Plainfield Garden Club

2013-10-20 Shirley Meniece Horticultural Conference

Photos by Sally Booth
**Click to Enlarge**

Report of the 2013 GCA Shirley Meneice Conference by Sally Booth

I feel very lucky to have been the PGC's delegate to this years Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference held at the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. The time was packed full of lectures, trips, workshops lunches and dinners. It wouldn't be a GCA event without bags (containing a rain gage, tape measure and a hardiness zone card) bus rides, interesting seat mates and badges with names and where you were supposed to be and when. It was all beautifully organized and everything worked perfectly. I know that all the organizers were greatly relieved when everyone went "back to work" in Washington.

I took the very civilized train on Sunday morning to Washington and arrived in plenty of time to go to Hillwood, the very elaborate Georgian home of Marjorie Merriweather Post. She was an heiress, (Post Cereal), a gardener, a traveller and a collector as well as being a mother and very patriotic American. Her house is filled with porcelains, silver, Russian icons, Faberge eggs, Cartier Jewels, fine furniture and some of her beautiful clothes. One of her husbands was the ambassador to Russia, hence her interest in collecting Russian treasurers. There are 13 acres of formal "garden rooms" including a Japanese garden, French parterre, woodland walks, putting green and a Russian dacha. Needless to say it was "over the top".

Sunday night we had a dinner and a speaker telling us about the Casey Tree Project. For those of you that don't know, Betty Brown Casey read in the newspaper that the tree canopy of Washington had declined from 50% to 35%. When she died she left (I think) 30 million dollars to GCA to restore the tree canopy in Washington. She not only left money she left her farm in Virginia where they could grow the trees. The project was so big that a separate company has been formed and a building built. It was established in 2002 and so far 12 thousand trees have been planted by volunteers. It is an impressive organization.

Monday the director of the National Arboretum spoke telling us its history and the role GCA played in its formation in 1927. It is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The arboretum is located in the city and has nine miles of trails, is free and offers much more. It is a scientific institution, employs scientists who are involved in plant breeding, research, disease control and support to the horticulture and floral industry. It inspires discovery, understanding, conservation and the love of plants. They are the people behind the introduction of smaller and hardier Crape Myrtles that we can grow in our area. They also have worked on Poinsettias, Dogwoods, Elms, Lilac, Boxwoods and Rhodendron. All in all they have introduced over 650 shrubs and herbaceous plants since they were established..

We spent a lot of time at the arboretum. It is really an interesting place and has the only bonsai museum in the world. One was over 400 year old, survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima and ended up in this country. They have a large collection of both Japanese and Chinese bonsai. We went to breakout sessions that included such topic as USNA Plant Introductions, Know Your Conifers, The Care and Pruning of Boxwood, and Herbs...not just for cooking.

On Tuesday morning we had three speakers. Rich Darke, Doug Tallamy and Larry Weaner. Rich spoke about "The Layered Landscape, Doug, on "Networks for Life" and "Your Role in Stitching the Natural World Together" and Larry on the "Ecological Process and the Designed Garden" (really it was about meadows.) They then had a panel discussion.

Tuesday afternoon it was back to the arboretum for more break-out sessions...

Tuesday evening we all went to the US Botanic Garden which is right next to the Capitol. It was a lovely evening to walk in the beautiful garden with the lighted capitol watching over us. We went inside for cocktails and dinner. There were "stations" offering different courses scattered around the displays.

We saw and smelled the Ylang Ylang (pronounced e lang) tree. It is the main fragrance for Chanel #5 and was in bloom. They also had a very interesting display explaining where chocolate comes from. It grows on trees. The pods (beans) grow all over the tree. They are harvested...fermented ...and ...when it is all over we get our Valrhona chocolate.

Wed. morning we had a tour of the Capitol. It is so impressive. We then toured the grounds that were so very carefully designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to enhance the dignity and to heighten the architecture of the Capitol. It was fascinating to hear why Olmsted did what he did in his design.

The afternoon was spent touring Mt. Vernon, Washington's farm. It was a lovely way to cap off a very interesting, worthwhile and informative trip.


