What Did You Learn at #GWA2018?


By Carol Michel

It’s been almost four months since the annual conference was held in Chicago.  Looking back, have you used anything you learned there?

I can emphatically answer “Yes” to that question.  The one session I marked on the list and made a point to attend was “So You Want to Have a Podcast” with C. L. Fornari and Ellen Zachos.

In the same style as their podcast Plantrama, C. L. and Ellen  bantered back and forth and gave us the inside scoop on their real live experiences of launching their podcast over a year ago.

Looking over my notes, I see that I underlined Who Is Your Audience and wrote it in all capital letters.  C. L. and Ellen said their audience is more interested in plants than gardening.

I underlined Consistency Matters. They told us to make sure we publish new episodes on a consistent schedule to help engage and build an audience.

I also underlined “The Riches are in the Niches.” I’m still thinking over what that means but I have a pretty good idea. To me it means carve out your own niche, be yourself.

As with most presentations at the conference, C. L. and Ellen did not hold back. They gave us their recipe for how they record their podcasts. They shared their secret sauce.  Plan, Record, Edit, Drop.  They told us the brand of microphone they use, the software they use, and their entire process from start to finish.

It was one of those sessions you didn’t want to miss. One of those sessions where you wanted to take notes and then refer back to those notes again and again. One of those sessions you could put to practical use right away.

Dee Nash and I are doing just that with our newly launched podcast, The Gardenangelists.  We have miles to go and much to learn, but with C. L. and Ellen’s advice from their presentation and their offers of assistance whenever we need it, we are launched.

What have you used from the annual conference to further your garden communications career? Let us know! Write a blog post about it and send it to me at Indygardener@gmail.com and we’ll share it in the weeks ahead.

And by all means, reserve the dates now for the next annual conference in Salt Lake City from September 4 – 7, 2019.  You never know what session next year is going to launch you off into something new and exciting.

Meet the Author


Carol Michel is the author of Potted & Pruned: Living a Gardening Life, which received the 2018 Garden Media Gold Award for Best Overall Book from GWA: The Association of Garden  Communicators, Homegrown and Handpicked: A Year in a Gardening Life and a new children’s book, The Christmas Cottontail. She is a lifelong gardener with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Purdue University, an avid collector of old gardening books, and claims to have the largest hoe collection in the world. A popular speaker, Carol regularly writes for her award-winning garden blog, http://www.maydreamsgardens.com.

Want to write a blog post for GWAGrows? Please contact Carol Michel at indygardener@gmail.com



An Invitation to Review Your Most Successful Swag Plants—even if you got them years ago

Bd9zqc5ABy Mary-Kate Mackey

I find one of the best perks of being a professional garden communicator is receiving plants to trial and review. However, a downside to this process is that sometimes, it takes years before the review plants are able to show off their best qualities—think trees and large shrubs.

So, what can be done to strengthen the connections to magnanimous growers and marketers? I was pondering the reviewing drawback—time and seasons in the ground—while working in my garden the other day.

Above my head, the leaves of Acer x freemanii ‘Marmo’ were bright with fall color. I got this maple as a four-inch stick from the Morton Arboretum when the GWA Symposium was in Chicago in 2006. Colleague Kirk Brown teased me for taking home such a humble subject. “It’ll take years,” he said.

Yes, it did. Now, in 2018, the tree has grown twenty feet tall. With outstretched gangly adolescent arms, it’s giving promise of the mighty fifty- to seventy-footer it will become. No fuss, no diseases, just terrific. It’s one of the most satisfying plants in my garden.

I looked around the beds and borders for more review plants that were also spectacular latecomers. Do you remember what year we were given small starts of Sambucus ‘Black Lace’? That fifteen-by-ten-foot deciduous shrub—who knew it would grow so big?—reliably blooms, like floriferous pink and black wallpaper, on the best sunny days in June. I’ve received countless hydrangeas, including Incrediball®, which now has a seven-foot bulk, making the massive flower heads not appear outsized. My white reblooming Iris ‘Immortality’ glows again every fall. The thornless rose, Oso Happy Smoothie®, always showers blossoms until frost. I’ve got daylilies so vigorous they look like they’ll punch you in the nose as they burst open. And in the front of the border, hardy black sedums return each year along with the one-foot shrub, Weigela ‘My Monet’. I almost threw that one out because it didn’t grow or show much for two years. Now it reliably holds its own with both green-and-white variegated foliage and bright pink flowers.

