Chicago Botanic Garden | Buehler Enabling Garden

header.jpgBy Toni Gattone

A few weeks ago, I attended the GWA: Association for Garden Communicators conference in my hometown of Chicago. I joined their organization in 2015 when I discovered it was open to all garden communicators, including speakers, writers, and photographers. Three years ago, I was a garden speaker and I was anxious to hone my craft.


Since then, I have become an author, having just finished my manuscript for my upcoming book that will be published next year by Timber Press. It was a daunting task, but I am happy to have accomplished such a goal. Because of my affiliation with GWA, I now have a network with many talented and accomplished authors and speakers.

Continue reading “Chicago Botanic Garden | Buehler Enabling Garden”

Why I’m Making it a Priority to Attend Cleveland Grows!

Green Circle Growers Orchid Bay_GCG webBy Susan Martin

BUSY. It is our standard response when someone asks us how we’re doing and there’s no doubt many of us truly are busy. Making a living as a professional garden communicator takes a tremendous amount of effort to stay connected, educate ourselves on current issues and practices, and to keep the work coming.

As the summer travel season is coming to a close, maybe you are feeling weary of traveling to trade shows held in huge conference centers packed to the gills with merchandise, coordinating meetups and dinners with colleagues and schlepping backbreaking loads of catalogs back to your hotel room. I get it. I’ve been there—just a month or so ago, in fact.

But I’m going to the GWA Cleveland Grows! meeting anyway. Why?

First, I’m going because Clevelander Maria Zampini and I have crafted a once in a lifetime experience for you. Our scheming began on a rainy night last October (yes, we’ve been planning this for almost a year!) at my kitchen table over a glass of wine and a map of Cleveland. No huge conference centers, no schlepping, and everything is planned for you.

I’m also attending because I know this event is going to be a ton of FUN. I like to plan the kinds of meetings I like to attend. If you’ve ever attended a meeting I’ve planned, you know I pack a lot of action into a short amount of time and everyone leaves with cool swag. Cleveland Grows! will be no different.

Most importantly, I’m attending because this is going to be one of the best opportunities for professional development I’ve had all year. We’ve planned a wide range of experiences that will offer something for everyone who attends.

We’ll be touring two grower operations I’ve been reading other people’s stories about for Landcraft-DennisSchrader's gardenyears but have never toured myself—Willoway Nurseries and Green Circle Growers. Both companies are rolling out the red carpet for us, giving us private tours, telling us the stories behind their operations, feeding us catered meals and giving out the kind of swag that will make you swoon. The photo opps are bound to be equally valuable.

We’re touring Petitti Garden Center too, consistently ranked in the top 100 garden centers in all of America. Given that IGCs are some of my favorite places on earth, I’m pretty confident I’ll like this place. We’ll also get caught up on trends this retailer has seen this season, which will lead to new story ideas.

For my own personal gardening inspiration, I am looking forward to touring the private gardens of award winning local garden designers Bobbie Schwartz and Nancy Drobnick. Bobbie and I share a love of perennial plants and membership in the Perennial Plant Association. She’ll be signing copies of her new book, Garden Renovation, for us in her garden. For over 40 years, Nancy has studied has intensely studied world metaphysics, mathematics, physics, astronomy and horticulture. People who have visited her garden tell me my mind will be blown. I can’t wait.

The most incredible opportunity we’ve lined up is something unique to Cleveland. This area happens to be the home of many of the industry’s leading trade publications’ editors including Matt McClellan (GIE Media), Jen Polanz (Ball Publishing) and Janeen Wright (Meister Media). They will be joining us on Friday evening during our catered dinner sponsored by Green Circle Growers for a Meet the Editors panel discussion. They’ll share what they are looking for from us and we’ll have a frank discussion of how we can all work better together. Live. In person. Exclusively for our group. What a remarkable opportunity!

At the end of an exhausting but extremely fulfilling Friday, we’ll retire to the Embassy Suites by Hilton hotel in Beachwood, OH. Rooms are large enough to share and the hotel offers a free breakfast. It is conveniently located just minutes from our first stop of the day on Saturday morning.

This meeting is guaranteed to be 24 hours of incredibly worthwhile experiences that will refresh my spirit, renew my way of thinking about how our industry operates, boost my photo library and fill my “fun” quota for the month. I wouldn’t miss it. How could you?


