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Gardening expert Mike McGrath to share his wit, wisdom at annual Native Plant and Sustainability Conference

| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 3:24 p.m.
Mike McGrath
Thomas Wolf
Mike McGrath
Jennifer Davit
Paul g. Wiegman
Jennifer Davit

Gardening expert Mike McGrath credits his wife for his career change that led to his current status as an author and host of the nationally syndicated weekly public radio show, “You Bet Your Garden,” which he describes as “an hour of chemical-free horticultural hijinks.”

McGrath, the keynote speaker at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' annual Native Plant and Sustainability Conference, says he was working for Stan Lee at Marvel Comics when he met “a stunningly beautiful, smart and funny woman at a party who made it clear that she was only going to be interested in a man who would move her out to the country and grow raspberries for her.”

As a result, “I finished up my work of the moment at Marvel, hired a truck, learned how to grow raspberries and we lived happily ever after.”

McGrath, who pairs his wit with his wisdom about organic gardening, will give his keynote address, “It's Easy to Make Your Own Garden Gold,” at Phipps' one-day forum focusing on plants, landscapes and people's roles as environmental stewards.

His presentation will share some of his secrets of successful composting and the mistakes home gardeners make when they aren't informed about the process before digging into it.

“People often come to composting in the hopes of recycling their lettuce leaves, apple cores, broccoli stalks, etc., but a big pile of garbage will not become compost. It will instead become a somewhat smaller but much smellier and nastier pile of garbage,” he says.

McGrath attended Temple University and also is garden editor for WTOP News Radio in Washington, D.C., contributing editor and columnist for “Greenprints Magazine” and author of books on tomatoes, compost and kitchen gardening.

Also speaking at the conference will be Jennifer Davit, who joined Phipps in January as curator of horticulture. She previously worked in public gardens and served as director of the Lurie Garden in Chicago's Millennium Park. She will discuss its dedication to sustainability and how home gardeners can benefit from “Lessons from the Lurie Garden” in her presentation.

“Most native plants and many of the durable perennials should not be treated in the same way most people grow seasonal annual plants – with lots of water, fertilization and soil amendments. Many perennials need very few inputs and actually perform worse when over-fertilized and over-watered,” she says.

Her talk also will inform home gardeners about how to appreciate perennials not only for their flowers, but for their unique foliage, interesting buds and other features in all seasons of the year.

Davit has a master's degree in public garden management from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and a bachelor's degree in biology from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Other conference speakers and their topics include James Brown, owner of New Moon Nursery, Bridgeton, N.J., “Underused and Underrated Native Perennials,” and Judy Semroc, a conservation specialist in the Natural Areas Division for Cleveland Museum of Natural History, “Pollination: A Photographic Primer For Gardening Success.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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