Advice needed – quick!

Monday’s not my usual day to post, but I need your help.

I’m to present at a large garden symposium next week.  You know the usual syposium format: there’s a design talk, one on plant care, another on edibles in the landscape, and finally the plant-lust generating presentation (The Plant Talk). That’s my role in this particular symposium. My topic is very broad – new and underused annuals, perennials, and woodies.  Actually, it’s too broad, and it’s giving me fits.

Now, I’ve both given and sat through countless Plant Talks as I’m sure you have (and many of you have probably delivered said presentations). I will say I know to limit my list, as hard as that is  (only one hour to present).  Giant
lists can become mind-numbing, especially when little info is given
other than "Wow, look at this variegated foliage! Love it!" 

My issue is how to best arrange this disparate group of plants so that it makes the most sense to my audience. Currently, they’re grouped by plant type (perennial, annual, woody, ornamental grasses etc.) and alphabetically within. But I’m having second thoughts.

How you can help: think back to the most useful and efficient presentations you’ve heard…how were they organized?  As I have them (by type)?  Season of interest (spring blooming, fall color, etc.)?  Sun or shade? Alphabetically?  Other?  Eh? 

Please weigh in!

17 thoughts on “Advice needed – quick!”

  1. I’m prone to linear thinking – I suggest grouping by type. Although another interesting option would be to do a random sort so you’re surprised right along with audience each time a hits the screen.

  2. For me, one of the hardest things in garden design is having something blooming through all the seasons. I have plant lust over colors and plant shapes and blooms and beautiful foliage, but that doesn’t get me a well balanced garden all season. Therefore, I really appreciate season of blooming as the framework of a talk.

  3. “Why would I use this plant (as opposed to all the other ones)?”
    That is the question I like to hear answered in presentations. The answer might be because it is a durable replacement for lawn that actually doesn’t need weeding or some such. I find having a speaker answer the “so what” question to the umpteenth introduction of a new coneflower to be very helpful.

  4. I would suggest by season of interest, and then within season broken down into sun and shade. Or, as Bert suggests, totally random. But I think it helps to provide some context.

  5. Holly, you could provide an entire list as a handout, and just limit your talk to a smattering from each category, your particular favorites, etc.

  6. I appreciate being reminded of the watering requirements of plants, so that the plants that are planted together get what they need. Also Ann Lovejoy has a great idea about “plant sandwiches”, where the plants that get planted together not only follow each other by season for either flower or foliage, but also serve to hide or highlight the dying or emerging neighboring plants.

  7. Many seminars I’ve been to have been alphabetical by season but time is usually too short cover all. I would organize to cover you must have or favorite ones. I think you should make sure you cover the low maintenance and weather tolerant as well.

  8. A little late to the party, but season of interest always works for me. I have given numerous “plant talks” over the years and receive the most positive feedback when I break it down by season, starting with the first blooms through to the last leaf/berry drop.

  9. A little late to the party, but season of interest always works for me. I have given numerous “plant talks” over the years and receive the most positive feedback when I break it down by season, starting with the first blooms through to the last leaf/berry drop.

  10. seasons of interest is very helpful.

    My other suggestion: provide an online version of your slides (even thumbnails would be helpful.)

    Good luck,

  11. Season is a helpful and obviously popular approach but some lists of new plants don’t offer the range. A different idea would be to “plan a menu” of what you might add to the landscape this year…some “bread and butter” or “meaty” plants, some “sides” for foliage and fruit, some “dessert” treats.

  12. Don’t yammer…. by all means don’t yammer. You’ve been given the opportunity to do the fun talk. Have fun! How about approaching it from the stand point of groupings of plants you like, regardless of type. Include juxtaposition, shade/light, near water, on a slope. You’ve done many great groupings in the Tech gardens over the years. (and you thought no one was paying any attention.) Your only point has to be what do I like, what don’t I like…. include gardening & hort. practice as well. Have Fun… it will be much more interesting.

  13. Holly? Yammer? Never!!! Bite your tongue, Wes! Holly gives some of the most interesting and entertaining talks of anybody I have ever heard. I just don’t get to hear her often enough. Holly, ignore him.

  14. I like Jennie’s comment; I start by think of things by size and shape and then going back and selecting the plants for that spot.

    The usual “season of interest” is a bit too broad, IMO. The first flush of foliage and blooms in March (here) always gets grouped together with other spring plants that may not bloom for two months later. It’s also very, very hard to find pictures of fully mature plants and pictures of plants when they aren’t on that perfect day of blooming. It matters what a whole plant looks like, not just the bloom.

    What about following a group of plants throughout the year, month by month for that region, so people can see what they potentially look like throughout the year? You could select a dozen or so underused champions that have a good appearance all year round.

  15. Thanks, all! This has been helpful both to me and for the rest of us that get to do these kinds of presentations – great ideas such as Nicole’s for organizing future talks. Gail and Linda both suggested covering favorites first – that’s a GREAT idea. Then if I have time, will pull in the second string. Finally, thanks so much for the compliments on the garden, Wes, and for the props, SandyG! She’s right, I never yammer. Blather, perhaps…but I do always have fun!

  16. Been away from the ‘pooter at a skeeter conference, so maybe too late – and this is just a thought, but how about picking an unusual color, like black, or dark blue/purple and going with a “Succumbing to the Dark Side” pitch, highlighting all the newer black, dark blue annuals and perennials, perhaps contrasted against a bright, charteuse-y counterpoint, or somesuch. i.e. a stark, color pallette dichotomy. I’ve been experimenting with the idea in my containers the last few years, for example – black penesetums, with the bright chartreuse of the ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vines, and fillers that fit. Again, just a thought.

Leave a Reply