And I thought—I bet a lot of members have success stories like these in their gardens.

What if? What if we shared those stories as short posts on, say, the GWA Facebook page? For clarity, we could do a single plant per post. Perhaps with a hashtag #GreatPlantReview? Or, are there better ones to add? #GardenCommGreatPlantReviews? #WhatWorks? We could include a photo of the plant in its glory, what year we got it, from whom we got it—with a link?—and a sentence about what makes it so terrific now. If we don’t know some of the information, other people who have also received that plant could comment, or add pics of their own plant’s same success on the string.

And if this crowd-sourcing/sharing idea took off, I would be happy to curate and organize the posts later so they would have a permanent place where the organization could point to these short reviews. Of course, it won’t tell growers and marketers the exact data on how efficacious their plant distributions are. But it would be a way to say thank you to those who have been so generous with us.

Which swag have succeeded in your garden?

Meet the Author


Freelance writer, author, and Region VI National Director, Mary-Kate Mackey is a five-time GWA Silver winner. Her latest book, Write Better Right Now (Career Press) is available at Amazon and independent US booksellers. Ideas? Suggestions? Contact her at marykatemackey@gmail.com.

Oh, Those Maryland Gardens!

Group photo at Historic Londontown in Edgewater, MD

By Gloria Day

The final Region II meeting of 2018 culminated on October 12 and 13 with tours of the Annapolis, MD area. Autumn temperatures greeted us at our first stop to Dovenest, the home and mini arboretum of Tony and Della Dove. This property has a very personal story behind its evolution, beginning with the purchase of the four acres in 1959. Today, it is a sensuous landscape, with a four-season design planted with diverse collection of trees, evergreen and deciduous shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers.

We were the FIRST group to tour this private garden and to be offered a guided horticultural tour of many of the treasures and gems within.

Always looking to further our knowledge, copies of Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United States authored by Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge with exquisite photography by Della Dove were available for purchase and personal inscription.

A lunch break at Homestead Gardens and shopping spree was provided next. Homestead offers everything garden related for the retail customer and many happy faces entered the garden center to take advantage of post-season plant discounts, fall décor and to catch a glimpse of Holiday inventory arriving.  

Homestead is notable for their large growing operations located nearby, keeping costs low without incurring the shipping and middle-man costs.

Their Fall Festival is a huge event on weekends for children with family-centered activities and the permanent on-site petting zoo. Additionally, in true Annapolis style, the garden center is dog-friendly.        

Historic London Town and Gardens, a short distance away in Edgewater, MD, is as diverse in its function as the collection of plants it showcases. It serves as an historic site, an educational facility, an event destination, an ornamental garden and a future home for preservation of wild-collected and declining plant specimens. Director Lauren Silberman welcomed us; Tony Dove offered information about his early involvement planning and planting the initial site of the gardens adjacent to the historic buildings and the chief horticulturist gave us an overview of the property and plans for the future. With just two horticultural staff persons, London Town relies on community assistance and maintenance. An opportunity for several story angles and photographs was provided through this visit.

Next on tour was the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Again Dove led us into the past with a visit to the ruins on a hillside overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. Structurally reinforced and preserved with a contemporary steel infrastructure it gave us a glimpse to the architectural innovation we were to see at the laboratory. Amidst a native landscape, incorporating a rain garden and a natural pond, we arrived at the LEED-certified laboratory facility. Sustainability and research go hand-in-hand at this environmental research center as evidenced by our stream side visit with senior scientist Tom Jordan.

An add-on tour the next morning took us to the recently opened Glenstone Museum and sustainable landscape in Potomac, MD, was highlighted by our in-depth walking tour with chief sustainability officer Paul Tukey.

