Thursday Education

On Thursday morning, Attendees can choose to attend three total sessions either from the Grower Track or Trends Track then the education continues with fascinating general session speakers. We'll end the day with buses to Ball Horticultural where we'll enjoy a tour of their gardens followed by an al fresco dinner and cash bar.


Thursday Symposium Education

Thursday, August 1

7:45 AM - 9:30 PM

Part of the Core Symposium Registration or register for the day.

Core Symposium Member Registration: $589 Regular Rate

Core Symposium Non-Member Registration: $859 Regular Rate

Thursday Only Member Registration: $319 Regular Rate

Thursday Only Non-Member Registration: $369 Regular Rate



Building Your Tribe: Creating Loyalty and Meaning in a Global Marketplace

Susan Martin

Building a loyal following doesn’t happen overnight. It is earned through consistent interaction that comes from a true desire to help others. Let’s examine how meaningful bonds are formed with customers through a diverse marketing portfolio including social media, influencers, community events, stellar service, garden coaching and more. You’ll walk away motivated to do better this season, armed with practical tips you can share with your staff today. 

About the Speaker:

Susan Martin is a freelance horticultural marketer, writer, speaker and consultant based in West Michigan. Working in numerous branches of the horticulture industry for the past 20 years, she has gained experience in independent garden center and mass merchant sales, merchandising, landscape and container design and installation, new plant development, branding, and marketing at the trade and consumer levels. Susan currently resides on the board of GardenComm: Garden Communicators International (formerly GWA) as the Great Lakes Regional Director.  



Midwestern Home Gardens: 1830-Present

Nina Koziol

Discover how home gardens have changed since Illinois was first settled. Learn more about design evolution, the rise of the suburban lawn movement, foundation plantings, cottage gardens, moon gardens and heirloom plants. Nina will highlight the best of these design ideas and examine how they can be used today. 

About the speaker:

Nina Koziol has taught design and horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden and The Morton Arboretum for 20 years. She was a long-time writer for the Chicago Tribune and her articles have appeared in Organic Gardening, Fine Gardening, Chicagoland Gardening and other publications. See more at



Living Wall Basics

Dave MacKenzie

Dave’s presentation Living Wall Basics, is based on his experiences providing plants for various vertical green applications, and his road to development of a new and unique planted living wall system. Included in this presentation is an overview of the various methods for greening vertical surfaces, appropriate plant selections and pairing, and an honest discussion of living wall benefits and challenges. His presentation is rich in illustrations, and will include a very diverse palette of plants.

About the speaker:

Dave MacKenzie is the owner and general manager of Hortech, Inc. which he co-founded in 1983, shortly after graduating from Hope College with a B.A. in Biology.  The business grew slowly at first, but evolved into a leading Midwestern producer of low maintenance perennials, ground covers, grasses, vines, ferns (native and adapted) that are grown in an Earth Friendly® manner (2019 marks 25 years of bio-control based cultural practices).  Dave is also an author, photographer, plant breeder, and product developer—focusing on logical, horticulturally sound green infrastructure products.

The first significant green infrastructure product developed by Hortech was the LiveRoof green roof system, which led to the founding of LiveRoof, LLC and LiveRoof Global, LLC, companies that focus exclusively on green roof plants and green roof systems. Later, this led to the LiveWall planted wall system, and founding of LiveRoof LLC, a business that focuses exclusively on planted wall systems.


GROWER TRACK sponsored by BASF


Success with Sedges

Shannon Currey

Sedges, primarily in the genus Carex, are back-up singers in the landscape world. They’re rarely in the spotlight, but they make the stars look great and pull everything together. Sedges can serve as the foundation for rain gardens, meadow and prairie plantings, and as weed-suppressing ground covers. They’re especially well-suited to progressive approaches that use dense,layered plantings to build designed plant communities. Native Carex support pollinators, birds, and small mammals. Explore some of the sedges currently in production and others still in the pipeline. Learn how sedges differ from grasses and best practices for managing them. Find out what makes these workhorse plants must-haves for your landscape show.

About the speaker:

Shannon Currey is Marketing Director for Hoffman Nursery, a wholesale nursery in North Carolina specializing in grasses. She began her career as a social scientist but changed fields in 2003 to pursue horticulture. At North Carolina State University, she trained in landscape design and horticulture. She began working at Hoffman Nursery in 2007 and has had a range of responsibilities—coordinating the plant evaluation program, managing the sales team, and overseeing the marketing program. She writes articles for national trade publications and gives talks on grasses to design professionals, industry organizations, and at public gardens. She currently serves as Southern Region Director for the Perennial Plant Association.



