Meet GardenComm Virtual Conference Speaker, Katie Elzer-Peters

Katie Elzer-Peters
The Garden of Words

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Katie Elzer-Peters got her professional start in public gardens and has now worked in the horticulture industry for over 20 years

Katie’s knowledge extends far beyond the garden, of course. She’s the woman behind The Garden of Words, LLC, a green industry digital marketing agency that helps companies develop websites, sell gardening products, publish books, scale up, and do email marketing.

Let’s learn a little more about Katie!

Tell us a little about what you do and how long have you worked in the horticulture industry?
I run The Garden of Words, LLC, a green industry digital marketing agency. We help companies large and small (including sole proprietors) develop websites (including ecommerce), sell gardening products online and at brick and mortar stores, publish books, scale their companies, and do email marketing. I have worked in the horticulture industry for about 22 years. I began working in public gardens and then transitioned to marketing. I’ve loved plants since I learned how to walk and talk.

What is the first garden-related experience you can remember?
I remember getting in trouble for putting sand from my sandbox in my mom’s flowerbeds. I told her “it improved drainage.” I was also completely obsessed with purple- and white-striped petunias as a kid. My first plants I really remember growing from seed are zinnias. I used to plant gobs of them. (We’re talking 6 to 8 years old here.)

Talk about a mistake you made in your garden once that turned into an unexpected learning experience.
Uh, all of gardening in the South! Right after I bought my house here I planted WAY too much too closely together. I did not realize that plants will legitimately engulf your house if you let them here. I learned to a) give more space, b) seriously shop for the compact varieties, and c) give my garden a good chop 2 to 3 times per year.

If you could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, what would it be?
You will kill tons of plants. Everyone kills tons of plants. Don’t try once, fail, and give up. Keep trying and learning.

What’s a good teaser we could provide to audiences about your session content that might pique their interest?
I want to help people make their online footprint work efficiently and effectively without sucking their lives away.

What is your favorite plant to grow?
My favorite plants to grow are coneflowers and rudbeckias. I just love them so much—and so do the butterflies. They also last ridiculously long as cut flowers. I have a few that are on day 12 on my desk!
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Meet GardenComm Virtual Conference Speaker, Diane Blazek

Diane Blazek
Executive Director
All-America Selections/National Garden Bureau

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Diane will be featured on Tuesday, August 11 and Wednesday, August 12 during the GardenComm conference as she unveils plant varieties that are new to the market now, or will be introduced in the upcoming season.

Learning about new plants is something we all love, and learning more about Diane is just as fun! So we asked a few questions so everyone can become better acquainted with her.

Tell us a little about what you do and how long have you worked in the horticulture industry?
I am the Executive Director of two separate non-profit organizations. I’ve been in the industry since 1993 (27 years!) and my role is pretty diverse ranging from legal matters and financial management to speaking engagements and social media management.

What is the first garden-related experience you can remember?
Sitting in the shade of our maple trees in the yard, with my mom, scraping carrots and shelling peas so we could can them for winter eating.

What is the first plant you ever grew successfully?
I grew “Cockscomb” celosia (cristata) around our patio after my dad made new garden beds for us to use.

Talk about a mistake you made in your garden once that turned into an unexpected learning experience.
Which one? Ha! There are so many. In the beginning, not understanding the importance of soil composition or how useful fertilizers can be. Then, as I learned more about breeding, I started to realize the importance of different varieties. You really need to track which “red petunia” you use so you can track your favorites and/or the best performers.

If you could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid of failure. Just learn from your mistakes and failures. Keep a good journal to track it all.

What is your favorite plant to grow?
Herbs! Specifically basil. It’s so easy to impress my husband by growing basil then making pesto to freeze for later. I love impressing him with my gardening skills but don’t tell him how easy it is to grow basil!!!!

Normally we’d ask Diane for some teaser content for her session, but since it’s about new varieties, that could give away too much! So make sure you’re registered for the conference so you can be among the first garden communicators to see these fascinating new plant varieties.
Register Today

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Meet GardenComm Virtual Conference Speakers Abra Lee and Ellen Zachos

Starting today through Thursday, you will receive a dailyGardenComm Virtual Conference “Speaker Spotlight” email featuring one or more of our speakers. The series content includes responses to personal and industry questions we have asked all our speakers so you can get to know them better (sort of like chatting with them at a meal or in the hallway – a pivot for 2020).  