All are welcome—bring a friend!
Member Rate: $60/person
Members can reserve a spot for a guest at their own member rate.
Non-Member Rate: $95/person

Did we mention we’re only holding 50 spots open for this event? Register today while there are still a few spots left!

Questions? Reach me at or Maria Zampini at or call the GWA office at 212.297.2198.

See you in Cleveland!

Meet the AuthorSue Martin

Susan Martin is a Regional Director for Region III and member since 2004. She works full time as a professional horticultural marketer, writer and speaker for trade and consumer audiences. After earning her stripes pulling weeds in her mother’s garden since age four, Susan has earned the pleasure of gardening in “black gold” (acidic sandy loam) near the shore of Lake Michigan.


More Opportunities to Learn and Connect with GWA

Des Moines Botanical Garden Panarama - 128120-128122 - 3x11
Photo courtesy of Bill Johnson

What? You missed the GWA Annual Conference in Chicago and want to figure out how to catch up?

Or maybe you were in Chicago and want to extend the experience of connecting with and learning from fellow GWA members?

Good.  You are in luck because there are several future events you can still register for and attend. Maybe they are as close as a lovely drive through the countryside! Continue reading “More Opportunities to Learn and Connect with GWA”

First thing I’m going to do…

Logo - White Background.pngCompile by Carol Michel

If you made the good decision to go to the annual conference this year in Chicago, how do you get your money’s worth out of it?  By following up! I asked members to send me information on the first thing they plan to do with information they learned at this year’s conference.

In no particular order…

Eva Monheim plans to redo her website and come up with three words to describe what she does. She was inspired to do so after listening to the keynote program  with Daymond John that we attended with IGC (Independent Garden Center) trade show attendees.  In addition, she and Louise Clarke are going to have their own one day brainstorming session to see how they can leverage what they learned and come up with a full strategy to implement a new speaking business.  She is also going to continue to work with Teresa Woodard on holding each other accountable for their lists of what they want to accomplish over the next year.

Mary Schier plans to set up a Google-Plus page because she learned in the session From Byline to Brand with Megy Karydes that doing so will make the Google gods happy and help with search engine optimization.

Kathy Purdy is going to get out her camera, its manual, and the handout from Mark Turner’s talk on Take Control of Your Camera and figure out how to set it on aperture priority, shutter priority and exposure compensation.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp attended Melinda Myer’s session “Build a Profitable Speaking Business” which she said reinforced what she is doing with her own website redesign.  Jo Ellen will be making sure her updated site emphasizes prime income producing areas and highlights how to contact her right up front.

Joan Calder plans to download the Grow It mobile app and use it to share her ideas and photos.

Amy Mullen plans to share what she learned from Roy Diblik in his session on “Creating and Caring for Perennial Plant Communities” with the staff at Spotts Garden Service where she works. She is also going to change her garden coaching approach afte attending Sue Goetz’s session on garden coaching.

Karen Kennedy is also thinking about how to approach the garden coaching aspect of her business after attending Sue Goetz’s session. And after hearing Megy Karydes talk “From Byline to Brand”, she is going to work on an update to her website.

Perla Curbelo also attended Sue Goetz’s session and decided her first thing is to edit her description of her coaching services to be more targeted and also review her fees.

Kimberly Toscano Holmes and Steve Moore both plan to download the PDFs of all the sessions, even those they didn’t attend.

Finally, Gail Hudson plans to reach out to folks she met last week and take to heart some of the advice from the session “From Byline to Brand”.

Me? I’ve already done my first thing which was to take a nice long nap.  And of course block my calendar for September 4– 7, 2019 for the next annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Now I can start in on my real first thing which is to improve my brand by adding a consistent headshot on all the various social media channels where I can be found.

What’s your first thing? How about a comment to tell us what it is and what session or discussion inspired it? Who knows, it might become someone else’s next first thing!

Meet the AuthorJvFjFkJg[1].jpeg

Carol Michel is the author of Potted & Pruned: Living a Gardening Life, which received a gold award from GWA: The Association of Garden  Communicators, and Homegrown and Handpicked: A Year in a Gardening Life. She is also a lifelong gardener with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture production from Purdue University, an avid collector of old gardening books and claims to have the largest hoe collection in the world. She posts regularly on her award-winning garden blog,