Planning 2017 – MUST ATTEND Garden Conferences, Tours and Events

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I just check the calendar and we are 90 days away from my son’s birthday. This date is a milestone because it’s when the majority of trees are flush with buds and spring is rushing in. The count down is on to get all the winter projects and planning complete before the crazy spring madness. One of my winter tasks is marking the calendar with all the professional conferences, tours and events and selecting which ones I am able to attend. These events are generally over the summer months, which are great for the tours but are also when I am busy with design, install and maintenance work. This means leaving work requires a lot of bang for your buck from these conferences/events Below is a list of my recommend conferences/tours to consider this year to help you inform you planning. I grouped into two sections; professional/trade conferences and open to the public events.


12 Events in 2017 Every Gardener Should Consider Attending, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



The following conferences are generally trade conferences and are significant commitments for both time and money, but are the best places for networking with fellow garden professionals in many different disciplines. For both the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) and Perennial Plant Association (PPA) I will follow up in the next two blog posts with my recap from the 2016 events to provide more insight for what you can expect. The other items on my list I have either attended in the past or have heard great things about and am attempting to find a year I can attend. (NOTE: I attempted to make this post as information packed as possible and included links to content that may be removed as we get closer to the 2017 dates. Sorry in advance if any are removed since posting)




Garden Bloggers Fling

June 22-25, 2017 in the Greater Washington D.C. area

SOCIAL TAGS: #gbfling2016

This is an event I have not personally attended, but from more than one person heard great things about the fling. This past year they visited Minneapolis a few weeks before we went for the PPA Symposium and I got some great recommendations of places to eat and visit. The fling is created for garden bloggers, which is a diverse group ranging from hobbyists to professionals, writers and trades. This is a great event for continuing the connections afterwards through the established network of blogs. Check out THIS LIST of attendees from this past year for personal recaps of the event.


Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD)

July 13-17, 2017 in Boston, MA

SOCIAL TAGS: #APLD16 and check out #APLD15 too

I have never been to Boston and I am so excited to get a behind the scenes tour of the best private gardens of the area this summer. I am a board member of APLD and truly believe in the benefit this organization and this conference provides to its members. This past summer I attended the Santa Fe conference (post to come next) and was blown away with the gardens we toured in a climate and terrain I was previously uneducated. At the conference with like minded design professionals, we toured, talked and learned about issues that relate to plant focused designers. I will be speaking this summer, and have had some insight from the planning committee that it exceed all expectations. Defiantly check out the social tags from #APLD16 in Santa Fe and #APLD15 from the previous year in DC, these give a great quick insight to what you can expect to see and who is attending.


Perennial Plant Association (PPA)

July 23-28, 2017 in Denver, Colorado


I have attended the symposium many times, and this past year I was beyond honored to be a speaker. This is the event for plant geeks and folks in the nursery trade. You meet growers, designers, gardeners and nurserymen from all over the world and make connections that improve you as a horticulturist. The event is broken down between the growers/suppliers/nursery trades and the designers and gardeners in offerings for breakout sessions and tours, however you have constant ability to interact with all attendees. Dr. Steven Still, who runs the PPA was my professor and mentor at The Ohio Statue University and makes the PPA and all its events invaluable resources. (Just received an email that  Dr. Still’s is retiring this year and the 2017 Symposium will be his last.)


The Association of Garden Communicators (August 4-7 in Buffalo, New York)

2016 Social Tags: #GWA2016

This is another conference I have not personally attended but am actively working to figure out when I can attend. This is a conference for the people who write about gardens; think newspapers, trade publications, bloggers and magazines. What I heard this conference does the best are tours that allow you to get amazing photos (no people, just beautiful gardens). Visit HERE from the 2016 event in Atlanta to get a feeling about the topics and speakers at the event, there are some really amazing speakers and topics covered.





Here is just a short list of non-trade garden events anyone can attend that are very much worth adding to your calendar or at the very least watch on social media posts to pretend you where there. I know this only skims the surface of great events to attend over the year, and I am sure there are some amazing ones to discover (have any great ones please, let me know). I am sad that 2016 was the last year for the Antique, Garden & Design show at the Chicago Botanical Garden since I just learned how quickly I can get to Chicago.


