by Lee Graves
For Anne Hosford, the Internet Age provides blessings on several fronts. Not only can she plow fields of information from the comfort of her home, but she also can trade her mouse for a spade and indulge her passion for gardening. “It’s so nice to just take a break and go out and play,” she says.
Hosford is the president and CEO of Bay Tree Government Services, a government and media affairs consulting firm. She often is on Capitol Hill to attend governmental meetings or to get together with clients on environmental and energy-related issues. But on the days she works from her home in Falls Church — about half the time — she also tends to the environmental concerns of her azaleas, gerbera daisies, petunias, rhododendron, periwinkle, day lilies and other plants. “It’s just so much fun. It’s such a release from business,” she says. “I’ve put in over 15 azaleas myself. We have about 200 azaleas in the back yard now, and it is just gorgeous.”
The back yard tumbles from a large patio toward a creek that feeds Lake Barcroft. On one side is a pond she has fitted with aquatic plants such as Japanese iris and calla lilies. Slate steps curve through hydrangeas and dogwoods to a gazebo adorned with wisteria, and there’s even an English ivy topiary shaped like a chicken.
One spot is dedicated to vegetables and fruits — cucumbers, melons, peppers, tomatoes, beans. It’s only about 4 feet by 6 feet, but that’s enough, Hosford says. “You don’t want it too big because you spend all your time out there weeding instead of appreciating it.”
A Pennsylvania native who grew up mostly in Idaho, Hosford credits her gardening genes to her father. It was at Indiana University, however, that her passion blossomed. “I had a couple of friends who had a little garden plot, so I would go over to their house and play around in their dirt,” she says. “I learned a lot.”
Though she majored in English and journalism, Hosford followed a career path in the U.S. Department of Energy, the Nuclear Energy Institute and other government agencies and contractors. She started Bay Tree about 2½ years ago to give a voice to small environmental and energy businesses that otherwise wouldn’t have representation in Washington. One project entailed working with Virginia Tech professor Carole Cameron Inge to develop Riverstone Technology Park in Halifax County as the site for one of 14 clean-energy business incubators in the country.
For all of her horticultural and environmental acumen, Hosford has one “plum” yet to pick — the renowned Hanover tomato. This summer she plans to get her first taste. “I’ve heard from people as far away as Florida and Georgia and Wisconsin [who] say, ‘Oh, you’ve never had a Hanover tomato?’ I guess they’re legendary.”
Though subject to the vicissitudes of nature and the vagaries of economic cycles, the business of gardens, plants, flowers, vegetables and shrubs in Virginia accounts for billions of dollars.
According to a 2002 survey funded by the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, the total economic impact of the “green industry” (nurseries, greenhouses, Christmas trees) was $2.4 billion. Consumers spent more than $1.5 billion on products and services that year (the most recent for which statistics are available), and the industry accounted for about 40,000 jobs.
Jeff Miller, executive director of the Virginia Green Industry Council, says green industry crop receipts were about 28 percent of all crop receipts in 2007. “Green industry sales have been increasing since the 2002 report, until the last 12 months, but we don’t have solid numbers on this yet,” he said.
Even a single tree delivers economic value. According to the American Nursery and Landscape Association, during a 50-year life span one tree has the potential to generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycle $37,500 worth of water and provide $31,250 worth of soil control.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: More than 50 acres of gardens and facilities at 1800 Lakeside Ave., Richmond. (804) 262-9887 or http://www.lewisginter.org
Maymont: Japanese, Italian and specialty gardens on 100 acres at Shields Lake Drive, Richmond. (804) 358-7166 or http://www.maymont.org.
Norfolk Botanical Garden: About 155 acres of gardens at 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk. (757) 441-5830 or http://www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org.
Virginia Green Industry Council: Group representing various segments of green industry (turf growers, nursery owners, landscape designers, etc.) (540) 382-0943 or http://virginiagreen.org