Designing with Native Plants

Learn the fundamentals of how native plants can be successfully incorporated into your garden plans to create sustainable garden designs filled with the beauty and diversity you desire.  We will explore “Natural” Design with an eye towards sustainability and stewardship.  This includes the common design elements but in addition looks at layers & ecosystems.  And of course, plants – from structural to groundcover and everything in between. 

Designing with Containers

Alone or in groups, containers can create vignettes, lead the eye through the landscape, act as a sculptural interest, and screen or frame a view.  A wide variety of plants can be grown in containers from flowering & foliar annuals and perennials to shrubs & trees and the selection of containers is endless.  Learn a comprehensive approach to designing with containers, including how, when, where, and why you should use containers to enhance your garden.  Gain tips and tricks for great plant combinations in containers of all kinds.  This session will cover what to grow (plant options from perennials to annuals), design formulas for success, design with a setting in mind.

Green Cleaning

For centuries, people cleaned their homes without the arsenal of toxic chemicals sold today. Rediscover nontoxic solutions to everyday problems and avoid unnecessary “greenwashed” commercial products. Learn the science of grime and see how simple ingredients can be combined for effective and inexpensive cleaning and disinfecting. Keep your home fresh and safe for you, your loved ones, and pets.  You will mix and take home your own multi-purpose anti-bacterial spray cleaner, made with essential oil, liquid soap, and other ingredients.  

(Why, you might ask, is this in my line up?  Because I am dedicated to avoiding chemicals inside as well as outside.  Having worked in the chemical industry, I am very conscious of the toxicity of many products on the grocery store shelf.)

10 Steps to Gardening & Inner Peace

Sleepless because the mulch is not spread, your perennial border is not pristine, there are weeds dancing in the lawn and the dwarf Alberta spruce took over the front door??  Oftentimes, we gardeners are our own worst enemies.  By unintentionally working against nature and succumbing to garden envy, we make more work for ourselves.  Spring is great but by fall, we are exhausted. The good news is that we can free ourselves!  This presentation proposes ten steps to help us examine our old habits and expectations, focus on what is important, and lastly, take a deep breath and chill.       

Conifers for Every Garden

Conifers are unparalleled for adding four-season interest to a garden.  From towering trees to tiny dwarfs, there is a conifer to suit nearly every landscape.  Learn about conifers that can be used as screens, in mixed borders, as specimens, as groundcover and even as container plants.    Conifers come in a dazzling array of shapes, colors, textures and sizes and we will explore many design possibilities.   To ensure the right conifer for the right place we will also look at how conifers grow and what they need to thrive including site conditions, planting, and pruning.    

Out with Invasives! In with Natives!

Invasive plants are non-native plants that harm our native environment – and that includes us!   They crowd out our native plants and impact the interaction of plants, animals, and even soil in our native ecosystems.  Japanese barberry, burning bush, bittersweet … what’s in your yard?   Ever wonder how to identify and remove these plants?   Then this lecture is for you!  Participants will learn about the top local invasive plants, how to remove them, and explore native alternatives.  We will also look at pesky invasive insects that impact our native plants and how to cope with those. Let’s reclaim our land, one yard at a time!

Beneficial Insects – A Gardener’s Best Friends

Not all bugs are bad bugs!  Yes, some insects can damage your plants and vegetables but there are also insects that will help your plants thrive.  While we all recognize the bees and butterflies that pollinate flowers, we generally overlook the bugs that are not particularly attractive and endearing.  But these insects, which range from tiny wasps to beetles to flies, can provide natural pest control by chowing down on or parasitizing destructive bugs like aphids, scale, caterpillars and grubs.   So how do you know which is which?  How do you make your garden attractive to the good ones?    This presentation will explore the world of beneficial insects and show you how to enlist the aid of “good bugs” to battle pests without the need for nasty chemicals.

Talking Dirt – Your Soil Food Web

My what ?    The soil food web is a community of organisms living  in the soil.  It is a complex ecosystem  on which all plants depend for their nutrition.   A happy soil food web means healthy soil which is the key to a healthy and resilient garden.  In this session you will get to know the members of the soil food web, how it operates, and how plants actively interact with the web.   Once you know the basics,  we will cover simple strategies for protecting and encouraging your soil organisms.

Garden Jeopardy

Tired of presentations?   Test your horticulture, insect, and gardening knowledge in a game of “Garden Jeopardy.”    The game is structured like the Jeopardy TV game show including double jeopardy and final jeopardy questions.   It challenges individuals or teams on their knowledge of flowers, native plants and invasive plants, pollinators, as well as facts about Connecticut flora and fauna.   Categories can be customized to highlight topics of interest for your organization or club.     This fast paced session is a fun, entertaining and educational.

Wearable Botanicals Workshop

Why restrict flowers to a vase or keep that succulent in a pot?  The new trend is to “wear” them! Create a unique accessory of your choice to take home – a necklace, earrings, bracelets, pins, and more – while learning simple techniques you can apply to many projects.

