Jodi Ballard grew up outside. Her family lived on an acreage with sweet corn, 11 acres of strawberries, and lots of wide open space. And plenty of dreams about what to do with that space. Her mom wanted to plant Christmas trees but then didn’t have the heart to cut them, so they started planting other types of trees. And people started asking about them, so Jodi and her sister started helping their mom, and pretty soon, a business was born. Jodi’s mom checked out stacks of books and took a few continuing ed classes on landscaping, and it all just grew from there.
“We pretty much just invented a nursery in the middle of nowhere,” she says. “My sister and I had the best time doing this thing. The three of us ran this booming business and we loved every minute of it.”
Though Jodi grew up outside, her first career wasn’t in landscaping. She fell in love with pastry arts in high school and dreamt of culinary school and five-star restaurants. But then she fell in another kind of love and decided to stick around central Iowa. She worked in restaurants until her mom’s nursery business got big enough that she needed help, and they did that for quite a few years. In 2005, the economy started to look a little iffy and the business needed some major capital improvements in terms of machinery and equipment. Jodi, her mom, and her sister sat down and talked it through and decided it was time to be done. Jodi stayed in the landscaping business for a few years but eventually jumped ship to try her hand at countertop and cabinet design.
“It seems like I’ve kind of been all over the place,” she says, “but everything I’ve done plays off the same themes. Whether it’s culinary arts or landscape design or kitchen design, I’m working with color, texture, mood.”
Bringing the Vision to Life
Jodi joined Team Perficut about a year ago, and she’s still doing what she knows best—creating using color, texture, and mood. She is one half of Perficut’s dynamic floral production leadership team; Amy Edmondson is the Floral Production Manager but they are really a partnership. They split duties that used to belong to one person, a fact that makes Jodi laugh—“Even with two people doing it, we still can’t always do things the way we want to!” Together, they prep, plan, organize, execute, and manage Perficut’s thriving floral business. Jodi sets up schedules and puts crews together, making sure they have what they need to be successful. She’s the troubleshooter, the person whose phone rings if a truck won’t start or someone forgot a bag of tools.
She also helps Amy with planning and ordering, a process that starts long before the sun-soaked days of summer. In snowy, cold January, they sit down together and spend days looking at site maps and studying what was done for that client last year or the year before. They consider color, texture, and mood and work to find just the right combination of plant material to make that site the very best it can be. And they do it all in their heads—at a time of year when everything outside is dormant and grey and still.
But then, when the day finally comes to bring those visions to life, Jodi’s feet barely touch the ground. “I love taking a blank slate and turning around at the end of the day and seeing something beautiful,” she says. “It is so satisfying. Especially since we ordered these plants in January and we finally get to see them grow and thrive through the season. It’s a phenomenal thing.”
As the season wears on, Jodi and the floral team do everything they can to help the plants they so lovingly tend keep growing and thriving. They weed, they water, they deadhead, they troubleshoot. Rain or shine, they are out there making sure things look good. But as summer starts to wind down and the days start getting shorter, Jodi notices a change, both internally and externally. “We have watched these plants grow and mature and it’s so rewarding, but then as daylight gets shorter and the heat just doesn’t let up, plants just start to slow down,” she says. “That’s when we know it’s time to start switching gears to thinking about kicking up the fall colors instead of the hot pinks and pastels we’ve been working with.”
And the fall colors do not disappoint. Although some clients want the traditional mums and only mums, other clients are more open to letting Amy and Jodi find other creative ways to bring fall color to their site. From coneflowers to rudbeckia to millet, the options are endless. No two sites are ever alike, and Jodi thrives on that variety.
“One of the things that I love about what we do is we never have the same day twice,” she says. “The good days are really, really good. And I think it’s a lot like farming. It’s hot and cold, wet and windy. Sometimes all in one day. We just have to be prepared and you can’t mind that you’re a dirty mess. We’re not here to make ourselves look beautiful, we’re out here to make our clients look beautiful.”