Look who I found at the Shirley Meneice horticulture conference

Sally Booth with former PGC member Julie Shortridge

United States Capitol in the background

The US Botanical garden


Hillwood Museum

Marjorie Merriweather Post bought Hillwood in 1955 and soon decided her home would be a museum that would inspire and educate the public. Her northwest Washington, D.C. estate endowed the country with the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia, a distinguished 18th-century French decorative art collection, and twenty-five acres of serene landscaped gardens and natural woodlands for all to enjoy. Opened as a public institution in 1977, today Hillwood's allure stems from the equally fascinating parts that make up the whole. From the captivating life of Marjorie Post to the exquisitely maintained Mansion and Gardens, the experience of Hillwood outshines even the Fabergé Eggs.

Japanese garden at Hillwood

Russian dacha at Hillwood

Dining room at Hillwood

Dining room at Hillwood

Japanese Garden at Hillwood

Gold Russian chalice

Seed share at the conference

400-year old bonsai

More bonsai


Lincoln at the Capitol

Sally Booth


The Mall and Washington monument

Mt. Vernon

Boxwood 'Morris Midget'

Buxus microphylla 'Morris Midget'

Living Room at Mt. Vernon

Registration for the GCA Shirley Meneice Conference

Sally Booth will be in attendance – have fun Sally!

National Arboretum, Washington, DC


Pre-Registration Is Now Open

The GCA Horticulture Committee cordially invites you to the twelfth annual GCA Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference to be held at the United States National Arboretum. There will be an optional welcome dinner on Sunday evening, October 21, although the conference begins officially early Monday morning, October 21 and continues through Wednesday morning, October 23. In addition to the dinner on Sunday, you can choose from among three optional events on Sunday afternoon, and an optional garden tour of Mount Vernon on Wednesday afternoon.

Click here for a schedule of events
Click here for a complete listing of our wonderful speakers
Click here to learn more about the US National Arboretum & our other venues

Registration for this year's conference is limited to 178 attendees and costs $450. In an effort to include clubs and members who have not previously had a chance to attend these conferences, we are first holding pre-registration, accepting one member per club with priority given to those clubs and/or members who have not previously attended. You are encouraged to submit pre-registration forms for a second club member as early as you wish. Acceptance of a second club member will depend on space and will be based on a first come-first served basis. A waiting list will be established.

Pre-registration will close on Friday, June 7th.

Those invited will receive a separate email with a link to online registration. Registration with payment must be completed by Thursday, June 20th. At that time, we will use our waiting list to fill any remaining slots.


Each year this conference sells out, we recognize this system of pre-registration and full registration adds a step to the process. But we are trying to make ensure those clubs who have never participated are allowed the option.

We have planned a full schedule and those who attend should plan to take advantage of all the activities included in the conference itinerary. I look forward to seeing you in October!

- Barbara Gould, Chair

Questions? Click here to contact Barbara Shea, registrar


October 20th through the 23rd GCA Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference

October 20–23, 2013 (Sun–Wed)
U.S. National Arboretum
"where science meets beauty"
3501 New York Avenue, NE; Washington, D. C. 20002-1958
Phyllis Lee
Horticulture Chair

Dear Club Presidents and Horticulture Chairs:

On May 13 invitations to the GCA 2013 Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference will be sent via email. Priority acceptance deadline will be June 1 with a final registration deadline of July 1.

The U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC will be our host for this year'sConference. Meetings will be held at the Arboretum and at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University. The Conference will begin on Monday, October 21 and continue through Wednesday morning, October 23. Optional activities will include workshops, dinner on Sunday, October 20, and an optional tour of Mount Vernon Wednesday afternoon. Dinners Monday and Tuesday night will be at the Arboretum and the U.S. Botanic Garden respectively.

Typically, the majority of club participants are new to the conference. We encourage this because the conference is an excellent learning experience for potential Horticulture chairs. This year's maximum participant number is 180. Participants will be accepted in a two-tier process. Before June 1, priority will be given to the following:

1. One member from a first-time club that has not been represented at the conference

2. One club member, representing her club who is part of next year's conference committee

3. One first-time club member, who has never attended a conference

Clubs should send in registrations beginning May 13, but no one will receive confirmations until after the June 1 priority deadline. After June 1, available places will be filled with one member per club in the order in which they were received. Following the close of all registrations on July 1, as space permits, priority will be given to a second member from any club, and then finally to any GCA member who applied prior to the deadline. No refunds will be given after September 1, except in cases of emergency.

The conference's popularity continues to grow. Please act promptly on this invitation as we expect to fill up quickly. We look forward to welcoming you to our nation's capital.

Phyllis Lee
Chair, GCA Horticulture Committee