#gardenstrong Sows Seeds of Enthusiasm Wisdom


by C.L. Fornari

The beauty of a hashtag is that it’s much like poetry. It indicates what it says, yet contains multiple levels of meaning that go beyond what comes after the #. Like a poem, a hashtag can be a perfect little puzzle that provides commentary or emotional resonance that extends and deepens the topic at hand.

The GardenComm Communications Committee thought #gardenstrong would be a fitting hashtag for our organization. Many are familiar with the use of strong in a slogan. It originates with the Livestrong cancer support campaign in 2004, and later as the U.S. Army’s Army Strong slogan in 2006. In the northeast people remember #BostonStrong as it was used after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. At the first Boston Red Sox game after the bombing, the announcer told the crowd, “We are one. We are strong. We are Boston. We are Boston strong.”GARDEN STRONG

For me, #gardenstrong exemplifies the significance that cultivating plants has for all people. Gardens boost our emotional and physical wellbeing. The plants we raise nourish our bodies and keep our planet healthy. Flowers make us happy. Plants enhance our landscapes and the interior of our homes. And we are constantly learning new and amazing information about how plants sustain all life on this planet.

As GardenComm members we are dedicated to spreading information and joy about plants and gardens. We want the green industry, those who grow plants or produce garden products, to be ever more robust. Our work is all about sowing seeds of knowledge and enthusiasm with the goal of creating a verdant world.

We are one. We are strong. We love gardens and believe in the importance of horticulture and awareness about plants. We are #gardenstrong.

#gardenstrong: What does it mean to you?

Meet the Author


C.L. Fornari is treasurer of GardenComm. She’s a writer, speaker, radio host, and garden geek; she and Ellen Zachos received the 2019 Gold Award from GardenComm for their Plantrama podcast.

Finding A Garden Communicator

illustration blog2

by C.L. Fornari

Changes in the GardenComm Directory

The expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” might be true in many areas of life, but not in garden communications. In the 21st century the ways people understand and engage with plants and gardens has been rapidly evolving. A mere 30 years ago only a handful of people were familiar with the word “permaculture,” and if you spoke of a “green roof,” you were most likely referring to a traditional, sod-covered building in Scandinavia.illustration blog 1

Up until the turn of the last century, a garden communicator was a writer, speaker, photographer, or broadcaster. Bloggers and podcasters didn’t exist, and no one was spreading information through social media. The internet has changed everything, and we’re constantly adapting while we discover together where this digital world will take us. Today, a more accurate saying might be “the more things change, the more we are called to change with them.”

As individual members of GardenComm move forward in this rapidly transforming new world, our organization is doing the same. One of the best examples of this growth is in the directory on our website. The link on the homepage that says “find a garden communicator” leads to our Connect page where anyone can find members based on the type of communications they do and their area of expertise. For many years there were six types of communicators…now there are 12.  Under “areas of expertise” there used to be 40 options, yet now there are 61.

Thirty years ago we didn’t envision our members blogging, podcasting or as social media influencers, and we never expected that we’d be communicating about climate change, green infrastructure, or Xeriscaping. From foraging to phytoremediation, or urban agriculture to outdoor living spaces, our members have expanded into unexpected areas of expertise as the world changes.

We are #TeamHorticulture. The more things change, the more we grow.



Move Over Hydrangeas – Houseplants Are Back!

Striped bamboo fern, bird's nest fern, heart fernby Lisa Eldred Steinkopf

Sign-up for Lisa’s Webinar Today

Houseplants have taken a back seat in the last few decades. They were huge in the 70’s hanging around in their orange macramé holders. It seems hydrangeas, cone flowers, hostas, and perennials in general were the hot topic for so many years. Guess what, houseplants are back (and so is macramé). Move over hydrangeas. I could not be happier!