Paul structured our hike through the grounds,  detailing the conditions of the original site, architectural planning and incorporation of the green roofs, multi- million dollar costs for planting installations covering massive amounts of acreage with native tree and meadows and the challenge of planting and maintaining the Jeff Koons’ “SplitRocker” sculpture with annuals. Every question was answered and every photo opportunity was taken advantage of. This is a site to be visited as soon as possible and for generations to come.

Contee Farm ruins at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.
Stream restoration project at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.
Cypress trees at Tony Dove’s home garden the Dove’s Nest in Harwood, MD.

Meet the Authorday.jpg

Gloria Day is president of Pretty Dirty Ladies Inc. Garden Design & Maintenance; a member of Gardenwriters and the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association; she serves on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence Horticultural Advisory Committee and the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council.  She recently received a Silver Award from GWA for her column “Get Growing”. Gloria gardens organically on two acres in Southeastern PA and can be reached at Gloria@prettydirtyladies.com.

What Do You Know About the Top 10 Resources of GWA – soon to be known as GardenComm?

blackboard business chalkboard concept

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

by Communications Committee

The Communications Committee created 10 Blogs about the Top 10 Resources available to GWA members. We found that many on our Committee learned a lot about resources we weren’t accessing because we didn’t know about them.

What did you learn? We’d like to find out with this five-minute GWA RESOURCE QUIZ to test your knowledge and more importantly, be sure you’re accessing all that’s available to further your garden communication career.

We know you ALL read our blogs and presentations, so below is a quick refresher.

DID WE MENTION THERE ARE PRIZES? Not that you need an incentive but, YES, all quiz takers will be eligible to win prizes. A big thank you to Gardener’s Supply, Fiskars, Brent and Becky’s Bulbs and more. The winners will be drawn at random from the pool of entrants and will be notified via email. Contest will close December 1st, 2018.

1 – GWA Online Learning Tools and Resources by Jessica Walliser
2 – The Importance of Networking by Deb Wiley
3 – The GWA Job Board by Katie Elzer-Peters
4 – Annual GWA Symposiums by Maree Gaetani and Jessica Walliser
5 – The GWA Power Circles Program by Communications Committee Guest Cauleen Viscoff
6 – The Legal Assist Program by Elizabeth Clark
7 – GWA Webinars by Maree Gaetani
8 – Expert Advice: What’s It Take to Be A Garden Communicator by Jessica Walliser with Guests Nan Sterman, Steve Biggs and Amy Andrychowicz
9 –  On the QT Newsletter by Katie Elzer-Peters
10 – GWA Newsclippings by Maree Gaetani

So, please test your knowledge of GWA Resources and be the first to win a prize!

Contest ends December 1st, 2018

Begin Survey

A GWA Regional Meeting in the Middle of Winter? You bet!

HeaderBy Diane Blazek

Try something different! Go somewhere new! See something spectacular!

This GWA Regional Meeting is at a time of year when most of us are not thinking about our garden, except maybe wistfully planning what might become reality next year.

But we are very excited to invite you to the Rotary Botanical Gardens Holiday Light Show in Janesville, Wisconsin on December 13, 2018.

We’ll begin our day at local garden center K&W Greenery for a tour, poinsettia painting demo and greenery workshop.

From there we’ll travel the short distance to Rotary Botanical Gardens for an afternoon of learning about plants for winter interest, winter pruning, listening to experts who will inspire your 2019 gardens and…for the grand finale, a private showing of Rotary’s Holiday Light Show by Horticulturist Mark Dwyer. If you’ve never been on a garden tour with Mark, you are in for a treat!

A few key features of this year’s light show:

  • As additional 50,000 lights in 2018 for 500,000+ total
  • Many botanical themed displays
  • Hundreds of lit holiday trees
  • Three thousand half-gallon milk jug luminaries
  • Decorated Japanese garden trees and shrubs contribute strong form (and color)
  • And much more…this will be the biggest show yet and incorporates the new Wellness Garden

Click here to register.

The group will meet at K&W Greenery at 12:30 p.m., located at 1328 US-14, Janesville, WI 53545

(Optional, price not included in event) Meet for lunch at 11:00 a.m. at Road Dawg Janesville, 2419 Morse Street, Janesville, WI 53545 If you wish to join the lunch, please R.S.V.P. to Diane Blazek at dblazek@aaswinners.com

Then each of us will drive to Rotary in our own transportation.

