Native Flora of the Carolinas

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By Cheval Opp

Torrential rains and tornado warnings the day before did not bode well for the GWA Native Flora of the Carolinas Region IV garden tours. But Friday, May 5 dawned with abundant sunshine for the early morning photo shoot at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the first stop for our tour. Fortified with coffee and juice, thirty-five participants including a gardening couple from South Dakota joined the guided tours.

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Garden guides led small groups through Sara P. Duke Gardens.

This Duke Gardens began as abandoned lake construction but in the 1930’s a visionary gardener Dr. Frederic M. Hanes, an early member of the original faculty of Duke Medical School, found the resources to build a terraced garden on the site.

The garden has since expanded from a terraced hill into four distinct areas that our members toured in small groups with docents. The garden’s original terraces, topped by a wisteria-covered pergola, displayed glorious spring blooms starring stunning alliums. The Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden featured no-spray and heirloom roses set among annuals and perennials. In the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants the flowering big leaf magnolia was one of many plants of the southeastern United States. The W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum devoted to plants of eastern Asia offered a traditional red bridge. The newest garden we visited was the  Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, an ecology-focused garden.

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Jan Little, Director of Education and Public Programs for Sara P. Dule Gardens presented a history of North Carolina natural resources.

Mid-day the weather goddess let loose a monsoon rain, but our group sat snug eating lunch and enjoying two presentations. Reid Hargrove, the District Sales Manager for McCorkle Nurseries, shared an overview of the latest plants in the Gardener’s Confidence Collection, several of which were giveaways at the evening trunk show. Jan Little, Director of Education and Public Programs for Sarah P. Duke Gardens then presented a history of North Carolina natural resources. She pointed out that today North Carolina is one of the most diverse ecosystems of any state in the United States.

After lunch the group took their vehicles to North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel

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Entrance to H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants displaying plants of the southeastern United States.

Hill. We were grateful the clouds had cleared, and sunshine graced our afternoon tours. The North Carolina Botanical Garden has been a leader in native plant conservation and education in the southeastern United States for more than 40 years. Following a short overview of the garden’s history and mission, docents led small groups through the twelve display gardens. The variety of the plants was a display of North Carolina’s diverse ecosystems.

The last stop of the day was at Fearrington Village for a guide of the grounds, the trunk show, and dinner at the Roost Beer Garden. In 1786, William Cole, Sr. purchased 640 acres of land for $80 that eventually became Fearrington Village. Over the last 40 years, the Fearrington community has grown to include 2,000 residents, an award-winning inn, a spa, several restaurants, acres of beautiful gardens, an independent

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Viewing the gardens of Fearrington Village which include about 60 garden beds connected by brick.

bookstore, boutiques, and much more. The Fearrington grounds include about 60 garden beds connected by brick pathways, a herb garden used by the chefs at The Fearrington House Restaurant, cutting beds used by florists, a vegetable garden, and several greenhouses.

Brienne Arthur, National Director for Region IV, is to be commended for arranging such a great day of gardens. At day’s end members were encouraged to enjoy numerous other garden events available on Saturday and Sunday. The Arthur Foodscape at Arthur’s home in Fuquay-Varina on Saturday allowed neighbors and visitors to see the gardens Arthur showcases in her new                                                             book, “The Foodscape Revolution.”

Meet the Author

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Cheval Force Opp writes the “Day-Trip” column for Washington Gardener Magazine. When she is not traveling to visit gardens, she works in her garden in Dunn Loring, Virginia. You can reach Cheval at

“Frida Friday” From the Eye of a Photographer

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By Doreen Wynja as told to Ann McCormick

It was a small group – only six of us – that attended a GWA Connect meeting at the “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” in Tucson, AZ exhibit on March 10. My time there was part of a working photographic tour of Phoenix and Tucson and other points in the Southwest. Since I am more of a photographer than a writer I thought I’d give you my impressions through photography with a little commentary, translated by Ann McCormick, blog editor.

