Renee Shepherd to Keynote 2017 IMGC

Renee Shepherd will be the closing keynote speaker at the 2017 IMGC.

We are thrilled to announce that Renee Shepherd – Seed Developer, Gardener, Entrepreneur and Author – will close out the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference as our third keynote speaker.  She joins Plantsman Dan Hinkley and Wildlife Biologist John Marzluff, to complete the roster of 2017 International Master Gardener Conference keynote speakers.  But, we still have lots of concurrent session speakers in the works for you!  Stay tuned.  We’ll announce concurrent session speakers as they are confirmed.

Renee Shepherd is widely regarded as a pioneering innovator in introducing international specialty vegetables and herbs for home gardeners and gourmet restaurants. After receiving her PhD from UC Santa Cruz and teaching in the Environmental Studies department there, she founded Shepherd’s Garden Seed which she ran until 1996. In 1997 she founded her current company, Renee’s Garden, offering her selected choices of seeds for exciting new and time-tested heirloom gourmet vegetables, culinary herbs and a wide range of fragrant and cutting flowers, sourced from seed growers both large and small around the world. Renee’s Garden seed packets are available directly from and are offered through independent garden centers in the US and Canada.

Renee writes the descriptions and growing information for all the company’s seed packets, chooses seed varieties, manages marketing activities, and directs and enjoys the company’s large trial gardens in California and Vermont. She has authored two cookbooks, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden and More Recipes From a Kitchen Garden and is putting the finishing touches on a third book combining both gardening advice and great recipes.

Renee lectures widely at national and regional garden shows and is a featured speaker at numerous gardening conferences. She has many community interests and serves on the Planning Commission for Santa Cruz County, California. She has served on the board of the National Garden Association and is currently president of the Home Garden Seed Association.

Renee’s Garden is my practical way to spread the joy of gardening as a meaningful, productive and satisfying activity that connects us to each other and the earth.” – Renee Shepherd

Call for Speakers is Open!

Now that the 2015 International Master Gardener Conference is winding down, we are officially taking nominations for speakers for the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference.

The 2017 International Master Gardener Conference will be held July 10-14, 2017 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, OR.

We’re looking for speakers who are dynamic and engaging.  Speakers must understand  and abide by the Master Gardener Program commitment to research-based information, and should be able to adapt information so that it is of interest to Master Gardeners from across the United States, Canada and South Korea.

Nominate yourself!  Or, nominate a great speaker who you have seen at another event.

Putting on a conference is expensive!  Therefore, priority may be given to great speakers who are able to partially or fully underwrite the cost of their appearance.  As we secure more sponsors, we will be able better support our speakers.

We are so sincerely thankful for our generous conference sponsors and supporters.  Without them, we would not be able to bring great speakers to Portland.

If you are interested in supporting the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference, please take a look at our sponsorship information sheet.  Your tax-deductible donation can be made via check or PayPal.

John Marzluff at 2017 IMGC

John Marzluff will be presenting a keynote address at the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference.
John Marzluff will be presenting a keynote address at the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference.

We’re pleased to announce that Professor John Marzluff will present a keynote address at the International Master Gardener Conference on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.  I recently saw Dr. Marzluff lecture at Oregon State University, where he inspired and impressed me with his knowledge, delivery and humor.  He is the perfect combination of an academic expert, on a topic of broad interest to home gardeners, who understands how to deliver a talk to a general and broad audience.  I was also impressed with his ability to talk about birds and landscapes in many different geographic regions of the United States.

Below is a YouTube clip of Dr. Marzluff talking about crow behavior and biology.  This talk is soooo cool!  But, I didn’t want to spoil the fun for you at the 2017 IMGC.  At our conference, Dr. Marzluff will be speaking about birds in urban and suburban environments, and the role we all play in shaping their presence, absence and behavior.

The clip below is to ‘whet your appetite’, so to speak.  If you have the time, watch it to the end.  The second half (in my opinion) is the best part!

Want to learn more about Dr. Marzluff?  His biography is below.

Biography of Dr. John Marzluff

John Marzluff is James W. Ridgeway Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington.  His graduate (Northern Arizona University) and initial post-doctoral (University of Vermont) research focused on the social behavior and ecology of jays and ravens.  He continues this theme investigating the intriguing behavior of crows, ravens, and jays.  His current research brings this behavioral approach to pressing conservation issues including raptor management, management of pest species, and assessment of nest predation.  He has led studies on the effects of military training on falcons and eagles in southwestern Idaho, the effects of timber harvest, recreation, and forest fragmentation on goshawks and marbled murrelets in western Washington and Oregon, conservation strategies for Pacific Island crows, and the effects of urbanization on songbirds in the Seattle area.  His classes include Ornithology, Governance and Conservation of Rare Species, Field Research in Yellowstone, and Natural and Cultural History of Costa Rica.

