Speaker Spotlight: Karen Chapman

SE6A7058

Karen Chapman is the owner of Le jardinet. She is a lifelong gardener, a self-confessed plant-a-holic and travel everywhere with a large tarp in the back of the car for impromptu plant purchases. She has been a professional designer for over 15 years, initially focusing on container installations before applying that same attention to detail to landscape design, balancing her design work with teaching, writing, travel and photography.

When we asked her about a mistake she made in her garden that turned into an unexpected learning experience, she said, “I learned the hard way that “groundcover” is a verb not just a noun, and quite literally means that the unassuming little plant I thought was cute at the nursery may be a vicious thug in disguise.”

Her memories of the garden go back to her childhood in England. “Much of my childhood was spent in a garden, whether making daisy chains on the lawn, picking English bluebells in my grandad’s garden or being fascinated by the dark red color of beetroot leaves.

The one piece of advice she would give to a new gardener would be, “Experiment and have fun!”

In this session, you will discover how I turned my latest book into a profitable online course, downloadable plans, on-site workshops, magazine articles, stock photo images, an email list magnet, and PowerPoint presentations for professionals and homeowners. Learn what worked and what didn’t. Then brainstorm how YOU can do something similar.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart is the author of six books about the natural world. Her first book, From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, was published 20 years ago.

For over a decade, Amy Stewart wrote books about the horticultural world, but they were really stories about people who happened to be involved with plants. When she made the switch to writing novels, it meant venturing into storytelling in a new and different way.

In her session, “Moving from Nonfiction to Fiction,” which runs on Friday, August 13 from 2 to 3 p.m., Amy will talk about how she made the switch, and she’ll answer your questions about both the business and the creative side of transitioning from nonfiction to fiction. For more information on Amy, visit her website.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Kathy Jentz

Kathy Jentz is the editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine – the magazine for gardening enthusiasts in the MidAtlantic region. She is also the editor of Water Garden Journal for IWGS (International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society) as well as a social media coach. A garden communicator for over 15 years, her background is as a professional journalist.

When we asked her about a mistake she made in her garden that turned into an unexpected learning experience, she said, “When I started, I went to many plant swaps and if anyone said a plant was an “aggressive spreader” I snapped it up as I had a lot of turf grass lawn to replace with planting beds. Now, I am that person at the plant swaps giving out many pots of “aggressive spreaders” to eager newbie gardeners.”

Kathy’s garden memories go back to early childhood. “I remember picking blueberry picking in Alaska as a toddler. A butterfly landed on my knee and I freaked out, but now looking back I see what a blessing that was.”

Her best advice to a new gardener is “Don’t be afraid to fail; real gardeners kill many plants on their gardening journey.”

In her presentation, “Press Releases for Garden Communicators”, which runs from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 14, Kathy will share what she has learned in her somewhat unconventional approach. She says that she has been accused of being a “media whore” by jealous neighbors, who have noticed she has popped up in stories on every local TV and radio station and local newspaper at one time or another. She prefers to think of herself as a “savvy media maven.”

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Susan Poizner

Susan Poizner, Founder of Orchard People Fruit Tree Care Education is an award-winning author, journalist, filmmaker, and urban orchardist. She has been a fruit tree care educator since 2013 and currently teaches fruit production at Niagara College in Ontario, Canada. 

With a goal to make fruit tree care easy, Susan created OrchardPeople.com where people can find a blog, podcast, books, and online courses. On the site, she expresses the challenges that beginning orchardists may face.

“If only growing fruit trees was easy. Many of us plant our trees thinking that all we need to do is water them and wait for the harvest. But fruit trees can experience problems including poor fruit quality, pests, and disease.”

She began creating various e-learning materials for people who are starting their own orchards because it was “exactly what I needed when I planted my first fruit trees in 2009.”

