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 6, 2012

In Good Company

(photo in the public domain from the Library of  Congress)

This past week found me at the Mid-Atlantic Horticulture Short Course (MAHSC). Long-term readers of this blog might recall I regularly attend this annual event, plus I volunteer for the sponsoring organization. Each winter for nearly 20 years I have been sitting in darkened rooms, learning so much from many varied horticultural stars. It has become one the few bright spots during my least favorite time of the year and is something I really look forward to. 

New for me this year was a big case of role reversal in which the student became the teacher. I was asked to teach a class on The Best Trees for Mid-Atlantic Landscapes for the basic arboriculture group. I have given this talk to local homeowners, but this was my first time ever speaking to professionals, and wannabe professionals. I had to tweak the topic a little and remove a few zone-8-only trees and broaden it for the larger region. I think it went well as I did not get booed, heckled or unduly interrogated about my choices.

When I wasn't teaching, I was attending other classes. The way this event is designed there are many different sessions being taught simultaneously, and it is often hard to decide where to go. These were my choices this year:

John Bartram - The King's Gardener
Kirk Brown, Lecturer, Horticulturist and Dramatist
This was the keynote event and was half theater - half lecture. I left determined to know more about this historic cornerstone of American horticulture, and to visit Bartram's garden the next time I am in Philly.

Elevated Design: New York City's High Line
Elizabeth Fain LaBombard, Associate, James Corner Field Operations
Ms. LaBombard was involved in the design of the High Line and gave us insight into how one of the most fascinating public spaces I have ever experienced, came to be.

High Level Hort: Gardening New York City's High Line
Johnny Linville, Horticulture Foreman, Friends of the High Line
There was some overlap with the previous lecture, but Mr. Linville described more of the plant considerations.

Facebook for Business
Building Your Social Media Plan
Jean Ann Van Krevelen, President, White Willow Media
Like many of us, I have my own Facebook page, but I also administer two other non-personal pages,  so I need all the help and advice I can get. These classes together were together worth the price of admission. Ms. Van Krevelen is also a blogger and can be found here and here.

New Shrubs: From the World to You
Stacey Hirvela, Marketing Specialist, Spring Meadow Nurseries
Who among us doesn't like learning about new plants? This company is responsible for the development and/or promotion of many new introductions.

Visionary Design: Color & Texture & Form
Tracy DiSabato Aust, Author
This class ended too soon, long before we could see all of her photos of some really excellent landscapes. (To my knowledge, this was the first time I ever had a class at the MAHSC taught by a champion triathlete.)

Seeing the History in the Trees

Brian Knox, President, Sustainable Resource Management, Inc.
After this class, I will now walk through the forest with a different set of eyes.

Shoot Your Own: Garden Photography, Tips to Improve Your Marketing
Macro Photography, Let's Get Close
Rich Pomerantz, Rich Pomerantz Photography
You have likely seen many of this photographer's work in both catalogs and gardening magazines. I learned so much from both of these classes, especially the second one which was a 4 hour workshop. The most important thing I learned was how much I don't know.

Formula for Success
Susan Martin, Director of Marketing Communications, Walters Gardens, Inc.

This class was a two-parter, marketing to woman and new perennials. Things I need to know in equal amounts.

Myths that Kill Trees
Douglas L. Airhart, Professor, Tennesseee Technological University

Myths are meant to be broken.

Edibles in Landscapes: Design for Success
Nan Chase, Garden Writers Association

Ms. Chase is the other of Eat Your Yard and is a resident of Asheville, NC where her garden will be open for the Garden Bloggers Fling in May.

Every Gardener Should Tell a Story: Garden Writing for Your Market
Amy Stewart, Author, Garden Writers Association

As a garden blogger, this 3 hour workshop on improving writing skills was for me probably the best part of this year's event. I was in the presence of garden writing greatness, and it was a wonderful way to end this year's course.

These were just a small few of the many classes offered at the MAHSC. The program is designed for professionals, but is open to everyone and is held each year at the end of January or in early February. If you would like to consider attending next year, like MAHSC on Facebook for updates.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not received any compensation from any person, organization or company for mentioning them in this post, but as always, I am open to consideration. It all depends on what is being offered.)


