Calling all gardeners

If you’re in need of some gardening inspiration or camaraderie with fellow gardeners, Connecticut College is the place to be Saturday. More than 300 people are expected to attend the Connecticut Master Gardener Association (CMGA) 24th annual symposium, which this year focuses on sustainable and more care-free landscapes.

There are close to 1,600 active Master Gardeners in the state, according to UConn Extension Service, and half of them are dues-paying members of CMGA, says Tracy Burrell, president of the state-wide alumni group.

“We’re a non-profit, all-volunteer group, committed to sharing gardening information,” says Burrell, a Mystic resident who became a Master Gardener in 2008. She’s also a Master Composter and chair of the symposium committee.

You don’t have to be a Master Gardener or a CMGA member to attend the symposium. But membership, which is open to Certified Master Gardeners, has its benefits. The $20 annual dues gets you discounts at several independent garden centers across the state, a newsletter, and a reduced rate for this conference. Funds generated by CMGA go to support the Master Gardener program, including scholarships for students and grants to Master Gardeners seeking assistance on community outreach projects.

The theme of this year’s conference is Landscape by Design or Not, tapping into the growing interest in sustainable development and landscapes that are less contrived and more in touch with natural settings. As many a home gardener has realized, there’s usually less yardwork and maintenance if we try to go with nature instead of constantly fighting it to grow the plants we think we want in our yards.

The symposium’s keynote speaker, Julie Moir Messervy, has designed parks and residential gardens across North America. Her best-known work, the three-acre Toronto Music Garden, designed in collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, was inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello.” For a sneak peek of the garden, go to

Participants might want to clone themselves to get in on multiple workshop presentations before and after lunch. Nancy duBrule-Clemente of Natureworks Garden Center in Northford and Dan Jaffe of the New England Wildflower Society will talk about planting for pollinators. Dan Furman, co-owner of Cricket Hill Garden, a second-generation specialty nursery and forest farm in Thomaston, will give practical advice on growing unusual landscape edibles, from pawpaws and persimmons to quince and elderberries. Stone wall builder Andrew Pighills will entice with his examples of dry stone walls, and Maria von Brincken, a Massachusetts landscape garden designer, will show classic and historic examples of vertical gardening with vines.

There are displays by Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Conn College Arboretum, UConn’s Home and Garden Center, the National Wildlife Federation and Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society. Vendors include Ballek’s Garden Center, Broken Arrow Nursery and horticultural scanner photography art by Ellen Hovercamp. Don’t forget to pick up a free gardener’s goodie bag, seeds and other materials donated by Connecticut-based companies.

The day closes with Bill Cullina’s lecture on serene and sensuous plants for the garden. Cullina, executive director of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and formerly with New England Wildflower Society, has written five acclaimed horticultural reference books on plants.

This is the second year for the symposium at Connecticut College; Burrell encourages attendees to squeeze in a stroll of the campus Arboretum on Saturday, too.


If you go

What: Landscape by Design or Not, CMGA 24th annual symposium

When: Saturday; registration 8 a.m., program 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Crozier-Williams Building, Connecticut College, New London

Cost: $65 for CMGA members and their guests, $85 for the public; includes lunch and conference goodie bag

What else: Walk-ins welcomed

For more details:





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