Plagues of Perennials

Joanne Lutz

Early detection, sanitation and cultural techniques are the first steps to reducing fungicide use. Fungicide application, including biologicals and other “soft” approaches to foliar disease control, requires a thorough knowledge of when and how to apply them for maximum effectiveness. This session is designed to encourage a holistic approach to Integrated Pest Management for foliar diseases.

About the Speaker:

Joanne is the GGSPro Technical Support Specialist with Griffin Greenhouse and Nursery Supplies, Inc. Her career experience includes positions at the Beltsville Agriculture ResearchCenter, US National ArboretumUniversity of Maryland Plant Diagnostic Clinic, IPM Coordinator for Hillwood Museum and Gardens and Horticulture Manager of Gaylord National Resort. She owned an IPM scouting and consulting business for 8 years, worked as a greenhouse grower, customer care technical support and sales throughout the greenhouse, nursery and landscape industry. She has worked and cooperated with the University of Maryland on trials using BCA’s and pesticides effectiveness, contributed articles and pictures for the TPM/IPM weekly e-pest reports and has written pest control articles for grower talks. Currently, she create bulletins and technical articles for Griffin. She is committed to providing quality technical support to the customers at Griffin’s as a Technical Support Specialist in BCAs, plant nutrition, pest control, crop culture and PGRs.



Baptisia and Hibiscus

Laura Robles

For big, lasting, landscape presence there are two native perennials that stand above the rest with colorful flowers and easy culture. Baptisia and Hibiscus remain beloved by pollinators, yet have come a long way from their native roots for improved garden performance. Learn about the varieties in the Proven Winners lineup, as well as tips for container production and maintaining them in the landscape.

About the Speaker:

Laura Robles is the Trials Manager at Walters Gardens, Inc. in Zeeland, MI.  Robles oversees container trialing of new varieties, trials for data collection and production information for grower customers, and trialing of Walters’ genetics with key customers, as well as finished production for shows and events. Prior to coming to Walters Gardens, she was with Neal Mast Greenhouses and Mast Young Plants, where she managed the R&D department.  Robles has been involved in the horticulture industry for nearly 20 years; in various aspects including retail, public gardening, growing and research.  She received a B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University and a B.S. in Horticulture from Michigan State University.  Robles was a nominee for the GrowerTalks/Red Fox Young Grower Award in 2012, and is an alumnus of the Greenhouse Product News 40 Under 40 Class of 2013.  



Reimagining the Perennial Palette from the Prairie Perspective

Kelly Norris

With all the interest in the New Perennial Movement and a market shift towards sustainable gardening, a new palette of plants has emerged at the intersection of form and function. Perennials used in this style of gardening thrive in social arrangements, translating their native ecologies into beautiful communities of plants that ultimately require less resources and incorporate more diversity into the modern landscape. While many old favorites continue to have a place in these contemporary designs, many underappreciated perennials, particularly natives, have a new context in which to be appreciated in both public and private settings.  Kelly Norris, director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden (Des Moines, IA), will highlight several examples of sustainable, plant-driven gardens from across the Upper Midwest, comparing and contrasting them to the wild circumstances that inspired them, while introducing the audience to the perennials within them. 

About the Speaker:

Kelly D. Norris is an award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized public garden in Des Moines, Iowa. Throughout his career, his work has been featured in The New York Times, Organic Gardening, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Garden Design and in numerous local and regional media appearances.

At the Botanical Garden, Kelly is responsible for leading and directing a team of horticulturists and educators in all aspects of design, curation, programming, and garden management, after serving as the principal horticulture consultant to the $18 million renovation project completed in 2014.

As a writer and photographer, he regularly contributes to popular gardening magazines like Country Gardens, Fine Gardening and The American Gardener and is a contributing editor to Greenhouse Grower, an industry trade magazine. He’s popularly known for his book A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts from Timber Press, which won the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award. His most recent book—Plants With Style—debuted in December 2015. As a speaker, he has garnered acclaim for his high-energy, zealous presentations on the national stage, leading many to call him one of the rising stars of American horticulture. Kelly holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State University.

