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Home and Away Again

August 12, 2017
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We had an easy trip home from Buffalo and even arrived 30 minutes early. It was great to be home and see the family and dogs. I had to unpack since live plants were involved.  They all made the flight home in great shape wedged in with my clothes and shoes. Thursday was a busy day at the office catching up. We have a lot of big events coming up. A to P for first year MGs is next Friday- Monday, then MG Italy trip, then PNG Leadership and then MG week with a great event at the South Arkansas Arboretum     in El Dorado on October 9, then a bus trip to Mississippi the end of the week. Time flies when you are busy. 

As I was pulling out of my driveway headed to work I noticed something in the hydrangeas and crape myrtle. Luckily I pulled up closer in my car, not on foot–a snake was sleeping up in there.

It was gone by the time I got home. 

Friday was a day off to head to Bentonville and Crystal Bridges with Clay and friends. 

This is the last weekend for the Chihuly exhibit for the inside display. It was an amazing show and had some different pieces from other exhibits I have seen. With my glass obsession we could not miss this show.

Then we toured Chihuly in the Forest. This part of the exhibit stays open through fall.

In addition to fabulous glass art, there is a great collection of native plants.

This bench was in the garden.

Do you think it is broken or art? We did not test it.

Before heading to the hotel, we stopped by Compton Gardens to see the tree the Benton County MGs planted in memory of my dad. 

How special! 

We had a long journey to Fayetteville to have dinner with friends- a wreck ahead added almost an hour to our journey, but we made it and had a fine meal. Another full day. If you have not been to Crystal Bridges–GO! It is such a special place even without Chihuly. A treasure for our state!

Today we will hit the farmers markets before heading home. I think I have 5 nights in my own bed! 

Niagara Falls and Niagara Parks

August 9, 2017
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Wow, is all I can say about our post conference tour to Niagara Parks in Ontario. The falls are spectacular by themselves, but the commitment this community has made to a unified parks system is pretty incredible. We packed a lot into one day. We weren’t back until after 11 pm.

Our first stop was the Floral Showhouse where there were amazing displays of annuals, tropicals and permanent plants.

They change out their displays 4-5 times a year. Thy are already growing their mums in many different forms for fall

along with poinsettias for Christmas.

From there we went to lunch and then the journey behind the falls, where you go down an elevator and walk beneath and to the side of the falls. 

We did not have time for the boat ride. The place was packed with tourists as this is high season. To find some tranquility in the midst of organized chaos we went to Oakes Garden Theatre–a garden with living walls that truly buffer the sound. The garden  is beautiful and has breathtaking views. 

Other than our bus load there were only a handful of other visitors.

We next went to the Niagara Glen Nature Center. This is very similar to our Nature Centers in Arkansas but on  a smaller scale, with hikes and interpretive events. An interesting twist is that kids (and adults) can bring in a rock, shell, cone, etc. having done some history on it and you leave it behind and get to pick one from their collection to take home. This new facility is geared to education.

Then it was on to the Butterfly Conservatory at the Botanical Gardens. It was one of the largest I have been in and teeming with plants and butterflies.

We walked through the gardens to the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.

This is truly amazing. Many people apply but only 12-15 students are chosen. It is a 3 year program which runs 12 months a year. The students spend the growing season providing the labor to the gardens, learning how to do it, then the winter months in 8 am to 4 pm classes. They get one week off a year. The cost is $1200 per year and includes room and board!! What a deal! Tools and books are extra, but at the end of three years they have the equivalent of a horticulture degree but with the added bonus of real life experience. No one has any problem getting a job.  Their parks program subsidizes this program realizing the benefit these students will be to their communities. The beautification efforts were everywhere throughout this large park system.


To top off a fabulous day we had an excellent meal on an outside terrace overlooking the falls. We get got to see the light show before we left. Wow! 

If you have not been to Niagara Falls, put it on your bucket list!

We were up early trying to fit all the plants and things we got at the conference into our suitcases. We think we are right at the weight limit so we are keeping our fingers crossed! Off to the airport and home tonight. 

Garden Writers Conference Monday

August 7, 2017
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My morning was spent learning about tropical plants, new plant introductions and a very inspiring talk about our place in the world and our responsibilities from a Native American botanist and distinguished professor at the SUNY college. I am excited about new opportunities and possibilities in all three areas. I will share in future posts.

After lunch, we boarded buses and went first to a daylily farm. 

There were thousands of varieties to see and purchase later. They did give all participants a free plant. 
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Our next stop was a home garden who had three generations of their family there to share their fabulous plant collection with us, including  over 350 hosta varieties. They also had a fabulous train garden and a whole host of plants.

Their summer annuals were equally impressive. 

Our next stop was a dentists office with an ecologically sound parking lot with native plants and reusable and renewable resources.

We had another two fablous private garden tours to round out the day. The first of the gardens had over 1000 varieties of hostas plus succulents and accompanying shade plants plus some nice glass art.

