PUBLIC GARDEN SYMPOSIUM: The Art of Gardening

  • UW Arboretum VIsitors Center 1207 Seminole Highway Madison, WI, 53711 United States

Join the Allen Centennial Garden for an exciting and inspirational day as we explore the concept of the Artful Garden. Top-notch speakers, industry leaders, and award-winning authors will present their unique perspectives on garden design, plant selection, and more. Morning refreshments and lunch are included, and each author’s books will be available for purchase.

NEW! Authors Reception, Friday, April 1

Join Kelly Norris, Thomas Rainer, and Bill Thomas for an evening of lively conversation and good company on Friday, April 1, from 6–8pm. This mix and mingle event at the University Club in Madison will feature hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar, and each author's books will be available for purchase. 

Thank you to event partners

Garden Design MagazineWisconsin Hardy Plant Society and Madison Area Master Gardeners Association.

Master Gardeners, this event qualifies for 4 credits of continuing education.


On-Sale Dates:

January 15: Friends of Allen Centennial Garden     Not a member? Join now! 

January 22: Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society and Madison Area Master Gardeners Association

February 1: General Public


Plants with Style

Kelly D. Norris is a 20-something, award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the first director of horticulture at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized 14-acre public garden in Des Moines, Iowa.

Gardeners need chic, sustainable, thriving plants for modern lifestyles. Plants after all are the very essence of fashionable gardening. In this spirited, provocative lecture, Kelly calls for a garden revolution: out with boring plants and in with stylish alternatives that captivate and enthrall. A passionate horticulturist and lifelong gardener, Kelly is the ideal guide to the botanical riches available to today’s gardeners. Along the way, he shows you how to forge a personal style in harmony with your garden’s setting and local environment. As Kelly puts it, “A garden is the best way to savor life on earth.”


The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden

Roy Diblik is a noted plantsman and designer who has spent more than 30 years studying, growing, and enjoying plants. His passion for native plants and other perennials has been cultivated through his establishment of Northwind Perennial Farm, a nursery in Burlington, Wisconsin. Roy's recent work includes a planting of the new Oceanarium at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and a garden for the modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is best known as the plantsman behind Piet Oudolf's midwestern garden designs, including the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago.

Roy’s thoughtful approach to design perennial plantings welcomes fresh contemporary styles and plant diversity integrated with responsible maintenance concerns. Using a selection of regionally dependable perennials, endless natural plant patterns can be constructed, each relating to time and cost to maintain. He will discuss the developing partnership between the gardener, the plants and nature, always knowing the beauty is in the doing.


Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes

Thomas Rainer is a registered landscape architect, teacher, and writer living in Arlington, Virginia. Thomas’ passionate advocacy for an ecologically expressive design aesthetic has made him a leading voice in planting design. He is best known for his influential and provocative blog, Grounded Design. In addition to writing, Thomas has designed landscapes for the U.S. Capitol grounds, The New York Botanical Garden, and over 100 gardens from Maine to Florida.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing gardeners & designers today is the need to balance beauty with environmental concerns. Increasingly, we want plantings that please the eye and reconnect us to nature, but that also reduce chemical use, filter storm water, sequester pollutants and carbon, cool urban temperatures, and provide habitat. How do we do this? The answer lies in a radical turn away from conventional horticultural practices, and instead embracing the social nature of plants. This talk will reveal how plants fit together in nature and how to use this knowledge to create landscapes that are resilient, beautiful, and diverse.


The Art of Gardening at Chanticleer

Bill Thomas is the Executive Director and Head Gardener of the Chanticleer Foundation and has led the talented and creative Chanticleer staff for 13 years. The relatively young, 48-acre pleasure garden outside of Philadelphia is now in its 22nd year. Bill holds a B.S. and an M.S. in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Join Bill for a visual tour and behind-the-scenes look at what the Washington Post calls “one of the most interesting and edgy public gardens in America.” Chanticleer is known for its plant combinations featuring foliage textures and colors, its wide variety of containers, and its imaginative homemade furniture. This is a garden where the staff are the designers, competing with each other and with the horticultural world to make the garden fun, visually exciting, and environmentally responsible. Bill will offer insights on what inspires this special place.-