New Ways to CONNECT: Adding Value to Gardening Events with a GWA CONNECT Meeting

By Kirk R. Brown

CONNECT! It’s a word that’s now one-third of the new GWA brand: Connect. Learn. Grow. According to IBM, with the expansion of the “internet of things,” knowledge may double every 12 hours. How is GWA supposed to stay current? How can a GWA membership even begin to define “keeping up?” How can GWA membership help a garden communicator CONNECT to the profession of communicating, the horticultural community, and the experience of gardening?

1 First Connect Meerting
At one of the first CONNECT meetings, members Stephanie Cohen, Sally Cunningham and Louise Clarke share their opinion of the day’s seminar on the “Art of the Presentation” given by C.L. Fornari


CONNECT! It’s a GWA meeting format that’s been around since I wrote the original proposal in the summer of 2009. The first Connect Meeting was held in my kitchen in Orefield, PA. Thirty-five GWA members and spouses exchanged news and views. To read the guidelines developed as a result of that meeting click here.

2  Connecting with Nature
CONNECT Meetings should increase networking opportunities, introduce prospective new members to regional events, justify a ROI for GWA membership, and schedule a time and place to have fun!

CONNECT! It’s a zero-budget, low impact way to join with other GWA members while enjoying the delights of garden touring, food tasting, or event previewing. This organization needs to have more of them in order to stay current with all of the new products and plants, events and happenings. Also, and probably the most important consideration, these gatherings should just be an enjoyable way to get to know other members or grow prospective members in a fun and sociable environment.

4 Philly Art Museum
The press preview and CONNECT meeting for the opening of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Audubon to Warhol; The Art of American Still Life” exhibit was led by the show’s curator, Mark Mitchell. Opportunities to meet and interview leading professionals are guarantees of successful CONNECT meetings.
3 Judy and Carlo Orchidelirium
Judy Glattstein and Carlo Balstrieri joined other GWA members at a press preview for NYBG’s Orchidelirium show in the Haupt Conservatory.

As the form of CONNECT meetings have been expanded and enlivened by experience, tremendous opportunities are presented to those who attend. The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened their “Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life” blockbuster exhibition with a Press Preview that GWA combined with a Connect Meeting. Members had exceptional access to the installation as well as opportunities to interview members of the eighth, ninth, and tenth generation of descendants of featured artist Charles Wilson Peale.

This spring the New York Botanic Garden was the site of “The Orchid Show: Orchidelirium.”  A GWA CONNECT meeting was kicked off with a tour of the Enid Haupt Conservatory, led by Marc Hachadourian, Manager of the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections and Curator of the Orchid Collection. Members had private access to the spectacular display of tropical splendor while learning about the collecting history of orchids during the Botany of Empire of the eighteenth century.

5 Marc Hachadourian NYBG
Special access to professional development and education are hallmarks of CONNECT meetings. Here, members are captivated by the histroy of orchid collecting as described by Marc Hachadourian, an expert in the field from NYBG

Later that month GWA and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) explored the wonders of the Philadelphia Flower Show beginning with a special behind-the-scenes tour on the eve of the show’s opening. This show is the oldest and largest of the world’s indoor horticultural exhibitions. More than forty members and friends joined Alan Jaffe, Public Relations Director PHS, and Steve Maurer, former National Director GWA, as they led separate groups around the enormous horticultural works-in-progress. Those on the tour witnessed the frenetic pace and last minute primping done to the themed garden exhibits.

6 PHS Staff
Sam Lemheney, Show Director, Alan Jaffe, PHS Public Relations, and Matt Radar, PHS President, review the highlights of the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show for GWA members and invited guests during the Press Preview and CONNECT Meeting.

After the tour, those in attendance were invited for snacks and drinks in a gathering designed to introduce PHS’s new President and CEO, Matt Radar. We also heard from Sam Lemheney, Chief of PHS Show & Events, who talked about this year’s installation and provided a sneak peek into next year’s theme of Holland and The Netherlands.

7 Rob Cardillo takes a photo
Rob Cardillo Caught in the act of taking a 306-degree photographic selfie at the press tour of the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show. There’s a lot of new technology waiting to be shared at all of the GWA CONNECT meetings!

CONNECT! LEARN! GROW! If there isn’t a meeting planned in a town or horticultural venue near you, think about picking up the phone and making one happen. If you know of a special event or media preview, think about making it a GWA CONNECT event. It’s only an email away. If you have questions about how-to (or even why-not) then contact me or Maria Ungaro or Ashley Hodak Sullivan. We will be delighted to help with the planning.

Meet the Author

Headshot - Brown Kirk (2)

Kirk R. Brown serves as President for GWA, business consultant to the green industry and national lecturer on horticultural topics from the 18th to the 21st Centuries. His historical and horticultural keynote presentations take him from coast to coast and north to south in these United States while he also lectures for the Landscape Design Schools presented by the National Garden Clubs.


Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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