We are thrilled to kick-off our Speaker Spotlight Series with our opening session co-presenters,Abra Lee, owner ofConquer the Soil, a community that celebrates horticulture beyond plants andEllen Zachos, the Backyard Forager, a Harvard graduate, author of seven books, regular columnist for Edible New Mexico, and co-host of the Plantrama podcast. 

Abra and Ellen’s discussion,Finding Your Purpose, Forging Your Path, will explore the well-developed specialty, singular passion and unique voice each of us have to answer WHY people should listen to you. And when you’ve figured out your WHY, when you’ve found your purpose, your people will find you. And isn’t that why we all do what we do?

This isn’t a quick and easy fix. Finding your purpose takes time and dedication. But once you’ve defined your WHY, once you’ve discovered your purpose, work is no longer work. The joy of doing what you love is priceless. 
Please enjoy the below Q&A with Abra (responses noted as AL) and Ellen (responses noted as EZ). 

Tell us a little about what you do and how long have you worked in the horticulture industry?

AL: I write and speak for the company I founded named Conquer the Soil where I provide an experience in horticulture beyond the world of plants. My audience is people that are fond of culture, history, pop culture, and the arts. So I discuss these things with them through the lens of horticulture. 
I have worked in this industry for 20 years.

EZ: My first career was on Broadway. After leaving the cast of Les Miz, I went back to school at the New York Botanical Garden and earned certificates in ornamental horticulture and ethnobotany. I taught at the NYBG on a wide range of subjects, and founded Acme Plant Stuff, a boutique garden design/install/maintenance company specializing in rooftop gardens and private greenhouses. In 2014 I moved from NYC to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I continue to enjoy an entirely new plant palette. 

What is the first garden-related experience you can remember? OR What is the first plant you ever grew successfully?

AL: My first garden-related experiences happened in my childhood. On the weekend we would go down to my Mama’s hometown of Barnesville, Georgia. It was rural and the the dirt road country and I loved it. Here I was exposed to gardening on our family farm.

EZ: My yiayia was an amazing gardener. She died before she could teach me (although I bet she knew how to forage because she was a sturdy Greek peasant), but I remember she grew a peach tree from a pit and gave it to my dad, who planted it in front of our house. I don’t know how old I was, but we moved out of that house when I was 9, so I’m guessing I was 4-5. That peach tree produced the sweetest, most delicious peaches I’ve ever eaten.

Talk about a mistake you made in your garden once that turned into an unexpected learning experience.

AL: I remember being an intern and on my first week on the job and skinning the bermuda grass (cutting it too low) with a mower. My supervisor was irate with me. I learned a) stay calm everybody it’s just grass —and— b) when I became in charge one day I would never ever talk to my team like that.

EZ: I once planted a large window box for a client with a small terrace and no irrigation. I’d never take on a terrace client without irrigation now, but I was young and foolish. I incorporated some water retaining polymer granules. I thought that was smart. What was NOT smart was that I didn’t hydrate them before mixing them into the potting mix. I watered the planted window box and went home. The next day I got a call from my very confused client. As the granules absorbed water overnight, they expanded, and the soil and plants spilled out over the edge, making a huge mess. 

If you could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, what would it be?

AL: Poke around and try a little bit of everything. Garden tours, different plants, flower shows, various products, bonsai, etc. You will find your lane and find your people if you give yourself the freedom to experience all kinds of different stuff.
EZ: Don’t beat yourself up when something dies on your watch. It happens to all of us, and that’s how we learn.

What is your favorite plant to grow? OR, In your next life, if you were to come back as any plant, what would it be?
AL: Orchids have done wonders for my self-esteem. I am pretty proud that everytime I have been gifted an orchid I get it to rebloom multiple times. Since I have a 0% fail rate with that plant (and fingers crossed I keep it up) it is my favorite one to grow.

