Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium, Part III:
Thursday morning kicked off with our keynote speaker Dr. Lowell Catlett, a fascinating economic futurist who really put things into perspective in his talk, “The Greening of America.” Dr. Catlett tailored his remarks to our profession and totally blew the audience away. We were inspired and challenged (in a good way) to rethink our definition of “green” and “sustainable” lifestyle choices.
You can find several clips of Dr. Catlett’s lectures on YouTube, so check him out. He ended the lecture with this charge: “Do not sell people products and services. Sell them dreams.” It resonated, because we know that seeking and creating beauty in our surroundings is a basic human desire. If you didn’t make it to the symposium, Dr. Catlett’s lecture is one CD to purchase and listen to.
After the morning workshop sessions and a working lunch at the trade show, we hopped on buses for the first of three days of garden touring.
Thursday was the hottest, most humid day during the conference, so I have mixed memories from our late afternoon tour of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
The 55-acre public garden graces the campus of Duke University and features several special areas, including a formal Italianate-style terrace garden planted with an explosion of colorful tropicals, annuals and woody plants. I spent a lot of time here and was drawn to the twin historic stone structures. Not quite sheds, but shed-like for sure.
I then escaped to the shade with a few friends walking through the understory of the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. Filled with more than 900 varieties of regional natives, it was a beautiful and serene enclave. It was especially fun to hang out here with Nan Sterman, aka PlantSoup, my symposium roommate and Duke University alum. She spent a lot of time studying plants as a biology undergrad, so I had a personal narrative to connect to this amazing place.
We experienced that languishing, Southern state of mind, what with the heat, the humidity, the sun and the sleep deprivation from staying awake late the night before and getting up early in the morning.
A buffet dinner led to some fabulous conversations with new friends, despite the climatic challenges (it was all I could do NOT to throw myself into the “Virtue Peace Pond” to cool off – seriously). Those water lilies, lotuses and other water-loving plants looked so much happier than the humans seated around the pond’s perimeter.
Most memorable that evening were two conversations my good friend (and collaborator) David Perry of A Photographer’s Garden Blog and I had with Susan Reimer, garden and op-ed (!) columnist and “Garden Variety” blogger for the Baltimore Sun, and later with Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes , an up-and-coming plantsman, horticulturist and designer from Seattle. I recall sharing a table (and prior conversation) with Riz at a Northwest Perennial Association event several years ago. Inspiring to know him – and new friend, to be sure.