There is a plethora of information out there about houseplants. More is coming out every day. Much of it isn’t all that reliable. Why does everyone still think “drainage” in the bottom of a pot is necessary? Or that misting a plant raises the humidity for any amount of time? Why do so many people not know which way their windows face? These are all questions that keep me up at night. Do they make you lose sleep? Probably not. I am a bit obsessed with houseplants.Trichomes on Tillandsia tectorum

Once these questions have been addressed and you know which way your window faces, its time to choose some appropriate plants. Low light, high light, medium light. How do you know what you have? Just because you have a south window, which should be high light, doesn’t mean you will have that good light. Why? An evergreen tree is in front of the window, blocking the light. Or your neighbor’s house or the neighboring apartment building is casting a shadow. All these factors must be considered when deciding how much light you have to offer your houseplants.

So now you have your light situation figured out, have purchased appropriate plants (notice that is not singular), and all is going along just fine. Then you start seeing yellow leaves and one of your plants just doesn’t seem happy. What is going on? If you have a problem with your plant, the first thing to do is figure out what the problem is. Don’t assume you have bugs and spray insecticide. It may be that your plant is simply acclimatizing to your house and while doing so, may lose a couple of leaves. It isn’t unusual and it will adjust. Yet it may be an insect problem or a fungus. This is what must be figured out before action is taken.

These are just some of the things I will cover in my upcoming webinar. Please join me to talk all things houseplants. It will be fun!

Sign-up for Lisa’s Webinar Today

Meet the Author

Lisa Eldred Steinkopf is the Houseplant Guru,lisaPS 4 featuring all things houseplants on her website, thehouseplantguru.com. She is the author of Houseplants, The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Indoor Plants and Grow in The Dark, How to Choose and Care for Low-Light Houseplants. In addition, she has written for Better Homes and Gardens magazine, HGTVgardens.com, Real Simple magazine, the houseplant section of Allan Armitage’s app and writes regular columns for Michigan Gardener Magazine.


Book Award? Me? Never.

bookBy Lisa Mason Ziegler

Acting out—a sign of future greatness?

Now I see it. My acting out in school was a result of so much good stuff bottled up inside that I couldn’t handle it. This is the image I see as I look back through elementary to my high school years.

College? Are you kidding me? I felt like a prisoner in school. Under constant pressure with no control over my own circumstances. Why on earth would I choose to continue this torture when I was counting the days to escape, whoopsie… graduate from high school. And I barely made it out.

Hi, my name is Lisa and I am dyslexic. Until my adult years, I never knew that there was a name for it. I never knew others struggled with what I faced. What seemed so easy for others was a struggle for me and others in my own family. It was only as an adult that the pieces began to fit together.

It started when my sister Suzanne called. She had just watched a documentary and through her breaking voice tried to tell me— it was our life, our story. And others had it too.

When she arrived for work the next day on my flower farm, we went to her desk and watched: The Big Picture, Rethinking Dyslexia.  She was right. It was us—hook, line and sinker. We watched it several times, with tears. Slowly, relief and affirmation began to seep in. After work, I watched it over and over. To this day it still helps me to watch it and hear others talk about dyslexia. Because I still face daily challenges. I need to be reminded that there are others, and no, we are not “normal”—we are extraordinary.

“Delightful child that needs to apply herself, talks too much, needs to practice reading and writing more, always in the middle of trouble, and often leading the way. Lisa expresses no fear.” These are the comments teachers shared with my parents through my school years. How many hours did I sit at my Dad’s drawing table (a dyslexic too) with graph paper practicing writing my letters over and over….

I didn’t really understand that I couldn’t spell. My first rude awakening as an adult was at my job as a receptionist at a very busy veterinarian hospital. A big part of that job was passing written phone messages on to the doctor. Oh boy. I was mortified when Dr. H came to me and said, “You are the best receptionist I’ve ever had. Because of that I’m saying this— you cannot spell, I’m going to correct your notes for your eyes only to help you, not to criticize.”

Major turning point in my life. From this experience I became more aware of the problems I faced. Until then it had just been filed under Lisa struggles to read and needs to improve her writing skills.