Professor Marzluff has written five books and edited several others. His graduate research in communication, social organization, demography, and foraging behavior was reveled in The Pinyon Jay, 1992, Academic Press (coauthored with his advisor Russell Balda). His book, In the Company of Crows and Ravens (with Tony Angell, 2005 Yale U. Press) blends biology, conservation, and anthropology to suggest that human and crow cultures have co-evolved.  This book won the 2006 Washington State Book Award for general nonfiction.  With his wife, Colleen, he published Dog Days, Raven Nights (2011 Yale University Press), which combines reflection with biology and the recreational pursuit of dog sledding to show how a life in science blooms.  Gifts of the Crow (2012 Free Press, coauthored with Tony Angell) applies a neurobiological perspective to understand the amazing feats of corvids.  His most recent book Welcome to Subirdia (2014 Yale) discovers that moderately settled lands host a splendid array of biological diversity and suggests ways in which people can steward these riches to benefit birds and themselves.

Dr. Marzluff has mentored over 30 graduate students and authored over 135 scientific papers on various aspects of bird behavior and wildlife management.  He is a member of the board of editors for Ecological Applications.  He has edited Avian Conservation: Research and Management that includes 40 chapters detailing research approaches to conserve avian biodiversity throughout the world (1998, Island Press), Avian Conservation and Ecology in an Urbanizing World (2001, Kluwer Academic Publishers), Radiotelemetry and Animal Populations (2001, Academic Press), Urban Ecology: An International Perspective on the Interaction Between Humans and Nature (2008, Springer), and Perspectives in Urban Ecology (2011, Springer). He is currently leader of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Team for the critically endangered Mariana Crow, a former member of the Washington Biodiversity Council, and a Fellow of the American Ornithologist’s Union.

Ciscoe Morris at 2017 IMGC

Ciscoe Morris
Ciscoe Morris will be serving as the Master of Ceremonies at the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference.

Ciscoe Morris, has generously agreed to spend the entire week with us and to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference.

Serving as the Master if Ceremonies is a tough gig!  You have to be an excellent public speaker.  You have to understand who Master Gardeners are and what we need and want to learn.  You have to have a solid understanding of gardening.  And, you have to be engaging, entertaining and genuine.  Ciscoe is all of these things and more.

Gardeners in Seattle and in Portland will probably know Ciscoe from his wildly popular call-in gardening show: ‘Gardening with Ciscoe‘ on KIRO Radio, 97.3FM.  This longtime radio show broadcasts every Saturday morning.  Each week, Ciscoe offers gardening advice mixed with a hearty dose of humor.

He also has a Friday night question and answer show ‘Gardening with Ciscoe Live’, which broadcasts on Northwest Cable News.  Every other Monday morning, he also appears on KING5’s New Day Northwest with Margaret Larson.  His popular ‘Gardening with Cisco’ show with Meeghan Black airs on KING/KONG TV.

His book, ‘Ask Cisco‘ was among the top selling gardening books nationwide.  H’es also co-authored books on roses and perennials, and writes a weekly garden column in the Thursday web version / Saturday print edition of the Seattle Times.

Ciscoe is crazy about dogs and gardening, and can often be found working with his pooches, Fred and Ruby, in his Seattle garden.  Ciscoe’s other passion is travel, and despite his busy schedule, he manages to find time to lead garden tours to countries all over the world.

He’s a long-time King County, WA Master Gardener, a certified arborist and serves on several advisory boards.

Take a listen to one of his most recent radio shows, and you’ll see why I’m so excited that Ciscoe will be joining us for the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference.

Plantsman Dan Hinkley, Confirmed as Keynote!

We are so thrilled to announce that Dan Hinkley has agreed to deliver  the keynote address at the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference on Thursday, July 13, 2017!  The keynote address will be ‘The Forgotten Elements of Good Design: Texture, Movement and Fragrance‘.

Dan will also deliver a concurrent class session on that same day, entitled ‘Lesser Known Trees, Shrubs and Vines for North American Gardens‘.

Dan is a teacher, writer, lecturer, consultant, nurseryman and gardener who has been recognized with numerous awards, and was one of the co-founders of the renowned Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, WA.  He now maintains his garden, Windcliff, in the Pacific Northwest.  He has been described as the ‘Indiana Jones of the Plant World’, with an ‘inconvenient fear of heights’, given his penchant for collecting plants on mountaintops.

