Conference Overview

For registration information see

Let’s Share Our Success Stories at This Year’s Conference
During the 2-hour lunch break on Saturday April 27th, groups will have the opportunity to showcase their success stories in a separate breakout room.

This is your opportunity to network with other Master Gardener groups sharing ideas, projects, technical updates, and local group management practices (recruiting new members, retention of Master Gardeners and Master Gardeners in Training, fundraising activities, etc.). On top of this, we will have a fun activity to encourage participation and win some prizes.

Choose your topic, bring your display on a tri-fold presentation board that will stand on the table (available from Staples, Amazon, or Dollarama) and recruit a member(s) from your group to describe your project and answer questions from other group members.

Sign your group up today by emailing

Conference Speaker Highlights – What to Expect
Friday, April 26, 2023 – Tours at the Guelph Arboretum
Darrell Bley - Instructor/Curator of Woody Plants, Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture and Botanical Gardens
Winter Identification of Woody Trees and Shrubs Limited participation (25)
This tour will be a great opportunity to use the outdoor space and the collections at the Guelph Arboretum to practice our skills in identifying woody trees and shrubs in their dormant state. In our Canadian climate, deciduous woody plants are without their summer identification features for approximately five months so the ability to be able to identify these plants during that time is important. This tour will build on the information that will be shared with you during two virtual winter seminars that are being planned for later this winter. We can take the information that is covered during these winter seminars and practice what we have learned. We will need to dress for the weather. The trees and shrubs are waiting,

Sean James - A graduate of Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, a Master Gardener, writer, and teacher, Sean focuses on eco-gardening techniques.
Rain Garden Workshop Limited participation (10 or so ‘helpers’)
On an already graded/prepared site, at the Arboretum, we’ll be preparing the swale and planting the rain garden. Mulching will be done after the planting. Each session will last 1 ½ to 2 hours, giving participants actual and theoretical experience with all aspects from siting to after-care and maintenance.

Kevin Kavanagh - B.Sc. (Hons.) from McGill University, a M.Sc. from York University and several years of post-graduate research in Botany at the University of Toronto. Member of the Grand Erie Master Gardeners.
Great Plants for Attracting Birds to Your Garden Limited participation (25)
An interpretive walk-through part of the University of Guelph Arboretum highlighting trees, shrubs and native habitat features that can be incorporated into bird-friendly garden designs. We will review how each plant species can play a role in helping support our native bird populations.

Friday, April 26, 2023 – Presentations
Michael J. McTavish - PhD, B.Sc. (Hons.); Postdoctoral Research Fellow, S.M. Smith Forest Health Lab
Invasive Worms and Weeds: Update on Jumping Worms and Biocontrol of Phragmites and Garlic Mustard in Ontario
This presentation will provide an update on what we know about the invasion of jumping worms in Ontario, and an overview of the first several years of the new biocontrol programs to help manage invasive Phragmites and garlic mustard.

Freyja Whitten - M.Sc. Program Manager, Terrestrial Restoration & Credit Valley Conservation
Management of Invasive Garden Plants
Discuss management options for common invasive plants that are not only disruptive to gardens, but our natural areas as well.

Friday, April 26, 2023 – Evening
Enjoy a fun evening with dinner and Keynote Speaker Paul Zammit - School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies Niagara College and CBC radio.
Rethinking Beauty: Inspiring Gardeners in a Changing World
Do you ever question why and how you (or we) garden? Are we just striving for something that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye? Paul believes it is gift and amazing opportunity to care for a garden space. With 35 plus years of experience in the horticulture industry, Paul finds himself questioning some traditional gardening practices as we face global climatic and biodiversity challenges. He believes we must all have a closer look at the important role of both private and public gardens play to develop a better understanding of the impact and potential of our actions, actions that can reach far beyond the defined property lines. Join Paul for an energetic presentation where he will share his views on what he believes makes a garden beautiful in these changing times.

Saturday, April 27, 2023 – Speaker Presentations
Jeanne McRight - Founding President and Chair of Blooming Boulevards
Growing the Future
Discover how Blooming Boulevards is connecting people to pollinators by growing native plants and making gardens happen city-wide.

Sean James
Talk Dirty: Soil, and the Things Living in It
We are continuously learning about soil and its importance to plant health and climate change. The latest information and research will be discussed, including ‘worms: good or bad’, how invasive plants change the soil to the detriment of native plants, and even the pros and cons of peat moss. Learn the answer to several trend-setting questions such as: How do we steward the soil microbiome? We’ll cover the beneficial bacteria and fungi. What activities harm the soil and therefore the plants? Can better soil stewardship also mean lower maintenance? It’s a dirty topic, but someone’s got to cover it!

Claudette Sims - Master Gardeners of Ontario Past President, Halton Master Gardeners
A Gardening Conundrum: Why are invasive plants sold in nurseries?
Invasive plants are a threat to biodiversity, human health, and our economy. They threaten native plants, insects, animals, and our forests. So why are they still sold in nurseries? This talk will answer that question and suggest actions that we can all take to safeguard biodiversity.

Kevin Kavanagh
The Growing Importance of Gardening for Nature
With the challenges of the climate and biodiversity crises as a call to action, this talk will present examples of meaningful and often simple steps gardeners can take on their own properties to both help nature and motivate others to build a better landscape.

Sean Fox - Seed Acquisition Manager & Field Botanist - Verbinnen’s Nursery
Reyna Matties – Manager Ontario Native Plants
Propagating Native Plants at Verbinnen’s Nursery/Ontario Native Plants
Come take an inside peek into the world of Verbinnen’s Nursery and their associated retail operation, Ontario Native Plants, to see how over 1 million native plants are grown each year.

The Lunch Break has added time built in for attendees to review the Poster Presentations and learn what Master Gardener groups across our province have accomplished over the past year!