One vivid memory happened in the 3rd grade. I once again had gotten in trouble for talking. My discipline was to stay in during recess and write 25 times on the blackboard “I will not talk in Mrs. Hamner’s Class.” I could not write the sentence exactly the same over and over. I tried so hard, but the more I tried, the worse my sentences got. She saw this as defiance. With each error she added more times I had to write the sentence. I never succeeded. I remember little to nothing else from elementary school.

I grew into a “handful” in middle school. Joined the wrong crowd, because the right crowd was involved in things like advanced classes and the yearbook club— things beyond me.

In high school I learned how to keep my head down and get through the classes so I could graduate. While my friends were talking about SAT tests and college, I was silent.

I worked at that veterinary hospital for 15 years and went on to manage the office of 4 doctors and about 16 support staff. From bookkeeping to counseling pet owners and employees, it was not a job for the faint at heart, I thrived doing it. The crazier it was, the more I loved it. This prepared me for the rest of my business life. I learned the business by doing and seeing, exactly the way I, a dyslexic, was built to learn.

After making the jump from dogs to gardening and then straight into farming, I had a hankering to share and write about what I was doing. Having a computer with spellcheck almost made this possible. While folks seem to associate transposing letters and numbers with dyslexia, it is so much more than that.  Grammar, what the heck is that? I have no understanding of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. I’d rather eat worms than have to face this issue.

In spite of no working knowledge of grammar, I began scratching words out in an effort to share about this journey of becoming a successful flower farmer. That’s when I connected with a life-long family friend, Susan Ackerman. I had written something that was going to be read by a wider audience and thought I should have it proofed. Susan, a professional writer, offered to look over my work.

This was the start of an amazing journey for me. I was now susanan adult, aware that I faced issues, and had a need or drive to figure it out— not just to get out of school but for self- affirmation of this thing I wanted to share. Susan’s gentle and simple corrections and explanations helped me to recognize and begin to self correct. Susan is still my personal editor on many projects, in fact she will proofread this article. Because I almost always do all things last minute, you may find some of my writings without her “tweaking my words,” as she calls it. Susan says that’s okay, because the power in my writing is already there in my thoughts and facts and images. All she does is smooth out the mechanics.

A note from Lisa’s editor Susan Yoder Ackerman:

I always got in trouble at school for talking, too, just like Lisa. But I could spell. It seemed like I was born to recognize what a word should look like and how a sentence should flow. Reading and writing were what I did for fun, and when I grew up, writing became my profession as well.

Lisa is so good at speaking. She instinctively knows how to draw people in and teach them new insights into gardening. She knows how to mix humor with facts—how to lighten up and get a point across. These qualities are exactly what makes good writing as well. And so, when Lisa shoots me an article to go over, I can count on the quality. All I have to do is tweak the wording and the spelling and the grammar. Put an –ly on an adverb. Repair a redundancy. Correct a misspelling. I don’t revise and rewrite. I tweak.

There is no ego involved in this. Lisa never complains about my changes. Sometimes I think she doesn’t even read them.

For me, there is joy in taking her work and making the meaning just a little more accessible to the reader. It truly is an honor!


cooclIt is her having my spelling/grammar back that gave me the courage to submit a book idea based on a popular talk I’d given for years. That was my first published book in 2014, Cool Flowers with St. Lynn’s Press.

I wrote a book! I can’t tell you how stunned I was to see my words in print. In a book. Unbelievable.

I continued to excel as a speaker sharing about what I was doing on my flower farm. My ability to share the good and the bad, ups and downs, and my mere screw-ups made me a candid and factual speaker.

vegeIn 2016 I was offered a second opportunity to write a book, Vegetables Love Flowers was published in 2018 by Cool Springs Press. Again, I had the courage to tackle this project because I had Susan at my side backing me up on paper.

When I received word that Vegetables Love Flowers was awarded the Silver Medal Award by Garden Communicators International, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe my peers recognized my work; the highest honor possible in my eyes. That I’m a peer in a professional writing circle in itself is amazing to me.

