Gardening Symposium - Christopher Newport University Gardening Symposium - Christopher Newport University
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Gardening Symposium

Garden Spirit: Gardening With Purpose and Function

Save the Date: 24th Annual Gardening Symposium — Saturday, March 21, 2020


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Schedule of events
7 a.m. - 2 p.m. Plant sales and outdoor market Freeman Center
7 - 9 a.m. Registration and vendors Freeman Center
9 - 9:15 a.m. Welcome and announcements Freeman Center
9:15 - 10:30 a.m. Garden rescue - Beth Burrell Freeman Center
10:45 a.m. - noon Plants, pollinators and people - Elise Benhase Freeman Center
Noon - 1 p.m. Lunch and vendors Freeman Center
1 - 2 p.m. Dueling containers duos - Beth Burrell and Elise Benhase Freeman Center
2:15 - 3:15 p.m. The magic of learning in gardens - Mary Kirk Cunningham Freeman Center


9:15-10:30 a.m.

As more of our natural landscape is lost to development, natural habitats are disappearing, as well. Beth Burrell will guide you through the process of revamping your garden to attract nature’s life force with a tool box of plant “must haves” that add beauty through the seasons while restoring natural habitats. From container gardening to landscaped spaces, learn about multifunctional plants that flower seasonally and provide essential reserves of nectar, pollen, seeds and nesting materials that shout “welcome” to your butterflies, bees, birds and many beneficial insects.

Burrell is a prominent plant specialist, garden designer and educator working in the Richmond area. She holds a BS degree in landscape design and business management, an MS in ornamental horticulture, and has participated in Colonial Williamsburg’s internship program. She lectures regionally, has published nationally and had her gardens featured on the TV show “Home Grown.” Currently, she is horticulturist for Cedarfield Retirement Community in Richmond and has been a featured educator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for the past 15 years.

10:45 a.m.-noon

Bee hive colony collapse disorder has been a common news topic over the past few years and has caused concerns for all pollinators. An elusive cocktail of biotic and abiotic factors challenges bee health and has raised questions about our relationship with all pollinators and what we can do to help. Gardens can serve as a sanctuary for pollinators, as well as for people. Elise Benhase will discuss ways to garden that bring more bees and other pollinators to your flowers to keep them happy while creating a garden environment that is in synergy with the ecosystem around it.

Benhase is a passionate lifelong gardener who learned the craft from her master gardener mother, then honed her skills by earning a BS degree in environmental horticulture and an MS in plant pathology, physiology and weed science at Virginia Tech. She is a veteran intern of Longwood Gardens and Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, and now works at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens as a gardener, beekeeper and lecturer.

1-2 p.m.

Beth Burrell and Elise Benhase invite you to join them for a fun-filled workshop in which they will walk you through the steps of creating beautiful container plantings that attract pollinators. Burrell will focus on colorful annuals and ornamentals, while Benhase will concentrate on an abundance of native plants. Their workshop will finish with an energetic “Dueling Duo” container challenge as each one races to create their final masterpiece.

2:15-3:15 p.m.

Mary Kirk Cunningham will demonstrate with hands-on instruction the magic of school and home gardens. You will learn how they enable us to have learning experiences that connect us to the world around us while inspiring young and old alike. Whether you want to learn more about cross-curriculum instruction in the garden as a teacher, or gain an abundance of practical ideas to make your garden a better place in which to learn and relax, this workshop is meant for you. As a bonus, you can take home seeds and plants introduced at the workshop.

Cunningham has an MA in early childhood education, a background in environmental education and has taught for 17 years. She founded and coordinates the garden lab at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Loudon County where she was the 2016-17 Teacher of the Year. Cunningham is passionate about introducing people to gardening and using school gardens to teach across curricula. She has served as a consultant to the Smithsonian on several occasions, most notably in the development of their Seeds of Change curriculum.

Conference Rates

Early Registration

(through March 9, 2019)


Regular Registration

(beginning March 10, 2019)


Buffet lunch (optional)

Late fee after March 22, 2019 $5

No refunds will be given after March 22, 2019. A $10 processing fee will be charged for all refunds.

Vendor Opportunities

Please contact the LifeLong Learning Society for more information about vendor opportunities at the annual Gardening Symposium.

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Contact Us

Christopher Newport University
LifeLong Learning Society
(757) 269-4368

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