I have known about Frida for some 20 plus years prior to the exhibit. She was tenacious, honest, and passionate. I was drawn to her whole story of physical and emotional pain and her ability to express her emotions through her art. It was perhaps the only way for her to have relief.
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Frida was spirited! I tend to be a bit strong-headed and passionate myself – but not quite to her extent. I appreciate and respect people who can harness their pain and do something beautiful with it. She had a great father who really supported her through recovery from childhood polio. But when she had an accident around the age of 18 she began a lifelong journey of physical suffering.

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Dominant in the exhibit were “Frida blue” and “Diego red.” They painted several structures in these signature colors. Diego was a mentor, later becoming a husband to Frida. He was instrumental in helping her get out of herself and create despite the pain.

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From the exhibit I learned about the depth of her passion for plants. There were some wonderful examples showcasing plants that Frida would have grown. The Tucson Botanical garden is small but it’s quite mighty in its displays and use of color. For the exhibit they had created courtyard scenes that were like street gardens from where Frida grew up in Mexico. The townspeople were poor and would decorate with found objects – plastic beads, fake flowers, repurposed old tin cans. One of the activities for exhibit visitors was creating art from tin cans in imitation of Frida.

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Most of Frida’s artworks were self-portraits. It was one way of expressing and finding beauty in what could be considered a painful life. She was a very strong, politically active woman. Her garden was her sanctuary from the turmoil of her public life. I too hold my garden as my place to find peace.

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A centerpiece of the exhibit was this three-dimensional recreation of “The Two Fridas,” one of Frida’s most famous paintings. In it there are two figures from her two worlds (upper class Mexican and lower class Tejano) connected to oneheart. It symbolically displays the tension between her two selves and the constant turmoil from her love of an unfaithful husband. It was an amazingly passionate love they held for each other and at the same time there was a constant strain, tearing Frida apart.

I came away from the exhibit with a deeper understanding of Friday and her artwork. As a photographer with my own physical pain I can understand Frida’s need to express herself through artwork. When I have a camera in my hands it’s almost like I am in my second self. In those moments there is nothing else that enters my mind. Even physical pain will not penetrate that being “in the zone.” This is what I believe Frida felt with her paints and brushes. It was her way of being outside herself.

The “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” exhibit will be on display through August 31, 2017 at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. It’s well worth the trip.

Meet the Author

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Photographer Doreen Wynja has been working over 30 years in the world of photography, experiencing with almost all types of photography. In 1990 Doreen opened her own studio called Eye of the Lady in McMinnville, She was also working closely with the Oregon Wine Industry.

In 2004 Monrovia commissioned Doreen to do some horticultural imagery for them. She eventually became their principle photographer. Having worked for 18 years in the field of viticulture, it was a welcomed change.

These days Doreen’s images are often among the pages of Garden Design Magazine, Fine Gardening, Garden Gate Magazine, and various Sunset books to name a few. She was one of the largest contributors to the recent Sunset Western Garden book, and the new Sunset Western Landscape book. Doreen is just finalizing files with Timber Press on a book coming out the end of 2017 on Northwest Garden Nursery, in Eugene, Oregon.

While yet other commercial jobs keep Doreen busy, she can often be found traveling about photographing gardens and points of interest along the way or in front of her computer working on an ever growing Horticultural Stock Library available at Eye of the Lady.


Let’s Get Together: Organizing GWA Regional and Connect Meetings

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By Kate Copsey

All regional meetings and connect meetings are intended to keep local members up to date with news from the organization. Connect meetings are considered less formal and are purely a social event where members can get to know each other better. Both members and non-members can attend the meetings. All meeting should be coordinated with the Regional Director but you do not need to be on the GWA board to start the ball rolling and be the organizer.

A Regional Meeting

Gasteiger gwalunch.jpgRegional meetings are a great opportunity to network in smaller groups and are perfect to get to know new members and have conversations about plants, publishers, and career development. A regional meeting generally takes place over one full day with everyone gathering at the same place at the start of the meeting. Each region hosts at
least one regional meeting per year. These meetings should have education, story tour, and networking.