The family did all the work themselves and had a huge yard.

The final stop was a reat plant collectors home. 

They had great hostas and lots of unique plants. 

We got back to the hotel with limited time to get ready for the closing banquet. My counterpart Nancy from Pennsylvania won 

for their new MG manual! 

Tomorrow we head to Niagara Falls and more gardens.

New plants, new things, new ideas and more gardens

August 6, 2017
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The trade show was a great way to learn about new plants and gadgets, but even a better way to make connections for our MG program for sponsors and/or plant material and speakers. 
We saw new varieties of old favorites, but also some interesting new plants. We listened to great speakers on product branding, telling our stories, building a tribe, social media and more. This afternoon we went on another series of garden tours. Today was more on the histtory of Buffalo and the influences of Frederick Law Olmstead on parks in NY, but particularly in Buffalo. We went to their rose garden, Japanese garden, and museum.

Then we went to the Darwin Martin home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright which has recently been renovated with new gardens coming soon. 

Timing was a little off on the tours with a bit too much time on someand not enough on others. But the weather was fabulous with cool temperatures and low humidity. Our last stop on the tour was the Buffalo Botanical Gardens with a huge glass house and some nice plant collections.

Buses transported folksback to the Canal district or the hotel. Mary and I opted for the canal district where we saw what could be either the beginning or end of the Erie Canal.

We ate dinner at the waters edge. I had a local favorite beef on weck 

While Mary had fish and chips. They were both quite tasty. 

There were a lot of light shows on buildings downtown and we rode the free light rail to our hotel.

Another very full day! The learning continues tomorrow.

Garden Walk Buffalo Style

August 5, 2017
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We arrived in Buffalo, NY early in spite of severe storm warnings, and then had to sit on the tarmac for 20 minutes to wait for someone to let us park. The Pilot was not happy. We got our luggage and made it to our hotel and registered for our conference right before it closed for the evening. So far we have had great luck with the weather. It poured down rain while we ate dinner, but stopped for us to walk back, then it rained overnight and stopped at 8 a.m. (7 LR time) as we left on our garden tours.

And what a garden tour it was! Buffalo started out with 29 neighbors sharing their gardens one weekend in 1995 and now there are almost 400 gardens on the Garden Walk Buffalo weekend which was July 26 and 27 from 10-4 each day. This totally free event brings 60,000 garden visitors each year. Today we got to see a small percentage of these small but jam-packed yards. What a delight each one was. 


I took hundreds of photos. Their GardenWalk non-profit board fed us breakfast in the gardens and were on hand to greet us and answer questions. 

The snacks followed us to many of the gardens, and other gardeners made their own treats for us. Most of the home owners were also on hand to greet us and answer questions.

Many gardens had huge collections of hostas and hydrangeas, but we also saw unique plants, along with some unusual methods of gardening. Look at this rooftop vegetable garden where he plants and harvests via a library ladder.

And this back patio that becomes a greenhouse in the winter.

These gardens not only bring tourism but have given a new life to some depressed neighborhoods. Amazing the physical and emotional transformations a garden can make! So impressed. 

Now it is time for lectures and trade show.

Rice Expo and on the Road to Buffalo

August 4, 2017
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I spent yesterday at the office wrapping up as many loose ends as possible, since I am leaving in a few minutes on a flight to Buffalo, NY for the annual Garden Writer’s conference. I also packed, did laundry, watered and fertliized the garden too.

First thing this morning Julie and I made a whirlwind trip to Stuttgart where I spoke at the annual Rice Expo. The place was packed with people with a lot of booths, activities and events. It ends with a great lunch, which we will miss. 

The skies are overcast now, but it had rained this morning in Stuttgart. Hope for great flights. 

Planning for a national azalea conference

August 2, 2017
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Last fall I was asked if I could help plan the national azalea conference in Little Rock in the spring of 2018.  Azalea breeder Buddy Lee has been a speaker for us and has seen some of the MG conferences we have planned and thought I could help.  I found a location, we set a date, and now I am working with their board and a local committee to find tours, and organize things.  Today a group of us met to look at potential gardens for tours.  We have some good options in Searcy and Batesville.  Our first stop was Ann Woods.  This is an immaculate garden with a great collection of plants from the rare to the common. She has a huge vegetable garden as well   as interesting succulents and cactus.  How she finds time, I do not know.    I have to get one of these orange gingers and this orange gloxinia!   Our next stop was Batesville where we met for lunch and then toured two beautiful gardens–Martha Bentley’s  and then Larry Coleman’s.     While Larry said he had few blooms at this time of the year he did have plum leaf azaleas in full bloom. 

It was a full day for sure, and I drove Gerald back to his car before heading home for the night. We were lucky and had rain all afternoon yesterday and all night, with some sprinkling still this morning. It was delightful outside touring gardens and only got hot late afternoon when the sun was out full.

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