nationwide,” Oberhaus said. “We’ve seen so many new people this year. Beginning in February, people started coming in regularly, and it hasn’t let up.

“Both annuals and shrubs have been solid sellers all season. We tried to restock after Mother’s Day and the stuff just wasn’t there, so we grew more on our own.”

Oberhaus said he stocked an increased selection of tropical plants and houseplants this year knowing that indoor gardening is trending, especially with the younger set.

“Early on, we had 25-year-olds coming in here looking for that certain houseplant with that crazed look in their eyes,” Oberhaus said.

Across the country, garden centers have the same story. Lockdowns in response to the novel coronavirus produced an uptick in gardening activities and a wave of new gardeners.

And, as Rozum noted, Mizzou Botanic Garden is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, pandemic or no pandemic. MUBG’s annual beds and plantings of perennials, shrubs and trees growing on the campus-that-is-a-botanic-garden continue to flourish and serve as a source of inspiration and ideas for area gardeners.