Breakout Sessions

Image of sunglasses focused on purple flowers

Master Gardener College attendees have live access to all keynote sessions and registered breakouts/workshops. After the conference, attendees will also be given access to view recordings of all 17 breakouts, and the leadership workshop too! 

Thursday, August 19: 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Onions, Garlics and Leeks, Oh My! 

Dr. Ron Goldy, Retired Vegetable Production Educator, MSU Extension

Our culinary lives would be much different without the alliums (Onion Family). They add zest, spiciness, heat, and color to our lives, along with important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. This presentation will concentrate on production tips for the major members of the allium family. 

Oudolf Garden Detroit

Roy Diblik, Co-Owner, Northwind Perennial Farm, Burlington, Wisc. 

The Oudolf Garden Detroit started with an invitation from the Garden Club of Michigan to renowned Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf to consider a garden in Detroit.  He visited Detroit in April 2017 and was inspired by a site on Belle Isle adjacent to the Nancy Brown Carillon Tower. The 2.5 acre garden is still a work-in-progress. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, Oudolf relied on Roy Diblik and Oudolf protégé Austin Eischeid to transform the design from paper to ground since both worked with Oudolf on design implementation of his famous Luri Gardens in Chicago. The garden was initially planted in September 2020 when more than 23,000 native and hearty perennials were installed in under a week.  The final plans include additional plantings in May 2021 and a rain garden to be installed in July 2021. Oudolf Garden Detroit is the first Oudolf design to mix three of his signature planting styles-matrix planting, block planting, and dimple planting, a unique technique of scattering different plants. Join us as Roy Diblik describes the making of this unique Detroit landmark. Throughout his presentation, Roy will stress the importance of understanding the growth rate and habit of young plants and their relationship to other plants in order to develop successful garden communities. 

What's In a Name: Plant Classification for the Home Gardener

Bryce Lane, Lecturer Emeritus and Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, North Carolina State University

Cheeseweed, Sensitive Plant, Resurrection Fern?! Really? Did you know that many plants have three different names? Come find out how plants get their names, and how knowledge of a plant’s scientific name can save you money, and help you become a better gardener! 

Wood-boring Insects: A Primer

Howard Russell, Arthropod Diagnostician, MSU

The correct identification of wood boring insects found in declining trees is an important consideration when diagnosing the cause of tree decline.  Some borers are the primary cause of decline while others are secondary symptoms of decline. This session will cover the identification of different types of wood boring larvae, the level of injury they cause, their biology, and management strategies to control them. 

Friday, August 20: 8:45-10 a.m.

MSU Horticulture Gardens Tour with Live Q&A 

MSU Horticulture Garden Staff

Explore the MSU Horticulture Gardens with our all new virtual tour. MSU Horticulture experts will lead you on a tour of the 7 acre facility. The tour will include the Rose, Perennial, Annual and 4-H Children’s Garden. Garden staff will also provide growing tips and a sneak peak at new varieties. This session includes a live Q&A featuring MSU Horticulture Garden staff. 

Horticulture Therapy

Mike Maddox, Outreach Program Manager, University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension Master Gardener Program

As a volunteer in an Extension Master Gardener program, you make a difference in communities by engaging people in the process of gardening. This includes youth, elders, people with limited abilities, veterans, the incarcerated, novice gardeners, and more! To successfully engage audiences, you must know more than how to grow plants.  Learn how a horticultural therapy framework can be incorporated into your gardening with others to improve the experience for everyone.

MSU Plant and Pest Diagnostics Tour with Live Q&A

Dr. Erin Hill, Weed Science Diagnostician, MSU and Laura Miles, Molecular Diagnostician, MSU

MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics provides plant health analyses and identification of nematodes, weeds, insects, and other arthropods. Our team consists of experts in these disciplines working together to assist a wide variety of people experiencing problems with plants and pests. We analyze samples for a nominal fee and provide a diagnosis or identification of the problem as well as recommendations for control. This session will feature a tour of the facilities and detailed explanations of how to submit different sample types. Erin Hill, weed science diagnostician, and Laura Miles, molecular diagnostician, will be available to answer your questions during the live session. 

Mutations - Ya Gotta Love 'em!

Dr. Ron Goldy, Retired Vegetable Production Educator, MSU Extension

Genetic processes are extremely regular but occasional mistakes do happen – sometimes in our favor. This presentation will cover the different types of mutations, how they occur, how they are expressed, and how we have been able to benefit from them.

Friday, August 20: 1-2:15 p.m.

Evidence-Based Information: Separating Fact from Fiction

Linda Chalker-Scott, Professor and Extension Urban Horticulturist, Washington State University (WSU) Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Puyallup, Washington

In this session, participants will work on honing in on what Linda calls their their CRAAP (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose) analysis by examining some popular gardening resources through a Q&A process. Linda will provide some of these test resources, but attendees are encouraged to ask about other sources of information. A handout will be provided before the breakout session so that attendees can see what resources will be discussed.


