“Grow” your gardening know-how! Our free online gardening program, Let’s Talk Gardens, covers a wide range of topics presented by our own professional staff, as well as guest speakers. No matter your level of gardening knowledge, there’s always something new to learn!

Join us on Thursdays at 12:00 PM EST for this popular webinar series

To watch our past videos visit our Let’s Talk Gardens Video Library .

Jennifer Jewell, Let's Talk Gardens Speaker

September 29: The Many Layers of Invitation our Gardens Offer

Speaker: Jennifer Jewel

In a world and time of colliding and competing urgencies – environmental, social, economic, physical and spiritual – it can often feel as though Gardening is perhaps superfluous – not important enough, and certainly not enough to solve the world’s problems. And yet, as Jennifer Jewell, creator and host of public radio’s Cultivating Place, Conversations on Natural History & the Human Impulse to Garden will share through her years of experience interviewing gardeners and growers, environmentalists, artist’s and leading thinkers, our gardens – personal gardens & public gardens – are in fact inviting us at every turn to keep engaging, to get started there and keep going as important parts of the ultimate solutions to these crises and callings in our world. Through examples from her nationally syndicated program as well as illustrations and stories from each of her award winning books: The Earth in Her Hands, 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants, and Under Western Skies, Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, Jewell will walk us (especially as public facing professional gardeners or garden volunteers) through how at all levels, our gardens are inviting us to embrace our power, agency, and joy in growing the world better – in growing the world we want to live in and pass on to future gardeners. 

Jennifer Jewell is the host of the national award-winning weekly public radio program and podcast Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden. She is the author of the award-winning The Earth in Her Hands, 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants (Timber Press in 2020), and Under Western Skies, Visionary Gardens from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast (Timber Press, May 2021). In late 2023, her third book focusing on the importance of seed in our personal, cultural, garden, environmental, and economic lives will be published by Timber Press. Jewell’s greatest passion is elevating the way we think and talk about gardening, the empowerment of gardeners, and the possibility inherent in the intersection between places, environments, cultures, individuals and the gardens that bring them together beautifully – for the better of all the lives on this generous planet. 

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October 6: Regenerative Landscaping: How to Make Residential & Municipal Landscapes Part of the Climate Solution

Speaker: Dr. Sara Via,Professor & Climate Extension Specialist, University of Maryland

Land management practices in agriculture and landscaping have led to an array of interconnected environmental problems.  In particular, the reliance on mowed turfgrass as the default urban and suburban landscape is environmentally and economically costly.  But there are alternatives!  By rethinking how we approach lawn and landscaping, we can maintain the aesthetic of the traditional grassy landscape while adding beautiful perennial plantings that increase habitat, boost biodiversity and improve water management and quality.  This approach could reduce the carbon footprint of suburban landscapes by as much as 80% while significantly reducing maintenance costs.

Dr. Sara Via moved to the University of Maryland as Professor of Biology in 1997 after holding faculty research positions at the University of Iowa and Cornell University.  Since 2014, she has been teaching adults about climate change impacts and solutions through the University of Maryland Extension.  Sara frequently speaks to Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists and garden clubs; links to videos of her Climate and Sustainability webinars can be found on her website, www.climatecorner.org.

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CIndy Brown, Smithsonian Gardens Manager of Collections, Education and Access and Education

October 13: Growing Underground – How to Grow Root Vegetables

Speaker: Cindy Brown, Horticulturist, Educator, Smithsonian Gardens 

From carrots to beets, parsnips to radishes, and everything in between, let’s look at the garden’s buried treasures; an up-close view of our underground edibles. Root vegetables have a place in every size garden, even containers. They take up little garden space and with a bit of planning they can be harvested throughout the winter.  Cindy will guide us through the process of selecting, planting and growing various root crops to fill your larders or pantries.  

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Made in the Shade: Creating Dynamic Shade Gardens Presenter, Sylvia Schmeichel

October 20: Winter Garden Maintenance for Wildlife Friendly Habitats 

Speaker: Sylvia Schmeichel, Horticulturist, Smithsonian Gardens 

Not looking forward to raking up all those leaves this Fall? You are in luck! Join us as we share why it’s good to pause on those garden chores, relax and enjoy the bones of your garden. Learn our pro tips for supporting pollinators and other wildlife through the winter months. 
Sylvia Schmeichel is a Horticulturist at Smithsonian Gardens and manages the gardens surrounding the National Museum of Natural History.

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The Wild Senna (Senna marilandica) is a wonder native plant with nectar-providing pea-like flowers and is a host plant for sulfur butterflies in the summer.

October 27: Natives Plant Alternatives to Replace Invasives in Your Garden  

Speaker: Alex Dencker, Horticulturist, Smithsonian Gardens 

Many commonly used garden plants imported to North America have escaped into once pristine natural areas.  After becoming a monoculture these species drive out the native species, thereby degrading the ecosystem and lowering species diversity.  Alex Dencker will discuss some problematic plants, highlight the damage they’ve done and continue to do to our natural areas, and offer native plant alternatives to replace the invasive you may be surprised to learn you have in your garden. 

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November 10: Creating Hypnotizing Horticultural Displays 

Speakers: Scott Scarfone and Janet Draper 

Reducing the elements of planting design to the simplest and most basic of design principles can be a powerful approach to creating bold and powerful planting compositions. Powerful plantings respond to our emotions because of their striking application of color, form, texture or placement. Successful compositions are complex in their simplicity and unusual in their context – which presents as exotic or visually arresting. Learning how to recognize and boil down elements of design to its essence is key to success. Power plantings are, thus, those plants that when plants are placed either individually or in grouped combinations stand out from the surrounding landscape. It is their distinctive and prominent characteristics, differing from feel of the surrounding landscape, that capture people’s attention. Under the tenants of the most basic of design principles and philosophies, careful plant selection and strategically placed plants with contrasting combinations can create stunning visual displays. This presentation will explore principles and approaches for creating hypnotic plantings through review of well-designed examples. Imagery will categorized and form the basis of discussions on various techniques that may use employed to create power plantings. Examples of hypnotic powerful plantings from around the globe will be used to illustrate key techniques.

Scott Scarfone is a landscape architect and horticulturist with 30+ years of experience having practiced on a broad range of project types – most notably having designed projects for 21 public gardens across the US and Canada.

Janet Draper is the lead Horticulturist at Smithsonian Gardens’ Mary Livingston Ripley Garden in Washington DC.

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