Five Things to Know About GardenComm’s Media Awards

Here are five things to know about this year’s GardenComm Media Awards.

  1. The GardenComm Media Awards Program is the only national online media awards program for the gardening communications industry. Held annually for more than 20 years, the GardenComm Media Awards have recognized the top professional horticultural communicators in the areas of writing, photography, speaking, digital media, broadcast media, publisher/producer, and trade. 
  • This year’s awards program includes three new categories. For books, there are now categories specifically for fiction related to gardening and children’s books related to gardening. Plus, there is a new category for social media. All the details about all the categories are available here.
  • Awards are given at two levels: Silver Awards of Achievement and Gold Awards, chosen from Silver Award winners. Silver Awards will be announced in August 2022. Gold Awards will be announced at the GardenComm Virtual Conference in October 2022.
  • You don’t have to be a member of GardenComm to enter, but if you are a member, you receive a discount.  All fees are noted on this page.
  • You can only win an award if you enter!

For more details, visit the media awards site. Entries are being accepted until April 15, 2022, but to qualify for a discount, you must enter by March 15, 2022.

If you have questions, feel free to email

Sourcing Sustainable Gardening Info Got You Stumped?


The Hard Way

When you search the term sustainable gardening on the web, Google will return more than 79.9 million results. Beneficial insects will net you nearly 60 million; stormwater management, 13 million; sustainable farming, 217 million; and native plants, 835 million. With so much information available, how do you locate what you’re trying to find without spending hours searching all over the internet?

If you’ve already tried this yourself, you know that authoritative information on sustainable gardening and farming is not always easy to source. The topics aren’t necessarily high priorities for institutional websites and good information can be buried within multiple layers of dropdown menus or stuck onto to a website in what seems to be an afterthought. 

An Easier Way

But what if you could go to a single website where someone has already done all of that searching, sifting and organizing for you? The Sustainable Gardening Library is a born-digital collection of documents, spreadsheets, photos, and videos that focuses only on sustainability issues related to gardening and farming. In its Topics app, you’ll find curated expert information sorted into 30 easy-to-understand categories—all organized alphabetically with a simple visual directory. 
The Sustainable Gardening Library was created with GardenComm members in mind. In fact, GardenComm members’ responses to our surveys determined the categories of information that became our focus and identified their most respected information sources (public gardens, universities and government agencies came in at >85%). 

 We’ve used a GIS-based mapping platform to show you where our experts and their host institutions are located, provided their contact information and added a few bells and whistles, such as scalable USDA Plant Hardiness Zone and EPA Ecoregions of North America maps. 

“…… Using Google to find specific sustainable gardening information is the pits. The results you get are so dependent on the words you search. I would only find most of this information by sheer luck. This (Library) saves me a lot of time. I don’t have to do my own searches….. It’s like having my own special search engine….. Everything is right here.” D.G., Retired Educator and Master Gardener, New Jersey

Who Will Want to Use It?

Landscape Professionals

Maybe your client needs convincing that sustainable landscape practices are right for them. Maybe you’re working outside your usual comfort zone and some quick reference material would be a big help. Or, maybe you just want to browse for inspiration. Our Library’s science-based information and pictorial examples provide information, instruction and inspiration. 

Writers and Journalists

Looking for story starters or people to interview? Now you can go to a single website and find emails and phone numbers for more than 85 experts on 30 different topics. Sustainable Gardening Library collaborators offer content that ranges from beneficial insects to xeriscaping, news about student initiatives, such as Bee Campus USA, public garden Master and Tree Care Plans, and much more. 

Media Professionals

Broadcasters and podcasters under pressure to fill airtime with fresh ideas and new faces will find them in the Sustainable Gardening Library. Check out the Library’s Organizations app to look up institutions and authoritative sources near you or across the country.


Speakers, teachers, docents and coaches can refresh their presentations and curricula by integrating materials from our Library collaborators, such as video clips, regionally appropriate native plant lists, planting plans, tip sheets and gardening guides. We’ve also developed an overview and lesson plan for middle school teachers, available on our YouTube channel: Sustainable Gardening Library 101 for Middle School Science Classes


Academics, students, journalists and other researchers will find a wealth of material, including what their cross-disciplinary peers in other organizations are doing. Beyond the content supplied by our collaborators, our map-based platform offers the opportunity to study the similarities and differences among ecosystems within the same USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. Our EcoRegions app, which combines the hardiness zones map with the EPA Ecoregions of North America map affords a deep dive into the important effects that native soils, vegetation, hydrology, terrain, wildlife and historic land use have on which plants can thrive in a given zone.


