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Pick Up Tips on Outdoor Living... And Don't Forget the Plants
Perennial Plant Conference on October 19 offers ideas and answers, whether you want to expand your outdoor living or propagate plants.
by Denise Cowie - 10/1/2007
Ever since American homeowners fell in love with the idea of extending their living space into the back yard, many home gardeners have been looking for interesting ways to create outdoor kitchens or family rooms – without obliterating their gardens.
Why not pick up a tip or two from Sean Conway, one of the stars at the Perennial Plant Conference to be held at Swarthmore College on October 19?
If anyone should know all about outdoor living, it’s Conway.
An 'outdoor living' line for Target
He launched his own line of outdoor lifestyle products for Target Corporation several years ago, and now Sean Conway Garden Style lighting, arbors, patio furniture, birding products and outdoor décor can be found online and in more than 1,400 stores in 47 states (see his Tiverton gazebo and furnishings at right). He also designed the gardens inside and out for Target’s headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, Minn.
He has been a frequent guest on Martha Stewart and a contributor to NBC’s Today show.
Hosts 'Cultivating Life' on PBS
On PBS television stations nationwide, he hosts his own television show called Cultivating Life (see photo montage from the show's web site, top right), which, as its web site says, “explores how we’ve all moved out of our houses and into our backyards. Each week, we celebrate how Americans are reconnecting to the land. With easy-to-do projects and inspiring ideas relating to garden, home, table, craft, and land, Cultivating Life provides simple solutions and timely ideas for outdoor living, cooking, gardening, and entertaining.”
Next year, his companion book of the same name will appear in bookstores.
Started with stylish boutique nursery
And it’s all based on a solid foundation. For 13 years, Conway owned and operated a boutique nursery in Tiverton, Rhode Island, where he specialized in uncommon garden plants and was known for his beautiful display gardens. The nursery became a destination not only for avid gardeners, but for magazine editors and other style-seeking cognoscenti.
His gardening segments on Cultivating Life highlight topics like “Propagating Ferns” and “Hanging Kitchen Gardens,” and the show has visited Philadelphia-area gardens such as Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in Chestnut Hill, where Conway explored the wonderful Victorian Fernery, and Chanticleer in Wayne, where he zeroed in on Dan Benarcik’s chairs and Bryan Christ’s lawn-mowing art.
Elegant projects for outdoor living
On October 19, Conway will bring all this expertise to the Philadelphia area again, when he’ll talk about “Design Ideas for Outdoor Living” at the annual Perennial Plant Conference at Swarthmore’s Lang Performing Arts Center. He’ll explore new ideas and trends for outdoor lifestyles, and show the audience “simple but elegant projects any of us might try,” and illustrate interesting ways to incorporate plants into the mix.
Conway is one of the key speakers at the day-long conference, which is sponsored by Chanticleer, Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Longwood Gardens, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and the Hardy Plant Society/Mid-Atlantic Group.
But he is certainly not the only well-known plant-lover on the program.
Talk by Ken Druse launches conference
High-profile author and photographer Ken Druse (photo lower right), who has had numerous best-sellers among his 16 books on gardening, will open the conference with “Can One Ever Have Too Much of a Good Thing?”, an exploration of plant propagation that should entice every gardener to try it.
Rita Randolph, a plant collector and humorous speaker from Randolph’s Greenhouses – a 60-year-old family business – will address “Containers for the Collector,” in which she will reveal how to create container gardens filled with horticultural eye candy so alluring that your visitors won’t be able to resist reaching out to touch it.
Chosen for 'Panama Bridge of Life'
New York landscape designer Edwina von Gal, who has been involved with numerous public and residential projects, will tackle “Where in the World: The Evolution of a Garden Designer,” in which she will consider lessons learned and adventures inspired by attempts at designing fully integrated environments.
Von Gal was chosen by architect Frank Gehry to design the botanical park for Panama Bridge of Life, with educational and ecological programming in collaboration with both Gehry and exhibit designer Bruce Mau, for integration of landscape and museum.
Choose among aster, photograph and fall foliage
And one session will offer attendees a choice among Jeanne Frett’s “Asters for the Mid-Atlantic Region,” Robert E. Lyons’ “Landscape Recollections Through Photography: Improving the Image,” and a tour of “Fall Foliage, Fronds and Flowers” in the Scott Arboretum with Scott gardeners Sue Stark, Chuck Hinkle and Dale Nemec.
Frett, a research horticulturist at Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, will comment on the results of a comparative study of 56 species and cultivars of native asters, and their performance in the mid-Atlantic region. It’s a great opportunity to find out which of these lovely, season-extending plants would best light up your own backyard.
Lyons, who is Professor of Landscape Horticulture and the Director of the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture at the University of Delaware, will talk about using your eyes, your mind, and your camera to capture fleeting moments in your personal landscapes. Lyons was one of the primary photographers for the Horticopia CD-ROM (www.horticopia.com).
The conference will also feature a popular “Popular Perennials Forum,” in which area plant lovers give quick profiles of personal favorites. In addition, participants can also opt to take part in a pre-conference tour of the Scott Arboretum grounds, as well as a late afternoon study tour of the arboretum’s autumn perennials. Scott’s beautiful gardens are rich with innovative ideas that can readily be adapted to personal gardens by enterprising home gardeners.
Register early and save $20
Although the first early-registration deadline passed on September 28, potential participants can still save money by registering now. Registrations postmarked between September 29 and October 12 are $99 per person; for those postmarked after October 12, the fee is $119.
The registration fee includes lunch and refreshments, as well as free admission to Chanticleer and Longwood on the post-conference weekend.
All the details, and registration forms
For all the details, as well as a downloadable registration form, go to www.scottarboretum.org and click on the Calendar for October;
www.longwoodgardens.org and click on Learning, then Symposia; www.chanticleergarden.org and click on Education, then Conferences.
(Although phone registrations won’t be accepted, more information is also available from Longwood Gardens’ Continuing Education Office at 610-388-1000, Ext. 507, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.)