It’s hard to imagine an expert like Susan making a mistake, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? We asked her about a gardening mistake she made that led her to where she is today, she responded,

“One of my biggest gardening “mistakes” was planting fruit trees in 2009! I planted nine fruit trees in a community orchard in my local park that year. But the problem was that I didn’t know that fruit trees needed special pruning, feeding and care. This led to a series of fruit tree pest and disease challenges. 

If I had learned about correct fruit tree care BEFORE planting our trees, I would have selected cultivars that are easier to grow. I also would have pruned and cared for them correctly, right from the start! In the end, I learned a lot from my mistakes and shared the lessons I learned in my award-winning fruit tree care book, Growing Urban Orchards.” 

Going back ever farther in her gardening life, Susan recalls her first garden-related experience; growing tomato plants. She had just gotten married and her husband wanted to plant veggies in their garden. She was skeptical at first and thought it would be messy but as she watched those plants grow, she fell in love with the magic of gardening. She says, “It’s beautiful. It’s challenging. It is rewarding. And, as a bonus, you can often eat what you grow!”

If she could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, she would say to just dig in and give it a try! She suggests starting by growing annuals. Because they are largely transient, there is more room for trial and error. 

But when it comes to planting perennial plants, she advises to be sure to do your research first. “Perennial plants and trees are like babies. If you neglect them in the early years, they can get stressed and have health challenges in the years to follow.” She continues, “But if you care for perennial plants and trees correctly in the early years, they will have a long and healthy life.”

Susan will be sharing the skills she has honed creating online courses on day two of the GardenComm Virtual conference in a program called “Creating eLearning FAST”. 

Susan says that today, more and more people are turning to online learning, and it’s a profitable teaching tool that every garden communicator should be considering. However, she also finds that many garden communicators are hesitant, saying that they feel like in order to create a successful online course they need top-notch skills in technical areas like cinematography and sound mixing.

In this workshop, Susan will share how to create successful online courses quickly using familiar tools, like PowerPoint as well as other easy options for filming, recording and editing an online course.

Susan says, “Your goal here is to stop procrastinating, and just to roll up your sleeves and get started! I look forward to teaching you how to create eLearning fast!”

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Callie Works-Leary

In February of 2021, D Magazine printed an article called The Online Effort to Educate North Texas Gardeners that best describes one of our GardenComm 2021 Virtual Conference speakers in the Friday, August 13 lineup, Callie Works-Leary, of The Dallas Garden School.

“The Dallas Garden started as just an Instagram account, a separate social media page where founder Callie Works-Leary could talk soil and seeds and fertilizer without inundating her friends-and-family followers with all the dirty (literally) details of her gardening exploits.

Launched last April, the IG page was where the longtime home gardener and former greenhouse plant propagator could share her expert tips on everything from how to grow tomatoes on a patio to when you should get your cucumbers in the ground—all with a focus on growing in North Texas’ unique climate.

“I just kept getting wonderful feedback,” Works-Leary said, “from people who were saying, ‘Thank you so much. It’s so hard for me to find information online that is specific to our area.’ ”

The dearth of digital resources for North Texas gardeners—combined with a shelter-in-place order that shut down in-person gardening classes, prompted people all over town to try their thumb at pandemic gardening— meant more and more Dallasites were desperate for information on what to plant where and when.

“I thought this was such a unique opportunity to reach out to a new generation of gardeners,” says Works-Leary, who grew up in Dallas and is a certified Texas Master Gardener.”

Her interest in plants began in childhood when she remembers picking chamomile flowers from her mother’s garden and making it into tea. “Growing something that is useful is magical and empowering.” she says, “My purpose is to give others the necessary tools to achieve the same sense of fulfillment.”

After an early career in marketing and product development, Callie Works-Leary founded The Dallas Garden School to educate young North Texas gardeners through multichannel, digital content.

Her work in the horticulture industry began with a research internship at The Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and included work in propagation and private consulting.

She now specializes in urban food production, cut flowers, perennials, and community gardening.

