Cool Green Gardens

Wrapping Up Raleigh – Really!

I don’t rush into procrastination—I let my to-do list mellow like a fine wine. But I’ve just installed Lightroom 2 on my Mac laptop and I’m finally slogging through close to a 800 images I snapped in Raleigh, NC, in late September. As you might recall from a few of my recent video blogs (cow poop, coyote pee, design lessons), that’s where I attended this year’s Garden Writers Association (GWA) symposium. 

inky fingers

The gathering was attended by more than 600 garden communicators—print writers, bloggers, photographers, writing coaches and a heapin’ helpin’ of nice folks. The five-day event was a balance of informative seminars, garden tours and lots of networking.  These images capture a few of the highlights of the trip. Share in the fun.

Bad Omen at 60,000 Feet!

There’s something ominous about being en route to a writer’s conference and having my pen relieve itself right in my hand. “What’s that Mr. Pen? There are dark forces awaiting me in Raleigh.” I mustered my inner strength and decided not to ask the pilot to turn around. My inner Jedi would guide me.

Twittero, ergo sum

I tweet, therefore I am. Twitter was quite the social networking platform leading up to the GWA shindig. Nearly forty GWA members are also active at Twitter. The excitement rose when Raleigh local Helen Yoest (tweeting @HelenYoest) pitched the idea of a gathering of Twitterererers (spell check doesn’t know what to do with this yet) and asked Proven Winners to generously sponsor the munchies and libations.

What a kick, meeting so many people I had communicated with in 140-character bursts! Everyone had real live heads, not those quarter-inch avatars I saw on my screen.  And at the crack of sunset, right on cue, this west coast boy heard his first every symphony of cicadas.

Here’s Helen (right) with blogger and podcaster extraordinaire Jean Van Krevelen (tweeting @jeanannvk).

Luscious Pots

This little vignette of Sedum ‘Angelina’ and yet-to-bloom Sweet William carnations was one of the refined touches along Fayetteville Street. The landscaping  was a sampler of container garden confections overflowing with killer combos.

Pah Rump a Pum Pum

On my first foray into the Raleigh Convention Center, what should greet me but this brilliantly colored painting? I’ve been banging on my drum since I was five, so I appreciated the personalized welcoming touch.

Vroom Vrooooooom

The weekend would have been a sociologist’s delight as steno-pad carrying garden writers and leather-clad bikers intermingled in the lobby and elevators of the top-notch Marriott City Center Hotel. It was the weekend of 5th Annual Ray Price Capital City Bikefest, complete with muscle music and vendors of every imaginable motorcycle accessory. I skipped the exotic food booths and their deep-fried Oreos—seriously.

On The Road Again

Picture hundreds of voracious garden writers and shutterbugs packed into tour busses. The din of conversation drowns out the well-intentioned local guide. The doors burst open. A ravenous swarm descended on the meticulously groomed gardens, looking to suck the nectar of plump story ideas and juicy photographs.

The JC Raulston Arboretum was my favorite stop.  Their website describes it as “…an 8-acre jewel that has been largely built and maintained by NC State University students, faculty, volunteers, and staff. The Arboretum is named in honor of its late director and founder, J. C. Raulston, Ph.D., who founded it in 1976.”

If you live in the Raleigh area and have not visited the garden, move it up on your list and become a supporting member. They have an ambitious master plan and generous and dedicated volunteers.  If you’re visiting the area treat yourself to a display of over 5000 kinds of plants.

The master plan

I actually know this plant! Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’. Grows in NC and in Santa Barbara!

Feeling right at home with Canna Intrigue. Another subtropical favorite.

Okay, I’m stumped (and not much of a photo journalist). Should have glanced at the nametag. Can somebody help me out and leave a comment?

My Peeps!

The professional, kind, friendly, informed, generous members of GWA make the organization welcoming and worthwhile.  I joined 18 months ago when I was a fledgling blogger writing for a few dozen eyeballs. On a whim, I managed a last minute registration to the 2008 Portland symposium and found myself in a new world, timidly putting my little toe in the big ocean of garden writing.

I have no idea where this venture will take me, but at a time in my life when I’m changing careers and reprogramming Billy version 2.0, I’ve found that the folks I’ve met through GWA are my reason for optimism.

If you enjoy writing, consider joining. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.

Nan Sterman ( and author of California Gardener’s Guide Volume II) on the left, and Debra Prinzing (2009 GWA Best Book award winner for Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways: Big Ideas for Small Backyard Destinations) have been my writing mentors, red pens always at the ready.

Shirley Bovshow took the symposium by storm, launching her new on-line TV venture, Garden World Report, on the last night of the event. Live streaming video with my as her sidekick and interviews of all the award winners. Tune her in—she’s changing the face of garden communication.

View Comments


  1. Indygardener 11/11/2009

    Great write up and summary. The plant with the purple berries is Callicarpa americana, aka Beautyberry. There is also a Callicarpa dichotoma for those of us in zone 5 to enjoy.

  2. ShirleyBovshow 11/11/2009

    800 photos Billy! Wow..I can see GWA was a "working week" for you too.

    GWA had such an energetic buzz around it this year. You can smell change in the air. New talent is emerging, new ways of communicating our garden passion, I love it.

    I'm proud to know you. You are a talented communicator extraordinaire who has broken through the radar and is heading straight up to the stars!

    Anything that I can do to support you is my pleasure. Great talent is rare and you have it in so many different areas.

    The Live launch of the Garden World Report show was especially good because you were my co-host!


  3. flowergardengirl 11/11/2009

    Billy it was great to meet you in person. Except for that big wart on your nose and the fact that you are only 3 feet tall, you are very charming. I did enjoy seeing you host the awards on Garden World Report with Shirley. And I think my most memorable impression of you was your gentlemanly manner. I hope to see you again so very soon. Your write up about my home state is lovely. My son is a NC State grad and he will love this too.

  4. HelenYoest 11/11/2009

    You tell Raleigh well, Billy! Yep Carol's got it, we love our Callicarpa americana, as do the wildlife.

    So glad you enjoyed the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University (JCRA). A must see no matter where you live.

    Helen Yoest
    Gardening With Confidence™

  5. TheCityOutside 11/11/2009

    Thanks for all the fun post-symposium postings! FYI, that mystery plant is one my faves here in the PacNW: Beautyberry or Callicarpa bodinieri.

  6. TorontoGardens 11/13/2009

    Fun to read, Billy. Enjoyed your photos and commentary. I can so relate to the inky fingers too, and your appreciation of the artwork, which was all over the place at the convention centre.

    Love that Salvia Limelight against the dark purple foliage.

    So glad I got to meet you in person in Raleigh. So, when are the rest of the 800 pics going to be uploaded?

  7. lawncare123 05/19/2020

    I am a <a href="" Landscaper in Fayetteville NC" and I went and took tons of beautiful pictures that I plan to use as ideas in my business.

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