At the start of the meeting, you can expect: A registration table with name tags on it (the tags are printed at the office). If you are the organizer you should expect a few late registrations who do not have tags and one or two that do not arrive so don’t wait too long before starting the day’s activities. Coffee and donuts are a common part of this early morning gathering. The cost for refreshments both at the start of the day and the lunch are covered in the registration.

The educational component of a regional meeting can be formal with a traditional ‘slide’ presentation, or informal with a guided tour. Regional meetings should include a short business meeting. Depending on the event, the board part of the meeting can be done at the start of the day (before attendees scatter for the story tours) or during lunch. This
part of the meeting is a chance for everyone to introduce themselves. This does take a few minutes and is not compulsory but site hosts and board members should be introduced. The director or board member in attendance will update everyone on GWA matters, encourage everyone to sign up for the annual conference, and deliver any other pertinent news.

clarke-patch-of-heavenTypical regional meeting story tours have two or three gardens – private, public, or both – to tour. Locations should be selected so that attendees will be able to develop story ideas and enjoy a casual environment where members network.

In addition to the formal meeting there is sometimes a trunk show and connect meeting. Neither of these are compulsory but are fun events. For the trunk show organizers solicit raffle items from attendees and sponsors. Often sponsors will send small donations for the raffle. Be prepared to have a car full of goodies both to bring to the meeting, and to take home.

There is usually a charge for the meeting to cover the event costs so that it does not come out as a loss. Full details as to how to estimate costs and pricing the event is on the GWA web page under Member Archives and Resources.

A Connect Meeting

Arthur IMG_1823.JPGConnect meetings are far less structured than regional meetings. They can be the last stop of a regional meeting, or a standalone meeting. Connect meetings are designed to get a group of members and potential members to meet on a social level. Connect meetings should be coordinated with the appropriate Regional Director but does not
need an elected Board or Regional director to be present. Instead any member in good standing can be approved as an Ambassador to organize one of these meetings. It is not necessary to have either an educational or business component in connect meetings although they may be included.

Connect meetings are particularly important in large regions where travelling to the regional meeting is difficult. These smaller meetings are great for networking and introducing new members to the group in a more casual environment.

Typical connect meetings occur at large garden shows and professional trade show locations. The event can be a breakfast before people head out to the show, or a restaurant for lunch or supper. Organizers should arrange for an area of the restaurant or bar to be set aside for the meeting prior to the meeting. This is particularly important when arranging a connect meeting on a Friday when 20 + people could all arrive at a restaurant at 5pm!

There is no charge for the connect meeting. Full details about how to arrange a GWA Connect meeting are also on the GWA Resources and Archives web page.

Meet the Author

image KateKate grew up in England, where vegetables were always part of the garden. Kate was the first host of the popular America’s Home Grown Veggie Show and continued as host for over 6 years with the program. She was a national board member for The Herb Society of America, and is currently on the board of GWA. As a writer Kate has written for local, regional and international newspapers as well as a variety of magazines.  She authored two books: – The Downsized Vegetable Garden (St Lynn’s Press); New York & New Jersey Month By Month Gardening (Cool Springs Press). Kate also enjoys giving presentations to the public and has always been a popular regional speaker wherever she has lived. Her talks range from basic gardening to herbs and vegetables, including growing vegetables in containers. Kate currently lives in South Carolina.

Springtime in Delaware: The DuPont Triple Play

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By Kathy Jentz

About 45 Region II GWA members and guests met on the last Friday of April for touring a trilogy of DuPont gardens in Delaware. We were pleased to be joined by several new GWA members.

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Cheval Opp takes a break under a friendly mushroom.

The day started with an early morning photo shoot at the
Nemours Mansion and Gardens just outside of Wilmington. The estate developed by Alfred du Pont includes a 77-room mansion, a large formal French garden, a Chauffeur’s Garage housing a collection of vintage automobiles, and nearly 200 acres of scenic woodlands, meadows, and lawns. Fortified by coffee and donuts, we scattered across the estate to take photos and catch-up with old friends. It was a good time to take a leisurely walk down the Colonnade or in the formal parterre gardens and get to know them. Continue reading “Springtime in Delaware: The DuPont Triple Play”

Six Things Every Speaker Should Know

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By Ann McCormick

Some people view public speaking as a cushy job – lots of perks for not much work. All you have to do is smile, talk for an hour, and bask in the applause. But a good speaker does more than show up and talk. If you are just starting out or are considering becoming a speaker, here are six things you should know.

