Winter Symposium: "The Obsessive Gardener"

Online Rare & Unusual Plant Auction
Featuring Joseph Tychonievich, Catherine Bukowski, and Mike P. Gibson

  • Saturday, February 17, 2024 – 9:00 am12:30 pm

Us plant people are an exceptionally passionate bunch! Of course, obsessive may be the more accurate word if we’re being honest… but we’re a bit too preoccupied with plants here at the JC Raulston Arboretum to really notice the difference. Whether you call it passion or obsession, the fact remains: the love we have for the natural world is just too expansive to keep to ourselves. Join us for the Winter Symposium at the JCRA so we can share our love, our passion, our obsession for gardening with you, as a reminder to us all of our connection to nature, and each other, to keep that obsession healthy until spring!

Hydrangea involucrata 'Wim Rutten' (Blue Bunny) inflorescence

This morning symposium is for anybody who loves plants, horticulture, and gardening, no matter how obsessive you may be. Anybody who could use a little inspiration for their own garden, or a reminder of the wonderful things to come when winter ends will gain a lot by attending this event.

This year's symposium features three phenomenal guest speakers: Joseph Tychonievich, Catherine Bukowski, and Mike “Gibby-Siz” Gibson, all of whom are just as obsessed with getting people excited about horticulture as they are with horticulture itself. Their captivating presentations will broaden your perspective and expose you to new ideas, while also reminding you of all the things you love about plants, and all the reasons you love gardening in the first place. You will leave with new things to try out in your own garden, and be reminded that no matter how big your plant obsession grows, you're not the only one!


Rudbeckia & Gomphrena

"Confessions of a Plant Nerd"
Joseph Tychonievich, Gardener, Writer, Speaker, and Plant Breeder

"There I was, driving on the wrong side of the road down a narrow lane in the English countryside with a pheasant in the backseat of my rental car, wondering how my life-long love of gardening had gotten me into yet another totally bizarre situation. Gardening has taken me to some strange places and introduced me to some of the oddest, best people in the world. In this talk I'll share some of my favorite stories, and the gardening lessons I've learned from them. You'll come away with some laughs and some new techniques and ideas to put to work in your own garden."

Community food forests

"Transforming Landscapes- Food Forests for Gardens and Communities"
Catherine Bukowski, Researcher, Author, Designer, and Consultant

Catherine Bukowski will discuss the design and management of food forests in backyards and communities. Learn what benefits and resources a community food forest can add to your residence, community landscape and local food system. Particular attention will be given to increasing the possibilities for native species, stormwater management, and designing with awareness to creating welcoming spaces. Catherine will discuss best management practices based on her research for The Community Food Forest Handbook and show multiple examples of how such projects have transformed vacant lots, public parks, and other grounds.

Mike Gibson creating something beautiful

"Topiary Therapy: Healing Through Creative Pruning"
Mike P. Gibson, Topiary Artist & Educator

Creating topiary not only invokes creativity, it can also be used as a catalyst to connect people to nature, giving them another resource to help them heal. Dive into the world of topiary and discover how creative pruning techniques can serve as a gateway to mindfulness and emotional healing. We'll explore how creating topiary from mature trees and shrubs can be both aesthetically pleasing, and therapeutically rewarding to overall health and wellness.



Joseph Tychonievich and Gladiolus

Joseph Tychonievich
Gardener, Writer, Speaker, and Plant Breeder

Joseph Tychonievich is a life-long lover of plants and gardening. He got his degree in horticulture from Ohio State University and went on to work for specialty rare plant nurseries in Japan and Michigan. Joseph is the author of several books including The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food: Step-by-Step Vegetable Gardening for Everyone and Rock Gardening: Reimagining a Classic Style.

His writing has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Fine Gardening, and Horticulture Magazine. He is the editor of the North American Rock Garden Society's quarterly journal. He currently lives and gardens in South Bend, Indiana, with his husband, two cats, a dog, and a truly excessive number of plants.

Catherine Bukowski

Catherine Bukowski
Researcher, Author, Designer, and Consultant

Catherine’s love for nature and the outdoors is rooted in being around the food and flower gardens her parents and grandparents tended in their yards and her access to nature-exploring along the creek near her childhood home.

While working towards her doctorate in Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech she researched the ecological and social benefits of food forests across the United States as a design strategy that brings multiple benefits to communities and residences such as food production, wildlife habitat, pollinator support, stormwater management, and creating spaces for people to reconnect to each other and Nature. She has since shared her knowledge about the practice by authoring The Community Food Forest Handbook: How to Plan, Organize, and Nurture Edible Gathering Places.

She is also a consultant with Kindred Roots Design focusing on creating abundant landscapes and growing connected communities and a Landscape Designer with Backyard Bounty. More information on community food forests, consulting, and book orders is available on Catherine’s website.

Mike Gibson

Mike P. Gibson
Topiary Artist & Educator

Mike P. Gibson, owner of Gibson Works, LLC, is a world-renowned self-taught topiary artist with 30 years of experience. His whimsical and illusionary style has transformed public spaces nationwide, establishing him as a leading figure in the industry. Through captivating storytelling, Mike's topiary creations inspire and delight, showcasing his innovative vision.

Passionate about education, Mike shares his expertise on the therapeutic benefits of topiary through engaging lectures, demonstrations, and workshops. He holds certifications as an SC Certified Landscape Professional, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and in Therapeutic Horticulture, reflecting his commitment to excellence and holistic understanding of his craft.

Recognitions include the Garden Scholar award from the American Public Garden Association, Beautification Watch Award from Youngstown CityScape, and Artist of the Year by Fellows Riverside Garden. He has appeared on HGTV's Clipped and featured in various publications such as Garden and Gun, American Lifestyle, and ArtNews.

Recently, Mike played a pivotal role as topiary artist in residence at Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden, contributing to its restoration. Driven by the belief that topiary is a transformative lifestyle accessible to all, his artistry and dedication inspire others to embrace its therapeutic benefits. With enchanting botanical masterpieces, Mike continues to push boundaries, evoking wonder and beauty in his craft.

Registration details coming soon!
Program cancellations can be made up to two weeks before the program's start date. A 15% cancellation fee applies.
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University, 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, North Carolina and online.
Need directions? Click here.
Free parking is available at the JC Raulston Arboretum and along Beryl Road.
Please write for more information about this program.