Detroit Garden Cruise

Sunday July 16, 2017

This is a one-day, self-guided tour of selected gardens in the greater Detroit area designed by Deborah Silver of Detroit Garden Works and Branch Studios. The family and I have traveled up to Detroit for the event many different years and it is amazing. It is difficult to get photos without folks in the background because there is such great turnout. At the end of the tour add the cocktail reception back at Detroit Garden Works, which is a great way to reflect with others at the event and meet friends that also made the pilgrimage. This tour is guaranteed to be worth 100 times more than the price of admission and if you attend any of these shows/tours, make it this one. Here is a link from our 2014 TRIP.


Garden Conservatory Open Garden Days:

Open Days run throughout the year, so visit their site or consider ordering the directory to mark the days and gardens you want to visit. Unfortunately, our area is lacking in open gardens and I am envious of anyone able to take advantage of this great resource. Instead I just order the book and read about and research the gardens listed, which is still a great resource for planning personal trips.


Philadelphia Flower Show

March 11 – 19, Philadelphia, PA

For me this is the show that kicks off spring, coming just when I can no longer take the winter gloom. You enter the exhibit hall with the fresh smell of flowers and dirt helps remind not much longer till spring. The theme this year is “Holland” so I am interested to see what the display gardens do outside of tulip bulbs. My two favorite gardens from the past include the garden to launch Terrain (which I got to see in person) and Target’s display to re-launch Smith & Hawken. Check HERE to see the speakers in the Gardeners Studio (site stated will be posted mid-February). Outside the display gardens, I always enjoy speakers and a great speaker will push me to drive 6 hours just for the chance to meet them in person.


Northwest Flower show

February 22 – 26 in Seattle, WA

West Coast folks also have a great one that starts early spring with the Northwest Flower Show. This show is known for its list of diverse speakers they bring to speak, just check out the list this year (HERE). This is another one that is on the bucket list-  which needs to get done soon since February is a great time to visit Seattle.


 Trade Secrets: (Sharon, CT)

May 13 – 14, 2017 in Sharon CT

I have written about this event before, but have never been able to attend. This is a great event for both procuring specimen plants and garden ornaments (or maybe just appreciate valuable garden ornaments) and touring well-known gardens. Gardens on last years tour include the personal homes of Charlotte Moss, Carolyne Rohm and Michael Trapp.

While in the area, plan a visit to White Flower Farm. In the past their Great Tomato Celebration has been the same weekend as Trade Secrets, but have not found the 2017 date to confirm will align again this year. Two great events on Mothers Day Weekend, that would be a great way to treat any mom.


Hollister House, Garden Study Weekend

Have not found 2017 date, look for early September in Southbury, CT.

This event just hit my radar and wonder what I missed all the previous years. They line up major speakers and help extend the whole weekend with tying with Garden Conservatory and open garden days, so helps make a trip to Connecticut more rewarding. HERE are details from last year’s event with information on the speakers and the breakdown of the day. After last year’s event there was sale of unique and rare plants that I love to attend and get something I did not even know I wanted.


Perennial Plant Conference (October 2017)

Mid October, Have not seen the official 2017 date. In Swarthmore, PA

This is an unsurpassed conference open to everyone that that is looking for a full day of world wide experts on perennials. I attended (and spoke) in 2015 and was blown away by my fellow speakers, those in attendance and the entire experience. I missed this past year due to work conflicts, but look forward to making this an annual conference to attend. Register early to make sure you get a spot because it will sell out. Also plan to spend a few extra days exploring the area visiting Longwood and Chanticleer gardens. No matter how many times you visit those gardens you always comeback inspired.


EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival

March 1 – May 29, 2017 in Orlando, FL

With two small kids, we don’t need many reasons to go to Disney, but I highly recommend going during the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, it aligns perfectly with school spring breaks. After having a backstage tour of the nursery and garden operations I was mesmerized with the craftsmanship of each topiary and planting bed. EPCOT is hands down my favorite park (Grand Marnier Slushy in Paris is my personal favorite drink), but how the park is transformed during the festival, and magically incorporates amusement, education and garden design into a family friendly event. I had the opportunity to be a speaker during the festival a few years ago and it was the best experience and so inspiring, I continue to look back at photos. (PS – closer to March I will share my photos for the festival, just realized I never posted).


Again this list could be a lot longer, but wanted to make sure the list included events I have attended, came highly recommended or  are on my wish list to attend. Please let me know if there are any other events I should add to my list and I will update with your recommendations.


