Sellout Audience at Master Gardener “Going Garden Crazy” Spring Symposium

2013-04-17T21:04:00Z Sellout Audience at Master Gardener “Going Garden Crazy” Spring SymposiumContributed by Tina DeWitt Agriculture & Natural Resources Secretary Purdue Extension – La Porte County

LAPORTE | “An addiction to gardening is not all bad when you consider all the other choices in life.” Cora Lea Bell

While the snow was flying outside last Saturday morning, April 13, nearly 400 people were enjoying La Porte County Master Gardeners’ Spring Symposium inside Heston Hills Conference Center. In the large banquet room, the sold-out meeting space featured speakers who focused on the Going Garden Crazy symposium theme.

Many symposium participants came to hear Dr. Allan Armitage, prolific writer and respected researcher at the University of Georgia, where he runs trial gardens for new annual and perennial plants from around the world. He did not disappoint by giving engaging and entertaining talks on “Crazy Plants for Crazy Gardeners” and “Tales from the Garden.” Known for wearing his signature Tilley hat, Dr. Armitage gave a good overview of the characteristics of strange (“crazy”) plants people may grow in their gardens to impress the senses of sight, taste, smell and imagination. Later it was announced that two participants received authentic Tilley hats and one participant received a signed copy of Dr. Armitage’s Herbaceous Perennials book as early bird drawings. Hats also served as “flower pots” for the table centerpieces. Dr. Armitage spent time autographing his books that participants brought from home or purchased at the symposium.

Chris Hansen of Great Garden Plants on-line nursery near Holland, MI, gave a dynamic presentation on “Thrills and Chills: Must-Have New Perennials for 2013.” The fast-paced slide-show of bright-colored flowers, foliage and fruit and high energy presentation kept those in the audience trying to take reference notes on their toes. Marcy Dailey, Master Gardener who was on the symposium planning committee and served as emcee for the event, said that “at one point, one would have thought we were spectators at a fireworks display with all the ‘ooooohhhs and ahhhs’ coming from the participants’ reactions to the floral slide presentations.” As a result of Chris’s talk, one attendee plans to “put in more shade perennials other than hostas.”

The La Porte County Master Gardener Association, in cooperation with Purdue Extension – La Porte County, organized and hosted the Spring Symposium as a way to help educate those with an interest in gardening topics. The many sponsors who helped make this event possible included 1st Source Bank of La Porte, Chesterton Feed and Garden Center, Four Seasons Nursery, Hostas and More, International Friendship Gardens, La Porte County Landscaping, La Porte County Visitors Bureau & Convention Center, NIPSCO, and Vite’s Greenhouses. Donna Pouzar, also a Master Gardener and chair of the Symposium planning committee, said that she was glad that things went well and that folks attending had a great time. She added, “Thanks to the speakers for fabulous presentations; they were delightful and entertaining.”

Additional comments received from participants included,

• “Really enjoyed (the symposium); makes you want to get out and enjoy your garden. Motivational.”

• “Both wonderful speakers were uplifting and gave so much information – great presentations!”

Besides the presentations by Armitage and Hansen, those attending the symposium had opportunities to visit the booths of 18 different vendors, including many with plants or garden related items for sale, purchase raffle tickets for a number of garden items, receive door prizes (the lucky ones), enjoy a delicious lunch and visit with many other gardening friends.

The LaPorte County Master Gardener Association is one of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service programs and helps fulfill the state motto of “Helping Others Grow” by training volunteers to promote good gardening and horticultural practices. The Association accomplishes this through its volunteers conducting educational activities and projects in the community throughout the year. For more information about the Master Gardener Program or about becoming a Master Gardener, please contact the LaPorte County Extension office at 219-324-9407 or visit and link to “Master Gardeners” or

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