Maintain an Upbeat Attitude, No Matter What –Like it or not, you are a public figure the moment you step out of your car at the speaking location. All eyes will be on you. It doesn’t matter if the traffic was dreadful or the cat did something unmentionable on the carpet just before you left. The attendees expect you to be happy to be there because they want to enjoy themselves.

Expect Problems With the Location – The old phrase “there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip” certainly applies to speaking. It never fails – I get to the location where I’ll be speaking and discover something isn’t there, is there and shouldn’t be, or doesn’t work. Once I found myself speaking at a Home & Garden show where attendees had to locate an elevator hidden behind a display, go up two floors and down a hall usually used for exhibit staff to find the room where I was speaking. And don’t get me started about securing a decent place to sell books before and after the talk.

When you talk to the program director or event organizer, do not assume that they know what you will need. Ask about the layout of the room. If you’re one of several speakers, ask how much time is allotted between talks. Be prepared for the person ahead of you to go beyond his allowed time. If you are selling books, emphasize to the program organizer the need for a good location to setup before you start talking. If possible, sweet talk them into securing a sales assistant who can be paid with an autographed copy of your book.

It’s a Business, Not a Privilege – When I began speaking over a decade ago I felt awkward about asking for a fee and tended to undervalue my worth. I soon found that some of the organizers felt the same way about my value. They thought I should be happy with a $50 honorarium and a free lunch. Well, think again.

Like most garden speakers, I spend hours gathering materials and planning the talk. I also set aside the time out of my life to travel to a meeting. The years I spent learning about herbs (my specialty) is almost as long as it took to get my college degree. And just like that college degree, I want it to pay off.  You should too.

When talking to program directors, be friendly but confident. Never apologize about the fee. You will be earning it, believe me. When you arrive for the event, be confident you can do the job. Don’t behave shy or self effacing. If that sounds too aggressive or not your style, get over it. This is not a social even. It’s a business engagement.

Always Have a Contract on Paper – This is one of the first bits of sage advice I received when starting out as a speaker. Having all the pertinent information down in one place reduces the risk of mis-communication. Do this every time, even if the organizer is a personal friend.

So what should go on your contract? First of all, contact information for the organizer and yourself – email, home and cell phones, websites, mailing addresses. Next comes the critical information such as date and time of talk, location (with a street address), name of contact at the event (which is not always the same person you are talking to), and the topic of your talk. Last but not least, spell out your compensation. If publicity is part of the deal mention that too. Include travel costs but guess high. People are always happier if the final bill is lower rather than higher than they expected.

The Bigger the Fee, the Greater the Respect – One of the toughest lessons I have learned is that your fee is a reflection of how valuable you are perceived to be. If they think they are getting a bargain (translation: something cheap), they are not likely to treat you like anything more than an incidental. It comes down to the connection between cost and perceived value.

Recently while reevaluating my fee structure, I spoke to other well-known garden speakers in my region about their experiences with fees and results. The bottom line for both of them was that the more you charge, the greater respect you get.

Speaking is Hard Work – Before I started speaking, I wondered why Christian ministers usually take Mondays off. Now I know. Sunday sermons plus being “up” all day dealing with the congregation is exhausting. The same is true with speaking to a public audience.

You don’t realize it at the time but your adrenaline is flowing when you’re on stage. Even experienced speakers will find themselves drained after a performance. And that’s what it is – a performance. A good speaker engages in high-energy real-time multi-tasking. You are focused simultaneously on your topic, the reaction of the audience, and how much time you have left – to say nothing of suppressing the nagging fear that you’ll drop your notes or develop an uncontrollable cough.

