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President Dennis Ray is interested in feedback from ASHS Members. Please read the following article and provide any feedback in the form at the bottom of the page.

Reflections March 2020

Dennis T. Ray

ASHS President

I Trust You All are Safe and Well


The idea of a “Reflections” column is for ASHS presidents to “Reflect” on their experiences. The problem is I have never experienced anything like these times in my life. I was alive before the polio vaccine, and I remember TV shows with a polio victim in an iron lung, but I never put that together with me playing outside in the summer. As an aside, I was in the first group in the United States to get the Polio Vaccine. As I write this “Reflections,” I worry about my children and grandchildren, and now I appreciate the angst my parents went through every summer before a vaccine was available.

So, we are back to, what do I write about? I had many ideas for this month, including plant blindness (thank you Peter Hirst), where do future horticulturists come from (some excellent data from Seed Your Future and Susan Yoder), and ideas on class activities to help students become aware of the plants around them every day (really a part of plant blindness). I have several Reflections to go, so I am sure I will yet hit all of these topics. However, after much reflection (sorry about that, I just couldn’t help myself) I decided to write about two things on my mind, the importance of horticulture in these times and the Annual Conference.

I think of horticulture and its importance every time I go to the grocery store. OK, this is obvious to us, but this is not obvious to the average consumer. Why did we always have bananas before, but now the bin is bare? My wife just returned from the grocery store (literally as I am writing this), and as she came through the door she said, “It was a good day, I found everything I was looking for.” In addition to food items, and a bottle of Clorox, she bought flowers (tulips) to place on our table to brighten our days and meals. It is not just food production, but many other aspects of horticulture (think of what every Professional Interest Group adds) that enhances people’s lives. Here are two recent local (meaning Arizona) examples. My friend and colleague Tanya Mazerolle Quist wrote recently, “After a surreal trip to the grocery store this morning, the plants in the Lowe’s nursery gave me a taste of normalcy and beauty.” Just yesterday I received a phone call asking about planting a garden, and we all know the mental health benefits of gardening, so I helped them as much as I could (over the phone, social distancing) since it can do nothing but good in these times. As another aside, you have to understand that gardening in the desert is not what most of you might think of as gardening. For instance, one of my wife’s first experiences with Extension Bulletins was “Growing Roses in a Blast Furnace.”

The Annual Conference is also on my mind. However, our thinking should be long-term, not short-term. In the short-term, we are shutting down many things in our lives, but we need to focus on how we will resume activities when this is over. At work, I not only have to explain how we are safely shutting down my lab, but also a plan for when it is time to resume activities. We should not wait and see if there will be an Annual Conference, we should plan for the Annual Conference. Submit your abstract, register for the conference, and get your airline reservations (every airline I fly is allowing me to change reservations for canceled meetings at no charge). We need to be prepared to resume our lives, professionally and personally, and that takes planning.

Your health and safety are primary in all decisions made by ASHS. The Executive Director, Headquarters Staff, Executive Committee, and Board of Directors are all closely monitoring this situation. I am optimistic that the conference will occur as scheduled. One way to plan for resumption of activities is to plan to attend the Annual Conference. It is time to submit an abstract, reserve a room, and make travel arrangements (I have). I hope to see you in Orlando, but my sincerest wish is for your safety and health! Be well my friends.


Contact me at or provide feedback in the form below.

1018 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703.836.4606