Creating Epic Designs

Jeff Epping

Join Jeff as he takes you through how he and an innovative design team created one of the most unique corporate campuses in the country.  Epic Systems, the top healthcare software company in the U.S., began building its first of five themed campuses in 2005 on 340 acres, with sustainability being at the forefront of its design and development. He will take you through the 14-year journey of designing and developing the gardens, from Alice in Wonderland and Emerald City to the Wizards Academy


About the Speaker:

Jeff is the owner of Jeff Epping Design & Consulting, LLC as well as the Director of Horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. At Olbrich, Jeff oversees the horticultural operations and garden designs of inspirational display gardens. He and his staff have practiced and preached sustainable gardening for years, and it is reflected in their environmentally friendly cultural practices and innovative award-winning garden designs.


Right Place, Right Plant: For Successful Design Solutions, One Needs to Know Their Plants & the Site

Craig Bergmann

Join Craig as he shares his learned ‘Tricks of the Trade’ in determining viable plants for our region and how to select plants and partners for different site conditions and aesthetic results. Profiles of finished projects will be shown and their evolution from paper to planting will be discussed.

About the Speaker:

Craig Bergmann, RLA, ASLA.  Craig Bergmann is a Registered Landscape Architect, garden designer, plantsman and lecturer. He received a BS in biology from DePaul University in 1981 and founded Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, Inc. in 1982. All design is done under his supervision. Craig is uniquely self-taught, gardening since he was five years old with a gift of his own garden plot from his father.  Bergmann’s award-winning work has been featured in several books and numerous publications. His own gardens, and others of his design, have been included on The Garden Conservancy Tours for many years. Bergmann is the editor of the book Midwestern Landscaping, a comprehensive and practical guide to gardening in USDA Climate Zone 5, and he has also presented at lectures across the country. Craig is actively engaged in the community, serving on the Boards for the Elawa Farm Foundation and the Forest Park Preservation in Lake Forest, as well as the Chicago Chapter of the Institute of Classical Art & Architecture. He has received numerous awards for his preservation efforts and installations. When not working, his passions are traveling, gardening, and spending time with his friends and beloved Norwich Terriers: Violet, Pepper, and Watson.  His company provides garden design through installation, continued maintenance. With the help of 90+ staff members, including a nursery facility, he is able collaborate with a great atelier of talent & dedication.

Trends and Challenges in Horticulture Today

Anna Ball

About the Speaker:

Anna Caroline Ball is President and CEO of the 113-year-old Ball Horticultural Company, which specializes in all aspects of horticulture, including breeding, biotechnology, production, and marketing of flower seeds and cuttings. 

Privately-held and now in its third generation of family management, Ball Horticultural Company is located in over 20 locations worldwide. 

Anna received her B.A. degree from the University of Colorado and her MBA from Northwestern University. She is a Trustee for The Morton Arboretum, and is also Director of the Board of Career Vision. Anna lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. 

Tour & Dinner at The Gardens at Ball

Bus transportation provided from the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Ball Horticultural Company is an industry-leading breeder, producer and wholesale distributor of flowers  and vegetables. A family-owned business since it was founded in 1905, Ball has introduced many innovative, award-winning plants to the world. With a home office in West Chicago, Illinois, Ball has worldwide production, sales and marketing through its many subsidiaries on six continents. Gardeners know and love our popular Wave® Petunia brand and recognize our licensed Burpee® vegetable plant program.

National Symposium attendees will enjoy the opportunity to visit The Gardens at Ball, usually reserved only for the wholesale customers of the 113-year-old company. There are more than 10 acres of display gardens including 200 varieties of Calibrachoa in container trials and Coleus trials featuring top introductions from recent years. Thousands of annual, perennial and vegetable varieties will be showcased in beds, containers and baskets along with flowers and vegetables in the All-America Selections evaluation trials.

Several breeding companies from Ball have specialized areas in The Gardens, showcasing flowers and vegetables not available for consumers until 2019 – a great chance to get landscape and flower photography for upcoming articles, books and social posts! Look for areas designed by Darwin Perennials, Ball FloraPlant, Selecta One, Burpee, and PanAmerican Seed. Ball experts will be on-hand to answer questions and share their insight on the industry.

Other showstoppers you can’t miss: Vertical wall with foliage designs, hillside culverts color- coded with garden performance stars, overhead arbors of beautiful flower combos, woodland areas for shade-loving plants, a “history” cottage of Ball memorabilia, and pollinator-friendly native plantings with areas of wetland restoration.

Also on Thursday:

  • 2020 Perennial Plant of the Year® Announced
  • National Garden Bureau’s Year of Announced
  • 2020 Perennial Plant Association National Symposium Location Announced
  • Perennial Plant Association Business Meeting
  • Trade Show Open
  • Silent Auction benefitting the Perennial Plant Foundation



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