Seminar Spotlight – The Garden Show: Plant Explorers

Seminar Spotlight – The Garden Show: Plant Explorers

Plant explorers go to places like this, so you only have to go to your favorite nursery center to find great plants.

Have you ever wondered how some of the new plants you see in nurseries became the latest must-have plant for Northwest gardeners? Especially after you read the plant tag that indicates the plant is from China, South Africa, or New Zealand? How do these plants make their way into cultivation? And will they be hardy for our own gardens?


Now you can find out, as the Northwest Flower & Garden Show brings together four leading horticulturists (that’s a fancy name for plant geeks) obsessed with exploring the world and discovering new plants. These are people who dream in botanical Latin! And they have tall tales to tell, from injuries they have received, cultures they have experienced, and, of course, precious plants and seeds they have collected in the wild. This conversation is hosted by Richie Steffen, Curator of the Elizabeth Miller Botanical Garden, with guest stars Panayoti Kelaidis, 2011 Show Judge and senior curator and director of outreach at the Denver Botanic Garden; and Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken, the dynamic duo behind Far Reaches Farm, who went on yet another seed collecting and plant hunting expedition to China just last fall.


THE GARDEN SHOW – Plant Explorers
Outrageous Tales from Truly Obsessed Plant Geeks
Friday, February 25 at 2:30 pm in the Rainier Room

Be still my beating heart... Arisaemas are a genus of plants that are native to eastern Africa and central Asia, but do well in Northwest gardens.

HOST – Richie Steffen – Curator, Miller Botanical Garden
Richie Steffen is the curator for the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden where he manages the rare plant collections and heads acquisition of new plants for the garden. Richie has been actively involved in the horticultural community currently serving as a committee member of the Great Plant Picks program and as a board member of the Hardy Fern Foundation and Northwest Horticultural Society. An avid gardener, he maintains a small garden at home as well where he constantly experiments with new plants and growing conditions. Through his travel abroad he had gained a great appreciation for the flora of the world and the richness of Northwest horticulture. Drawing from these varied experiences Richie is always ready to share his enthusiasm for plants and the people who grow them. Visit the Great Plant Picks exhibit at booth #2150. Website:

Panayoti Kelaidis – 2011 Show Judge, Curator, Denver Botanic Garden
Panayoti Kelaidis is a plant explorer, gardener and the senior curator and director of outreach at the Denver Botanic Garden, where he designed the renowned the Rock Alpine Garden. He travels widely to research and collect plant species, including to South Africa, the Andes, the Himalayas, Europe and Turkey, introducing plants of those areas to North American gardens. He has received the prestigious Scott Medal from the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College.  He is the author of Flourish: A Visionary Garden in the American West (3D Press, 2009).

Many Arisaemas put on a showy seed head, which are show-stoppers in fall floral arrangements.

Kelly Dodson & Sue Milliken, Owners, Far Reaches Farm
Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken are bonafide plant geeks. As owners of Far Reaches Farm, a specialty nursery located in Port Townsend, Washington, this offers the perfect excuse to indulge their life-long passion for plants and combine it with a nursery retail and wholesale operation. Don’t try this at home!  It’s a lot of work all year round, but Kelly and Sue are passionate about what they do. Kelly has been in the plant business all his life. He first owned Reflective Gardens in Poulsbo, which was widely known for carrying a unique array of plants from China, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the more common but very useful Northwest natives. Sue is the former owner of Kate Brook Nursery in Vermont, which had an extraordinary collection of conifers, woody plants and alpines. They met while on a seed collecting expedition to China, and together opened Far Reaches Farm eight years ago. Be sure to stop by their exhibit booth, #2126 in the Plant Market. Website:


And here are some other seminars by “THE GARDEN SHOW: Plant Explorers” speakers you won’t want to miss:

Panayoti Kelaidis
Rocky Mountain High
How the Mossy NW Can Use Arid Mountain Plants
Wednesday, February 23 at 1:00 pm in the Rainier Room
What can you learn from a horticulturist from Colorado? Surprisingly, the dry arid Rocky Mountains are more similar to the mossy Northwest than you might think. Panayoti Kelaidis thinks “clouds have a silver lining.” Find out why and discover how you can use mountain plants in your Northwest garden.


Panayoti Kelaidis
Bringing Them Back Alive
An Anthology of Plants from 5 Continents
Thursday, February 24 at 10:00 am in the Rainier Room
Panayoti Kelaidis is a an unsung hero for garden lovers everywhere – he’s a horticulturist and plant hunter. He travels to distant places in search of plants that might increase the biodiversity on Colorado’s gardens and adapt well to the Mediterranean climate. He shares his most memorable plant finds, those stellar performers that he thinks should be in use in gardens everywhere.


Many Northwest gardeners practicing zonal denial trying Australian plants. But is this Hakea laurina hardy in our region?

Richie Steffen
Inspiration in a Responsible Garden
Making Gardening a Personal Experience
Wednesday, February 23 at 11:00 am in the Hood Room
Embracing creative elements, plant collections, personality, and climate into the landscape is a recipe for bringing fun back to gardening and adding to our urban environment. It is time for us to return to loving plants and part ways with just building new patios. See the unusual, the oddities and the unconventional landscapes that make gardening truly a personal experience.


Richie Steffen
Fun in the Sun with Great Plant Picks
Waterwise Gardening for the Pacific Northwest
Saturday, February 26 at 5:45 pm in the Hood Room
Smart water use is essential for today’s landscape. Over the years the Great Plant Picks has assembled a beautiful array of hardy and drought tolerant selections for our region’s gardens. Learn about the best selections for sunny dry spots to provide year-round interest, as well as bright splashed of seasonal color. The new 2011 Great Plant Picks will be available along with copies of the new poster and additional handouts listing drought tolerant plants for various garden sites.


For the complete seminar schedule, go to our website at See you at the show! – Janet

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