He is committed to solid and sustainable horticultural practices, above average garden plants, landscapes of distinction and raising the collective awareness of the diversity of plant life on Earth as well as the magic and mysteries of our natural world.

He has been featured in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Fine Gardening, Horticulture Magazine, and Sunset Magazine.  He has appeared on Martha Stewart television, where he served as a gardening consultant for 10 years.  He has also appeared in and served as a horticultural consultant for the PBS Nova program ‘The First Flower‘.

He is the author of  two Timber Press books:  ‘The Explorer’s Garden, Shrubs and Vines from Four Corners of the World‘ (2009, Timber Press) and ‘The Explorers Garden, Rare and Unusual Perennials‘ (1999, Timber Press, now in its fourth printing).



Thank You, 2017 IMGC Sponsors!

Central Oregon Master Gardener Logo Ball Hort logo OSU College of Ag logo OMGA logo

clackamas county wagon

Hosting the International Master Gardener Conference can be a scary proposition.  When choosing a site for the 2017 IMGC, we needed to find a place that could hold 1,000+ people (we’re hoping to attract 1,200), but we also needed to do our best to keep costs down.

We settled on the Oregon Convention Center, primarily because it is the only site in Portland that could fully meet our space needs.  But, the City of Portland also has a wonderful program  that helps organizations bring business to Portland, via conferences held at the Oregon Convention Center.  Without this program, the cost of hosting the conference at the Oregon Convention Center would be beyond our means.

But, even though we the cost of renting the Convention Center space is drastically discounted, we still have to find a way to bear the costs of:  speaker fees, speaker mileage and travel costs, catering, audio-visual support, trade show set up and break down, registration services.  All of these are expensive, and we are doing our best to provide the highest quality possible, while keeping costs low for attendees.

One approach to keeping quality high and costs low is to find sponsors ~ businesses, non-profit organizations, or even individuals ~ who believe in what we’re trying to do.  By collaborating with sponsors, we’re in a much better position to plan and implement the type of conference we want to host.

I’ve been beating the bushes over the past few months, to try and drum up sponsorship support for the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference, and the early response has been phenomenal.

Ball Horticultural, a perennial supporter of the International Master Gardener Conference, was the very first to sign on as a sponsor.  Ball continues their generous support of the International Master Gardener Conference, with a pledge of $10,000 to help defray conference costs and to keep registration fees as low as possible.

The Oregon State University Department of Horticulture and the College of Agricultural Sciences were the next two to sign on as sponsors ~ pledging $1,000 each.  At a time when state budgets have been slashed and every penny spent is carefully considered, I’m so proud that my Department and my College have stepped forward to say ‘we know the IMGC is important, and we want to support what you’re doing’.

But the largest response has come from Oregon’s Master Gardeners, themselves.  The Oregon Master Gardener Association and 10 of it’s chapters (the Clackamas county, Jackson county, Benton county, Multnomah county, Marion county, Central Oregon, Central Gorge, Lincoln, Tillamook county, Clatsop county and Lane county Master Gardener Associations) have together pledged or already donated $34,000 to support the International Master Gardener Program!  Master Gardeners Sherry Sheng (and husband Spike Wadsworth), Jo Ann Bones, Marcia Sherry (and husband Bob) and Larry and Giuli Sutton have also pledged or donated their individual support of the International Master Gardener for a combined $9,000.  The generosity of Oregon’s Master Gardeners will truly help us to host high quality speakers that we couldn’t otherwise afford to bring to Oregon, and I am truly grateful for their support.  If you are planning on attending the 2017 IMGC, please take the time to thank Oregon’s Master Gardeners for their strong and meaningful support of the conference.

Thank you to Ball, Oregon State University and Oregon’s Master Gardener Associations and volunteers for your support of the 2017 IMGC!  We are doing our best to build a conference that will make you proud!

We are still actively seeking sponsors who value the community services of Master Gardeners, internationally, and who support the continuing education afforded to Master Gardeners through this conference.  Sponsorship donations are managed by the Agricultural Research Foundation, a non-profit with  501(c)3 status from the Internal Revenue Service, and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

If you or your organization are interested in sponsoring the 2017 IMGC, please visit our sponsorship page for more information.  There, you can access the information sheet we’ve developed for potential sponsors, as well as the sponsorship pledge/payment form.

