Gardeners of all levels invited to Art of Gardening Symposium on April 2

Area gardeners are invited to explore the concept of the “Artful Garden” at the Art of Gardening Symposium on Saturday, April 2 in Madison. The event features four talks by horticultural industry leaders, including top garden designers and directors, who will present their unique perspectives on garden design, plant selection and more.

Photo of Chanticleer Garden by Lisa Roper.

The full-day symposium, which runs from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the UW-Madison Arboretum Visitor Center, is being put on by the Friends of Allen Centennial Garden, a non-profit organization that supports the UW-Madison’s 2.5-acre Allen Centennial Garden.

“The idea is to bring together the horticulture community in the area, so people can learn from one another and gain valuable advice from experts who share the same passions,” said Ben Futa, director of Allen Centennial Garden, who helped organize the event.

The featured speakers are:

  • Roy Diblik, a nationally-recognized perennial plant expert, grower, designer, speaker and author. His recent work includes planting the new Oceanarium at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and a garden for the modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Kelly D. Norris, an award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the first director of horticulture at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized 14-acre public garden in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Thomas Rainer, a registered landscape architect, teacher, and writer living in Arlington, Virginia. Rainer is well-known for his blog, Grounded Design, and has designed landscapes for the U.S. Capitol grounds, the New York Botanical Garden, and over 100 gardens from Maine to Florida.
  • Bill Thomas, executive director and head gardener of the Chanticleer Foundation in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Thomas, who holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in horticulture from UW-Madison, has led the staff at this 48-acre garden for the past 13 years.

The speakers’ talks will cover a variety of current topics in the gardening field, including how to forge a personal style in harmony with a garden’s setting and local environment; how to select and incorporate regionally dependable perennials into a garden; finding a balance between beauty and environmental concerns; and adding fun, visually exciting elements to a garden.

“It’s just a stellar line-up of experts. Attendees are going to learn from some of the best gardeners, authors, landscape architects and teachers in the business,” says Futa.

The symposium’s registration fee is $80 for the general public and $20 for UW-Madison students, and includes the talks, morning refreshments and lunch on April 2. The event qualifies for four credits of continuing education for Master Gardener Volunteers. The registration deadline for the event is March 27.

Please note: There will also be an authors reception – featuring three of the symposium speakers – on the evening of Friday, April 1. This event, which costs $50 to attend, runs from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the University Club, located at 803 State Street in Madison. Kelly Norris, Thomas Rainer and Bill Thomas, who have all published books on gardening, will attend this casual event, which will feature hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and the opportunity to purchase the authors’ books.

Sponsors of the Art of Gardening Symposium include Garden Design Magazine, Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society and Madison Area Master Gardeners Association.

For more information about the symposium and the authors reception and to register for one or both of these events, please visit For questions, please contact Ben Futa at or 608-576-2501.