Northwest Regional Reports

Online Gardening Events Are More Accessible Than Ever

No need to worry about missing that conference or lecture—tune in from the comfort of your home

The Galanthus Gala went virtual for the first time in its history in 2020. Photo: David Culp

Throughout 2020 and 2021 many things have changed. We have learned new ways to greet each other, how to read eyes instead of smiles, and how to simply communicate differently. One of the best things to come out of this terrible time is the ability to more easily connect with and learn from gardeners all over the world online.

The Galanthus Gala goes virtual

I tested the waters of online learning in March 2020 when the long-standing Galanthus Gala became a virtual event. This event has been held for several years from Brandywine Cottage, David Culp’s garden, in Pennsylvania. The gala has always hosted guest speakers, an auction, meet and greets, a cocktail hour, and plant vendors. I have never been. It is a long distance for me to travel for a short event, and very expensive with plane fare, lodging, and meals. This year, however, I attended the event via Zoom for the very affordable fee of $32.40. Other viewers were commenting online while the event was occuring, so you felt like you were connecting with other gardeners—or should I say, Galanthophiles. Fabulous speakers included one from the UK and one from Belgium, along with David Culp and painter Gerald Simcoe, who all presented great content. There was a cocktail hour, and plant lists from several nurseries were available. The online process of purchasing snowdrop (Galanthus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) bulbs was easy, and content was available to review after the event was over. The kitchen table was my desk, with my notepad handy and my cocktail in hand. What a great way to attend a lecture!

I’ve shared some of the snowdrops from my garden in this post. I ordered several from the plant vendors at the gala, including ‘Anglesey Orange Tip’ (G. elwesii, ‘Anglesey Orange Tip’), a rare apricot-colored snowdrop.

George Elwes snowdrop
The Galanthus Gala is an event for gardeners to trade favorite cultivars of snowdrop, such as ‘George Elwes’ (G. ‘George Elwes’, Zones 4–8). Photo: Susan Calhoun

There are many other virtual gardening events to take advantage of. I love that in most cases you can register for the events and be able to view a recording of them even if you were unable to be there live. These are not online courses lasting several weeks, but usually one-time events, which are very handy for the busy gardener.

Here are a few upcoming events I know about. Be sure to scout out events held by your favorite organizations in your area of interest.

Richard Hawke showing CBG trial gardens
Richard Hawke shows off one of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s trial gardens in a Fine Gardening webinar entitled “New Plants Showing Promise.” Photo: Fine Gardening and Richard Hawke

Northwest Horticultural Society has several great online events coming up on topics such as summer dry gardening, container herb gardens, and foliar pests and diseases.

The Bellevue Botanical Garden offers weekly online webinars for low rates. It offers webinars on pruning conifers, designing flower arrangements, and creating plant combinations, in addition to running a lecture series.

The American Horticultural Society is planning a virtual symposium for National Children and Youth Gardens on July 7–9, 2021.

Ecological Landscape Alliance offers a free Walk in the Garden webinar series on Wednesdays. These are lovely virtual wanders through beautiful gardens for those of us who have been staying home for way too long.

Learning With Experts is a website for those who might want to dig a little deeper. You can take classes taught by Tom Stuart-Smith, Piet Oudolf, and Annie Guilfoyle, just to name a few.

Fine Gardening offers free recordings of past webinars under its webinars tab. You can watch experts speak on topics such as controlling insects, weeds, and diseases; the best low-maintenance shrubs; and tomato tips, tricks, and myths. Look forward to new Fine Gardening webinars coming in the fall.

These are just a few of the online lectures and webinars that are now more widely available because of the pandemic. I dare to hope that they will continue to be an alternative way to connect and communicate for many years to come. Remember that most courses are available to rent or purchase after they have been presented, so don’t let a past date keep you from jumping in.

I know that your garden is calling, weeds are growing, and plants need planting, but who doesn’t have a rainy day when they need a break and a glass of wine? That’s the perfect time to take your love of gardening online.

—Susan Calhoun is the owner of Plantswoman Design in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

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