International Master Gardener Conferences ~ Past, Present and Future

The 2017 International Master Gardener Conference, with the theme ‘Follow the Oregon Trail to Great Gardening‘,  will mark the 30th year and the 15th biennial gathering of this remarkable event.  But, did you know that 2017 will mark the second time that the conference has been hosted in Portland?  In 1989, the Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener Program (under the direction of Ray and Jan McNeilan) hosted the second national gathering of Master Gardeners at the Red Lion in Portland, Oregon.  I believe that the conference was renamed the International Master Gardener Conference by 1991 ~ although I could be wrong.

If you have more details on the evolution of the conference, please share!  I’ve become a Master Gardener history buff, and love seeing how the program and the conference have grown and evolved over the years.

What I have found on the history of the event is listed below, together with a few photos from IMGCs I have attended (2009, 2011 and 2013).

2015 International Master Gardener Conference

2015: Horticultural Horizons in the Heartland, September 22-25, 2015 in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Previous International Master Gardener Conferences

2013:  Flowers, Fjords & Friends, September 7-14, 2013, an Alaskan cruise from Seattle

Cruising Glacier Bay during the 2017 IMGC cruise to Alaska.
Cruising Glacier Bay during the 2013 IMGC cruise to Alaska.
Touring gardens managed by the Alaska Master Gardeners in Sitka.
Touring gardens managed by the Alaska Master Gardeners in Sitka.


I have Siberian Huskies, and couldn't help but stop and pet these Malamutes while visiting Ketchikan.
I have Siberian Huskies, and couldn’t help but stop and pet these Malamutes while visiting Ketchikan.

2011:  Color it Green In a Wild & Wonderful Way, October 11-14, 2011 in Charleston, West Virginia

Oregon Master Gardener Betty F. up on stage (4th from left) during the 2011 IMGC.
Oregon Master Gardener Betty F. up on stage (4th from left) during the 2011 IMGC.


A street scene from Charleston, during a break in the 2011 IMGC.
A street scene from Charleston, during a break in the 2011 IMGC.
There was a fire drill during the 2011 IMGC!  A great reminder that sometimes things don't go as planned.
There was a fire drill during the 2011 IMGC! A great reminder that sometimes things don’t go as planned.

2009:  “New Frontiers” in Horticulture and Gardening, March 22-26 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

At a behind the scenes tour of the Bellagio gardens at the 2009 IMGC in Las Vegas, NV.
At a behind the scenes tour of the Bellagio gardens at the 2009 IMGC in Las Vegas, NV.

2007:  Celebrate Gardening in the Natural State, May 2-5 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

2005:  100 Years of Gardening on the Canadian Prairies, June 24-27 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

2003:  Celebrate Gardening in the Ohio River Valley, June 18-21 in the Cincinnati, OH/Northern Kentucky area.

2001:  The Magic of Gardening, May 29-June 1 at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida

1999:  World of Gardening, August 19-22 in San Antonio, TX

1997:  July 15-19 in Sacramento, CA

1995:  Gardening Under the Northern Lights, July 22-26 in Saskatoon, Canada

1993:  Gardening for a Better World, August 12-15 in San Antonio, TX

1991:  Gardening Tools of Another Kind, September 24-27 in Detroit, MI

1989:  An On-Growing Experience, October 11-14 in Portland, OR

1987:  Capitol Gardening, October 7-10 in Washington DC

Volunteers Needed

Planning and executing an international conference for 1,200+ Master Gardeners from across the country and world is a big job!  Volunteers are needed to assist in many capacities, in order to put on a top-notch conference that will make us proud of our efforts.

If you are interested in volunteering, please register your interests and skills via this online survey form.  A brief description of the different volunteer opportunties can be found below.

Speaker committee: creating the program of conference speakers; contacting and communicating with speakers; obtaining speaker biographies; making sure that the website and the paper program has all relevant speaker information; work with the gardener’s store committee to arrange for space and time for book sales and book signings for speakers who wish to do so; serve as the liaison between the conference speakers and the IMGC chair.

Local tours: helping to create a program of local, Portland-area tours that will be of interest to conference attendees. This could include hosted or unhosted tours. Creating maps and directions for participants to get to tour sites. Pre-touring sites to make sure they are safe for conference attendees. Arranging for transportation, as needed, for tours.

Pre-conference tours or Post-conference tours: helping to create a program for a 2- and/or 3-day tour of Oregon sites, that conference participants can take before the actual IMGC begins, or after the conference ends; arranging for bus transportation, hotel stays, tour activities. Helping to develop a price for the tour(s) that covers tour costs, but is still affordable for conference participants.