  1. That sounds like a great conference. You could do the program on photography!

  2. Wow for you to say how much you "don't know" about photography, well it scares me! I can't believe your photos could get any better.

    Once again this sounds like a very worthwhile event, and you've reminded me I still have not read the book of garden writing that I won at last years Garden Bloggers Fling. Speaking of will you be attending the Fling this year? Probably hard to schedule with your work responsibilities that time of year.

  3. Wow! This sounds like a lot of fun. I met Amy Stewart last year and had lunch with her. She has lots of great info and is a really nice person. In fact, it looks like some great topic talk. I also agree with the rest on the photos...your shots are pretty amazing. You've got a great eye.

  4. My head spins just reading the titles. Now you have to come home and find the time and energy to follow up on all of these? Good luck. Seriously. Good luck.

  5. Phillip,
    Thanks for the photo compliment, and it was a good conference.

    My eyes tend to glaze over as people start getting all techy when they talk about camera settings and functions. I should really make an effort to learn how things work, but it bores me. Unfortunately I will not be attending the fling. It is hard enough to get one day off in May, let alone three. I was really looking forward to it since it is a driveable distance for me. Before I found out the dates, I was even researching the possibility of camping in the Pisgah Natl. Forest during the event. Oh well, maybe next year.

    I had lunch with her too, me and about 30 other people! Her workshop was probably the highlight of my week and hopefully I can put to use what she discussed. Thank you also for the compliment.

    I did take notes on some of the classes, which I do have to pull out and reread. However, for several of the classes I just sat back and enjoyed what was being said and shown.


  6. Super jealous of you being there, I would have loved to sit in on half those classes....AND yours! Wish the MAHSC had been in NN before this.
    I am going to the Fling this year, will keep you posted. Sure wish you were coming.

  7. Holy cow you were active! Some good events, clearly--Facebook, photos, Amy Stewart. That Amy's a whipper snapper.

  8. Les--the next word verification to come up after I commented was this "ashool" -- you're not one. :)

  9. What a great event. And it really was an event by reading who presented. I agree will all, your photos are spectacular and you would have made a fine teacher. I am sure your tree lecture was very well done. I would have love to attend this conference.

  10. Sounds like a really great conference. I'd love to attend. How long was your presentation?

  11. You should teach the photography course next year. I would be really interested to hear what pointers you gleaned from the Facebook for Business lecture. I just started a FB page for my nursery but don't use FB otherwise. Is there an outline you could send me? I wish you would reconsider the fling. I am actually closing my nursery that weekend---you only live once.

  12. Janet,
    There were quite a few people glad that it was on the Peninsula this year. I think the only ones who weren't were from Norfolk, Va. Beach and coastal NC. I wish I was going to the fling as well.

    Sometimes I can be a real ashool, particularly is someone peeses me off.

    Thanks for the kind comment. I am anxious to see what was written on the comment cards handed out after my class.

    It was an hour long and the thing I feared the most (other than saying something totally inappropriate) was ending too early. But I got the 5 minute warning from the moderator with two trees left to discuss, so timing was perfect.

    I do not have an outline I can send, but some things I have heard more than once are to keep a business page 80% content and 20% selling, try to post twice a day, respond to all comments, always include an image or a link with your post. Going to the fling is not an option for me, no matter how much I wish it was.


  13. Sounds like a great series, I will have to think about attending one year.

  14. What a great honor for you but from what I've read, you deserve it.

  15. Now I know what I'll be doing the rest of today -- following up on all those interesting speakers. So much to learn, so few brain cells left...

    I'll be going to the fling for the first time and am really looking forward it. Just about to get my own blog off the ground...

  16. Georgia (local ecologist)February 19, 2012 7:20 PM

    Wow, impressive list of lectures. I would have attended the ones about trees, the High Line, and social media, too.

  17. Sweetbay,
    The conference is not that far for you to travel. You should consider.

    Thank you for the kind comment.

    I saw your first post, but could not see where to comment, so I will say it here, "welcome to blogging"!

    There were others I wish I could have attended, but I can't be in two places at once.