Well, you could read about the history of embedded herbarium specimens in the Arnold Arboretum Library at Harvard. Or, binge watch videos on organic weed management for farmers, or the Lost Butterflies (and moths) of New Jersey. Or just spend a lazy afternoon poring over the millions of horticultural art and digitized dried specimens of the Arnold, New York Botanical Garden, Billie L. Turner, Biodiversity Heritage and other collections in our Libraries & Herbaria group.

The next time you need to locate authoritative information on sustainable gardening or farming, do yourself a favor and start your search in the Sustainable Gardening Library. It will put you at least one step ahead of the competition. We’ve made the Library portal as intuitive as possible, but if you need some help using it for the first time, you’ll find video tutorials on our YouTube channel.

As with any library, our collaborators’ materials are available to you at no charge, but please remember to respect copyright, ask for permission before reproducing, and credit content providers appropriately.

Follow us on Facebook to see our collaborators’ latest posts and other sustainable gardening and farming news. And please, don’t keep it a secret.

Thank you to GardenComm and the Sustainability Committee for the project’s early support, colleagues Kirk Brown and Nan Sterman who helped set up proof-of-concept forums on both coasts, Longwood Gardens and Los Angeles County Arboretum for hosting the forums, Esri for providing the software engineering services to get us started and our four test subjects whose cooperation got the Library up and running: U.S. National Arboretum, U.S. Botanic Garden, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden and Cal Poly Center for Sustainability.


The Sustainable Gardening Institute was founded in 2015 as a resource for providing science-based information on sustainable gardening. The institute’s extensive online library brings together the knowledge of experts from public gardens, other nonprofits, universities and government agencies. Currently, there are more than 85 collaborating organizations. If you’d like to support our work, please incorporate the Library as a regular part of your work and link to the Library on your website ( as well as in your books and articles. To make a donation, visit are a 501 (c)(3) Corporation – all donations are tax-deductible.

Lois J. de Vries is a GardenComm Fellow, Green Medal Honoree, and Past-Chair of the Sustainability Committee, Lois is the Founding Executive Director of the Sustainable Gardening Institute and its core program, the Sustainable Gardening Library. She lives and gardens in the woodlands of Northwestern New Jersey.

Cancellation Clauses: Can speakers protect themselves from sudden losses of income?

By C.L. Fornari

Editor’s note: As speaking gigs reappear on GardenComm members’ calendars in the coming year, we’re running C.L. Fornari’s piece from May-June 2020 On the QT to remind us how we can protect ourselves should the pandemic continue and events are cancelled.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers all over the world have had their contracted events canceled. This is especially true for those who present programs about plants and gardens, since spring is our busiest speaking season. Any garden communicator who speaks publicly has seen a sudden loss of anticipated income, and this has prompted many to look closely at the cancellation clauses in their contracts.

A cancellation clause serves to protect a speaker’s bottom line as well as clarify the expectation that the venue has contracted for an appearance in good faith. After all, if a speaker has held a date for a particular group, all other inquiries for that same day or time will be turned down. It’s only natural that presenters want some assurance that since they may have turned other business away, the venue won’t lightly cancel an appearance.

Either the speaker or the venue can put clauses about cancellations in a written agreement. Contracts made in northern parts of the country often contain language about when an event might get scratched because of winter weather. It’s common, for example, for garden clubs to say that if their local schools are closed due to snow or flooding, the meeting will not take place. Yet it’s not just the client who spells out what might happen in the event of a cancellation. It’s also typical for a speaker’s standard contract to include wording about fees and deposits should an event not be held.


A typical speaker’s contract often includes a deposit requirement asking for a percentage of the fee to be sent upon the contract signing. This deposit might be kept should an event not go forward. An example of typical wording would be the following:

In the event the client makes any change to the program date as shown above, the deposit sum of $XXX will be retained by XYZ Speaker and applied to any future presentations for a period of one year from the date the speaker was notified of the change. In addition, if the change is made within 30 days of the program date, the client shall be responsible for reimbursing all travel expenses or other costs incurred by the speaker related to the presentation.

Other cancellation clauses include language that asks for payment of the full speaking fee should an event get canceled at the last minute. Typical language in a standard contract might be:

  • 100% of the speaking fee if canceled less than 30 days from the event.
  • 50% of the fee if canceled 31 to 60 days before the event.
  • 25% of the fee if canceled 61 to 90 days before the event.