I’m sharing my thank you response to the award news below. This award has made me stand taller and renewed my interest in sharing my story to encourage and educate others. Thank you GardenComm!

Dear Jenn,

Thank you so much for this good news! Beyond being so honored to be recognized by my peers I must share that this is beyond any dream I ever allowed myself to even imagine. To win an award for a book I wrote…totally amazing. Because of my dyslexia, until about 10 years ago I rarely wrote a word. But through the gentle pushing and instruction of a friend that is a professional writer I started on the journey of sharing what was rolling around in my head. While I used to be ashamed of my struggle to read and write and thought of it as a handicap, I now know that dyslexics have powerful gifts that normal folks just don’t have. I share this at every opportunity to empower kids and parents struggling with dyslexia.  Dyslexia has been such a gift for me and others– powerful speakers that speak from the heart and some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world are dyslexics. It gives the power to pursue journeys that others only dream about.

This award is the icing on the cake of life that is affirming my journey. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all that made this so.

Kindest Regards,


Who knows, maybe dyslexic folks are the norm and the rest of you are broke? Remember, acting out can be a sign of greatness.

Lisa Z

P.S. A great TedX talk for more insight: The True Gifts of Dyslexics

Lisa Mason Ziegler

Founder of The Gardener’s Workshop and Flower Farming School Online .

Award-winning Author of Vegetables Love Flowers, and Cool Flowers.

Watch Lisa’s Story and view her blog Field & Garden

Connect with Lisa on Facebook  and Instagram !

A New Wave of Delaware Gardens 

header.jpegSouthern Delaware is best known for its resort towns on the Atlantic Ocean. Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach draw thousands of vacationers every summer. Personally, I prefer the warm days and cool nights of early fall, after the summer crowds are gone. I’ve been vacationing in Rehoboth Beach for 25 years, for the beaches, for outlet mall shopping, for the wonderful restaurants, and more recently for riding the area’s awesome bike trails.

A new public garden will soon be another good reason to visit!

The centerpiece of the GardenComm Region II meeting on Friday, October 11, will be the newly opened Delaware Botanic Garden at Pepper Creek. This is a project I’ve been following for several years, and shortly after the garden’s location was finalized I had the opportunity to visit the site, 37 acres of abandoned farmland, creekside forest, and marshland. I wrote about it for my blog in October 2015 (see Big News in Southern Delaware) but I haven’t been back since then. Staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to get it ready for its public opening, so I’m excited to see the progress that has been made. This will be a rare chance to visit a new botanic garden in its earliest stages.


We have a full day planned, with an early start at Baywood Greens, a public golf course. The clubhouse has an excellent restaurant and hosts weddings and other events. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, with well-maintained gardens all around the clubhouse. When I was scouting locations this spring with Louise Clarke, she said without hesitation, “We have to bring the group here.”

From there, we’ll head to the Delaware Botanic Garden (DBG) for a tour of its gardens. The grand opening is scheduled for September 12, so we’ll be among the first visitors to see the new gardens. A meadow designed by Piet Oudolf has generated a lot of attention, and will be one of the highlights of our tour.

Lunch at Good Earth Market and Organic Farm is included in your registration. During the growing season, some of the food they serve comes from their own kitchen garden behind the restaurant. We’ll be choosing from a fixed menu, but please visit them another time for their creative and delicious selections. (A chilled cucumber soup with crab made me swoon this spring.) The property also offers lodging in the form of small cottages and a “tiny house” that attendees may want to investigate.

There are several excellent garden centers in the area, but we’ll only have time to stop at Inland Bays Garden Center, a small business that specializes in native plants. The owners will tell us a bit about the challenges of operating a small garden center in a resort area.

Among the private gardens we’ll visit are Mill Pond Garden, a private botanic garden shimzu.jpegand certified wildlife habitat created by Mike Zajic, founder of the DBG and former Director of Horticulture at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. We’ll also visit the charming town of Lewes to see the garden of Holly Shimizu, former Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. Holly’s property even has a tiny cottage that can be rented for a romantic getaway. We’ll end the day at my own garden in Rehoboth Beach, where we can relax and socialize before heading to dinner at a nearby restaurant (optional, not included in registration).