A Gardeners Gift Guide

Book Recommendation, Eddie Bauer Multiclava, Holiday, Tools | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The past few years I have created a gift guide based on items I would recommend to someone passionate about gardens and gardening. I pull from the list of items I have purchased over the year that either provided me with inspiration or helped me be a better gardener. Below is a list of some great items I found this year, with some more practical  gifts and others more luxurious.

Thinking Outside the Boxwood, 2016 Holiday Gift Guide


(1) Luciano Giubbilei: The Art of Making Gardens ($43.86) I have been a long admire of Luciano’s work and have the first book written about his work next to my computer at work (The Gardens of Luciano Giubbilei) for quick inspiration. This second book is written by Luciano himself and reflects his evolution as a designer while working on an experimental boarder at Great Dexter. You still see is modern clean sensibility with more exploration with color in textural compositions. Outside of learning about his creative process, it is a great garden porn book with beautiful images.

(2) Broad Fork ($84.80) – This summer I spent hours working on getting organic matter into our soil at our house. For a lot of the work I used a tiller, but ordered this broad fork to use in smaller areas where I needed deeper cultivation. The tool has since migrated to the crews to use, but will need to get it back for more fall planting. This is a workout to use, but outside of a large tiller is the best tool for aerating compact soil in your garden beds.

(3) Eddie Bauer Multiclava ($20) – I have a few of these that I wear whenever I am working outside to protect my neck from the sun. It works better than sun screen which typically gets sweated off or major areas missed. The fabric is designed to wick moisture and does not you a hot neck. It also helps in the winter to help shield you from the wind.  I have the bandana pattern and camouflage patterns, but there are lots of options to choose from and lots of different ways you can wear.

(4) Leonard GardenGlide ($34.99) – I received one as a sample from A.M. Leonard to try out and passed it along to the maintenance crew to use. In less than week, they came back requesting we order more for all the crews. It is a simple design, but the glide allows you to move with ease bags of mulch/soil, your weeding tub, or even plants around your garden. Much easier to move than a wheel barrel and uses little room for storage when not in use.

(5) Rouge Hoe ($38.95).  I like to buy tools once! I expect them to last and take the beating I am going to put them through.  That is why I love the Rouge brand.  Built to last a life time with a thick tempered steel head and sturdy hickory handle.  Handcrafted in the US the Prohoe is an essential tool for the serious gardener who believes is using the right tool for the job.

(6) Norwegian Wood ($16.96). I found this book up in Minneapolis over the summer and purchased to use with all the fire wood we have thanks to the plight of our ash trees from emerald ash borer. It will take your wood stacks to an art form and ensure you have excellent firewood for evening fire pits. I am using it to perfect my wood walls and chopping methods, a much better use of all the dead ash trees than the wood chipper.

(7) The Botanist Gin ($40ish) – Gin and tonic is my drink of choice, and Botanist Gin is my gin of choice. I found it at our local liqueur store and purchased it purely based on name and stunning bottle design. Distilled in Scotland on the Isle of Islay using local botanicals, it is a pure and clean gin. I mix with Fever Tree Tonic, but am open to any suggestions of other tonics to try (have also used Q Tonic). You cannot go wrong with this for any gin lover, let alone a plant geek gin lover.

(8) Paul Bangay: The Garden at Stonefields ($88.65). As I write this, Amazon only has one more copy remaining, so first come first served. This book was released back in 2013, but we were not able to easily get your hands on a copy in the USA. I just got a copy this week and have not had a chance to read yet, but the photos alone are amazing. The book provides the evolution of the gardens at Paul’s personal residence, from conception, during installation and on going care and maturity. This provides you the framework for how the great garden was created, an often secretive side gardens.





7 Essential Ornamental Grasses

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Walking through the garden each season, or even week, a different plant will take center stage. Previously ignored as a team player in the rhythm of the landscape, the wallflower suddenly dominates the beauty of the garden. Late summer / Fall is when ornamental grasses get their champion moment in the garden against the autumnal colors. As other perennials are beginning to lose their luster and drop leaves, ornamental grasses are still standing tall with some parading proud plumes in fall winds. However there are ornamental grasses other than maiden hair grass (Miscanthus) and fountain grass (Pennisetum) . Here is a list of seven great ornamental grasses to try in your garden that give a lot in return.


