Southeastern Plant Symposium at Home

Hosted by the JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden

  • Saturday, June 12, 2021 – 10:00 am5:00 pm

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Calling all plantaholics, plant nerds, nurserymen, gardeners, and horticulturists! We are thrilled to announce the third annual JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden Southeastern Plant Symposium. Join us for a day full of plant lust as we host the best of the best to talk about cutting-edge plants. We've got plant explorers, plant breeders, nurserymen, and other experts for a deep dive into what's new and exciting in the plant world. What could be better than a day spent luxuriating in plants, plants, and more plants? How about a chance to get your hands on some of the most exciting plants during the completely mind-numbing, fever-inducing silent auction. This is the one garden event that you definitely don't want to miss!

Talks will all be recorded and available to all registrants. Auction opens June 3 at 3:00 pm EDT and closes on June 12 at 5:00 pm.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Piihq-I' (First Editions Jetstream)


sale made of perennial vegetables

"Around the World in 80 Plants: An Edimental Perennial Adventure"
Stephen Barstow, Author

"Extreme Salad Man," Stephen Barstow, author of Around the World in 80 Plants: An Edible Perennial Vegetable Adventure for Temperate Climates will share a lifetime of adventure planting and sampling 6,000 different vegetables from around the world. Moving from the United Kingdom to Norway in 1981 as a young vegetarian and naturalist to work as an oceanographer led him to develop a forest garden and one of the largest collections of edible plants anywhere. He'll lead us on an inspiring global adventure introducing us to a selection of his top climate friendly and nutritious perennial vegetables which double as ornamentals (he invented the terms edimentals and edi-ento-mentals for these plants, the latter also being great pollinator plants).

Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei 56801H

"The U.S. National Arboretum: Helping Improve the Gardens of Today and Tomorrow"
Kevin Conrad, U.S. National Arboretum

Ornamental horticulture in the United States depends on a diverse and dynamic array of woody landscape plant material to address pests and disease issues, provide stress tolerant plant material for sustainable landscapes, and meet changing consumer needs and trends. Acquisition and curation of woody landscape plant germplasm is even more critical given the diminished genetic diversity of planted landscapes. The National Arboretum is tasked with building a comprehensive collection of documented woody landscape plant germplasm that is available to the national and international nursery industry and the public garden and research communities to be used to create improved ornamental plant varieties. Kevin's talk will focus on the role the arboretum germplasm program plays in conservation and supporting this effort.

potted plant display at Great Dixtger

"Designing with Plants the Great Dixter Way"
Fergus Garrett, Great Dixter

Fergus will discuss the importance of color, foliage, texture, repetition, structure, experimentation as well as informality and movement in putting plants together.

garden path surrounded by flowering plants

My Journey with Plants, Plant Breeding, Evaluation, and Gardening
Hans Hansen, Walters Gardens

My personal involvement with perennials and plant development over the years. Focusing on Epimedium, Hostas, Hibiscus and ×Mangave as well as my personal gardening style and interaction with people that influenced improvement in these genera.

Hydranea arborescens cultivars

"Plant Breeding at the Mountain Crop Improvement Lab"
Irene Palmer, Mountain Crop Improvement Lab, NC State University

Take a virtual trip to the Mountain Crop Improvement Lab (MCIL), where NC State faculty, staff, graduate students, and interns work together to develop a greater understanding of bioenergy and nursery crop breeding and improvement. Our diverse program works in over 60 genera and uses foundational and emerging technologies to develop and trial value-added, problem-solving landscape and bioenergy plants. The pathway from breeding objectives to commercial introduction will be discussed as well as a quick overview of some newer plant introductions and ongoing research at the MCIL.

Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens

"Native Orchid Conservation Efforts at Longwood Gardens"
Peter Zale, Ph.D., Longwood Gardens

Successful orchid conservation requires a multidisciplinary approach that supports in situ and ex situ conservation. Public gardens are expected to play a key role in supporting these efforts. Longwood Gardens initiated a native orchid conservation program in 2015 that focuses on horticultural aspects of ex situ orchid conservation including seed propagation, seedling establishment, and collections development that is balanced with in situ restoration, population assessments of rare species, and field work to catalogue previously unknown orchid occurrences. Peter will present on the development, successful outcomes, and future aspirations of the program to date.