If cancellation/postponement is unavoidable and the speaker can book another appearance in that time slot, XYZ Speaker will refund your fee minus any out-of-pocket expenses that have been incurred on your behalf.

Many contracts do specify that if a canceled appearance is rescheduled within a certain amount of time, that a percentage of the deposit or fee will be applied to the newly scheduled event.


In times of national emergencies, however, most of these clauses are rendered inapplicable. Frequently there will be a sentence indicating that this agreement doesn’t apply to cancellations due to acts of God or major disasters. There is also a certain understanding, often not recorded in a contract, that for natural or unavoidable catastrophes all parties are exempt from fulfilling their obligations. In cases such as a pandemic where local, state or national governments issue shelter-in-place orders or instructions not to gather in large groups, holding a planned meeting actually becomes against the law.

But aside from such force majeur situations, does a cancellation clause that stipulates the payment of a fee or retention of the deposit really protect a speaker? Realistically, if the venue decides not to hold the event and not to honor the terms in the contract, are you, as a speaker, likely to retain a lawyer and sue? Probably not.

Lois Creamer, speaking consultant and author of Book More Business ~ Make Money Speaking, says that her contract doesn’t even contain the word “cancel.” She asks for a 50% deposit upon the agreement signing, and the contract then uses the following wording:

“In the unlikely event that you would need to reschedule our work, this fee will be applied toward a mutually agreed upon date to take place within one year of the date of this agreement. Any fees for a reschedule will be “fee in effect” at the time.”


Creamer uses this policy because it’s her belief that the most important thing isn’t any one engagement, but the speaker/client relationship. In most cases, should a speaker insist on keeping a deposit or demand the full fee because of a cancellation, it’s unlikely that the client will book a presentation from them in the future. That client would also not be likely to recommend the speaker to another organization. She encourages presenters to be realistic, but also to consider what the cancellation wording in their contracts says about them and their businesses.

As many GardenComm members saw the handwriting on the wall for COVID-19 in early March 2020, they began contacting clients and offering to reschedule. This generated good will and promoted the “we’re all in this together” understanding that will keep those relationships solid and promote bookings in the future. So although many have lost a significant chunk of their planned income this spring, they are at least planting seeds for events to come.

For those negotiating contracts for the coming year the bottom line is that the document should contain cancellation language that is clear and fair to both parties. Yet ultimately, a flexible approach is going to cultivate stronger relationships moving forward.

C.L. Fornari, GardenComm Vice President, is a writer, speaker and podcast/radio host. She has PDFs of four common speaker’s contracts that include various forms of cancellation clauses that she is happy to share with others. Email her if you’d like to receive them:

Meet the Authors: Darryl Cheng and Marianne Willburn

Join us on Thursday, September 2 at 7pm ET for a discussion with GardenComm members Darryl Cheng and Marianne Willburn as they discuss their latest books. Darryl’s The New Plant Parent offers a scientific yet practical approach to houseplant care, while Marianne delivers plant-gardener relationship advice in Tropical Plants and How to Love Them.

Darryl will share with us how he grew a social media audience on Instagram to over half a million strong and what he learned while writing and photographing his book. Marianne will discuss the challenge of breathing new life into an ‘old’ topic for fresh audiences – and how to make that topic interesting and accessible without sacrificing valuable information or Authenticity. We’ll also have plenty of time for questions for the audience.

“Meet the Authors” provides a platform for readers and writers to connect with their favorite garden authors. What better way to learn about the writing, publishing, and marketing process than from fellow authors? In addition, “Meet the Authors” events provide an opportunity for members to learn about their fellow GardenComm member’s work. Audience members may discover a new guest for their podcasts or find a partner for their latest project.”

We asked Darryl about what he does and how long he has worked in the horticultural industry. He shared that he started by documenting his journey with houseplants on social media (tumblr then Instagram) – writing about what he was doing with care in his precise engineering style. He eventually published a book entitled ‘The New Plant Parent’ and started giving talks about a more holistic approach to houseplant care.

Darryl also shared that Houseplant care has traditionally been vague and seemingly based on luck. His goal is to bring more science and realistic expectations to maximize the hobby of houseplants.

Register here to learn more from our authors at the September 2 virtual program. If you can’t make it, it will be recorded and sent to all paid registrants.

Speaker Spotlight: C.L. Fornari

C.L. Fornari, The Garden Lady, recalls that as a young adult all she ever wanted to do was “to go in the studio and make stuff. I was a gardener from college on, so it was only natural that the subject of much of my artwork was plants and gardens.”

