Adult Opportunities

Central Region Perennial Plant Symposium (in person or online)

Get ready for spring gardening in this day-long conference where industry-leading garden professionals share their favorite plants, plant care tips, and garden design strategies.

Content Detail

Registration for this program is now closed.

The Perennial Plant Association and The Morton Arboretum are teaming up to offer a gardening symposium with the best writers and most knowledgeable experts in the business. Join these industry-leading professionals in person or online as they talk about their favorite plants and the gardens they’ve found most inspirational. Horticulture professionals and garden enthusiasts can meet well-known authors, discover great plants, share ideas with other gardeners, and get inspiration for the 2023 growing season.

There are two ways to participate in this exciting event. The event will be held live on the scenic grounds of The Morton Arboretum, in the beautiful Thornhill Education Center (in-person seats are limited). Or you can join the virtual event online from the comfort of your home.

View the full lineup of speakers and presentations featured at this year’s Central Region Perennial Plant Symposium.

Members of the Perennial Plant Association should not enter a member ID but should use the discount code provided by their organization at checkout or email the Registrar’s Office at for their discount code. Students: please email from your .edu email address for student registration.

This program meets in person or online.

This program will be recorded. The recording will be available to registered participants approximately two weeks after the symposium. Participants will have access to the recording for six months after the event.

Instructors: Nick McCullough, Adam Dooling, Amanda Thomsen, and Janet Draper

Age: 16 and older



Saturday, February 4, 2023, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Central time

Section A: In person

Thornhill Education Center, or

Section B: Online


8:00 a.m. Registration and Coffee

8:30 a.m. Welcome

8:45 a.m. Nick McCullough, partner and designer with McCullough’s Landscape and Nursery, and author of the recently released book, American Roots: Lessons and Inspiration from the Designers Reimagining our Home Gardens.

American Roots 

Follow the journey across the US and take a closer look at gardens that designer Nick McCullough captured on his quest to celebrate the American garden in his new book *AMERICAN ROOTS (Timber Press). You will explore a selection of gardens created by 20 creative gardeners across our vast land from Big Sur, California to the shores of Rhode Island. Gain inspiration, planting tips, and an expanded notion of what an American garden is.

9:50 a.m. Break

10:00 a.m. Adam Dooling, director of plant collections at Chicago Botanic Garden, previously curator of outdoor gardens and herbaceous collections with New York Botanical Garden.

Gardening on the Shoulders of Giants 

Nestled in the heart of The Bronx is a storied landscape with a rich and complex history—and some fabulous gardens. From David Hosack to the late, great Kristin Schleiter, this talk will touch upon horticultural legacies both known and unknown through a survey of the herbaceous collections at the New York Botanical Garden.

11:00 a.m. Break

11:10 a.m. Amanda Thomsen, horticulturist and garden designer, owner of Aster Gardens garden shop, garden communicator (including two books, Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Terrific Yard Totally Tailored to You and Backyard Adventure: Get Messy, Get Wet, Build Cool Things, and Have Tons of Fun, and two podcasts, The Garden Girls and Mud Life Crisis).

Come to the Dark Side: The Drama of Dark Plants 

Bring drama to your garden and explore a plant palette with striking hues of black, deep purple, and red. Amanda Thomsen, author of Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Terrific Yard Totally Tailored to You and Backyard Adventure: Get Messy, Get Wet, Build Cool Things, and Have Tons of Fun, brings her “less effort, more fun” approach to exploring unconventional but excellent plant selections, learn about plants with sometimes sinister associations, and get new ideas for how to express your personality in your garden. 

12:15 p.m. Lunch

1:15 p.m. Janet Draper, lead horticulturist with Smithsonian Gardens’s Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. 

The Continuing Education of a Gardener 

Janet will cover important lessons she has learned from growing up in Indiana, to working in nurseries in the US and Europe, to landing a dream job at Smithsonian Institution where her work is viewed by people from around the globe. She will cover topics like creating lushness with self-sowing annuals, certain “minglers” that she adores, and breaking down segregation barriers in the garden—like getting houseplants into the ground, veggies integrated as ornamentals and other creative ideas!

2:20 p.m. Concluding Remarks

2:30 p.m. Adjourn

What to Know

You can register to participate in this program either in person at the Arboretum (seats are limited) OR to participate online. Registration closes Wednesday, February 1, 2023. All registrations are final five days before the program, on Monday, January 30, 2023; no refunds will be available after this date.

Please add to your address book. You will receive an email from this address with important information about the program.

Section A: In person

  • If attending in person, admission to the Arboretum is included in your registration. A separate timed entry ticket is not required.
  • Morning coffee and a boxed lunch are included in the registration fee.
  • This program takes place entirely indoors.
  • Participants attending in person are required to abide by the Arboretum’s health and safety guidelines. If you are sick or have been in contact with someone who has been sick, please do not attend in person. A link to join online will be provided.

Section B: Online

  • This program will take place on Zoom. A link will be provided to registrants by email the day of the program. Click on the link to join the program at the scheduled date and time.
  • Viewing on a computer is recommended for the best experience.


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