Stephen Barstow

Stephen Barstow
Author, Around the World in 80 Plants and Edimentals

Stephen leads the Norwegian Seed Savers organization (KVANN) and blogs at He delivered the Alston lecture at Atlanta Botanical Garden in 2019.

Kevin Conrad

Kevin Conrad
Curator, Woody Landscape Plant Germplasm Repository, U.S. National Arboretum

For the past 17 years, Kevin Conrad has been curating the Woody Landscape Plant Germplasm Repository of the U.S. National Arboretum. This program is connected to the Agricultural Research Services, National Plant Germplasm System of the United States Department of Agriculture. He has worked for the National Arboretum for 29 years in many capacities including herbarium collections manager and curator of the Asian Collections. Kevin is also the USDA liaison for the American Public Garden Associations core program, the Plant Collections Network (PCN). Before joining the arboretum, he spent six years in various aspects of the nursery and landscape industry including sales manager of a multimillion dollar retail store.

Aaron Floden, Ph.D.
Assistant Scientist, Monographic Studies, Science, and Conservation Division, Missouri Botanical Garden

Fergus Garrett
Head Gardener and Chief Executive of the Great Dixter Charitable Trust, Great Dixter

Appointed in 1993 as head gardener of Great Dixter by Christopher Lloyd, Fergus continues to garden in a dynamic, experimental, and exciting way. Fergus believes in passing on his knowledge through national and international student and volunteer programs at Dixter and through worldwide lectures he gives every year. Fergus is keen on plant communities in the wild and especially plants native to Turkey. Among other honors, Fergus was given the Royal Horticultural Society Associate of Honour in 2008 and in 2015, the Veitch Memorial Medal for outstanding contribution to the practice of horticulture as well as the Victoria Medal of Honour—the highest accolade given to British horticulturists—in 2019.

Fergus is a patron of the Beth Chatto Education Charity, he is one of the garden advisors for RHS Wisley, he also sits on the advisory panel for Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, and is on the advisory board for Landcraft Garden Foundation. Fergus lives in the coastal town of Hastings with his wife and two daughters.

Hans Hansen

Hans Hansen
Director of New Plant Development, Walters Gardens

Hans Hansen is the director of new plant development at Walters Gardens, in Zealand, Michigan, a leading wholesale grower of perennials in North America. He has worked extensively with many North American native plants, including Baptisia, Hibiscus, Phlox, Monarda, and Heuchera. He also has worked with Hosta, Kniphofia, Achillea, and ×Mangave (a hybrid between Agave and Manfreda). Hans will be speaking on the topic of breeding outstanding perennials, combining traditional plant breeding methods and germplasm, from the gardener’s viewpoint, to achieve new plants. This is a wonderful opportunity to get some behind the scenes insight on how exciting new plants are being developed.

Irene Palmer

Irene Palmer
Research Specialist, NC State University

Originally from Mills River, North Carolina, Irene discovered ornamental plant breeding after an internship at the Mountain Crop Improvement Lab while in high school. She obtained a B.A. in environmental studies from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and an M.S. in horticultural sciences from NC State, where her research focused on fertility and reproductive pathways in Miscanthus. After completing her degree, Irene worked as an ornamental plant breeder with GardenGenetics located in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, where she expanded her plant breeding knowledge by working with annuals and perennials. She was lucky to return to NC State, and the Mountain Crop Improvement Lab, as a research specialist in 2017. At the MCIL, Irene manages different breeding projects including hydrangeas, evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, and crape myrtles.

Peter Zale, Ph.D.

Peter Zale, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Conservation, Plant Breeding, and Collection, Longwood Gardens

Peter Zale, Ph.D holds a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics (2009, 2014) from The Ohio State University and is currently Associate Director, Conservation, Plant Breeding, and Collections, at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. In this position, he leads curatorial activities, the plant breeding programs, the plant exploration program, and the plant conservation program. His main efforts at Longwood have centered around development of a comprehensive conservation horticulture program focused on native orchids of the United States and temperate terrestrial orchids from around the world. In his spare time, he has been building his own "private botanical garden" with extensive collections of hardy geophytes, woodland plants, trees, shrubs, and a variety of other plants that reflect personal interests.

Advance registration is required. Please register online using our registration e-store. Registration is limited and is considered complete when payment is received.
Program cancellations can be made up to two weeks before the program's start date. A 15% cancellation fee applies.
Online. Instructions will be provided by e-mail.
Please write for more information about this symposium.