She has worked as a garden communicator since 1995 “when The Force pulled me out of the art studio and into garden writing. After my first book (The Cape Cod Garden) was published, the promotion led me to speaking, and ultimately to my radio program, podcasting and seven more books.”

When asked what the first garden-related experience she could remember was, C. L. said, “I was blessed to grow up as a free-range child. At that time, children were pushed outside and told not to come back in until it was mealtime. We made our fun in the natural world. I ate flowers without knowing what was edible. We constructed forts out of sticks in the woods, and spent hours up in trees. In second grade, my friend and I took empty flower pots from behind the garage of our rented house, filled them with dirt, and then scampered around the neighborhood picking flowers out of other people’s gardens. We stuck those stems in the dirt and then sold them as potted plants, door to door, often to the same people who we’d stolen them from. Fortunately, in the years since, I’ve learned about the importance of both root systems and ethics.”

The one piece of advice she would give to a new gardener is “View each experience with a plant as a grand adventure, and do it for joy.” But more appropriately for this talk: “If I could give one piece of advice to a new speaker, I would tell them to craft your talks out loud, not by writing them. Then practice out loud, many times.”

If you’re a plant or garden expert, chances are you’ll be called upon to speak in front of people. Speaking will sell your books and add to your bottom line, and the best way to build a speaking business is to polish your presentation skills. This seminar will talk about a few key ways you can improve what you do at the podium (in person or virtual) and give you a checklist of ways to promote yourself as a speaker. From practice to pricing, join C.L. Fornari as we unpack the business of speaking. Her presentation, “Building a Speaking Business – In Person and Virtually,” runs from 2 to 3 pm on Friday, August 13.  

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Debra Prinzing

Debra Prinzing is the owner of Slow Flowers LLC & BLOOM Imprint LLC, which include her Slow Flowers-branded projects. She has been working in horticulture communications since the late 1990s, first as the events and marketing manager for a local independent garden center in the Seattle area, followed by numerous freelance writing positions for daily newspapers, national magazines and now, through my own media companies.

When we asked her about a mistake she made in her garden that turned into an unexpected learning experience, she said, “It’s all a learning experience! Our family joke is that my biggest mistake was asking my spouse to weed. One weeding session that resulted in his removal of young dahlia plants led to a new rule: Only Debra Can Weed! I am definitely paying that price for being a control freak.”

Debra has two distinct early garden memories. “My first-ever gardening memories came from childhood seeing the flowers that my maternal and paternal grandfathers grew in their Midwest gardens. My mother’s father, Daniel J. Ford, grew beautiful dahlias in Hammond, Indiana, and they were taller than I was, an indelible memory. My father’s father, Fred Prinzing, grew what he called “pee-oh-knees” (peonies) alongside rhubarb plants along the gravel driveway of his Villa Park, Illinois, backyard.”

The one piece of advice she would give to a new gardener is, “Lose yourself in the moment. The chores will always be there, but focus on the wonder.”

If you think there’s a book in you, but you don’t know how to get started, Debra and her co-presenters, Robin Avni and Teri Speight, have the checklist to help you launch. They are convinced that visual and verbal storytelling need to be integrated into any successful gardening book. Their presentation, “Growing the Verbal + Visual Narrative” is on Saturday, August 14 from 1 to 2 p.m.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Katie Elzer-Peters

Katie Elzer-Peters, owner of The Garden of Words, LLC – Business Marketing and Tech for Busy People, has worked in the Green Industry for 20 years. Her marketing firm specializes primarily in email marketing and website design.

Words are her specialty, and, as she says, “They’re not all that interesting to look at on a website. What words need to do is get people to take action. Smile, click, “like,” “share,” buy, cry, go, be. I used words to grow a website from a medium-sized blog to one of the biggest industry voices, moving it from a low five-figure yearly income to a six-figure income.” Her favorite words? “I never open email newsletters, but I always open yours.”

A lifetime gardener, she has learned from what other people might call mistakes and turned them lessons. “I have planted things too close together! I then had to dig things up and re-establish them. What I learned is that oftentimes, you can re-adjust things and then keep moving forward.”

Her first gardening memory was from when she was six years old, “I remember getting in trouble for putting my sandbox sand in my mom’s flowerbed. I told her it improves drainage. (LOL! We now know that isn’t necessarily the case.).

If she had only one piece of advice to give to a new gardener, it would be, “If you kill a plant, read up on it and then try growing it again!”

Have you wished you had six other pairs of hands? Come to Katie’s workshop and learn how to hire, train, and manage remote help for administrative tasks, technology, and more!

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Karen Chapman


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.