EZ: Oh my god, I am going to pretend you didn’t ask me what plant I’d like to be in my next life. First of all, there is no next life. Second, I do not want to be a plant.

What’s a good teaser we could provide to audiences about your session content that might pique their interest? 

It isn’t until you are brave enough to stand out that you start to fit in. Join this candid discussion on how we ran out of darns to give and freed our brands by embracing our true identities in the garden industry.
We all look forward to seeing you online August 10 – 13. More conference information here.

Interested in Sponsorship for visibility and access to the GardenComm Network? Click here to email us today.

Zoom Presentations

A Recipe, From My Experience

cl raving about plantsBy C.L. Fornari

When the pandemic hit, I needed a way keep the garden center where I work connected with our customers. I wanted to be sure that whether the nursery could remain open or not, we would keep people excited about plants and gardens.  As a speaker, I also saw that the presentations that were booked for the spring and summer would need to be done virtually. And finally, I am still promoting my latest book and since book signings needed to be canceled, I needed a way to hold virtual book groups and promotional talks for Sand and Soil.

This led me to do a deep dive into the Zoom software, and I quickly learned to fly by the seat of my pants as I presented events for my IGC, book discussions, and talks to garden clubs. Here is my advice to those who are looking to do the same.

  • Investigate the various options for Zoom plans based on whether you want to record your presentations and the anticipated size of your audiences. Note that the free version doesn’t give you the option to record your talks.
  • My first mistake was in making my first IGC event a meeting instead of a webinar. Zoom meetings are limited to 200 people and, holy mugwort!, my first call had 250 people wanting to join in. We had 50 very unhappy customers who couldn’t take part.
  • Make sure your computer has the privacy settings to allow for Zoom to share the screen and your microphone.
  • Set up your event so that attendees can’t enter before you do, and so that they are muted on entry. If you don’t do this, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who don’t understand how to mute themselves. All of the background noise from those attendees will be distracting to others.
  • If you’re presenting solo (without panel members or a moderator) limit attendees’ questions to the “Chat” feature. Tell them at the beginning how to see the speech bubble at the bottom that opens the chat window. Explain that if they find the stream of chat distracting, they can click on that bubble again and the window will disappear.
  • Turn off the Q&A feature in advance so you won’t be distracted by those who ignore chat and put questions there. Turn off the ability for attendees to raise their hands as well. This helps to keep your multi-tasking to a minimum.
  • When setting up a webinar, click the box that enables a practice session. This allows you to open up the link in advance without recording or allowing attendees to access the meeting before you’re ready. You can open the link, check your settings, and even practice screen sharing one last time before starting the actual broadcast.
  • Click on the speech bubble to open your window for viewing chat before you launch the meeting. Then you won’t have to think about it later.
  • If you’re going to publicize the meeting link in public places, be sure to require registration and the use of a password. This will help prevent troublemakers from crashing the meeting. Even with a password it’s good to only send the link for registration to the members of the group you’ll be addressing. (The links for each garden center cocktail hour are sent out in our newsletter the day before the event. This has the added benefit of building our mailing list. I also make a new link for each garden club event and those are only sent to the program chair a week before the presentation.)
  • Practice! You can set up a false webinar or meeting, and log onto it as if you’re giving a real presentation. Use this time to explore all the options for attendee controls, testing sound and sharing your screen. Record your practice session so you can go back and review it. Those practices and the recordings are worth the time you will spend to create them. Be sure to practice from beginning to end, as if you’re actually giving your virtual talk. You’ll become comfortable with sharing your screen, and with stopping that sharing to move on to questions.
  • When you set up a webinar in advance, check the box that says “automatically record.” Then you don’t have to remember to press record once the event starts.
  • Log on one or two minutes before the event is due to start. If you log on earlier and start the meeting (taking it out of practice mode) you’ll be recording your image poking around, and wasting time. This is fine if you don’t want to use the recording unedited in the future, but if you want to use the link for others to view, they’ll have to sit through your pre-presentation fumbling before getting to the content.
  • Although you can use your normal PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, you might want to alter them to one image per slide. You’ll want to remember that unlike in an in-person presentation, you’re competing with everything else that’s going on in the attendee’s environment, so simpler and more engaging images work better. I’ve always been a follower of Seth Godin’s “only six words per slide” advice, and with Zoom presentations this is even more important. Remember that some are viewing your talk on a tablet or even a phone, and small images and text won’t be legible.
  • If you have text, place it to the LEFT of a photo, not to the right. Place any text that’s on a photo on the left as well. This is because the image of the speaker or panel members appears on the right in Zoom and those may partially cover any text that’s in that area.
  • Position your laptop or computer camera so that it’s slightly above you. Some PC’s have the camera at the bottom of the display (???) so if you have that type of computer you should be sure to place it higher so that the world isn’t looking up your nostrils. Make sure your image pretty much fills the screen; if you see more wall behind you than face, move closer. Your audience won’t be able to see your expressions once you start your presentation unless your head and shoulders fill the screen.
  • Be sure that a light is above and in front of you. A light just above your face level and at a 45-degree angle is also good. Do not have a window or bright lights behind you because that throws your face into shadow.
  • Look at your camera, not at your image on the screen. Find where your camera is and look at that, since that is how you’ll be making “eye contact” with your audience.
  • Be enthusiastic. Amp up your voice a bit, and make sure your audience can hear how enthusiastic you are. Smile at the camera, even when you’re going through your slides or other visuals.
  • Many find a microphone to be useful. If there aren’t panel members who are speaking along with you, headphones aren’t needed. But if others will be unmuted, headphones prevent their voices from being picked up by your computer or microphone and echoed back into the conversation.

