Annual Symposium

2020 Virtual Annual Symposium

The annual symposium is the Botanical Garden’s signature educational opportunity for advancing gardening in Iowa. Each fall, four internationally acclaimed lecturers visit Des Moines to speak about current topics that impact home horticulture, plant sciences and/or ecology. This year, in light of COVID-19, we’re taking the symposium virtual for an October filled with engaging online lectures.

Gardeners on Gardening

We’ve cultivated a roster of gardeners to speak candidly about gardening in hopes of exploring and explaining how and why to garden in a changing world, how gardens fit into their daily lives or inform their professional practice and how gardening is more relevant than ever to health and the environment. Speakers will present on Thursdays in October via Zoom Webinar. There will be one presentation a week beginning at 6 p.m. CDT. Each presentation will follow with a moderated question forum until 7:15 p.m. CDT.

Speaker Lineup and Dates

Thursday, Oct. 8, 6 p.m. CDT: Christin Geall, Foam-Free Florals: Artful Design the Old-Fashioned Way (live demonstration)

The shift towards seasonality and foam-free designs is changing how designers work with flowers. Christin will dive into the pre-plastic period for this design demonstration and speak about the history of garden-style design and how to make your own lush statement display using local flowers.

Thursday, Oct. 15, 6 p.m. CDT: Abra Lee, It’s not the Setback; It’s the Comeback! 

Gardeners are no strangers to setbacks. In this inspiring talk, Abra Lee will provide lessons learned from overcoming these setbacks in the garden to increase horticulture’s relevance and importance for a more inclusive, diverse community.

Thursday, Oct. 22, 6 p.m. CDT: Irvin Etienne, Zone Denial: Tropical Gardening in the Midwest 

Irvin Etienne prefers gardening with a tropicalissmo style, so his garden looks like an island paradise by late summer with cannas, elephant ears and 1.5 foot tall bananas. For this talk, participants will spend considerable time observing Irvin’s home garden to look at plants and plant combinations. General care and maintenance will be touched on lightly, and Irvin will discuss the possibilities after the first frost: who lives, who dies and his rather cavalier overwintering methods.


Thursday, Oct. 29, 6 p.m. CDT: David Culp, A Bountiful Year: Six Seasons of Beauty from Brandywine Cottage 

Based on his new book of the same name, this talk digs deeper into David Culp’s celebrated garden Brandywine Cottage, featuring a focus for each month, including recipes, a garden to-do list, flower arrangements and practical information. Favorite mail order sources, gardening for biodiversity and wildlife habitat, the creation of the meadow at Brandywine Cottage, recommended plants for dry places, and even favorite weeds will also be discussed. This lecture and book are about lifestyle, and blurring the lines of indoor and outdoor living. 


You can choose to purchase all four presentations or an individual presentation.

All presentations are from 6-7:15 p.m. CDT.

Series – $65
Individual Presentation – $20

You can also purchase the following books with your ticket: A Year at Brandywine Cottage: Six Seasons of Beauty, Bounty, and Blooms by David Culp, and/or Cultivated: Elements of Floral Style by Christin Geall. Available for local pick-up only.

Purchase Tickets and Books

Thank you to our sponsors

Country Landscapes, Inc.

Kemin Industries, Inc.
Cynde and Richard Schreiber

Janan and Zane Smith

Click here to learn more about Annual Symposium sponsorship opportunities and submit your sponsorship.
Email or call 515.323.6289 with any questions.