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Great Gardening Speakers and Programs Coming to Mobile for State Master Gardener Conference

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

By: Carol Williams, Mobile County Master Gardener

In this space, you usually find questions and answers about improving your garden or landscape, offered by Mobile Master Gardeners. This time, we are inviting you to join us for the state-wide Alabama Master Gardeners’ Association conference in Mobile at the Renaissance Riverview Hotel beginning March 30.

Members of the local Mobile Master Gardeners have been planning and working for over a year to make this conference a great experience for all. If you’ve ever wondered where we get all the information we share in Lagniappe and the community, our annual conference is one important source. It is a gathering of many specialists who will share their wisdom and garden expertise. We would like for you to join us this year. Our outstanding roster of speakers include several professors, county agents, garden directors, a radio personality, a journalist, and a storyteller: Dolores Hydock.

Kicking off the conference Monday morning, registrants will be treated to greetings by the Mobile Azalea Trail Maids and the battleship USS Alabama crewmates. Pre-conference sessions include waxing camellias, connecting to botanical art, and garden recycling. Our keynote speaker on Monday at noon is Jim Martin, director of programs for the Charleston Parks Conservancy. He will challenge conference participants with his presentation of the future of gardening in “Gardening Future Forward.”

Are you a camellia enthusiast? You’ll want to attend the pre-conference session about waxing camellias and other flowers led by our own Brenda Litchfield, PhD, coauthor of The Camellia Garden Field Guide. If you’re wondering about the mushrooms crowding around your oak tree, Juan Mata, PhD, will conduct a session explaining fungi, “Friend or foe?” Dr. Mata is an Associate Professor and curator of the Fungarium, with the Biology Department of the University of South Alabama.

Considering using lichens in your landscape? Or just want to know what lichens are? Curtis Hansen, curator of the Freeman Herbarium at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History will be teaching about lichens and their uses. He currently tracks the Alabama state-wide checklist of lichens.

If you love Bellingrath Gardens, as most of us do, you’ll be pleased to hear Bill Barrick, PhD, a renowned and often awarded horticulturist and author as well as the recently retired executive director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Although he could teach on many subjects, he will be discussing the future of public gardens with us.

A favorite topic about which we are often questioned is bugs and other pests. David Held, PhD, a professor in the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department at Auburn University will discuss urban pest outbreaks and how to manage them. If your interests and questions center on the grasses in your landscape, John Friel may have your answers. He is the marketing manager for Emerald Coast Growers, a major propagator of ornamental grasses and perennials and past president of the Perennial Plant Association. His discussion will consider great grasses for the Southeast.

Alabama and Florida County Extensions are represented by their agents at our conference. Evie Pankok, Master Gardener coordinator with Duval County Extension from Jacksonville, Florida, will be encouraging gardeners to take responsibility by recycling in their gardens. Beth Bolles, the horticulture agent with University of Florida Extension in Escambia County, will discuss selecting flowering vines for our gardens. Our own Jack LeCroy, native Alabamian and Auburn University Extension Agent in Mobile, will discuss designing landscapes that will last. He is our local Master Gardener organization’s Coordinator who helps us thrive in so many ways. Houseplants are another great interest of his which he will share at the Conference.

A recent transplant to the Mobile area, Derek Norman, botanical artist, will share the connection of art to science to people. He is a longtime designer, creative director, television producer, educator and faculty advisor at Columbia College, Chicago; The School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago, Illinois, and now the Mobile Botanical Gardens.

Other locals will add their wisdom to our conference. Bill Finch, radio personality and environmentalist, shares about the long leaf pine forest and presents his new book on the subject. His understanding of our local climate and seasons will also be of interest in another conference session. Sherry Melton and Molly Dickinson, representing Zimlich Patio and Garden Center, present plant design ideas in their sessions entitled “Small Containers, Big Impact.”

In the last session of the conference, Ben Raines, local environmental journalist will present his film, The Underwater Forest. He discovered this large ancient forest while diving just off our Gulf Coast. Recently, Raines led a successful search for the remains of the Clotilde,the last ship to import slaves to the United States.

If you would like more information or to register for the conference, go to link listed below in Gardening Events.

Spring Gardening Events for Your Calendar

What: Alabama Master Gardener State Conference

When: March 30 – April 1, 2020

Where: Renaissance Riverview Hotel, Mobile

What: Great Speakers, Vendors, and Gardeners from all over Alabama

Public Welcome!

What: Pruning Demo for Fruit Crops, Roses and Ornamentals

When: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 (9 – 11 am)

Where: Jon Archer Ag Center, 1070 Schillinger Rd N, Mobile

Presenter: Alabama Cooperative Extension System agents

Bring your pruners!

What: Mobile County Master Gardeners Monthly Meeting

When: Thursday, March 5, 2020 (10 am – 11:30 am)

Where: Jon Archer Ag Center, 1070 Schillinger Rd N, Mobile

Speaker: Jason Whatley and Lesli James, The Truth vs Myths About Snakes

What: “Seussical Jr.” for all ages, presented by The PACT

When: Friday, March 6, 2020 at 6 pm

Where: On the Great Lawn, Bellingrath Gardens and Home

For details: visit

What: Plantasia Spring Plant Sale 2020

When: March 20-22: Fri/Sat 9am-4 pm Sun 11am-4pm

Where: Mobile Botanical Gardens, 5151 Museum Dr, Mobile

For More Info:

What: Step-by-Step Gardening Series,

Hands-on teaching garden demonstrations

When: 3/12 (5:30-7:30 pm) 4/12, 5/14/ 6/11 (6-8pm)

6/11 (6-8 pm) 7/9 (6:30-8:30 pm)

Where: Jon Archer Ag Center, 1070 Schillinger Rd N, Mobile

Cost: $70 for series or $15 per class

To Register: Call 251-574-8445

What: Zen Gardens at the Annual Festival of Flowers-

Landscape Gardens. Vendors. Seminars.

When: March 26-29, 2020

Where: Providence Hospital Campus, Mobile

For More Info:

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