Final thoughts and suggestions:

  • Be sure to list your availability for virtual presentations on your website. As soon as I did that I started getting requests from garden clubs all over the country who needed virtual speakers.
  • Decide ahead of time if you’ll make the presentation recordings available to those who hire you. I decided that I would not, since once I send that link out I have no control over who or how many people access it. I tell my audiences that a virtual presentation is like a live talk: it’s a “you have to be there experience.” However, when I’m presenting a special talk that is crafted for a particular event having it recorded may be a part of the agreement. Just know that those who hire you will want to know if recordings are available.
  • Consider joining a GardenComm Power Circle about Zoom presentations. If you’re interested, email me and I’ll start putting members in touch with each other for this purpose. My contact information is in the GardenComm Membership Directory.

Meet the Author

C.L. Fornari is a plant geek who is dedicated to putting horticulture back into popular culture. To that end, she speaks, writes, broadcasts and podcasts about plants and gardening. Her website is:


From the United Nations to Your Own Community

By Cris Blackstone

The UN General Assembly recently adopted seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the pandemic foisting a new lifestyle on many people, and gardening taking more prominence as evidenced by increased sales at garden centers nationwide, many of these seventeen goals have garnered more focus than ever before.

Goal 1 is “No Poverty” and from there, the other sixteen goals cascade with equal importance. Many of these goals may resonate with gardeners including permaculture, improving physical, mental, and emotional health through gardening, growing food, revitalizing communities, etc. The list goes on and on. No matter where your garden avocation leads you, strong partnerships with neighbors, municipalities, media sources, and regional governments each contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

As Garden Communicators, we know the most up-to-date information coupled with the most accurate historical research and evidence is important. Taking the UN Sustainable Goals as a blueprint for what we hope to accomplish is a topic GardenComm’s Sustainability Committee members discuss and hope to share and promote through our individual work as authors, artists, and presenters. It can feel like a big leap from the worldwide perspective presented through the United Nations, to our own efficacy locally, but remember the popular bumper sticker, “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

One way to learn more and react to more local information is to learn from the Agriculture Commissions many states have instituted for individual municipalities. State Ag Commissions are heavily involved with specific SDGs such as goal no. 9 relating to “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.” Soil is the ultimate infrastructure. State Ag Commissions and Conservation Districts know all too well the importance of no-till practices, cover cropping, preserving topsoil, caring for microbes beneath the surface for plant health, and avoiding erosion. These are all topics we consider as garden communicators, and see in print and hear in podcasts frequently.