How Dry I Am!   – Xeriscaping

Drought is not just for the West anymore!   Managing our use of water is important so let’s learn how to have beautiful and drought-tolerant gardens.  Xeriscaping is simply gardening practices that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation.  This class will look at the basic principles and common-sense measures that will help conserve water, including design, soil, plant selection, watering and more.

Gardening for Birds, Bees and Butterflies

Help your local pollinators flourish!  This class will teach you how to grow a naturally healthy garden that will help birds, bees and butterflies thrive.  Plus you will enjoy a garden with a stunning variety of flowers that bloom throughout the seasons.  Plant selection,  ecologically sustainable growing practices and habitat building will all be covered.  You will also learn to recognize some of our common native species and understand their life cycles.

Groundcover Plants – Beyond Pachysandra

Groundcovers can provide the solution to many of your garden challenges!  In addition to providing soil cover and suppressing weeds, they add texture and color to your garden with minimal maintenance.  This course will cover a wide range of groundcovers that can thrive in all spots in your garden – in shade, in sun, on slopes or under trees.    From evergreens to deciduous, herbaceous to woody, flowers to foliage, this group of plants will have something for you.   Come explore beyond pachysandra and ivy!

The Beauty of Ornamental Grasses

Beautiful, low-maintenance and easy-growing ornamental grasses can add texture, color and movement to your garden year round.  Grasses come in many colors, sizes and shapes.  Some can even thrive in the shade!  This course will introduce you to wide range of native and non-native grasses suitable for Connecticut.  We will look at their landscape design qualities, how they can be incorporated into your garden, and how to grow and maintain them.

Garden Thugs I Love

Garden thugs are plants that believe in manifest destiny and yes indeed, are known to take over a garden.   However their penchant for conquering new territory can help with many tough gardening challenges while adding beauty to the garden.   We will explore some oh-so attractive, wily and charming thugs and discuss how to use them to your advantage.   Of course, there will be discussions on how to rein them in as well!   Come meet the plants not usually allowed in polite perennial society.

Container Gardening – Beyond Annuals!

Growing in containers provides dazzling plant and design options but keeping plants healthy (and alive) can be a challenge.   We will dive into the horticultural aspects of container gardening from selecting the appropriate pot and soil mix to fertilizing, watering and overwintering.   We will explore growing many types of plants including trees, conifers, shrubs, perennials with a nod to annuals and vegetables.   And finally we will explore the creative and design side including container styles, design guidelines and garden settings.     Come explore how to enhance your garden and home with containers!

A hands-on workshop to create a small container garden can be added to this session.

Succulent Container Gardening

Succulents come in an incredible range of shapes and forms and they call to us to buy them.  The container design options are endless and fun … but keeping them alive can be a challenge.  Not all succulents are as care free as one might hope and not all are created equal!  We will explore the different types of succulents and the unique challenges of growing them in containers.  You will learn how to select the right succulent variety, container and soil mix as well as how to properly care and feed for your little charms.

A hands-on workshop to create a succulent container garden can be added to this session.  Due to the availability of some succulents, there are seasonal constraints.

Perennial Gardening

Tired of gardens that take too much care?  Done with replanting annuals year after year?  Then it’s time to learn more about how to have a beautiful, low maintenance perennial garden.  This class will take you through the fundamentals of soil and light requirements and how to select the right plants. We will also look at how to properly plant perennials, how to maintain your garden through the seasons including pruning and pest management.  Finally, we will review some low maintenance plants that thrive in our climate.

Pruning for the Fearful

Not sure what to do with that clipper or lopper?  Afraid you’ll cut off too much or kill the plant??  Pruning strikes terror to the heart of many gardeners which is unfortunate because proper pruning can improve the health and performance of your perennials, trees and shrubs.   No need to live in fear! This class will take the mystery out of pruning and teach you basic pruning principles.  From plant biology and proper pruning techniques to tools and timing, you will learn how to prune for optimum blooms, health, size, and ornamental value.

Vegetable Gardening

Want your own vegetable garden but haven’t a clue where to start? Then this is the class for you. It is designed for beginners and will cover how to set up and cultivate a small vegetable garden. You will learn the basics of how to create a garden, prepare the soil and choose the best crops for our climate. We will also discuss how to manage weeds, insects and common diseases with a focus on organic approaches.

Everything I Know About Gardening I Learned From a Tomato

Every vegetable gardener dreams of growing the perfect tomato.  The bad news is there are few vegetables that are prone to more problems than tomatoes. The good news is by learning to grow great tomatoes, will improve and sharpen your gardening skills.    From selecting the right variety to creating the perfect growing conditions to fighting off with pests and disease, we will get to know the drama queen that is the tomato plant.

No Space?  No Problem!   Veggies & Herbs for Containers  

Learn how to grow garden-fresh vegetables and herbs in containers.   Discover which varieties do best in containers, learn how to select the right containers and how to care for them. Special attention is paid to varieties that not only taste great and thrive in containers.

Bug Off!   Protect your Veggies from Pests

All of your hard work in the garden should produce healthful, nutritious food; so don’t let a host of pest problems ruin this for you. Learn a variety of environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to minimize or eliminate pests in your veggie garden, including promoting beneficial insects that attack bad bugs.