Food committee: helping to create the menu for meals and snacks during the conference. There may be an in-house caterer, or there may be other caterers to interview. Taste test meals and snacks. Consider their nutritional value. Choose between buffet, seated meal or passed appetizer options.  Plan meals and snacks that are affordable, nutritious, delicious.

Goody Bag Committee: creating the goody bag that will be given to each conference attendee. Choosing the bag, itself. Finding high-quality items to stuff in each bag. Make sure the items are travel-friendly, for those flying with checked baggage. Work with sponsorship committee to find donors of goody bag items.

Hospitality Committee: greet conference attendees as they arrive at the airport, and help direct them to their destination. Help conference attendees navigate public transportation in Portland. Generally assist conference attendees, by answering their questions or finding someone who can answer their question. Serve as a greeter that helps attendees feel welcome in our state and in our city.

Gardener’s Store Committee: line up vendors to display or sell appropriate items during the conference; work with sponsorship committee to ensure that high level sponsors are given a free trade show booth; serve as the liaison between trade show vendors and the IMGC chair.

Sponsorship Committee: solicit sponsors to help defray the costs associated with the 2017 IMGC. Sponsorships can be ‘in-kind’ or ‘cash’. Work with chairs of other committees, to ensure that sponsors donations are received (e.g. goody bag committee, finance committee). Make sure that sponsors receive documentation of their donation, for tax purposes.

Registration Committee: helping attendees register for the conference (many will have questions about how to register or what to register for, and volunteers are needed to assist / answer questions); helping to put together registration packets that will be picked up by attendees; arranging registration packets and tickets so that they are easy to understand and easy to pick up; helping to choose a vendor to handle the online registration process.

Finance Committee: helping to develop and monitor the budget for the conference; adjusting budget as needed; working with sponsorship committee to ensure that all sponsors receive the proper forms documenting their tax-deductible donations; work closely with OMGA treasurer to ensure timely payment of conference bills and timely deposit of conference revenues.

Decorations Committee: plan and make decorations that will help conference attendees feel welcome in our state and in Portland. Examples of decorations that could be made include a map, where folks can place a star to show where they traveled from; floral arrangements for general sessions or the banquet; something Portland-esque that can be displayed around the conference site (for example, West Virginia had scarecrows displayed throughout their conference center).

Program Committee: gathering information from the speakers’ committee, sponsorship committee, tour committees, etc., to create a program that can be given to conference attendees. This program will be the conference attendees ‘guide’ to the conference ~ and will provide all of the information they need to find their way around and enjoy themselves. Work with the registration committee to ensure that each attendee receives a conference program when they pick up their registration packet.

Publicity Committee: publicize the conference in various no-cost outlets, including, but not limited to: social media, email listservs, garden centers, MG events, radio spots, etc. Work to get the work out locally, but also nationally and internationally about this event. Work with IMGC chair to ensure that all publicity adheres to OSU policy.

Why Portland?

Video Credit: Travel Portland

We are pleased to announce that the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference will be held in Portland, Oregon, July 10-14, 2017.

Portland is a mid-sized city in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, located near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Portland has been described as a city of neighborhoods, coffee shops, bookstores, brew pubs, restaurants and food carts. Our rainy winters feed a vibrant and verdant gardening culture. Our perfect summers make gardening a dream! Green roofs on LEED-certified high rises, as well as on the sheds and garages of home gardeners, exhibit our commitment to sustainability. A network of ‘green streets’ throughout the city shows how gardens can be used to manage storm water issues in urban areas.

Portland is a great space to experience Oregon’s commitment to local foods. Portland area food carts, restaurants, farmers’ markets and brew pubs are great places to experience the world class hazelnuts, berries, vegetables and meats, cheeses, beers, and wines that showcase Oregon’s award-winning agricultural production systems.

Portland is located within a 90 minute drive of the Pacific Ocean and the majestic Oregon Coast. A 30 minute drive east allows visitors to explore the waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge, including majestic Multnomah Falls. And, it’s only a 60 minute drive to Mount Hood, where visitors can ski nearly year round or just enjoy the views from and the history of the magnificent WPA-built Timberline Lodge.

Within the city, itself, Portland is home to one of the largest urban forest preserves in the country (Forest Park), and one of the largest city parks in the country (Washington Park). The Washington Park complex includes the Oregon Zoo (where Master Gardeners staff an exhibit that teaches visitors about sustainable landscaping practices), the International Rose Test Garden, the World Forestry Center, the Hoyt Arboretum and the Portland Japanese Garden. Pittock Mansion, Leach Botanical Garden and the Lan Su Chinese Garden are also popular attractions.