August 17, 2022

Cincinnati, Ohio 

Dear Marianne,

We’ve been together so much the last two weeks that it’s changed everything. We’ve hung out together here and there before but never with so much quality time. I really feel like I know you so much better now. Although I’m trying very hard not to trust it, all this exposure has not meant I like you any less. This is not at all what I expected. 

Three weeks ago, five full, and I mean full days, of the Perennial Plant Association’s National Conference took us to some of the best gardens in the world and first class catered events. It also meant 7:00AM to 10:30PM days, long bus rides, and incredible heat. Just us together with 450 of our other perennial plant buddies, geeking out, having fun, learning, drinking, carousing, dehydrating, and nearly dropping dead in a hotel room after an exhausting day. You in your room. Me in mine. Not trying to start any rumors here. 

Three Ranters carousing at the Perennial Plant Association’s National Conference, Susan Harris, Marianne Willburn, Scott Beuerlein.

The two of us hanging out with Panayoti Kelaidis. Not bragging, but I’d gotten to hang out with him at the North American Rock Garden Society’s Annual Meeting back in June.

One of my favorite spots at Chanticleer, where we were treated to a wonderful night of plants, food, and even music.

The PPA took us to many fine gardens, including Longwood where we enjoyed a fabulous dinner in the Conservatory.

Two weeks after the PPA, we both spoke at the wonderful Speaking of Gardening Conference in Asheville and I apologize for the things I said about you during my talks. This time our spouses were along and we all got to hang out with our fellow speakers Carol Reese, Richard Hawke, Joseph Tychonaviech, gardening podcaster Leslie Harris, and Andra Nus and the local planning committee, geeking out, having fun, learning, drinking, and carousing. Some dehydration but not as much.

Can there be too much of a good thing? Apparently not, which abides with the title of one of  my Asheville talks, If Some is Good, More is Better. And so you’re coming to Cincinnati next week to speak at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Plant Trials Day. Whiskey wow, wow! (You’ll get that last expression, which I’ve used since college, even if no one else does.) 


We and the other speakers were privileged to see an amazing private garden in Asheville.

Carousing in Asheville. Left to right, you, Carol Reese, your Michael, Carol’s Michael, mi Michele (sitting), and Leslie Harris (standing). Those people in the background were ordinary people and very envious of us.


So you, Dan Hinkley, John Grimshaw, and Janet Draper will all be arriving here next week. Wow! Tell you what. If the Asheville lineup was a 9 out of 10, PTD will be a solid 9.5 out of 10. Knock half a point off for whatever disaster my talk turns into and that math works because Asheville gave me two talks. Anyway, my PTD talk isn’t finished yet. In fact, it’s not even started yet. So it remains to be seen what damage I’ll do. Maybe it’s just better that we don’t count our chickens until we see how many get across the road. Maybe next year we’ll be calling it our PTSD symposium. Who knows?  

Here is my utterly shameless pitch at promoting the Cincinnati Zoo &  Botanical Garden’s Plant Trials Day to our dear Dear Gardener readers. Folks, when you have a chance to hear Dan Hinkley, John Grimshaw, Janet Draper, and Marianne Willburn give talks, take it. I’ll be speaking last, so you can just tune out around 3:00PM and miss witnessing the train wreck. If you live within 500 miles, buy a ticket and start driving sometime early on Wednesday. It’ll be worth your time and money. Outside of 500 miles, buy the virtual ticket. Here is the link for either type:

And here is my utterly shameless pitch at promoting learning events to both professional and amateur gardeners. This is kind of an extension on my recent post about the North American Rock Garden Society’s event. NARGS is mostly an amateur organization but a lot of professionals belong to it and get a lot out of it too. The Perennial Plant Association is a professional organization. Probably 95% of their membership are green industry pros. But, if you aren’t professional and want to go to their conference, they will take your money and sign you right up and you will hear the best experts speak, visit the finest private and public gardens, learn more than you ever thought possible, and have so much fun that the only reason you’ll want to continue living back in your normal life is so you can go to next year’s conference. And the same thing goes for similar organizations. Swear. 

My new favorite garden in one of my favorite places, a hidden gem at Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore.

As you’ve probably guessed, Marianne, this isn’t the letter I promised. That’ll be next. But I think that one might be hard because it will require diplomacy. This one didn’t and came pretty quick and easy and I’ve got a ton of loose ends to tie together before next week’s symposium, like reaching out to all the sponsors, making sure the speakers are okay, and, oh, selling more tickets. And, by the way, I’ve got some of the world’s top horticulturists coming to my garden and, after a summer of brutal heat and a couple of droughts, everything, including me, is pretty tired. Except for the weeds. They look great. I’ve got work to do.

See you soon. 



PS- Here is a photo of Paul Koloszar, Kyra Back, and me receiving a PPA Award on behalf of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Urban Learning Garden at Rockdale Academy, which was a Cincinnati Reds Community Fund Project.