Herb Gardening

This class will cover the basics on growing herbs.  You will learn the soil, light, fertilizer, and climate requirements for the basic herbs like basil, chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley as well as less common herbs such as lavender, anise hyssop, chamomile, cilantro and more.    We will discuss how to start herbs from seed, how to identify and treat common plant diseases that may affect your herbs and how to attract beneficial insects and pollinators.   Finally you will learn how to harvest, dry, and properly store your herbs.  Along the way we will cover the general characteristics, uses and history of herbs.

Spring Has Sprung!

At last!  Time to get back to back outside and get the garden spruced up and ready to grow!  We will review the tasks that are best performed during spring maintenance (and which can wait).   From getting the soil prepped to dividing to pruning away winter injury, we will cover the hows and whys and prepare you to hit the ground digging!

Gardening into the Fall

The hot summer days are over and it is a wonderful time to be back in the garden.   This class will cover the many gardening activities that are best done in fall (like spring bulb planting) as well as how to help your garden survive the winter and thrive next spring.   Fall is the perfect time to reflect on the past spring and summer – what worked and what didn’t –   and consider changes.    So bring your questions and challenges and let’s keep gardening.

Gardening with Bulbs 

Explore the world of bulbs beyond daffodils and tulips.  There is a wide and wonderful assortment of bulbs that bloom from spring through fall.  Not only do they add that extra dazzle to your garden,    many are also deer-resistant.   This class will explore the different types of bulbs as well as how to plant and maintain them.  Fall is the time for planting many types of bulbs!

A hands-on workshop to create a “bulb lasagna” can be added to this session.  Due to the seasonal availability of bulbs, there are constraints.

Hooray for Alliums (Yes, Onions!)

Alliums are an amazing and impressive plant family.   There are culinary yummies like garlic and chives as well as dazzling, ornamental beauties with flowers the size of softballs.  Alliums are a wonderful garden accent providing eye-catching pops of color and  flowers that pollinators adore.  This class will explore many types of Alliums, how to incorporate them in your perennial and vegetable garden as well as how to plant and maintain them.   Want low maintenance plants that are drought, pest and deer resistant?  Go with Alliums!

Garden Design Basics   

Unhappy with your current landscaping but don’t know quite how to fix it?   This class explores the principles of landscape design.   We will look at good (and not so good) examples to help you understand basic concepts like proportion, form, texture and color.  Then learn how to develop a basic plan based on the style you want and how to select plants that match that plan.

Decorating Your Garden

To gnome or not to gnome?    Decorations can greatly enhance a garden and add a personal flair but the questions is how, where and what to add (without breaking the bank or making it look cluttered).   We look at how to apply the basics of interior design to our gardens in this presentation aimed at inspiring gardeners to be creative, imaginative, and have fun.

Managing Garden Pests

Have you given up gardening out of frustration?  Managing pests in our gardens including insects, deer, weeds, and diseases is a challenge.   This class covers the basics of integrated pest management (IPM), an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.  Learn how to identify pests and diseases, how to keep pests from becoming a problem, and how to control damage with the least possible harm to you and the environment.

Managing Garden Critters (of the Four-Legged Kind)

Deer and rabbits and squirrels??  Oh my!   Have you given up gardening out of frustration as the fruits (and shrubs) of your labor are nibbled by animals?  Is your lawn dug up during the night by an unknown marauder?  Our gardens are home to many creatures, large and small, and coexisting with them can be a challenge.  This class looks at how to minimize problems and damage by understanding an animal’s needs and habits and making your garden unappealing.  From protecting to repelling there are many choices to consider.

A hands-on workshop to make a home-made deer repellent can be added to this session.

Learning to Love Bees, Wasps, Hornets & More

Bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets are all in the insect family yet are amazingly varied.    Discover more about this fascinating insect family’s life cycle, habits, and benefits.   In this class, explore how to live in harmony with these inhabitants of your garden – and hopefully put away the tennis rackets and the pesticides. Class will also cover managing other pests in your garden and integrated pest management (IPM) an environmentally sensitive approach.

Garden Smarts

Discover the ways that you can work with nature to achieve outstanding results. This intensive three-part series explores the fundamentals of gardening: how to nurture healthy soil, choosing plants suited to your garden, planting and fertilizing properly, controlling pests without the use of pesticides, pruning, tool selection, and more…  Create a great-looking garden that’s healthier for you, your family, your pets and the environment.

Gardening with Nature

Often, we unintentionally work against nature and end up with high maintenance gardens that are vulnerable to weather extremes, pests and disease.  The good news is you can transform your garden into a beautiful, resilient and healthy refuge for you and your family without pesticides and herbicides.     This session will cover simple techniques for building healthy soil, choosing plants that will thrive in your garden conditions and managing insects, pests and diseases without chemicals.    We will also discuss ways to attract the “good” bugs, pollinators and birds we love to see in our gardens.   The goal is to help enable anyone to create an organic, low maintenance garden with a minimum amount of skill, time and money.  (This topic can be expanded to multiple sessions depending on the depth of discussion.)

How to Register

For classes  sponsored by the New York Botanical Garden  — go to