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In Memory of Rick Berry

The horticultural world lost Rick Berry, a remarkable plantsman, in November. I had the honor of being Rick’s friend and sharing years of plant exchanges and stories. Looking back, my last visit in April 2021 to Rick’s nursery, Goodness Grows in Lexington, GA, was a poignant one.

HGIC director Millie Davenport and I took a personal day to visit Goodness Grows in celebration of being fully vaccinated. I had told Millie about Rick for years and wanted her to meet him and see the nursery. We planned to do some plant shopping for our gardens. Little did I know that visit would be the last time I would see him.

Millie Davenport and Barbara Smith visited with Rick Berry at Goodness Grows Nursery, April 2021.

Millie Davenport and Barbara Smith visited with Rick Berry at Goodness Grows Nursery, April 2021.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

Rick and his partner, Marc Richardson, first met as students at the University of Georgia. When they both realized they shared a passion for plants and gardening, they established Goodness Grows in 1977 in Crawford, GA as a landscaping business. Their business soon expanded into offering annuals, perennials, herbs, flowering vines, and native and heirloom plants. The nursery quickly outgrew the space, and in 1983, they moved the nursery to its the present location in nearby Lexington. In the late 70s and early 80s, perennials were not as popular as they are today and were largely overlooked as useful landscape plants. Many nursery growers in the South thought that perennials could not be successfully grown as a marketable crop. Rick and Marc were responsible for promoting and introducing many beloved and well-known perennials to the nursery trade and home gardens.

Marc Richardson and Rick Berry moved Goodness Grows to Lexington, Georgia in 1983.

Marc Richardson and Rick Berry moved Goodness Grows to Lexington, Georgia in 1983.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Allan Armitage, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, University of Georgia

I first visited Goodness Grows in the late 1980s after hearing Rick speak at an Atlanta Botanical Garden gardening symposium. Upon meeting Rick and Marc for the first time, I knew I had met two extraordinary horticulturists. Their passion for perennials was infectious, and we were horticultural kindred spirits. Thus, we began a friendship that would last thirty-plus years. My fondest memories of Marc are of him immediately inviting my young son, Paul, to hop on the golf cart to go on adventures around the nursery, with a dog or two onboard. While they explored, Rick and I talked about plants. Sadly, Marc died young at age 52 in 2008.

Paul Smith and Marc Richardson (1993) went on golf cart adventures around Goodness Grows Nursery.

Paul Smith and Marc Richardson (1993) went on golf cart adventures around Goodness Grows Nursery.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

Rick and Marc never patented or trademarked their introductions. They shared their discoveries unselfishly with other growers, ensuring that these plant gems were not lost. They developed propagation and preservation practices that set specific industry standards for producing marketable perennials. Many of these methods are still being used in the nursery industry today.

If you have grown any these beautiful perennials listed below, send a silent thank you to Rick and Marc. The following are but a handful of what they introduced to the horticultural industry.

  • Miss Huff Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’)

Miss Huff Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’) has clusters of yellow flowers that will fade to orange and then pink. This cold-hardy lantana is a perfect addition to a pollinator garden, attracting a wide variety of butterflies, such as this Painted Lady butterfly.

Miss Huff Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’) has clusters of yellow flowers that will fade to orange and then pink. This cold-hardy lantana is a perfect addition to a pollinator garden, attracting a wide variety of butterflies, such as this Painted Lady butterfly.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

Miss Huff Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’) will grow into a large shrub that is 4 to 5 feet wide and tall. It is cold hardy in USDA planting zones 7 to 11. Do not cut back the old wood until after the last spring frost.

Miss Huff Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’) will grow into a large shrub that is 4 to 5 feet wide and tall. It is cold hardy in USDA planting zones 7 to 11. Do not cut back the old wood until after the last spring frost.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Allan Armitage, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, University of Georgia

  • Ryan’s series of old-fashioned mums are pollinator magnets.

(Dendranthemum ‘Ryan’s Butterscotch’, ‘Ryan’s Lavender’, ‘Ryan’s Pink’, and ‘Ryan’s Yellow’)

The Ryan’s series of old-fashioned mums are pollinator magnets. Ryan’s Pink Chrysanthemum (Dendranthemum ‘Ryan’s Pink’) is shown here with a bumble bee.

The Ryan’s series of old-fashioned mums are pollinator magnets. Ryan’s Pink Chrysanthemum (Dendranthemum ‘Ryan’s Pink’) is shown here with a bumble bee.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

Ryan’s Yellow Chrysanthemum (Dendranthemum ‘Ryan’s Yellow’) has large, soft-yellow flowers with golden centers.

Ryan’s Yellow Chrysanthemum (Dendranthemum ‘Ryan’s Yellow’) has large, soft-yellow flowers with golden centers.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Allan Armitage, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, University of Georgia

  • Bath’s Pink Dianthus (Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Bath’s Pink’)

Bath’s Pink Dianthus (Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Bath’s Pink’) has single, clove-scented pink flowers on 6 to 8 inch stems.

Bath’s Pink Dianthus (Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Bath’s Pink’) has single, clove-scented pink flowers on 6 to 8 inch stems.
Photo courtesy of the JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, North Carolina

A field of purple flowers Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Bath’s Pink Dianthus has slivery-gray evergreen foliage that forms neat mats.
Photo courtesy of the JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Marc’s Sunflower (Helianthus ‘Marc’s Apollo’)
Marc’s Sunflower (Helianthus ‘Marc’s Apollo’) has single, 4-inch lemon-yellow flowers.

Marc’s Sunflower (Helianthus ‘Marc’s Apollo’) has single, 4-inch lemon-yellow flowers.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

  • Common Purple Phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Common Purple’)
Common Purple Phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Common Purple’) is a native phlox that grows well in Southern gardens.

Common Purple Phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Common Purple’) is a native phlox that grows well in Southern gardens.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

  • Goodness Grows Veronica (Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’)

Goodness Grows Veronica (Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’) is an erect, clump-forming hybrid which grows to only about 10 to 12 inches in height.

Goodness Grows Veronica (Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’) is an erect, clump-forming hybrid which grows to only about 10 to 12 inches in height.
Photo courtesy of the JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, North Carolina

The deep blue flower spikes of Goodness Grows Veronica bloom from late spring until mid-summer.

The deep blue flower spikes of Goodness Grows Veronica bloom from late spring until mid-summer.
Photo courtesy of Tony Avent, Proprietor of Plant Delights Nursery, Inc., Raleigh, N.C.

It was a beautiful fall day in November when I received the news of Rick’s passing. I sat quietly in my garden for a while to collect my thoughts and to remember this incredible man. Rick was a gentle soul with a huge, friendly smile and a great sense of humor. He is always waving in photos of him. Walking through my landscape that day, I realized that Rick and Marc’s spirits will always be with me as I admired so many plants that came from Goodness Grows. I will remember them as extraordinary plantsmen and dear friends.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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