All this may sound like a cautionary tale designed to discourage potential speakers. But I must admit I love public speaking. I get a kick out of engaging an audience as I teach them about herbs. There’s a real satisfaction in hearing afterwards how attendees learned something new and can’t wait to try it out. Yes, speaking is hard work (if you do it right) but the rewards are worth it.


Meet the Author

Ann McCormickAnn McCormick, the Herb ‘n Cowgirl has devoted her time for the last 20 years to writing and speaking about herbs. Ann is a columnist for Herb Quarterly where she pens the ‘Herbalist Notebook’ and a feature writer for The Dallas Morning News. The Herb ‘n Cowgirl also shares her love of herbs and her gardening techniques as a speaker and media guest. To find out more about the Herb ‘n Cowgirl visit her at

Getting Set to Grow: New Ideas and Tools From Canada Blooms

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By Andrea Bannister

With snow swirling in the bitter wind, it was a perfect day for Canadian garden writers to connect, learn, and dream of summer days at the annual GWA Region VII gathering held at Canada Blooms.  As a first-timer, I was warmed by the friendly welcome of GWA members, lush gardens and generous plant, tool, and other giveaways from sponsors (rookie mistake – I took the bus to the meeting!)

Canada Blooms Red and White

The show hall was quiet when Helen Battersby from Toronto Gardens gave us an early morning tour of Canada’s largest flower and garden show.  Many Canada Blooms show gardens were bigger than my urban yard with drool-worthy patios, paths, and pools, softened with an abundance of bright plants and surprisingly large, healthy trees.

As 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday, it was no surprise many gardens were decked out in patriotic red and white combined with whimsical touches like Tim Horton cups as planters and hockey sticks as décor. Other exhibits celebrated the Canadian outdoors with Ontario stone water features, native trees and plants, and of course the iconic maple leaf.

One of my personal highlights was The Secret Path exhibit, inspired by a shameful Bannister Secret path Canada Blooms.jpg
chapter in Canada’s history. For generations, thousands of indigenous kids were forcibly sent away to schools that shunned their culture and beliefs. The garden’s winding,  woodland path represented the heartbreaking journey of a boy named Chanie, who ran away from one of these schools and died from hypothermia on his desperate 650 km journey home.

Canadian Insights and Innovations

The Canadian theme continued with the morning presentations and updates. Mark Cullen, one of the country’s best known gardeners and a recent recipient of the Order of Canada, shared his insights from his book, The New Canadian Garden. He’s seen a huge, welcome shift during his career as a gardener and media personality away from “perfect lawn and impatiens” to a naturalistic, sustainable style. His best-selling book dives into Canadians’ growing interest in pollinators, community gardens, edible gardening, and gardening with children.

His son, Ben Cullen, showed off his millennial chops
with wisdom on top social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. He urged us to use Bannister Hockey sticks eh Canada Bloomsour words, photos, videos – whatever our medium  – to position gardening as an amazing, engaging experience, similar to how travel and food is often packaged.

Next, Dr. Amy Bowen unveiled the first rose, ‘Canadian Shield’ from Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Recognized as Canada Blooms’ Plant of the Year, this hardy red shrub rose kicks off Vineland’s new 49th Parallel rose collection. As part of the selection process, Vineland extensively researched Canadian consumers’ rose and plant buying preferences. There were lots of “oohs” and “aahs” over the beautiful ‘Canadian Shield’ rose and an upcoming blush stunner called ‘Chinook Sunrise.’

New Tools For Better Growing

After lunch sponsored by Fiskars and a few laughs offered by Region VII National Director and host, Ken Brown from Gardening-Enjoyed, the learning continued with presentations from other passionate gardeners:

  • With worldwide horticultural and agricultural projects under his garden tool belt, Robert Patterson’s latest focus is “permaculture in a box” through The Growing Connection. Their lightweight planters with a built-in water reservoir are 50% recycled plastic and frost proof. Already used by organizations and home gardeners globally, his goal is to make healthy, tasty homegrown vegetables accessible for everyone.
  • Bob Reeves shared Root Rescue, which helps transplanted trees and plants by adding beneficial Mycorrhizae fungi to the soil. His talk focused on the cozy relationship between tree roots and these soil fungi, which aid plants in absorbing water and nutrients.
  • Finally, Fiskars (in business since 1649!) spotlighted some of their new gardening tools including watering products from recent acquisition, Gilmour.