Agriculture Commissions are also now growing in popularity in many communities, using many of the SDGs as their driving objectives. Massachusetts, Washington State, and California are pioneers in establishing local ag commissions.

From activities such as Victory Gardens 2.0 promoted by the National Garden Bureau to edible front lawns, agriculture commissions are a good source for garden communicators to learn from and reference. Agriculture Commissions in my home state, New Hampshire, are particularly creative and involved with both outreach and education. The Durham NH Ag Commission, for instance, promotes the Edible Front Lawn initiative. Citizens are encouraged to plant their front lawn with edibles – vegetables are grown in place of traditional lawns, sometimes in raised beds and sometimes simply where the grass was. Signs in each lawn state the fact that it’s an Edible Front Lawn, and tours are offered during years when the town holds Farm Days, including the neighborhoods where these edible front lawns are prevalent. The Durham Ag Commission also helped sponsor a winter-long e-mail course for people to learn about soil testing, site evaluation, locating perfect plants to use, and even fermenting techniques to use what was grown in new ways. Lee, NH, has another very active and vibrant Ag Commission. They sponsor a lecture series featuring expert presentations on soils, pollinators, and vegetables, honey, and edible flowers, which includes a nutritionist’s perspective as a part of a panel discussion. Ag Commissions across NH are encouraging towns to join the national Bee City USA program, and create awareness through presentations, posters and local television programming.

The GardenComm Sustainability Commmittee encourages you to become familiar with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and consider researching your city, state, or regional Agriculture Commissions to see what valuable information is available there, as you Think Globally, Act Locally, to do your part to help bring awareness to these current topics.

Meet the Author

Cris Blackstone is the Education Coordinator for the New Hampshire Landscape Association, a Certified NH Landscaper, University of NH Natural Resources Steward, and Master Gardener. She co-hosts “The Environmental Hour,” once-monthly radio show in seacoast NH/Maine. She serves on municipal, county and statewide Conservation Commissions or Districts and is a frequent workshop presenter or facilitator on topics from herbs to indoor plant care. Her photography work includes juried events and accompanies many of her freelance articles.CB


By Cris Blackstone

When you hear “USDA” do you immediately think of the Plant Hardiness Zone Finder, which is divided in ten-degree F zones, based on average annual minimum winter temperature? You have probably used the GIS interactive version by now, and appreciate this as the standard to work with. Or does your mind go to Daniel Stone’s book on David Fairchild (The Food Explorer) and think of Fairchild’s work at the USDA Office of Foreign See and Plant Production? Fairchild introduced American agriculture business to mangoes, kale, avocados, soybeans, and nectarines, to name a few foods you are familiar with in our diets. Or somewhere in between?

The United States Department of Agriculture website ( offers historical as well as the most up-to-date information you can use for your research and garden communication work. Check the tab “Natural Resources Conservation Services” and from that drop down menu, see the specific sustainability and resiliency topics, such as Soils, Water, Air, Plants and Animals, Climate Change and Organic information. Within each of these, there is more to explore, to fit your specific questions and entice your curiosity. Other areas of the website include the “Plant of the Week,” “Pollinator References,” ”Endangered Plants in the US,” and even an area for each state, listing a comprehensive inventory of the plants identified growing state-by-state.

Within the USDA website and services, you can find the National Agricultural Library, (This is one of our five national libraries; with the other four being the National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Education and the National Transportation Library.) It is user-friendly, and contains information divided into main categories which could be of particular GardenComm interest. Check out the Invasives area of the website; and from there, the more specific sources referenced and outlined as research and regulations state-by-state are listed. Organizations listed and cited in the material are a wide representation of higher education, research-based, and diverse interests in the field.

Fact sheets on many of the topics we share at presentations for Master Gardeners, Community Gardens, Garden Clubs and Library Groups, are available for you to download and print and share freely. Information you might use when collaborating on a project with a municipal group, reviewing a site plan, for example, include the USDA Wetland Indicators flow chart. The various posters and fact sheets are available straight from the website, or offered with a few strategic clicks as you review what’s available. You will be doing your audience a great service by sharing this type of material – no matter if you are working on a general overview or for an article specific to a region of the country.

