An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

February 3, 2009

In Darkened Rooms Looking at Plant Pictures

I spent most of last week at the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Horticulture Short Course (sponsored by the Virginia Horticultural Foundation), which as I mentioned last year is usually just referred to as the Hort Conference. Despite the efforts of Felder Rushing, last year's conference left me with a feeling of climatic dread with all of the talk of drought and dire changes in the garden due to global warning. There seemed to be no one major theme to this year's conference, unless of course you count the state of the economy. Business or the lack of it was the talk of the attendees, and as I expected attendance was down from previous years. Most people in the green industry are generally optimistic and the consensus was that we are all hoping that nesting instincts will guide people's buying habits in the next year - or perhaps it is just wishful thinking.

Two of the most interesting classes had to do with shoreline restoration along the Chesapeake. New methods involving the use of two species of Spartina grass and other native plantings are creating living shorelines instead of bulkheaded or rip-rapped no-grow zones. One of these restoration classes followed the efforts at the Hermitage Museum here in Norfolk, which has long been one of my favorite local destinations. I also got to attend classes led by horticultural celebrities like Buddy Lee, the breeder of the Encore Azalea and Dr. Robert Lyons of Longwood Gardens and formerly of the J.C. Raulston Arboretum. I was introduced to some new plants (always a good thing) by Steve Owens the owner of Bustani Plant Farm in Oklahoma. Several of us at work have been pouring over his catalog ready to place an order. Robert McDuffie of Virginia Tech took us along on an armchair tour his recent trip to Irish gardens. There were many other classes well worth attending and the event was a great way to network and meet up with old friends as well. I have already asked if they will have me back next year.

This was the second year the conference was held at the Founders Inn in Virginia Beach and overall it is a very nice facility. I do have an aversion to the architecture of the place. - high colonial on steroids. I don't think the smaller scale of traditional colonial buildings lends itself to larger scale, modern uses, but that is my uneducated opinion. I am sure it was all part of the vision Pat Robertson had when he built the adjacent and affiliated CBN. The landscaping around the inn was put in with meticulous detail, but it is not to my taste - there are too many straight lines and there is way too much pruning going on. Just look at the poor Hollies in the pictures.

(In the spirit of the new code of ethics for garden bloggers, I must disclose that I have not received any compensation for my mention or placement of any person, business or organization in the above post - but I am open to bribery.)


  1. Glad to hear a little about the Short Course. One of these days I will get to hear Dr. Lyons.

  2. You are funny! I hope you get some bribes.

    I would have raved over the pretty hollies;) Looks like a lot of maintenance.

  3. Yikes! Those over-pruned hollies are creepy-looking.

  4. A linguistic treat today: I loved the 'global warning' and the 'rip-rapped' zones.Not to mention Colonial on steroids.

    As for the recession influence on your trade: I don't know if you ever came across the English rose-breeder Mattocks in Oxon, but he used to say that trade was never better than during a recession. His other memorable quote was an answer to the question of how much to prune roses: "Get the mower out".

  5. Hey Les, interesting to learn about efforts on the shorelines. We are plagued with phragmites. Any mention about this control?

  6. Sounded like an interesting event, especially the Chesapeake shoreline restoration class. Are you going to the Mid-Atlantic flower & garden show next weekend? I'm taking off Friday and going out there. I'm going to try and catch a couple lectures, one by Fielder Rushing. Maybe he will sign my book...

  7. Gotta feel sorry for those poor hollies. Remind me of green hoop skirts on snooty, undersexed women.

  8. It's always nice to hear about optimism. But those poor trees... Some of that topiarizing is nice, but every tree in the landscape? That's weird.

  9. I suppose the topiaries are a representation of man's control over nature - what else would you expect in a landscape originally conceived to glorify someone who honestly believes he's successfully "prayed away" a hurricane?

  10. Janet,
    He is a dynamic speaker no matter the topic. I don't think he took a breath for the hour he spoke.

    No one as approached me yet with any coin, but I am still optomistic.

    Phillip M.,
    Kind of like the garden in The Shining.

    I hope Mattocks is correct. I do know that immediately after 9/11 I thought business would be gone, but it was our best fall ever.

    There was a class on Phragmites control, but I had something else scheduled. I do know that there is nothing yet for large scale control. However patches can be treated with Rodeo, diligence and perseverance.

    Someone gave me some free tickets, and I used to work with the organization that put the show on prior to it being run by the Tidewater Builders Assc. So I am interested to see what it looks like after not going for a couple of years. Felder Rushing is a national treasure.

    I wouldn't feel sorry for the hollies, maybe the groundskeepers, but not the hollies.

    I guess the topiaries are job security for somebody. I have never been there during the warmer seasons and am told it is a lot more colorful. Maybe I would have a different impression then.

    I think you are on to something with the control issue. I hope there is a Plan B for hurricane prevention.


  11. Yeah, colonial Virginia on steroids. Now that's a scary image! Thanks for the head's up about Bustani Plant Farm - just what I need, more plants to lust after!

    The spartina restoration stuff is related to some projects here - interesting stuff.