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’- Blonde Ambition blue grama grass

ZONES: 3-10   HEIGHT: .75 – 2.50ft    SPREAD: .75-1.50ft    FULL SUN


An American native Blonde Ambition blue grama grass changes the perception of  what an ornamental grass should look like with its horizontal insect-like seed head that appear mid to late summer.  Once the seed heads appear you can see where it gets it name with the blond coloration.  A terrific choice for a hot dry / xeric garden because it is quite drought tolerant after established.  Make sure this one has good drainage!

Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Hakonechloa macra – Japanese forest grass

ZONES: 5-9   HEIGHT: 1.5-2.5ft   SPREAD: 2-3+ft   SHADE/PART SHADE


I love this grass!  Commonly known as “the grass” for shade- which is true, but it can be way more than that.  Once it is established this grass has a beautiful almost weeding habit which gracefully smothers the ground, good luck weeds!  There are many chartreuse cultivars on the market, all of which I use- like ‘Aureola’, ‘All Gold’ and ‘Albo Striata’.  However, I am really addicted to the straight species green variety- just regular old Hakonechola macra.  Tuff to find on the market, that is why I grow my own, but well worth it when you do.  Macra can be planted in shade, part shade, and full sun!  This grass likes consistently moist, but well drained soil.   As the pictures below illustrate it can get quite girthy which I think is why I love it so much- a beautiful, low and wide grass.

Hakonechloa macra, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Hakonechloa macra, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Hakonechloa macra, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Sporobolus heterolepis- prairie dropseed

ZONES: 3-9   HEIGHT: 2-3ft    SPREAD: 2-3ft    FULL SUN


The quintessential North American native grass. The blades are floppy and finely texture which makes is a great grass to blend into a mixed border or planted in mass.  To see a great example of a prairie dropseed meadow be sure to visit the majestic Chanticleer Gardens.  This handsome grass send up beautifully scent airy plumes mid summer that persist into the winter.  Come fall the green foliage turns an attractive golden color for an added bonus.

Sporobolus heterolepis, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Sporobolus heterolepis, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Sporobolus heterolepis, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Schottland’- Scottish tufted hair grass 

ZONES: 4-6   HEIGHT: 2-3ft    SPREAD: 1-2ft    SHADE


This cool season grass gets going in the early spring with foliage emerging much earlier than other grasses.  The wispy seed heads dance gracefully above the low fine foliage.  This grass might win the grass I have shot most video of because of the way it sways in a light breeze.  The golden plumes stay on the grass until December or first major snow which quickly flatten.  Still worth it!  Schottland- preforms excellently in my garden (shown) in part shade.  Actually, needs a little bit of shade to really bloom well.

Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood  Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’- Northwind switch grass

ZONES: 5-9   HEIGHT: 4-6ft    SPREAD: 2-2.5ft    FULL SUN/PART SHADE


Attractive wide blades of steel-blue is what draws me to this grass.  An extremely sturdy selection that I often use in designs for its textural qualities.  In September the plumes emerge to create a handsome grey haze with-in the top of the blades.  Introduced by renowned plantsman Roy Diblik this grass deserves an area in a sunny spot in your garden.

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’- feather reed grass

ZONES: 5-9   HEIGHT: 3-5ft    SPREAD: 1-2.5ft    FULL SUN


An architectural grass with it’s stick straight plumes, feather reed grass creates a strong vertical accent in the landscape.  Straw color plumes decorate the summer months.  Used in mass or as specimen dance in a border this grass creates drama wherever you plant it.  Best suited in full sun.  Very drought tolerant once established.

Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Jazz’- Jazz little bluestem 

ZONES: 3-9   HEIGHT: 2-2.5ft    SPREAD: 1-1.5ft    FULL SUN


Looking for blue in your garden.  Jazz little bluestem, a North American native, offers a shorter non-flopping selection introduced by Brent Horvath form Intrinsic Perennials.  I often plant in pockets of 5-7 to create a bit of drama in a border.  Fall the blue turns a purple / mauve tone!

Schizachyrium scoparium 'Jazz', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Schizachyrium scoparium 'Jazz', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Here is a graphic listing for the seven grasses listed with their main details for quick reference pinning.  Email or comment with any questions.

7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood