Custom Workshops


Special Event 

October 20, 2018

Solving Garden Design Dilemmas

A day of learning and interactive problem-solving with 3 garden experts

Check it out even if you miss the date

I’ll be doing my Eco-Friendly Garden Coach Brainstorming Session


Many of my talks can be expanded or combined into master classes, training sessions, demonstrations or combination indoor/outdoor workshops for

  • Garden centers and nurseries
  • Public gardens
  • Educational programs
  • Nature centers
  • Garden clubs
  • Civic groups
  • Libraries
  • Environmental organizations

Outdoor demonstrations, whether done with a selection of container plants at a garden center or strolling through a public garden, build upon and enhance the slide presentations.

Here are some examples of custom workshops and classes I have successfully adapted and expanded to meet the special needs of sponsoring organizations and garden businesses.


Bringing It All Home: Garden Photography, Garden Making and The Art of Seeing

A surprising number of things you need to pay attention to when photographing a garden apply to making gardens too. My talk is the long answer to a short thoughtful question – “How has being a garden photographer made you a better gardener?”

The talk, addressing three areas of inquiry (lavishly illustrated of course), followed by an interactive brainstorming session, are drawn from my career as a much-traveled garden photographer who blossomed into a writer and speaker. Insights and experiences (plus cool plants) gleaned from far afield have taken root in my own home ground and continue to inform my practice as an eco-friendly garden coach.

The talk considers

#1 Photography and Gardening – Both involve focus (quality of attention- it’s all about seeing well), framing and light.

#2 What makes for a good photo? And what compels you to put a frame around it, to focus on a scene in the first place, while another you might pass by?

#3 The gardens themselves -Seeing so many gardens, interviewing gardeners and spending time really looking has been a great education, leading to talks, books and coaching.

The workshop

Before and After photos and discussion of problems solved as an eco-friendly garden coach. Then some “Befores” for interactive brainstorming to get creative juices flowing so participants can bring it all home too. It’s fun, friendly and informative.

NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmers Association) Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals and Virginia Horticultural Foundations Short Course attendees found the workshop stimulating and worthwhile.



Survival in the Darwinian Garden: Strategies for Planting the Fittest

This Master Class for The Rochester Civic Garden Center was based on my talk on the same subject.

Designed as a half-day master class beginning with a slide presentation chock full of inspirational images. This time frame allows for more images and in-depth discussion than the typical hour-long talk. We study adaptations evolved by various plants (including Elegant Silvers) as survival strategies, talk about ecological niches, invasive plants, widely adaptable plants, site analysis, the importance of biodiversity and innovative maintenance regimes informed by the understanding of plants’ adaptations and reproduction strategies, with a special emphasis on native plants, the importance of plant communities and reducing maintenance and inputs by paying attention to what wants to grow where. Then we go outside to look at good examples in the gardens.

This master class was co-sponsored by Broccolo Garden and Design Center, a local independent garden center with a commitment to supporting local non-profit community groups. They scheduled a special fund-raising native plant sale on the following weekend and gave me their plant list, enabling me to feature native plants especially suited to local garden conditions.


Jazzing Up the Garden with Color, Contrast and Movement

This very popular live demonstration outdoors at garden centers is based on my talk about creating dynamic plant combinations. It’s fun and informal, can be done at any time during the growing season – and it sells plants. I gather container-grown plants ahead of time so I can pick them up in various combinations and show how they interact. This allows me to demonstrate big contrasts, harmonizing, color echoes, easy ways to think about color, texture, form and to showcase plants with lively character.

Then I ask each participant to pick up a plant that they like or one that they already have at home that doesn’t look good with its companions. As we walk through the garden center, customers try out plant combinations by holding their selected plant next to container-grown ones on the sales racks. They can see very quickly what combinations “zing” and which plants just sit there next to each other doing nothing.

Every time I do this demonstration at Natureworks customers leave with little red wagons full of plants and new confidence in their ability to make plant combinations that please.


Gardening with Kids: Opening Eyes and Doors

The slide talk – about getting kids to connect with the natural world and planting opportunities for them to experience and learn through all their senses – is for adults, and happens indoors. Or it can turn into a day of fun and hands-on learning outside for entire families.

For example, I consulted with one public garden that wanted to make a modest children’s garden. We brainstormed a bit and I provided a list of plants that kids like – plants that look like something else (lemon cucumbers), are funny colors (purple tomatoes), have animal names (bat-faced cuphea, lamb’s ears), plants that smell (chocolate mint), plants you can make something with or eat or are just plain weird that tickle the fancy. On the day of the talk I brought more in pots. Kids had activities and snacks outdoors while I spoke to the adults. Then I got to play pied piper as we took a walk through the gardens to discover caterpillars and butterflies and bugs and birds and wonderful scents and all the delightful plants in the children’s garden. A plant sale gave families a chance to try growing the plants their kids liked and encouraged them to plant snacks.


Landscaping with Native Plants: Healing Our Home Turf

Based on my talk, this works well at nature centers and public gardens with good native plant collections. In a full-day training session for Audubon At Home in Greenwich , this talk was expanded to familiarize volunteers in the Audubon At Home Healthy Yards   program with the importance of native plants, to teach them to identify key species native to the area and show how natives can be used in beautiful home landscapes. After slide presentations and discussion the program director and I took students on a long walk through the Audubon Center to both point out natives in their various habitats and to identify invasive plants.

Later in the day elements of Naturescape Your Yard were presented, with inspiring ways of looking to nature – in this case, the eastern deciduous forest – as a guide for creating sustainable, low-care, high-satisfaction gardens. Topics covered relate to The Naturescaping Workbook: A Step-By-Step Guide for Bringing Nature to Your Backyard (Timber Press, 2011), for which I provided photographs and the stories behind them.


Naturescape Your Yard

Having contributed an easterner’s perspective, photos and the stories behind them in collaborating with Beth Young (a westerner) on The Naturescaping Workbook: A Step-By-Step Guide for Bringing Nature to Your Backyard (Timber Press), this workshop is most often requested in the East. But my experience exploring western gardens and habitats allowed me to present to an enthusiastic group of serious gardeners at Denver Botanic Gardens, where I addressed topics relevant to the dry west, where xeriscaping is so important. Elements of The Darwinian Garden and Elegant Silvers (silver is an adaptation to harsh climates) are incorporated and images of stunning gardens from the xeric southwest show how these plants and ideas are put to use in dry climates.