If a hotel is needed, there are several options:

We can’t wait to see you there! 

Meet the Author

Diane Blazek, Executive Director of All-America Selections® and National Garden BureauHeadher1

For more than 30 years, Diane has been immersed in gardening both personally and professionally. She brings a passion to the subject based on a history in the field of horticulture publishing as well as a love for gardening and culinary exploration. Growing up on a small family farm in northern Missouri, Diane spent years helping her parents plant, tend and harvest a large home vegetable garden. As the president and publisher at Ball Publishing for 15 years, she led the way in connecting the commercial side of the industry with consumers via the live focus groups called Consumer Buzz Live! Diane also managed Ball Publishing’s entry into consumer garden book publishing. Since December of 2009, Diane has been leading both All-America Selections and National Garden Bureau through an exciting period of growth as they establish themselves as inspirational resources in the minds of garden communicators, public gardens, garden retailers and home gardeners. With both organizations, the connection to the consumer is of topmost importance and by using that connection, she provides direction and insights to the industry via both organizations as well as to GWA, An Association of Garden Communicators where she serves as a National Director.




A Makeover Moment for GWA

jsyUkaygby Abra Lee

In 2003 Bravo network launched a television show called “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” It starts out with a team of men hopping into an SUV. Their mission: work together using their collective talents to help revamp the image of a straight man.

Known as the Fab Five, the team gets ready to take action and make positive change. Tossing on designer sunglasses they march off in formation and the work begins. By the end of each episode their client has become a better more refined version of themselves. The show was a hit and in season three Bravo network recognized the need to evolve its name to “Queer Eye.” The new change broadened the scope of its audience to allow makeovers of individuals regardless of gender or orientation.

The premise of this show sums up the best way to introduce the GWA “New Corporate Entity” taskforce. Led by C.L. Fornari and Kirk Brown, we are group of nine individuals from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. Instead of hopping into an SUV, we hopped onto a conference call and a chain of emails to discuss our mission: rebranding the image of GWA. In order for this beloved association to attain a higher level of success in the future, positive change must be made.

So how did this rebrand thought process work? In January we will officially merge two organizations into one (GWA and the GWA Foundation) and will have to file the paperwork (go to law) as a 501C3.  This makes it the perfect time to call our organization what it is, a group of communicators.

We started by taking a multipronged approach to reassess our name, logo, and  how to market ourselves moving forward. It did not take long to realize we needed to lean in and own who we truly are, an association of garden communicators. So why not just call ourselves that? Well, we already have a name GWA. However, standing on its own without any descriptors the acronym GWA does not reflect garden or communicators. In addition The Association for Garden Communicators is fourteen syllables long, a whole mouth full, and difficult to use in a fluid way for branding purposes. We needed a name that was to the point and stayed true to our authentic self. The end result was the suggestion GardenComm.

Shortening communications to comm makes sense. Step on any college campus and you will see buildings filled with MassComm majors, simply students learning to communicate with the masses. If that visual doesn’t resonate take a look at the ColorComm Network (www.colorcommnetwork.com). In seven short years, what started as an invite only luncheon of thirty-four women has turned into a thriving international organization for Women of Color in Communications. Even more engaging their association takes the name comm beyond a word for communications and uses it as an inclusive term that represents community.

Let’s be clear. GWA is a democracy. No name or logo change happens without a consensus of the creative minds of this association. We must look at ourselves through a critical lens and determine if this is our makeover moment. On behalf of the taskforce I am asking your support to get behind this positive change. With thoughtful consideration we can evolve to become the best version of ourselves. So put on your designer sunglasses, get in formation, and let’s continue the work to build an international community of garden communicators known as #GardenComm.