Despite her success in food garden production, Callie shared an experience that most any of us can identify with when it comes to not having quite enough hours in the day to get everything done. She said, “Last summer, I left a large onion harvest to dry for a day or two in the garden. Because our community garden is a target for produce thieves, I protected the onions from prying eyes by loosely covering with floating row cover. Next day, I came back to find that the row cover had trapped enough heat to cook every single onion cooked inside their own skins!”

Callie uses Instagram’s tools to create all types of video and visual horticultural content. She says that engagement is the number one thing that the Instagram algorithm uses to decide how many people see your content. Boosting engagement will boost your reach and ultimately boost your following. Her virtual conference program taking place on Friday, August 13 at 2p ET is titled “Maximizing Your Reach on Instagram: Reels, Stories, Guides, and IGTV.” In it, you will discover ways to reach new audiences using Instagram’s latest options, you will learn the difference between Reels and IGTV, and you’ll find out when it’s most effective to use Stories vs. Guides. She’ll teach you how to improve your own engagement with real-world examples of what works, especially for gardening audiences.

Her advice to gardeners is advice we can use in many facets of our lives: “If you treat everything you do in the garden as an experiment, then you can’t fail because the feedback you get from something going wrong is ten times more valuable than the feedback you get from something going right.”

Click here for all the 2021 Virtual Conference information. Be sure to look at the tabs at the top of the pages for all the detailed education and enrichment sessions.

In addition to her conference presentation, Callie will also be presenting a virtual program to the GardenComm community on June 17. All details can be found here. We hope you will register for both of these amazing progams.

Speaker Spotlight: Michael Perry

Michael Perry, otherwise known as Mr. Plant Geek, has been a PLANT GEEK for as long as he can remember! Of course, during the “cool” teenage years, he said he desperately tried to hide it. But now, as we enjoy a golden age in horticulture, he says he “is out and proud!”

With a deep interest in horticulture that began in childhood, Michael began selling plants when he was a teenager to make pocket money. Carrying that interest into adulthood, he spent 18 years working for a premier mail order plant company in England, introducing hundreds of brand new plants into the UK marketplace, with headline grabbers such as the Egg and Chips plant and the tasty Fuchsia Berry.

Then, around four years ago on a rainy evening in New York, Michael was on the brink of going freelance and needed a title. A title that would sum up what he’s about. Mr. Plant Geek was the result!

Now his brand can be explored on the fun, yet informative website, mrplantgeek.com which provides super accessible content such as WTF Gardening, Your Ideal Plant Guide, the online ‘gardening school’ that can help any level of gardener. He’s easy to find on social media and loves sharing his plant finds with followers. “I hope to excite and inspire!” says Perry.

Michael puts a positive spin on gardening mistakes saying, “every time a planting fails, you know what not to plant there next time!” Having learned the hard way not to get too down on yourself he said the first cutting he rooted, he took home to plant and promptly stood on it. “I cried for hours!”

These days if Perry were to give any advice to new (or seasoned) gardeners, it’s that people shouldn’t get too hung up on the ‘rules’, and they should feel free to pronounce plant names however the hell you want! 

Register for Working the Plant Geek Way: An Insight into a Hortpreneur, and find out how Mr. Plant Geek works, and how he has achieved an enjoyable mixed portfolio of work! Mr Plant Geek gives us a peek behind the secret to his success, with the story behind many of the plants he’s introduced, plus he reveals his working style, how he handles social media, and the ways to keep clients happy.

Becoming A Sister Of The Soil

By Christine Froehlich

Before I jumped into the horticultural field, the only real job I had ever held was working in a bank. I had a half-finished art degree and no idea of what I wanted to do. The only soul satisfying thing I had going on was nurturing a bunch of houseplants in the sunroom of my apartment. I got the idea that I’d like working with plants professionally, so when I was biking through the park one day, I decided to apply for a job.