So, now when you hear USDA, you know it can be your initial “go to” for your work investigating many important topics. Between the site, its drop down menus and the National Agriculture Library, you certainly have the most diverse and broad-spectrum of sources available, for your work including sustainability, resilience and problem-solving in our manmade as well as our natural landscapes. With natural resources conservation as one of the initial focus points Abraham Lincoln stated in starting the USDA, we continue to value those efforts. Through appreciating gardening, whether a container on your patio, or larger scale, such as the vast flower growing industries around the world, garden communicators share imperative goals for health and well-being as well as the health of everything shared on Earth, from microbes below soil surface to the tallest sequoias and the products of all plants entering the atmosphere.

Meet the Author

Cris Blackstone is the Education Coordinator for the New Hampshire Landscape Association, a Certified NH Landscaper, University of NH Natural Resources Steward, and Master Gardener. She co-hosts “The Environmental Hour,” once-monthly radio show in seacoast NH/Maine. She serves on municipal, county and statewide Conservation Commissions or Districts and is a frequent workshop presenter or facilitator on topics from herbs to indoor plant care. Her photography work includes juried events and accompanies many of her freelance articles.CB

Three Places You’ll Find Hundreds of Ideas and Writer Resources

By Cris Blackstone

With material that’s trending, valid, and vetted, your articles will gain more attention, and you’ll find them more rewarding to research and write in the first place. What helps most of all is knowing where to look. Valuable resources have searchable data bases of recent information.  When looking for the best places to research and make connections for substantial phone or e-mail interview time, there are three extremely valuable go-to sources a few keystrokes away.

First, GreenBiz–, describes itself as “advancing the opportunities at the intersection of business, technology and sustainability.” Further, “GreenBiz promotes the potential to drive transformation and accelerate progress.” With an initial look at this website, check out “MORE+” with its drop down menu featuring tabs for Sustainability, Cities, Buildings and Water, among other choices. The “Sustainability” tab holds an array of articles on the business of sustainability; from recycling efforts around the world, to ways COVID 19 is giving green businesses a reason to rethink business practices. An article presenting reasons Earth Day should be an official company holiday and one on recycling efforts around the world show the spectrum of topics shared there. The “Cities” tab includes articles and extensive research reports about parks which are designed for storm water management, larger populations seeking refuge from densely crowded areas, and ways parks can help resolve heat sink issues in downtown areas. Under the “Buildings” tab, you find topics such as massive green walls requiring much more technology not only to manage the weight of the supportive structures, but manage watering and lighting, too. Read about green wall solutions from around the world, included monthly, if not more frequently, here.  And on the mind of  every gardener, landscape architect, city planner and horticulturalist – the topic is water. From desalinization, to providing effective irrigation for controlling plant pests and diseases, the “Water” tab will become your go-to for informative articles peer-to-peer, so as successful and respected Garden Communicators, you can be continually up-do-date.

Second, Hort Daily,, is the comprehensive source for world-wide news and views on all topics related to vegetables and edible gardening in the horticulture industry. You can look at Hort Daily online in a web search or you can subscribe, free, to get this in your inbox daily. The topics are well-organized, and each issue includes an overview of what articles are included for the day. From autonomous greenhouse operation to technology to monitor humidity in microclimates in an extensive field for effective irrigation, offers worldwide news and innovations as well as articles from US agriculture and green businesses. Garden Comm writers wanting research material on anything from hydroponics to introducing ethnic edible garden plants, should definitely use this daily newsletter’s easily searchable database.

A sister company to Horti Daily, Floral Daily,, reports on every aspect of the flower industry you can think of. From seed and plant trials to innovations in greenhouse growers of all sizes and descriptions, this site has the information you may appreciate as background in your research about independent flower growers as well as international brands of global significance. Floral Daily is a place to find your material on processing, shipping practices, growing in sustainability, trends in colors and design styles. . .”alles en nog wat” (everything and then some, as they say in Dutch) when you are researching flowers. When you can’t get to Keukenhof for the tulip blooms in season, this is the place to learn how the tulip market is faring during COVID19, for instance.

I hope these three sites help you format some of your thinking as you research your articles, and offer further ideas on where to look for current, worldwide information.

