Coached into Growing


By Donna Balzer

Peggy really wanted to grow food but she wasn’t sure if she had the time or the place. We were meeting over Skype for a coaching session and I was trying to inspire her to just get growing.

“Grow a sprout overnight, a micro-green in a week or a radish in a month,” I said with a grin. “It’s so simple!” Continue reading “Coached into Growing”

The Hamster in the Wheel

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By Karen Chapman 

“And what do you do?”

“I’m a landscape designer…and an author, freelance garden writer, speaker, coach, consultant, and keen garden photographer. I maintain our 5 acre garden, help my husband with marketing his woodturning business and I’m a new nana and….” Geesh, I’m exhausted just listening to myself yet this is my 2017 answer. Ten years ago the answer would have been “a container garden designer.” Twenty years ago – full time Mum and part time music teacher. Thirty years ago? Research scientist.

Our lives and careers evolve, often in directions we never imagined. How do we balance all these facets and associated demands? How do we live a life full of passion and creativity yet still pay the bills? Continue reading “The Hamster in the Wheel”

Photo-Gardening: A Texas Blogger’s Perspective

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By: Bill Adams

Adams Mixed radicchios_Web.jpgOutside there’s a garden photo opportunity pulling at me. A section of lettuce transplants that I covered with a worn out piece of fiber row cover is doing much better than the plants on the side that didn’t get covered. My camera is currently outside, acclimating to the temperature/humidity of Texas so I won’t be frustrated with a fogged lens when the time comes to snap photos of that lettuce.

As I sit at my computer to write, I confess I’d rather be either working in my garden or photographing it. But GWA Grows editor Ann McCormick has inspired me to give this blog thing a shot so here I am.

Break time. I escaped outdoors just before the sun blazed through the clouds. I was able to get a few shots in the soft morning light. Back inside I stared at the computer for a while then decided to take another break. I managed to get a few rows of ‘Little Gem’ lettuce seedlings moved before I was pulled back inside again. And so the morning goes – write, photograph, garden, garden, photograph, repeat.

I confess I love photography as much as I love gardening. But it always seems to me that Adams transplants with row cover.jpgthe perspiration flows more freely when I’m trying to capture a clean, creative photo than it does when I’m hoeing weeds. I remind myself, “Look, and look some more before you click the shutter because fixing it in Photoshop is a pain in the A—.” But I have to admit that digital photography is wonderful and pixels are cheap. One SD card can last me for months, if not years.

I think garden writing and photography just naturally go together. In all my years of garden communication – writing, speaking, radio, and TV– I’ve used very few stock photos and have never written about a garden that someone else photographed. There’s nothing wrong with this type of collaboration. But I prefer having the photography skill to complement my writing. I wish the GWA Media Awards included a category for writing and photography combined.

Adams Roxanne_clean.jpgYou can see the results of my style of garden communication at Bill’s Blog, which I write for Arbor Gate Nursery in the Houston, Texas area. I cover a variety of garden subjects, from a recent trip to Ireland to my lust for tasty tomatoes. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to my garden. There’s a great photo calling my name.


Meet the Author:

Adams Bill with Burgundy onions.jpgGWA member William D. (Bill) Adams joined the organization in 1974. He’s an Oklahoma State graduate, worked for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Houston for 31 years and loves gardening, writing about his Central Texas garden, and photographing it. Bill has written for newspapers, magazines and still has three books in print. He has served as a Regional Director for several terms and is the outgoing National Director for Region V. Bill’s wife Debbi is also a member of GWA.

Talking Shop With Growers: An Interview With Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs

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By Katie Elzer-Peters

When I left the GWA Annual Conference in Atlanta this summer the bellman who helped me load my plants and wheel 17 bags to my car said, “All of this dirt…it just appeared out of nowhere!” he exclaimed. “What were you AT?”

Proven Winners ColorChoice Logo 2 Color.jpgLeaves, flowers, and potting soil are all but inevitable in the wake of GWA conferences, thanks to exhibitors such as Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs (PW), and we love them for it. My garden is a bit of a showcase for plants from GWA exhibitors – that is, when I actually get the plants in the ground. I admitted as much to Mark Osgerby, who handles Public Relations and Marketing for PW, when we chatted on the phone recently.

“I’m either your best friend or your worst nightmare when it comes to plant trialing,” I confessed. “Other people will send you beautiful photography [of your plants]. In my case, IF the plants actually make it into the ground, they’re in the harshest area of the garden that is farthest from water. I’m also quite good at trialing bench-worthiness, a.k.a. letting them sit too long before planting.” I admitted this, knowing I might be taken off the plant sample list for next year. Continue reading “Talking Shop With Growers: An Interview With Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs”

My first GWA Regional Meeting at New England Grows

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By Jan Johnsen

On Friday, December 2, we held the Region I GWA meeting in the Boston Convention Center during the landscape show, New England Grows. This year NEG event coordinators changed the date from their normal February time slot to the beginning of December. They did this to get around the snow problems encountered during the last few shows. This also made sense for the heavy equipment sellers since their customers in the past had been out snow plowing and could not get in to see the new plows, mowers, and excavators on display.

johnsen-new-england-growsHowever the date change to early December did not make sense for the landscapers, designers, and garden center workers who were all at the height of their Christmas decoration craziness! Many of those landscape professionals simply could not get away at this busy and lucrative time of year to go to an industry show in Boston. As a result the show floor was stocked with heavy equipment but other categories appeared to be under-represented this year.

The unusual timing of the show was also reflected in a smaller member turnout for our Johnsen Monica Hemingway.jpgGWA meeting. This was a shame since we had a fabulous speaker, Monica Hemingway of ITG Multimedia. She opened our eyes to the oh-so-important world of websites, email marketing, social media, and so much more. It was one of the best talks I have attended in a very long time. I urge you to attend any talk Monica gives.

The other noteworthy aspect of our meeting was the wonderful variety of donated garden products members received. My fellow Region I GWA Director Carmen DeVito did an amazing job of getting sponsors for the meeting. We had an impressive selection of wonderful Timber Press books to raffle off. I also raffled off three issues of Garden Design Magazine. One of our meeting sponsors, Sandy Parco of Neptune’s Harvest, gave a short talk about organic fertilizers and gave us Johnsen Crab Shell.jpgeach free bottles of two of his products. Sandy’s talk was very enlightening. Being a soil nerd, I wanted to know more about his new crab shell product. What great benefits we enjoy at these meetings!

This was my first GWA Region I meeting. I was running it along with our new Region I National Director, C. L. Fornari. She guided me through the set up – who knew that ordering coffee, tea, and cookies could be so complicated? I think the best bit of advice I can give is to bring a small rolling carry-on bag to transport items like books from the hotel to the meeting room. I packed it with the goodies to give out to everyone and rolled it over. Easy peasy!

I really enjoyed meeting the GWA members that came and look forward to hosting other meetings. I am talking to Roger Marshall about having one in Rhode Island…any other ideas out there for Region I? If so, feel free to contact me at


Meet the Author

jan-johnsenJan Johnsen is a longtime landscape designer and author of Heaven is a Garden who loves to share her passion for gardens and the natural world. Her blog is ‘Serenity in the Garden’ and her FB page is Serenity in the Garden blog (among others). Her upcoming book is The Spirit of Stone, published by St. Lynn’s Press (February, 2017). Her firm’s website is at