I’ll set the scene – 1972, Maymont Park, Richmond, Virginia. The Superintendent of Horticulture turned me down for a job – having no experience wasn’t a problem, but being female was. He thought the public wasn’t ready to see women working outside. I was dumbfounded and angry. Instead, he offered me a job inside the Victorian mansion that was being restored. There, I met five other young women who had also applied for work as gardeners. “Maybe he’d consider putting us outside at some point,” he told us. That made me even more determined.

I got my chance when one of the other girls finally wore him down (a whole other story!). Being a woman worked in my favor though. Back then, horticulture was well funded in the city of Richmond. As none of the men on the crew wanted to work in the gardens, I received lots of individual training from the staff horticulturist. I learned a lot and got totally hooked on working with plants even when I was doing jobs I didn’t like.

Landing my next job on the ground crew of an all-female school was easier. My boss was more open to the idea of women working outside, but the crew was another story. We were an unlikely combination – a young black foreman, an octogenarian farmer and a bunch of redneck mountain men. They were suspicious and patronizing, but I won them over when I learned how to operate the forklift, backhoe and gang mower. Mr. Scharr, an 86 year-old farmer, was my daily mentor. He patiently taught me the art of pruning, transplanting slips and starting seeds in the greenhouse.

Fast forward several years. I moved to Connecticut and landed a job on a small estate in Wilton as head gardener. It was a big jump. I was young, unsophisticated and had no style. Working in public gardens did not prepare me for the expectations of Manhattan weekenders or Luther Greene, the flamboyant landscape designer I worked with. A former Broadway director, writer and producer, he gardened like he was producing a play. He was an impossible taskmaster, (another whole story!) but I was determined. He taught me about the art of gardening and putting on the show.

It was invaluable training that eventually led me to start my own garden maintenance and design business. I worked hard and took classes to gain additional skills. Networking with other people in the business – landscape architects, nurserymen and other gardeners helped me to learn the ropes. I had always wanted to write about gardening too, but I didn’t know how to go about it until I was invited to my first GWA symposium in 2003. Classes and workshops helped me learn to write better, but networking with folks in this group helped me to get started in the business of garden communications. That, along with dumb luck, a stubborn nature, passion for plants and a strong work ethic have kept me going.

Speaker Spotlight: Stacey Hirvela

by Cris Blackstone

Search Engine Optimization   or

            Stacey’s Experiences are Outstanding

Cruising through anyone’s Instagram tells a story – a story they crafted intentionally or a story you put in to the stream of photos because of your own experiences. In the case of Stacey Hirvela, that story could be overwhelming. As I scrolled through her #gardenstacey site, I was impressed with how her photos are shot with such honesty, telling the story her captions enhanced, but not taken over by the ways Instagram pics can be overthought and overworked. We learn a lot about Stacey – one of her top three favorite Proven Winners Color Choice Shrubs is the Ginger Wine Ninebark; or that she’s been busy digging and prepping a garden plot and showed a multileveled shot of bones, pottery shards and glass bits she found doing that work. And the Icelandic knit sweater! That was where I stopped and went back and saw more in the photos I skimmed over, where she showed handspun yarn for a different project she was tackling! She really drew me in with that shot of the sweater ready for blocking. Iceland=my favorite vacation place! There was a part of Stacey’s story I wanted to connect with besides everything we’ll learn during her webinar on “SEO Rising to the Top-Getting to the Top of Search Results” scheduled for February 24, 2 PM EST.

Stacey Hirvela brings this topic to us, with her strong interest in people being successful with gardening and accomplishing what they want to with their personal connections to gardening. As a child, she remembers picking lily-of-the-valley flowers in her grandmother’s yard. In her first garden, she learned a lot about pruning, or maybe better said, how NOT to prune, since her severe cutback of lavender plants in that garden never quite recovered from her attempt. She’s shared that story countless times, so people realize that to garden is to grow! Grow our knowledge, confidence and that if you find what you love to grow, you’ll explore that plant and be successful. “Passion is far more crucial than knowledge or experience,” is her driving statement shared with gardeners, especially key in becoming a life-long gardener.

