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Great Lakes, Great Plants Symposium

The Great Lakes, Great Plants Symposium is a two-day event for horticulture professionals and enthusiasts alike. A full day of lectures, rare plant auction, and exclusive tours of the natural and cultivated beauty of Northwest Michigan. Programming for 2024 focuses on coastal resiliency, gravel gardens, and intentional design. The event is sponsored by the Northern Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association and hosted by The Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park in Traverse City.

Thursday, July 25

9:00am-9:30am     Opening Lecture and Welcome to The Great Lakes, Great Plants


9:30am-10:30am    Gravel Gardens for our Changing Climate – Jeff Epping

If you want a garden that truly rocks, look no further than a gravel garden. Earth-friendly gravel gardens require less of just about everything – water, mulch, energy, chemicals and most importantly labor – but give back so much more. Jeff Epping of Epping Design and Consulting and former Director of Horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, has created numerous gravel gardens, including one in his own home garden that you can easily incorporate into your home landscape, as well. Don’t confuse these gardens with traditional rock or alpine gardens that can look more rocky than green and require a great deal of time to maintain. These sustainable gravel gardens are as colorful as any perennial planting around, provide food and habit for pollinators and other insects and require up to 80% less maintenance than a traditional perennial planting. Jeff will show you how to replace conventional lawns, expensive annual plantings, and labor-intensive perennial beds with these easy-to-maintain gravel gardens, just as he’s done at Olbrich and elsewhere.

10:30am-10:45am   Break

10:45am-11:45am    Cultivating Coastal Resilience – Andy Brand

In an ever-changing world the need for resilience in the landscape is paramount, and this is best exemplified in shorelines and coastal areas where the landscape and water converge. Join Andy Brand as he shares plants, and design ideas for gardening in a coastal climate.  Andy will share a collection of plants, both native and non-native, highlighting their qualities and use in exciting combinations that will provide innovative ways in which you can develop an outstanding garden in a habitat now at risk in a rapidly changing climate.

11:45am-12:45pm    Lunch and Explore the Gardens

12:45pm-2:00pm    Hands-on Horticulture Stations throughout The Botanic Garden 

2:00pm-3:00pm     Expanding your Plant Palette – Brian Zimmerman & Speakers

3:00pm-3:15pm      Break

3:15pm-4:15pm       Designing with Intention – Rachel Jawin

Plant selection is a critical factor in the success of a landscape.  It can often be a difficult task to find the perfect blend of plant materials that complement each other while meeting the challenges of a site.  Explore the endless possibilities provided by a diverse plant palette that embraces the site needs, the goals of the gardener, and the vision of the designer.  Known for creating inspiring plant combinations in an ecologically and aesthetically alluring way, Rachel Jawin will guide us through the process of creating intentional landscapes.  Sharing some of the most breathtaking designs that Rachel and the team at OVS (Oehme van Sweden) have installed across the nation.


6:30pm-7:30pm     Cocktails and Dinner

7:30pm                    Silent Auction Closes 

7:45pm-8:30pm      Live Auction

Friday, July 26                                 

8:30am-9:00am     Welcome and Overview

9:00am                    Buses Depart from The Botanic Garden

9:00am-10:30am    Tour of Location #1

10:30am-12:00pm   Tour of Location #2

12:00pm-2:00pm    Lunch and Tour of Location #3

2:00pm-3:15pm       Nursery Tour

3:15pm-4:30pm       Tour of The Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park

Early Bird Discount (until June 15th)

$199 Botanic Garden and MNLA Members

$225 Non-Member

After June 15th

$225 Botanic Garden and MNLA Members

$249 Non-Member

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