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Nursery School: Lessons in Gardening Symposium 2023

Event Date(s)
Event Time
The Vibrant Arena at The MARK
Event Fee
Rock Island

Get inspired and grow your horticultural knowledge at Nursery School: Lesson in Gardening, the Quad Cities’ premiere gardening symposium! Produced by University of Illinois Extension staff and Master Gardeners, it will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2023, from 8 am – 3 pm at the Vibrant Arena at the Mark in Moline, Ill. Horticulture experts will lead workshops and share tips, pointers, ideas, and information everyone can use - from the novice to the most experienced gardener.

This year’s event opens with a keynote address by renowned prairie ecologist and landscape architect Neil Diboll, President of Prairie Nursery, Inc. Westfield, Wis. He will talk about Prairie Plants for Urban and Suburban Gardens at the first session, which starts at 8:45 a.m. With more than 40 years of research and work in the field, Neil will highlight the showiest and best-behaved prairie plants for creating a variety of prairie gardens in small areas. Many native prairie flowers and grasses make excellent garden plants. The showy blooms and ornamental textures of the grasses lend themselves to the creation of low maintenance, ecologically sound landscapes that require little or no fertilizers, pesticides, and watering. The North American Prairie is dominated by perennials that can be included in “pure prairie” gardens or mixed with other more traditional perennials. Get the knowledge and inspiration you need to create your own little prairie garden sanctuary during this presentation.

Following the keynote, you will attend three additional sessions that you select upon registration from nine different topics. Classes have been arranged by track topics: Ornamental, Edible and Nature. You can select all of one track or pick and choose—it’s up to you!

Your registration includes morning coffee and rolls, the keynote session, lunch, your three additional classes, and access to the Nursery School vendor area featuring a host of merchants and agencies offering a variety of garden-inspired gifts, crafts, plants, and resources.

Registration fees are $70. Registration ends on February 5. You must register in advance—no walk-ins will be accepted. Register at or call University of Illinois Extension at (309) 756-9978 for more information.

Here are the speakers and topics from which you can choose one from each session. Note: Class sizes are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Session 1 from 10-11 am: Choose 1:

(Ornamental) The Latest and Maybe the Greatest: What’s Trending in 2023
Kate Terrell, President of Wallace’s Garden Center.
What would the excitement of Spring be without the introduction of new, never-before-seen plants? Join Kate to see a preview of the new trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals that await your Midwest garden.

(Edible) Boost of Blueberries-Past, Present, and Future 
Carol Longley, Illinois Extension Master Gardener, retired WIU faculty, consultant, and dietitian.
Blueberries are native to North America and can be grown and enjoyed by home gardeners. Learn about their history, and how you can best plan, plant, grow, maintain, and harvest the most delicious and high-quality blueberries. Carol will talk about the new cultivars and share her favorite recipe ideas for your home-grown blueberries.

(Nature) Sunflowers: Superheroes
Emily Swihart, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator
To gardeners, sunflowers are known for their beauty, but they are not just another pretty face. Explore the impact sunflowers have had on the global food market, and their potential to help contaminated lands recover from industrial use. After attending this program, you will have a greater appreciation for these bright, summer blooms, and be eager to incorporate some of the new cultivars into your growing space.

Session 2: 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Choose 1

(Ornamental) Slow Flowers: Growing Your Own Cut Flowers
Candice Anderson, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Specialist
We emphasize buying your food locally, but why not your flowers as well? Join Candice to learn how to grow a variety of cut flowers in your home garden, the benefits of having cut flowers, and how to condition them to be long-lasting. She will also discuss her all-time favorite flowers to grow and share tips and tricks to ensure success.

(Edible) Growing Vegetables in 2023 from April thru October
Bruce Black, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture
Get the most out of your vegetable garden in 2023. Bruce will share the best advice for planning, planting, and garden maintenance throughout the year, Spring, Summer, and Fall.

(Nature) Landscaping: It’s for the Birds
Chris Enroth, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture
Attracting birds to your backyard can go beyond setting out bird feeders. Chris will take you through a typical foundation planting that will provide three things’ birds need: water, shelter, and food. Learn to utilize native or well-adapted plants to start creating a landscape that welcomes birds by providing critical pieces of habitat.

Session 3:1:45-2:45 p.m. Choose 1

(Ornamental) Curious about Colorful Conifers
Martha Smith retired Horticulture Educator for Cornell and University of Illinois Extension
Get ready to add “shock and awe” to your landscape with colorful conifers of all sizes. Did you know conifers change colors through the season? The class will show you how to rethink your landscape to bring out the best foliage display.

(Edible) Fundamentals and Facts of Fermentation
Kristin Bogdonas, University of Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator
What once was a means to preserve food for winter months, fermentation is growing in popularity to create foods and drinks with probiotic properties. In this session, you will learn the fundamentals and benefits of fermentation and watch a fermentation recipe demo.

(Nature) Genetic Diversity and Plant Preservation
Neil Diboll, Ecologist and President of Prairie Nursery, Inc. Westfield, Wi.
A deep dive into plant genetics and how they can influence restoration and plant choices. Neil provides an overview of the various strategies that different plants have developed for reproduction and adaptation to their environments. He embraces a technical topic and makes it understandable and interesting to both native plant enthusiasts and the average gardener.