And, now with this role as the marketing manager for Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs, Spring Meadows Nursery and GreatGardenPlants.com, Stacy brings her outstanding experiences to her art and craft of marketing plants. During this webinar, the focus is on how to gain traction with the gamesmanship of search engine algorithms, but the person behind this webinar sharing that knowledge has a complex algorithm built from working as a landscaper during her college years, where she earned her degree in Linguistics. Hands in the dirt, boots on the ground, and seeing firsthand this type of gardening and intensive schedule gives her the strength of conviction when she recommends a plant or when she’s taking photos of plant trials which need to show, realistically, what a plant looks like and what the plant’s performance means in the garden.

Maybe it was also the Linguistics degree which led her to other outstanding experiences, such as her Sirius radio program, “Homegrown.”  Her internship with Jeff Mendoza working on urban rooftop gardens, may have led her to continuing to cultivate dream jobs such as being a horticulturist for the Tavern on the Green in Manhattan. She now includes being able to work on large scale floral design work as a consultant for corporate events.

For the Garden Communicators audience, we have in Stacey Hirvela just about every aspect of garden communication work. Radio shows, content writing, horticulture for commercial clients, Rodale press author, and successful student in the NY Botanical Gardens Professional Horticulture Program along with marketing expertise AND the skills needed for internet search language – it’s tough to define Stacey succinctly.

She’s based in Western Michigan, but has a worldly sense of plants, gardens and the ways we can utilize the worldwide web’s ability to reach as many people as possible. With this webinar, you will learn what’s needed to get the results you want and your work deserves in a google search. Stacey says she will help “make sure your work doesn’t end up in the content graveyard.”

Want to learn more about SEO? Tune in to this podcast episode with Chris Sabbarese of Corona Tools and Stacey Hirvela as they discuss SEO strategies and website optimization.

One Easy Good-for-our-Planet Step toward Sustainability

By Judy Nauseef

The Nature Conservancy in its Everyday Sustainability Guide suggests eating more plant-based foods. For a gardener, this might be easy. But we have people in our lives–husbands, parents, kids, friends, and others–who believe that meat is required at every meal and that vegetables have no flavor. They tell us we must eat meat to meet our protein needs. More about this later.

Why eat vegetables? We know that reducing the fat in our diet improves our health. Vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Vegetables are also good for the earth. Most of us would like to contribute to protecting the environment and even slowing climate change. Growing and buying vegetables can help. Simon Hill writes, what we eat is “at the heart of our global climate struggle.” (from a special edition of the magazine Nourish, https://nourishmagazine.com.au/culture/) Plant-based foods include vegetables and grains and foods made from them. Usually they have a much lower carbon and water footprint than meat. Conventionally raising animals for food uses large resources of water and animal feed and produces great quantities of methane gas, adding to the greenhouse effect. Eating a plant-based diet is responsible for a lighter footprint. As individuals we can find ways to reduce our carbon footprints.

What is a carbon footprint? It refers to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from our activities. Plants also perform another function. They pull carbon dioxide out of the air. This is carbon sequestration, a process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form. Our landscapes of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and gardens can do this and are called carbon sinks.

Like a glass greenhouse that traps the sun’s heat to create an environment for growing plants, certain molecules in the earth’s atmosphere absorb and trap the sun’s heat. These molecules are called greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect keeps the temperatures on our plant mild for living things. Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation and agricultural and land use have grown to the point where the excess heat produced cannot escape into the upper atmosphere. Our climate warms when the gases trap infrared radiation. These gases absorb and re-emit radiation, some of it returning to the earth’s surface and warming it.