Dr. Jared Barnes, Assistant Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas

Growing your own food is a core skill of life. In turbulent times people turn to edible gardening as a defiant act of survival.  Horticulturists can capitalize on this plant-to-eat movement.  Dr. Barnes, who stewards a food garden "Sprout" at Stephen F. Austin State University, will educate you about foodscaping and share inspiring foodscapes from around the world. He will teach you how to integrate great edibles into your garden, and present ideas for how to use the harvest.  

Organic, Biorational and Conventional Pesticides—What’s the Difference?

Erin Lizotte, Senior Statewide Extension IPM Educator / IPM Coordinator, MSU Extension

There is a lot of confusion about pesticides, particularly as they relate to human and environmental health. Join us to develop a better understanding of how pesticides work, pesticide classification, and government regulation.  We will explore the differences between conventional and alternative products and dispel common myths.  

Spruce Decline

Dr. Monique Sakalidis, Assistant Professor, MSU

Spruce decline has been impacting Colorado Blue Spruce trees in the Midwest and Northeast since 2006.  Learn what is causing their decline, how to recognize it, and what can be done to overcome these challenges. 

DroneSeed - Rapid Reforestation via Drones

Ryan Keeling, Technical Operations - GIS Manager and Assistant Chief Pilot, DoneSeed, Seattle, WA

In an effort to mitigate climate change, the Seattle-based company DroneSeed provides innovative methods for rapid reforestation by using heavy-lift drone swarms. In addition to developing custom drone hardware, software, and operating procedures, DroneSeed is also conducting seed enablement research to better understand the best of use of precious seed resources. While DroneSeed works primarily on large-scale post-wildfire projects, DroneSeed conducts pilot projects all over the world partnering with local communities and working to develop seed vessels containing native species. In this session, Ryan Keeling, Technical Operations - GIS Manager and Assistant Chief Pilot at DroneSeed will talk about the company's effors, highlighting one local project, Jack Pine restoration in Northern Michigan's Kirkland’s Warbler Management Area.

Saturday, August 21: 8:45-10 a.m.

Adaptive Gardening

Mike Maddox, Outreach Program Manager, University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension Master Gardener Program

The physical activities of gardening can create wear and tear on our bodies.  Join certified Horticulture Therapist, Mike Maddox, as he shares how to adapt our gardening tools and techniques to reduce the aches and pains and better allow us to care for our bodies while we tend to our plants.

Espalier Fruit Growing

Dr. Ron Perry, Professor Emeritus, MSU

Espalier is the practice of pruning and tying branches of fruit trees to a frame or trellis. It is created with both formal or informal patterns flat against a structure like a wall, fence, or trellis.  It is an ancient art that allows the skilled gardener to train shoots in various designs and angular patterns, creating symmetry and art while concurrently providing fruit for the table. The fundamentals of espalier are one of the foundations for global modern commercial fruit growing. Dr. Perry will discuss the importance of variety and rootstock selection when practicing espalier fruit growing, followed by guidance in establishment and training of trees to create designs. He will share his experiences in developing espalier exhibits at the MSU Horticulture Gardens and his nearly 50 years of experience in fruit research at high-density apple, cherry and peach orchards. The presentation will draw from a recently published electronic book called, “Espalier in Northern Gardens; Creating Fruit Trees as Art” which is co-authored by Dr. Kristin Getter, MSU Assistant Professor and Director of MSU Horticulture Gardens. 

Geophytes for Neophytes

Isabel Branstrom, Consumer Horticulture Educator, MSU Extension and Sarah Rautio, Statewide Leader, MSU Extension Master Gardener Program®

Are you a neophyte who would like to learn more about geophytes? Neophytes are people who are new to a subject - geophytes are the underground rock stars of the garden! Geophyte structure is interestingly diverse, from true bulbs, to corms, tubers and rhizomes. This session will provide you with a deeper understanding of geophyte biology and include tips on what and how to plant when deer are a problem. Join us for a deep dive into geophyte biology so you can be more successful in planning, planting, maintaining and propagating geophytes, just in time for fall planting season.

Plants Poisonous to Pets and Humans

Dr. Peter Carrington, Curator and Collections Manager, W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, MSU

Some of us have significant plant diversity in our yards. Between our cultivated favorites and our weeds, species of varying toxicity have made it into the corners and places we don’t always check. Join Peter Carrington, Curator of the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, in an exploration of plants that are toxic to us and/or our four-legged loved ones. This presentation will focus on people, dogs, cats, and horses. There will be an opportunity for questions at the end.