If you’re spending Friday night in the area, join us for a bonus visit to Pepper Greenhouses in Milton on Saturday morning. This sprawling, quirky garden center is known for its huge selection of rare and unusual plants, and it’s right on the way home if you’re driving north on Rt. 1 or west on Rt. 16. Those who want to linger just a bit more will then gather for a Dutch treat lunch at a local restaurant before heading our separate ways.boggan.jpeg

Early October is a wonderful time of year to visit southern Delaware. I can’t stress enough how much this area has to see and do, and you may want to spend an extra day. At a minimum, I would recommend walking around downtown Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. In addition to shopping and dining options, you’ll appreciate the beautification efforts of two volunteer organizations, Lewes in Bloom and Rehoboth in Bloom. And if you’re going to drag a partner or spouse to one of our regional meetings, this is the one! There’s plenty for them to do while we’re off touring gardens, from riding the bike trails to kayaking in the bay, visiting WWII observation towers, birding at Gordon’s Pond, or shopping at the outlet malls. Best of all, the ocean is still warm enough for swimming!

Registration is limited to 30 attendees. Don’t delay to make your arrangements because our meeting falls on the beginning of a holiday weekend. Finding lodging Thursday night should be easy but Friday night may be a bit trickier.

Click here to register

Meet the jboggan.jpegAuthor

John Boggan is a botanist, plant breeder, occasional garden blogger, and general know-it-all. He divides his time between his gardens in Washington, DC and Rehoboth Beach, DE. His latest project is breeding begonias that are hardy in zone 7. You can find his blog at DC Tropics.

Five Items to Prepare for #GardenComm2019


As I write this post, there are approximately 16 days, about two weeks, before the start of GardenComm’s annual conference. Though I’ve attended numerous GardenComm conferences, I’m a first timer when it comes to Salt Lake City and the mountains. I’m looking forward to seeing what their gardens look like compared to mine!

But before I board the plane that will take me non-stop from Indianapolis to SLC, I’m making lists to make sure I don’t forget anything and am ready to go once I land.

Here’s my list:

  1. Business cards. Some may think business cards are old-fashioned but most of us still prefer to get that little piece of cardboard to remember one another.  I’ve ordered and received new business cards and put them on the pile of stuff I don’t want to forget to take to the conference. 
  2. One sheets.  For the first time, GardenComm will have tables set up at the expo where members can leave copies of their one sheets for others to take. What’s a one sheet? It’s basically a one page document, sometimes printed on both sides, sometimes graphical, that provides more information about who you are and what you do.  Check out additional information on the GardenComm website.  Don’t have a one-sheet? Get busy and create one. It can be plain or use a site like Canva to dress it up, and then take it to a local print shop to make some copies. 
  3. Pitch session sign ups.  Attendees who are members of GardenComm have the amazing opportunity to pitch their ideas to editors of magazines, books, and websites. Two weeks out, there are still some open time slots so members can now sign up for more than one session. Details are on the GardenComm website. And now that I’ve signed up, I’m polishing up a pitch or two I’m planning to make and bringing copies of them with me. 
  4. Education sessions. One of the biggest decisions to make when attending any conference is which education sessions to attend. There are three during each time slot. I like to have a good idea before the conference which ones I’m planning to attend so I study the list before I leave home. They are all listed on the website. 
  5. Chargers, chargers, chargers.  I’m rounding up all the chargers I need so I can stay fully connected at GardenComm. Watch. Phone. iPad. Check, check, check.  Oh, and an extra portable battery charger for the story tours. 

What’s on your list of what to bring and what to do before you leave home? Did I forget anything?  

Meet the Author


Carol Michel is an author, speaker, and gardener based in Indianapolis, Indiana, looking forward to her 11th GardenComm conference.