Planning 2017 – MUST ATTEND Garden Conferences, Tours and Events

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.


2 thoughts on “Planning 2017 – MUST ATTEND Garden Conferences, Tours and Events

  1. Pingback: Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) Conference Recap, 2016 Santa Fe | Thinking Outside the Boxwood

  2. Pingback: FRIDAY FINDS – The Impatient Gardener

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