NextGen Summit: New Routes to Horticulture

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By Cheval Force Opp

NextGen – what the heck is NextGen? This is the question that LastGen’s like me had attending the Region II NextGen Summit. Organizer Brienne Gluvna Arthur, green diva and author of The Foodscape Revolution helped us answer that question and more by luring some of the NextGen voices in this rising horticulture wave to spend a day with us exploring new ideas.

NextGen Group.jpgThe summit began with a presentation by Longwood Graduate Program Coordinator Brian Trader. He introduced us to Longwood’s support of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) “Seed Your Future” initiative. This multi-year effort is planned to combat declining awareness of horticulture among U.S. audiences and promote horticulture as a vital and viable career path for the nation’s youth.

Next, we heard from Lori Greene, Chair of MS Digital Innovation in Marketing Advisory Council. She exhorted the crowd of over 100 attendees to use technology to “start small, fail fast and start over – only better.” Sadly there are no Harry Potter wands available for garden communicators. But with each new technology adventure individuals and organizations will gain the skills and customer insight for profitable use.

The remaining speakers were quick to pick up the theme in presentations of new horticultural perspectives with both successes and cautions in the integration of technology into business and career.

  • Joanna Groarke, New York Botanical Garden, presented the lessons learned in the technology used for New York Botanical Gardens 2015 record setting (over a half-million visitors) exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life.”
  • Ed Snodgrass, President of Emory Knoll Farms, Inc. and Green Roof Plants, discussed multi-million international green roofs projects.
  • Katie Dubow, Garden Media Group, and 2016 GWA Emergent Communicator spoke to “Reading the Tea Leaves” to increase profit in “green” trends.
  • Peggy Ann Montgomery, American Beauties Native Plants, moderated a panel discussion of “Living Landscapes.” Panelist included Claudia West of North Creek Nurseries, Patrick Cullina, founder of Patrick Cullina Horticultural Design + Consulting, and Ed Snodgrass.

Throughout the talks, cellphones were held up like candles to record speakers and take NextGen Poolshots of favorite screen prompts. During breaks, the Longwood entryway was crowded as name-tagged participants snapped Facebook shots, chatted with speakers, and corralled new connections.

The day ended with NextGen Summit attendees enjoying garden tours through the acres of lush displays at Longwood Gardens. Not to be outdone, Chanticleer hosted a reception with a pool party later that evening. Nothing matches gossiping with old friends, meeting new horticulture stars, and strolling through Chanticleer’s pleasure garden in the gloaming.

The stormy skies that had threatened us throughout the day held off so everyone had a chance to enjoy drinks by the Chanticleer pool and eat at least one Geno’s Steak. During dinner, I learned how to put ketchup on my Geno’s Cheesesteak from Sonya Harris, Lead Coordinator, and Special Education Teacher for Bullock Children’s Garden in Glassboro, NJ. Sitting on the elegant mansion porch, Sonya shared her favorite idea from the conference “Envision a world where every U.S. student knows the importance and meaning of horticulture.”

This LastGen would like to join NextGen Sonya in making that happen for my children and hers. I am looking forward to the 2017 NextGen conference and invite everyone to come.

Thanks to all who attended and the generous sponsors; American Horticultural Society, Chanticleer, Longwood Gardens, Greater Philadelphia Gardens, Cavano’s Perennials, Inc., New Moon Nursery, Garden Media Group, North Creek Nurseries and Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE).

About the Author:

crop head shot in flowers .jpgWho is afraid of being a LastGen? Not Cheval Opp. In her first career, IBM kept her learning through failure at all too regular intervals. After retiring she started a local garden tour business with Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener. Five years later she turned the tours over to Jentz for her second retirement, devoting time traveling with her husband, Dana and corgi, Marzipan. She continues today as a columnist for Washington Gardener’s “Garden Day Trips”. Cheval is honored to be a Regional Director for Region IV. The entrepreneurs of the region and the always welcoming members of GWA invigorate her to keep planning for the sustainable green future to come.


A Grand Time in the Berkshires

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by Thomas Christopher

Blue skies and superb gardens greeted the 40 attendees of the “Grand Cottages in the Berkshires” Region 1 meeting on July 22. The tour began with an early morning photo shoot at Naumkeag, Mabel Choate’s iconic early 20th century garden in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. These gardens on the “quintessential country estate of the Gilded Age” are considered to be landscape architect Fletcher Steele’s most famous work.