“The heart and soul of good writing is research; you should not write what you know but what you can find out about.” – Robert J. Sawyer, Canadian Author

Photo1 Photo2 Photo 3

Meet the Author

Cris Blackstone is the Education Coordinator for the New Hampshire Landscape Association, a Certified NH Landscaper, University of NH Natural Resources Steward, and Master Gardener. She co-hosts “The Environmental Hour,” once-monthly radio show in seacoast NH/Maine. She serves on municipal, county and statewide Conservation Commissions or Districts and is a frequent workshop presenter or facilitator on topics from herbs to indoor plant care. Her photography work includes juried events and accompanies many of her freelance articles.


hort happy hour tires
By C.L. Fornari 

I interviewed George Ball, Chairman of W. Atlee Burpee Company, on GardenLine the other day, and it was his opinion that the 2020 pandemic has jumpstarted a new era of gardening in North America. As millions become interested in growing their own food, and even more decide to improve flower gardens and outdoor living spaces, it seems likely that one of the positive effects of the coronavirus will be the cultivation of more gardeners. Although storm clouds might have silver linings, according to George the folks at Burpee like to call this one “the green lining” to COVID-19.

Those of us who speak, write and teach about plants and gardens agree and are leaping to cultivate this interest. We’re teaching and preaching through the channels we’ve always used—books, radio, articles, blogs, and podcasts—along with extra heavy use of social networking, online classes and virtual meetings. We’re looking for all ways possible to help people be successful with their plants and gardens. We’re also emphasizing the joy that comes with the process and end results.

dahlia happyhour

There are many approaches to leading this charge, but one I’d suggest is to start talking about a #HorticulturalHappyHour. It’s fine if your mind automatically jumps to the traditional evening time for cocktails—plants play a key role in most beverages, after all—yet there are so many ways to think of how brief periods spent with plants and gardens can make people feel better. A horticultural happy hour can occur at any time of day. Here are a just few ideas we’ll be running with on the GardenComm Twitter account. I can’t wait to see what grows when garden communicators and grab this hashtag and run with it.

Recipe for a #HorticulturalHappyHour: several empty containers, a large bag of potting soil, and pots of herbs. Mints, lemon verbena, basil, stevia, sage and parsley. Plant, water, arrange in a group, and enjoy all summer.

My #HorticulturalHappyHour is in the morning when I take a cup of coffee out to the garden and just watch what I’ve planted. I listen to birdsong, inhale fragrance from the flowers, and see the bees flying from bloom to bloom.

15 minutes for weeding, 15 minutes for planting, 15 minutes for picking flowers or vegetables, 15 minutes for taking photos & posting = one satisfying and productive #HorticulturalHappyHour

Watering houseplants, rearranging some pots, picking off random yellow or brown leaves, noticing which ones are (surprise!) coming into bloom. #houseplants #HorticulturalHappyHour

I love walking to the vegetable garden in the morning, using the hoe to chop off young weeds, and shaking a fist at the crows who are eyeing the ripening tomatoes. #HorticulturalHappyHour before showering and heading off to work.

Best plants for fun cocktail garnishes: cucamelons, sugar-snap peas, lemon verbena, calamondin citrus, lemon basil and mints. #HorticulturalHappyHour

Get home from work, put aside digital devices, walk into the #vegetable garden and ask “What’s for dinner?” Discover the best tasting food on earth. #HorticulturalHappyHour

Plant seeds, in pots or the garden, and take your coffee outside every morning to see what’s germinating. #HorticulturalHappyHour  #LifeAffirming

Heading out to run errands? Pick flowers first, make small bouquets, tie them with string or recycled ribbons and hand them to strangers. One to the supermarket cashier, one to person filling their tank at the next gas pump, one in the bank’s drive-thru window. Random acts of kindness.  #HorticulturalHappyHour

So, my fellow plant geeks, garden communicators and green industry professionals. What constitutes a #HorticulturalHappyHour for you, and how are you spreading the joy moving forward?

Meet the Author

C.L. Fornari is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and Treasurer of GardenComm International. She hangs out online at