Ok, let’s get to the fun part, cooking and eating vegetables as part of every meal. I am familiar with this. When I met my husband, he and I were meat eaters. His mother made a spaghetti sauce with sausage, chunks of beef, and meatballs. It was delicious. In my house, my mother made, meatloaf, meatballs, and roast and fried chicken. Sometime during the latter part of our kids’ elementary school years, he stopped eating meat, having lost a taste for it. My parents never truly reconciled our dining on vegetables alone and worried about the lack of protein in our diet. Tofu, tempeh, beans, and green leafy vegetables filled that gap.

About this time, we became serious gardeners and grew as many vegetables as we could. Our kids would not eat most vegetables at the table but loved standing in the garden eating sweet peas. Farmers’ markets became popular. Great vegetarian cookbooks appeared; we both cooked; and our food became tasty without meat. We have fallen off the wagon a little, me more than he, but still eat 95% plant-based foods at home. We have learned to cook delicious recipes with tofu and tempeh and found many unknown grains in the coop, now available in the grocery store. We still get plenty of protein. Peanut butter is a staple.

According to Project Drawdown (www.projectdrawdown.org), we can reduce the impacts of agriculture on the environment by reducing the amount of red meat we eat. This production uses more land and resources than does the growing of plant-based foods. Cutting consumption of meat can help address climate change. The sustainability of a plant-based diet includes the actions of choosing minimally processed, locally grown products, and of growing vegetables at home.

Judy Nauseef is a freelance writer and garden designer. She writes about her interests in sustainability and native plants in the book, Gardening with Native Plants in the Upper Midwest:  Bringing the Tallgrass Prairie Home. Learn more about Judy and read her blog at https://judynauseef.com.

Gardening: The Activity From Which You Never Have To Retire

By: Duane Pancoast

In my area, this is the only gardener I could find, and this guy was in British Columbia, Canada. It’s the same in many other regions, a perfect opportunity for knowledgeable, enterprising people who want to garden for a living.

You can take an interest in gardening as a child and continue that interest all through your life.  Or you can take an interest in gardening at any point during your life. Perhaps the biggest gardening myth is just now being busted: that seniors have to give up their favorite activity when age starts catching up with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can stay one step ahead of old age by continuing to adapt to compensate for our new challenges.

You may have heard of the Aging-in-Place movement. Businesses are springing up to provide services that help seniors keep living in their homes for as long as they can. The outdoor component of that movement is called Adaptive Gardening. And that’s what I write about in a blog called thegeriatricgardener.wordpress.com.

At age 82, I have a wealth of experience to draw on, as well as a growing amount of information on the internet, primarily from Extension Service sites. Conditions that create a need to adapt include mobility limitations and arthritis; cardiopulmonary and respiratory conditions; and sensory problems, such as fading vision and memory loss. Limited mobility caused by arthritic joints, especially knees and backs, seems to be what leads to most adaptive gardening.

The whole idea of adaptive gardening is to enjoy your garden more than you enjoy gardening. That means reducing the amount of work needed to maintain it. You don’t have to be a certain age to begin adapting. Gardeners in their 40s and 50s who are planning garden renovations, might consider incorporating adaptations for the future into their plans. Construction costs aren’t going down.

There comes a time, though, when aging gardeners need help. I’m all for asking family and friends, particularly children and grandchildren, for help. Working together can be a bonding experience. Who knows, it may become a new, lifelong passion for the younger family members, and a source of future GardenComm members.

Those who don’t have family willing and able need to hire outside help. In many areas of the country, finding a professional gardener can be next to impossible. There are many landscape professionals but most don’t offer gardening services. This niche could be a good opportunity for those GardenComm members who offer garden installation and maintenance service to develop another profit center. Be forewarned, however, the client will probably want to work alongside doing the jobs that they can handle. They are doers, not just watchers.

About the Author: Duane Pancoast is a garden blogger and speaker who has just written a book titled: The Geriatric Gardener, Adaptive Gardening Advice For The Senior Gardener. He has been a member of GardenComm since 1985.