As we left Canada Blooms, the March snow fell harder in the icy air. But we writers, photographers and, above all, gardeners, were warmed by the promise and excitement of another growing season just ahead.

Meet the Author

Andrea BannisterA lifelong gardener, Andrea Bannister is a freelance communicator who lives in Toronto with her husband and three nature-loving children. She is finishing a Horticulturist certificate this spring and is excited to bring her love of gardening and writing together. You can reach her at


Holland at the Philadelphia Flower Show

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Attendees loved the orchid promenade, with orchids overhead and on either side.

By Denise Schreiber

I always block off some time in March for the Philadelphia Flower Show. I have been going to the show for twenty-eight straight years even though I live on the other side of

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This custom iron gate was part of the display by Michael Petrie’s Handmade Gardens.

the state. For me it is a signal that spring is around the corner and I will soon smell the intoxicating fragrance of flowers again. A couple of friends and I always make the journey, excited to see what the new theme displays will look like, discover ideas that we can steal for home (because that is the point of these displays) and of course shop at the marketplace.

The Philadelphia Flower Show has several components: major landscapes, educational displays, juried exhibits, floral displays, the Gardener’s Studio, the design gardens, exhibits from plant societies, and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Gold Medal Plants. This year’s theme was “Holland, Flowering the World.” Bulbs, bulbs and more bulbs were to be found in the major landscape displays as well as used in other venues.

When we think of Holland, we think of tulips, wooden shoes, and windmills but Holland is the world’s largest supplier of not only tulips but cut flowers too! So there were

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Bicycles painted white combined with flowers in this stunning display.

displays by Studio Toop of a magnificent, natural landscape filled with early blooming bulbs and spring ephemerals and Michael Petrie’s Handmade Gardens that featured a custom iron gate to die for. There is a collection of bonsai pieces, carefully tended for several years as well as juried exhibits of begonias, cactus, rock gardens, orchids and more. There was even a nod to Holland’s notorious red light district in one of the exhibits.

One of my favorite displays each year is the pressed flower pictures. The only thing that is allowed is the flowers themselves with a

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Closeup of a scene in Holland composed completely of plant material.

background and frame. No coloring of any kind. When you look at the pictures you have to remember that every detail in the picture is made from pressed flowers and grasses cut into intricate detail.

The Eco-Dome from Holland made its North American debut at the show. It is a showcase of the innovative green technologies from the Netherlands. Think of it as a very large geodesic dome that is open. It features new ideas such as converting rainwater into drinking water, recycled concrete, solar power, special lighting – a glimpse into the future of sustainability. The Eco-Dome has been host to a meeting for the ministers of the European Union and now we have the opportunity to experience that as well.

A common sight at the show is large bouquets of forced pussy willows that you see in people’s arms as they wander through the show’s marketplace. While it seems perfectly

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This bonsai was in display in the horticultural exhibit.


natural to us northerners, it does raise a question of why from those who are not from the cold north. For us, the appearance of pussy willows with their soft, gray catkins reminiscent of a kitten is a sign that spring is around the corner. They delight us with these long stalks of spring that we take home and place in a vase to enjoy for several months because sometimes spring takes its good old time getting here!

Next year’s Philadelphia Flower Show theme is “Wonders of Water” from March 3 – 11th, 2018. Plan on being there…I will.

Meet the Author

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Denise Schreiber is a professional greenhouse grower and horticulturist, an ISA Certified Arborist, speaker, teacher, freelance writer, and wild-eyed plant lover. She is Mrs. Know It All™ for “The Organic Gardeners” radio show on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and as “Ask the Expert” for Pennsylvania Gardener. Her most recent book is “Eat Your Roses:…Pansies, Lavender and 49 other Delicious Flowers. She is currently serving as the GWA National Director for Region II.