Gardening Symposium

2023 Massachusetts Gardening Symposium

“Inspiration for Next Year’s Garden”

Saturday, September 23, 2023, 8:00 AM - 3:45 PM

Bentley University, LaCava Conference Center

Waltham, Massachusetts

Conveniently located just 3.5 miles off Route 95/128

Who should attend? In keeping with the MMGA’s mission to educate both our Master Gardeners and the public about gardening and horticulture, we welcome all gardeners, novices to experts, including Green Industry professionals.  Will this be your first MA Gardening Symposium or your 7th? Are you coming with a carload of friends or making it a “me day”? No matter - you’ll find our attendees warm, welcoming, and fun.

What’s included: 

ATTENTION Master Gardeners: The MMGA Education Committee has approved the Gardening Symposium for a total of 4 hours of Continuing Education credit (1 hour per lecture).   


Just as our gardens are a journey, not a destination, so too is the Symposium; and we are always looking for ways to improve. We’re excited this year to bring you so many speakers and topics that deliver on what past attendees have told us they like most about the Symposium.

Please join us on September 23. We hope you enjoy this year’s very special speakers and topics.

Jen Kettell

MA Certified Horticulturist, ISA Master Arborist, consultant 

“A Camel’s Garden: Drought Tolerant Plants for a Changing Climate”

When the dog days of summer hit, many of us are faced with drought conditions and water bans that limit our ability to water our lush gardens. We find ourselves carefully monitoring the water level in rain barrels and hoping for the next rainfall. What if we started to incorporate plants that simply need less water? In this lecture, respected local arborist Jen Kettell will share the effects of drought on our woody plants and describe how plants adapt to deal with drought. Most importantly, you will LEARN ABOUT a new palette of trees and shrubs that will decrease your water use while increasing species diversity and beauty in your home landscape.

Nancy Lawson

“The Humane Gardener,” book author, Master Naturalist, habitat consultant

“Gardening Among Hungry Mammals: Strategies for Coexisting with our Wild Neighbors”

It’s hard to imagine, but white-tailed deer once were nearly extinct in dozens of states. Their abundance now puts them at odds with most gardeners, who become frustrated by the ineffectiveness of conventional and labor-intensive methods of protecting our gardens. When you add to the mix resident rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, moles and groundhogs, many gardeners are ready to throw in the trowel! Based on an understanding of plant resistance and tolerance strategies as well as animal behaviors and natural histories, acclaimed author Nancy Lawson will show how to create resilient gardens that also support an abundance of life in our home habitats. LEARN HOW a combination of strategies can help you trade resistance for peaceful coexistence.

Rebecca McMackin

Former Director of Horticulture, Brooklyn Bridge Park; Loeb Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Design

“Adventures in Ecological Horticulture” 

Habitat stewardship is a vital component of creating enduring and ecologically healthy landscapes. But traditional landscaping practices rarely take biodiversity into consideration, and there is a dearth of effective guidelines to inform this goal. For ecological horticulturist Rebecca McMackin cultivating habitat is central to landscape management. In her 10 years as Director of Horticulture at New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, Rebecca oversaw 85 acres of diverse, organic landscapes, all managed to support birds, butterflies, and soil microorganisms. LEARN HOW to use ecological insight and experimentation to develop new management strategies – and why careful observation and documentation of the insects, birds, and other wildlife in our gardens is crucial to their success

Veronica Tyson-Strait

Horticulture Manager, Randall’s Island Park Alliance, NY; landscape designer

“The Cottage Garden Redux: Spaces That Nourish and Charm”

Since the pandemic, growing sun-kissed tomatoes and crispy greens has become the dream of numerous ornamental gardeners. Some of us have even contemplated becoming farmers. We need spaces that nourish our bodies while uplifting our spirits and providing ecological benefits. We want all this in often-limited space or with insufficient sunlight. Hear from horticulturist Veronica Tyson-Strait how to update and modify an existing garden or create a new space that can bring together and satisfy all these needs and wants. LEARN HOW to transform a space into an intimate sanctuary and habitat…and create structures, edible and ornamental plant palettes, and cottage garden elements that add beauty and seasonality while inspiring a deeper connection to the earth. 


Early Bird registration through July 15, 2023, 11:59:59 PM: $80.00 per person

Regular price July 16-September 7, 2023: $95.00 per person

Registration closes on September 7, 2023, at 5:00 PM ET  or as soon as we reach capacity.

In past years we have filled up early. We encourage you to sign up soon.

Refund requests accepted through September 7, 2023, at 11:59:59 PM.

The Symposium is always more fun with friends, so invite others to join you.  You can view, download and print our flyer by clicking here.

If you would like to register and pay for guests, please complete a separate online registration form for each person.  Fill out the first page of the online form using the guest's name, email address, street address, lunch selection, etc. On the second page of the form, use your own personal payment information.  If you are registering multiple guests, please use a different email address for each person.


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Header photo courtesy of Rebecca McMackin.

Ms. Lawson's photo portrait by Jennifer Heffner.