Several of the attendees (including this writer) remembered the decayed state of this garden from earlier visits. It was a very pleasurable surprise to see its pristine renovated state, thanks to a recently completed $3.5 million program of restoration by The Trustees of Reservations. Continue reading “A Grand Time in the Berkshires”

Flying by the Seat of Your Plants

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by Pam Penick

If you’re heading to Atlanta this fall to attend the GWA Annual Convention and Expo, chances are good you’ll acquire some plant swag from our generous exhibitors. If you’re flying home afterwards, you may be wondering how to get your floral stowaways home. Learning how to pack plants in a suitcase, rather than stuffing them into a carry-on, is a skill that’ll keep leaves out of your face, soil off your lap, and relieve strain on your back. To be plant-ready, all you need to do is pack an empty duffle bag, a few garbage bags, re-sealable plastic bags, clippers to prune your plants, and lots of rubber bands.

I became a plant-packer at the Tucson GWA symposium in 2012. I’d already picked up a half-dozen freebies when a nursery rep urged me to take a gorgeous 5-gallon Abutilon palmeri. Its velvety, silver-green leaves and cupped orange blossoms proved irresistible. I hauled it back to my room, grinning like a pirate. Continue reading “Flying by the Seat of Your Plants”

Monetizing Slow Flowers


by Debra Prinzing

I’ve been riding a holiday high since the Fourth of July, and it’s not because of the fantastic fireworks displays. It is because when I logged into Keyhole, the social media tracking program I use, and checked the numbers for #americanflowersweek, I discovered that the hashtag had generated more than 1.3 million impressions in a 30-day period – all but a few hundred thousand of which appeared during the seven-day span of my campaign “American Flowers Week.” I’m pretty right-brained, but sometimes it’s nice that the metrics verify one’s “feelings” of success.

What began as the title of a book, Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm, has become a moneymaking “platform” and my “brand.” No one is more surprised by this turn of events than me. American Flowers Week, a social media and advocacy campaign coinciding with Independence Day, is one of three channels that I’ve begun to monetize. The other two include the Slow Flowers Podcast (launched in July 2013 at and, the free nationwide directory of American (and now Canadian) flowers and the florists, farms, and studios who supply those blooms. Continue reading “Monetizing Slow Flowers”

Coming to America: An Aussie at the GWA Pasadena Symposium

Andrea overlooking LA

by Andrea Whitely

It was a conversation I would have several times. “So how is it that you are here in Pasadena?” one lady asked me. “I’m here for this.” I replied. “Really?” she exclaimed, “All the way from Australia?!” And so it went. To be a First Timer at a GWA Symposium is one thing but to be a First Timer from Western Australia is quite another.

GWA members strolling through a private garden in the Pasadena area

How hard could it be, right? I’ve had a successful radio program, I‘ve done loads of public speaking gigs, launched books, travelled the world, run multimillion dollar businesses. Get in there girl, I thought to myself. So after settling in at The Hilton I headed over to the Pasadena Conference Center where I received a bag of welcome goodies and a pocket badge with a large blue cloth sticker saying “First Timer.” There was no hiding the fact that I was the new kid on the block here.

Next I attended the First Timer’s Reception and, boy oh boy, was I made to feel like a long lost relative. No sooner had I walked in the door and headed towards the bar (always a good place to start when you don’t know a living soul at a function) than I was enthusiastically greeted by a happy lady with a pocket name badge adorned with what seemed like a jewelry box of badges. She was none other than Denise Schreiber, who I later found out is as close to royalty as one gets at GWA. I was made to feel so welcome! Denise made a special announcement at the end of the formalities and I was asked to come up to the microphone. Luckily I am neither shy nor retiring and shared my great pleasure at being able to attend this Symposium. After the presentation people came up to me and welcomed me personally, business cards were exchanged and the room was filled with a wonderful buzz of anticipation and excitement.