Meet the AuthorJ76FC4vQ

Abra Lee is a Horticulturist Extraordinaire speaking truth on plants, fashion, and culture. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @conquerthesoil

GWA Region II Baltimore Meeting, 9/20/18

By Janet Mackey

Gardens Galore! 15 GWA members from Region 2 enjoyed a lovely September day with a tour of Baltimore’s Cylburn Arboretum, visits to 5 private gardens in the rolling hills northwest of the city, a shopping spree at Babikow Greenhouses (with a wholesale discount), and fellowship at dinner at a local restaurant. We were treated to beautifully designed and tended gardens featuring intimate spaces, sunny borders, woodland walks, and vistas overlooking acres of meadowlands. The day provided inspiration, garden design ideas, and new plants to consider (or purchase!) in addition to time to get to know some of our fellow Region 2 members better.

This railing guides guests to the pool at Walnut Hill

Cylburn Arboretum offers 200 acres of trees, gardens, trails, and an historic mansion in a Baltimore City park. Head Gardener Patricia Sherman highlighted the tropical collection, salvias, and dahlias planted around the mansion.

Penney and A.C. Hubbard, owners of Walnut Hill, and Kathy Hudson, author of On Walnut Hill: The Evolution of a Garden, talked about the

A Joe Pye Weed at Walnut Hill hosts a chrysalis

development of the two-acre property over the years guided by design and plant ideas of the late Kurt Bluemel. A steep slope was transformed into terraced gardens. Stone steps and trails led through the hillside woodland garden of perennials – including yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma palmata) and white spikes of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) – and shrubs, understory trees, and stately mature trees.


Carol Macht’s nearby 3-acre property also featured terracing that created more useful spaces for perennial garden beds featuring many native plants, outdoor entertaining space, a swimming pool, and a beautiful view down grassy hills to the valley below.

A lovely stone wall with begonias in Nell Strathan’s woodland garden

Nell Strachan and Peter Ward’s multi-level home provided views into an amazing woodland garden that climbed down their steep hillside. A large paw paw tree (Asimina triloba) greeted visitors starting the decent; a nearby pathway, sided by a beautiful hedging of non-variegated Aucuba, provided a shiny deep green accent in the woods. An unusual Hearts-a-Bustin’ (Euonymous) bush still had a few scarlet and orange seedpods hanging from its branches.

The drive to the house at Longview provided views of recent stream restoration work and an orchard. The landscaping around the home included a series of terraces with gardens and a pool, a large fenced vegetable and cut-flower garden, raised beds with greens and berry bushes, and a unique arbor created by 2 espaliered apple trees bearing ripe red apples. Our group relaxed on the terrace for

Espaliered apple trees form an arbor at Longview

lunch and learned about recent garden history in the Baltimore area from Nell Strachan, including innovations in residential gardens by renowned designers such as Kurt Bluemel and Wolfgang Oehme.


Marilyn Van Tosh and Bob Thompson’s property featured a terrace surrounding a pool that overlooks a large managed meadow beginning to show its autumn colors. The homeowners continue to develop much of the rest of the property as a woodland garden with large swaths of shade plants including coral bells (Heuchera), Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum), and turtleheads (Chelone glabra) in spots where sunshine broke through the leaf cover.

Generous sponsors increased our enjoyment of the day. Washington Gardener Magazine sponsored coffee and pastries to start our day. Cavano’s Perennials, Inc. sponsored our delicious boxed lunches. Bower and Branch, Garden Media Group, and member, Wendy Brister, provided door prizes for several lucky members, ranging from homemade garden-fresh Bloody Mary mix to hedge shears. Thank you to each of them from the participants.

A caterpillar serves as a latch on Longview’s gate to the cutting garden

We also send thanks to Kathy Jentz, GWA Region 2 National Director, for organizing the tour, to Cylburn Arboretum for hosting the early morning photo shoot, to the homeowners and garden designers who shared their gardens with us, to Penney Hubbard for copies of On Walnut Hill signed by author Kathy Hudson, and to Babikow Greenhouses for allowing us to shop after hours and receive a wholesale discount.

Meet the AuthorHeadshot

Janet Mackey is a Master Gardener, writer, and speaker who loves seed starting, habitat gardening, and coaxing blossoms and foliar display from very shady spots. She is currently growing roots on the Eastern Shore of Maryland after a peripatetic career that included home gardens in upstate New York, Texas, the Washington, DC region, and northern California. Janet can be reached at janetmackey@verizon.net.