Members Eva Monheim and Louise Clarke enjoying lunch at the Getty Museum during the post-conference tour

It soon became evident that this Symposium was going to change my life. When you attend one of these events you expect to gain knowledge and insight and that I did in spades (pun intended). As a landscape designer and garden writer you can spend a lot of time in isolation, just you, your laptop, and your thoughts about the gardens you’re creating and writing about. Here I discovered a whole world of people who do what I do and are as passionate about their respective crafts as I am. At every session break fellow plantaholics were talking excitedly like small children in the playground on the first day back at school about plants and plans, talks they had just attended, and their visions for the future. Yes indeed, gardeners are perhaps the most optimistic of all professionals when it comes to planning for the future.

During the Symposium we heard from a lineup of impressive speakers. Woven into the sessions was a fabulous event called Table Top Talks and a two day exhibition of products and plant information. We also traveled by bus to visit such wondrous places as the Los Angeles County Arboretum, The Huntington Art Library, and three delightful private gardens. Everywhere we went there was a sense that we were there to do important work to disseminate the joy and importance of gardens and gardening in the everyday lives of the communities in which we live.

What did I actually get out of this significant investment of time and money? Since returning home, I am supported by an incredible network of contacts from GWA who mentor me in my endeavors. Sometimes it’s just a “Like” or a quick comment on Facebook or Twitter but other times I receive lengthy private messages. I am no longer working in isolation. I have met garden writers, TV stars, radio personalities, landscape architects, horticulturists, plant growers, lawn specialists, bloggers, photographers, educators, and even a Tree Whisperer.

A member pauses to appreciate a grass fountain

My trip to the GWA Pasadena Symposium has had a major impact on my career. I have launched my new website. I have ramped up my social media presence. My new blog is up and running and has a solid following. I have written numerous articles and am now working on a book with a dear new friend from Arizona. My landscape design business has never been busier and my branding has had a huge shot in the arm with the enthusiasm injection. I have a renewed confidence about the work that I do. Was it worth travelling all the way from Western Australia? YES it was!

As you have probably realized by now, I’m a convert. I have paid my subscription and submitted my GWA membership application, joined the Facebook group and am saving hard for #GWA16. Listen out for me – I’m the one with the funny accent but no blue First Timers badge. See you all in Atlanta!

Meet the Author

Andrea Whitely.jpgAndrea Whitely is a West Australian based Garden Consultant with more than 20 years experience in garden related pursuits and is currently running a boutique garden design, implementation and maintenance business. She has written for many magazines and writes for Hort Journal. She is best known for her appearance on 720ABC Perth radio, public speaking across Western Australia and her association with Australia’s Open Garden Scheme. Andrea is a member of the Horticulture Media Association and Garden History Society.



GWA at Cultivate ’16

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GWA members gather at Cultivate ’16 for a Connect Meeting

by Ann McCormick

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A birthday cake made with ‘SunPatiens’ impatiens

Thanks to a generous offer by AmericanHort, over two dozen GWA members enjoyed free registration to Cultivate ’16 in Columbus, Ohio. I was delighted to be one of those able to attend this event, billed as “the largest all-industry trade show in North America.”

My first impression matched the descriptions I heard from others who had previously attended. Exhibitors covered every aspect of the horticultural world – from plant breeders, to greenhouse suppliers, to retail nurseries and everything imaginable in between. I was warned that they exhibit floor was large and I should be prepared for lots of walking. They were right. Wearing comfortable track shoes and sporting a just-purchased rolling briefcase stocked with a notepad and a thick stack of business cards, I hit the trade floor. Continue reading “GWA at Cultivate ’16”

Moving Yourself Forward: Garden Geeks, Communications Careers, and Masterminds

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by C.L. Fornari

Recently I got an email from another GWA member who was lamenting that she wasn’t capitalizing on all available opportunities to share her work. I commiserated that we all feel like we could and should be doing more. I went on in my reply to say that one way we can do better at moving forward, is by being a part of a mastermind group.

Simply put, a mastermind group is a gathering of two or more people who share the same goals and agree to meet frequently to help each other out and spur each other on. You might band together with garden communicators who all need to update their websites or blogs. A group of photographers might form to explore new software or file sorting systems. A group of unpublished writers might unite with the goal of writing book proposals and sharing information about query letters or editorial contacts. Continue reading “Moving Yourself Forward: Garden Geeks, Communications Careers, and Masterminds”